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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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How Transformative Was the Civil War?

How Transformative Was the Civil War?

(p.153) Conclusion How Transformative Was the Civil War?
Practical Liberators

Kristopher A. Teters

University of North Carolina Press

The process of emancipation played out in a more comprehensive way in the western theater than in the eastern. Western officers were forced to deal with huge numbers of slaves across a vast region and implement appropriate policies and programs to carry out emancipation. In particular, the Border South proved especially difficult in managing the legal and political questions surrounding emancipation. At the war’s beginning, the government in Washington had clearly stated that its goal was to preserve the Union and not free the slaves, a view shared by many western officers. But as the war dragged on into its second year, the armies and the government became more emancipationist. Many officers also came to support emancipation and even the use of black troops. However, most officers only embraced emancipation out of pragmatism and military necessity, and their policies reflected their lack of moral idealism. Officers in the western armies liberated slaves for the army’s benefit. As Reconstruction began, many in the North were not very concerned about securing political equality for former slaves. While the war had pushed Northerners to emancipate the slaves, it did not transform them into racial egalitarians.

Keywords:   western theater, transformation, emancipation, black soldiers, Union army, racial egalitarianism, reconstruction, pragmatism, Border South, military necessity

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