Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Freedom: A History of US.
HOME
Webisode Menu Tools & Activities For Teachers About the Series Search This Site
Webisode 6: A War to End Slavery
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7 Segment 8 Segment 9

See it Now - click the image and explore
Signing the Emancipation Proclamation
Segment 4
Lincoln, the Great Emancipator Forever Free

By the summer of 1862, Abraham Lincoln needed a victory. He wanted to make an announcement, to change the purpose of the war, and he didn't want to do it at a time of defeat. In the West, in the spring, his armies had won important victories at Pea Ridge, at Shiloh, and at New Orleans. But he needed a victory now, and in the eastern theater. Finally the chance came. On September 17, George B. McClellan attacked the army of Robert E. Lee near the little farm of Sharpsburg, Maryland. The battle saw some of the most savage fighting of the entire war Check The Source - Frederick Hitchcock at Antietam. In fields and woods and beside farm fences, soldiers were slain in huge numbers See It Now - Dead Soldiers at Antietam. Before the battle of Antietam ended, 4,710 were dead, more than 18,000 were wounded, and another 3,000 were missing Check The Source - David Thompson at Antietam. It wasn't the kind of victory Lincoln had hoped for See It Now - Lincoln at Antietam. Too many men were killed, more than ever before. But the Northern army had stopped Lee's army at Antietam Creek, and that would have to do. Lincoln could make his announcement Check The Source - Abraham Lincoln Issues the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. On September 22 he delivered a state message called the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. It said: Hear It Now - Emancipation Proclamation "On the first day of January, in the year of our Lord 1863, all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforth, and forever free."

Critics said Lincoln's proclamation would only free slaves in the Confederate States, where the President had no power. But Lincoln knew that with the advance of the Union armies, that power would come, and the slaves would be freed. See It Now - Signing the Emancipation Proclamation After the Emancipation Proclamation there was no going back. When the war was over there would be no chance of compromise on slavery. Abolitionist Frederick Douglass See It Now - Frederick Douglass said this one act "invested the war with sanctity." He added, Hear It Now - Frederick Douglass "We shout for joy that we live to record this righteous decree, 'Free for Ever Check The Source - The Emancipation Proclamation See It Now - The Emancipation Proclamation.' "

Lincoln and the North's ideas were changing. People were realizing that slavery was like a worm in a good apple—it was making the whole apple rotten. It was no longer enough just to save the Union. Who wants to fight for a nation with a rotten core? And thus the Civil War became a war to make the United States what it had meant to be from its beginnings—a fair nation, a great nation. A nation that fulfilled the best ideas of its founders; a nation that would set equality of opportunity as a goal; a nation that could promise "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and mean it for all its peoples.


Icon Key
See it Now Hear it Now Check the Source
Timeline
Glossary
Quiz
Image Browser
Additional Resources
Did You Know?
President Lincoln usually signed government bills with a simple A. Lincoln, but when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation he decided to write his name in full.


Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?



Previous Continue to: Segment 5
Email to a friend
Print this page