Emancipation And The Freedmen’s Bureau Essay

2781 words - 11 pages

The American Civil War was a chaotic and bloody conflict for the United States. While the Civil War was not strictly fought over slavery, it was a central factor. At the outbreak of the war, there were approximately four million slaves in the Union. With Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, those slaves were declared free men. However a large majority of those slaves were located in territory held by the Confederacy, and it was not until the end of the conflict that that these men and women actually saw their freedom. Lincoln had put serious consideration into how to go about ending slavery, but had not fully developed the logistical aspect of what would happen to these men and women after the war. It was not until 1865 that the Union addressed this issue through the creation The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. This Freedmen’s Bureau as it came to be known was a necessary and logical solution to the problem of how to aid recently freed slaves in the transition from slavery to freedom in the South, however, in many regards it often came up short of its goals.
There were months of contention leading up to the civil war, much of it surrounding the Republican candidate in the 1860 election Abraham Lincoln and his opposition to the expansion of slavery into the western territories. When Lincoln won the election tensions had reached their breaking point. Before Lincoln could deliver his inaugural address seven southern states had announced their succession from the Union, forming The Confederate States of America on March 4, 1861. Official conflict began April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter. The American Civil War had begun, before it was over four more slave states would join the Confederacy, and over six hundred thousand men from both sides would lose their lives.
At the outbreak of the war, there were just fewer than four million slaves in the United States. A large majority of these slaves worked on farms and plantations in the Confederacy. The treatment of these slaves often varied. Some slaves were treated well, and although considered property, allowed certain rights and responsibility. Many slaves were not so fortunate, and the South the treatment of salves was often harsh and degrading. Whipping, beatings, and abuse were commonplace. Literacy was generally forbidden in an effort to hinder hopes of escape or rebellion. Some states would also prohibit slaves from holding religious gatherings because they feared that such meetings could also lead to rebellion. Another harsh reality of slave life was the separation of slaves from their families. In a letter to her husband, Maria Perkins a slave from Augusta County Virginia writes “I write you a letter to let you know of my distress my master has sold albert[sic] to a trader on monday[sic] court day and myself and other child is for sale… bought albert[sic] and is gone I dont kow whare[sic] they say he lives”. It was not uncommon for...

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