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The Impact Of Freedom On Slaves Both During And After The Civil War

3065 words - 13 pages

While the Civil War was not fought to free the slaves, the result was that they were ultimately freed because of the Civil War. President Lincoln, by Executive Order issued the Emancipation Declaration on January 1, 1863. The order itself did not apply to all slaves but primarily to those in territories under Confederate control. Other actions freed the slaves in other parts of the Union. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the impact of freedom on the slaves both during and after the Civil War. While the length of this paper precludes an extensive review, sufficient scope will be included to account for how the slaves first encountered freedom, the barriers they faced because of ...view middle of the document...

Since they had, for the most part, been cared for by white plantation owners, they were now left to their own devises. Necessarily, the Federal troops did what it could to care for the newly-freed slaves. However, this was no easy task. The plight of the freed slaves was described by Lorenzo Thomas this way, “The number of this helpless class [Negroes] in the various camps is very large and daily increasing, and altho’ (sic) everything is done for their well being, I find that sickness prevails to an alarming extent, and the bills of mortality are very high. This results from their change of life and habits, from daily work to comparative idleness, and also from being congregated in large numbers in camps, which is a matter of necessity. Besides, they will not take care of themselves much less of those who are sick.” Getting the Negroes off the plantations simply left them without the ability to care for themselves. As seen by this observation, the plight of many Negroes worsened by their being set free.
The War Department was given the responsibility to care for the freed slaves. Under the command of the various field commanders, the Union troops worked to help the freedmen begin caring for themselves to some extent. However, most Blacks under Union control continued to labor on plantations or work for wages for Whites. There was, after all, not much else that they could do. As the war progressed, the Union started a program whereby land seized from rebellious Southerners was leased to the freed slaves. By 1963, many Blacks were able to farm small plots of land and many probably thought that they were on their way to independence. However, political intrigue and a change in policy was soon to leave the Negroes in a lurch. This change in policy resulted in a determination that much of the confiscated land would ultimately be returned to its southern owners once the war was over. Accordingly, by the end of 1864, many of those who had been farming their land under lease agreements from the Army, found themselves denied renewals. Suddenly, the freed slaves were told that they would not be able to continue working the farms they had planted and cultivated believing that they would be permanent owners. The plight of the Blacks were in a state of flux. No one really knew what to do with the millions of slaves that were being liberated as the war continued. While there were probably some good government agents who worked hard to assist the former slaves, it was reported that many “consolidated, categorized and dispensed freedmen as if they were mules or wagons.”
The condition of the former slaves continued to deteriorate over the last two years of the war. The euphoria of being “freed” was soon replaced by the realization that freedom would have to be fashioned. As the Union troops liberated the slaves and attempted to care for them, it was soon obvious to most that the freedmen needed to be put to work rather than lay...

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