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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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Union Officers and the Intense Debate over Emancipation and Black Troops

Union Officers and the Intense Debate over Emancipation and Black Troops

(p.60) Chapter Three Union Officers and the Intense Debate over Emancipation and Black Troops
Practical Liberators

Kristopher A. Teters

University of North Carolina Press

As Washington officials moved toward an emancipationist policy during the second half of 1862 and the beginning of 1863, Black soldiers and emancipation had both proved to be very divisive issues among western army officers. Most Union officers believed that the Union—not emancipation—was their cause. The Second Confiscation Act, along with the Preliminary and final Emancipation Proclamations, generated substantial discord in the army. Significant numbers of officers opposed these measures out of political, practical, and racial concerns. Other officers just as fervently approved these policies for their practical benefits, with some going much further and becoming downright abolitionists. But overall, pragmatism counted for far more than morality or idealism. In the political sphere, Peace Democrats, or “Copperheads”, of the Union adamantly opposed abolitionism and sought a negotiated peace. Opposition to emancipation declined strikingly after the first few months of 1863 because officers came to realize its practical benefits and, in some cases, came to understand the harsh reality of slavery. This pattern did not hold when it came to enrolling black troops. Many officers supported this policy out of practical considerations, but there was also considerable opposition that lasted through the end of the conflict.

Keywords:   emancipation, debate, Union officers, Second Confiscation Act, final Emancipation Proclamations, abolitionists, Peace Democrats, Copperheads, black soldiers, pragmatism

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