disintegration of slavery began early in the war. As Northern
armies occupied Southern territory, slaves by the thousands
abandoned plantations and headed for Union lines. Their actions
helped to propel a reluctant white America toward emancipation.
Lincoln said in his second inaugural address that slavery
was "somehow" the cause of the war. But in 1861
his main concern was keeping the border slave states in the
Union and consolidating Northern backing for the war effort.
The goal of restoring the Union generated the broadest public
1862 the flight from the plantations and the failure of Union
armies to produce military victory led many Northerners to
favor emancipation as a blow against the Confederacy. In July
of that year Congress liberated slaves owned by disloyal masters
in Union-occupied territory. Responding to these pressures,
Lincoln promised federal aid if any state agreed to free its
slaves gradually, and he flirted with the idea of colonizing
African-Americans outside the country. Finally, Lincoln decided
that immediate and uncompensated emancipation had become a
political and military necessity.
on January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation did not
apply to areas under Union control. But the vast majority
of the slaves, more than three million men, women, and children,
it declared, "are and henceforth shall be free."
The Proclamation transformed a war of armies into a conflict
of societies. It ensured that Union victory would produce
a social revolution in the South, and it redefined the place
of African-Americans in the nation's life.