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Practical LiberatorsUnion Officers in the Western Theater during the Civil War$
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Kristopher A. Teters

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469638867

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469638867.001.0001

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Practical Liberators

Kristopher A. Teters

University of North Carolina Press

This study challenges much of the current historical literature about the American Civil War by arguing that western Union officers carried out a practical emancipation policy as part of a pragmatic military strategy, rather than an idealistic moral opposition to slavery. While officers came to accept emancipation as a useful instrument to win the war, their racial attitudes changed very little. In the early stages of the war, the army’s policies towards fugitive slaves were inconsistent and influenced by an officer’s individual attitudes toward slavery. The Second Confiscation Act of 1862 and the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 caused a shift in army policy to become more consistent and emancipationist. Officers, however, carried out emancipation primarily for the army’s benefit, as freed slaves could help the army as pioneers, laborers, servants, and soldiers. Union officers were committed to winning the war and saving the Union, and emancipation proved a practical policy to accomplish these goals.

Keywords:   western Union officers, western theater, emancipation, slaves, morality, pragmatism, racial attitudes, policy, Second Confiscation Act, Emancipation Proclamation

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