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A History Of The Freedmen's Bureau

2290 words - 10 pages

The Civil War was a messy and brutal conflict for the United States, with slavery being the primary factor for the battle. In the beginning of the war there were about four million slaves in the Union. With the help of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, these Union slaves were declared free from slavery. However, because so many of these slaves were living in Confederacy territories they did not actually experience freedom until the end of the war. Lincoln tried very hard to abolish slavery, but it seems that he did not fully think through what would happen to these slaves after the war ended. In 1865 the Union created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to help the men and women after the war. This came to be recognized as the Freedmen’s Bureau, and was used to help slaves transition to freedom. Unfortunately, not all of its goals were accomplished.
Abraham Lincoln’s resistance to expand slavery into the West created a long period of conflict that led up to the civil war. After Lincoln won the 1860 election, the official conflict was soon to begin. Before President Lincoln could even give his inaugural address seven states from the south declared their independence from the Union, and on March 4, 1861 The Confederate States of America was formed. When the Confederate army fired on Fort Sumter April 12, 1861 the American Civil War had begun. By the end of the civil war four more states would come to unite with the Confederacy, and more than six hundred thousand men would die on either side.
At the beginning of the war about four million slaves occupied the United States. Most of these slaves labored on farms in the Confederacy. Depending on the masters, slaves were treated different. The fortunate ones were treated well and were given rights and responsibility, while many other slaves were subject to harsh and demeaning treatment such as abuse and starvation. Many slaves were not given the opportunity to learn to read and write for fear of literacy leading to rebellion. Other states even forbid the slaves from engaging in religious activities or meetings because their masters also believed that religion could lead to rebellion. On a personal level, many slaves were kept separate from their families because they were viewed as solely property without any familial ties. These different factors would soon cause issues for slaves in their transition to freedom, and the new challenges they would face.
The American Civil War had led escaped slaves to flow into the Union military, which the Union was not prepared for. Union commanders sought direction from Washington, but even Lincoln could provide little advice as to how to handle the magnitude of slaves that had come and turned forward lines into refugee camps. Washington had first decided that the Union military turn the refugee slaves away and return them back to southern bondage, but later their approach would turn into a policy that would seize Confederate slaves.

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