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Antietam: A Savage Day In American History
NPR ^ | 9/17/2012 | Tom Bowman

Posted on 09/17/2012 4:22:21 AM PDT by iowamark

On this morning 150 years ago, Union and Confederate troops clashed at the crossroads town of Sharpsburg, Maryland. The Battle of Antietam remains the bloodiest single day in American history.

The battle left 23,000 men killed or wounded in the fields, woods and dirt roads, and it changed the course of the Civil War.

It is called simply the Cornfield, and it was here, in the first light of dawn that Union troops — more than a thousand — crept toward the Confederate lines. The stalks were at head level and shielded their movements.

Cannon fire opened the battle with puffs of white smoke rising from the tree line, at the precise spot where men re-enacting the battle are firing artillery today.

Just 200 yards in front of the Union forces, Confederate troops from Georgia were flat on their stomachs. They leveled their guns and waited, and when the Union troops broke out of the corn, the Georgians all rose up and fired.

"The smoke, the noise, the artillery is crashing in from all directions," says Keith Snyder, a park ranger at Antietam. "It's just a concentrated terror."

It was complete chaos in and around the cornfield, Snyder says, with people screaming and bodies everywhere. In that first phase of the battle, 10,000 soldiers are killed and wounded.

One of the men who survived the cornfield was Cpl. Lewis Reed of the 12th Massachusetts Regiment. He wrote about that day in a letter years later. He remembered all the men around him screaming for help.

"I found myself on the ground with a strange feeling covering my body ... My shirt and blouse filled with blood and I supposed it was my last day on earth. I had the usual feelings of home and friends and thousands of thoughts ran through my mind at once."

Cpl. Reed managed to stagger to the cover of nearby woods. He would live to the age of 83. As for his fellow soldiers, two of every three men in his unit would be dead or wounded by nightfall.

There was nothing special about these fields, or even this town. It had no strategic value. Gen. Robert E. Lee's plan was to push his troops north, perhaps to Pennsylvania, fight a decisive battle and pressure northern politicians to sue for peace. Union troops marched from Washington and intercepted Lee.

"The thing about Antietam is it's a very personal battle," Snyder says. "The vast majority of combat here is done at very close range — hundred yards and closer. It's savage and personal. So when you pop out the enemy is right there."

By late morning the fight in the cornfield was a stalemate. The Union shifted its attack, and actually turns south and head toward what was called the Sunken Road.

The Bloody Lane

The Sunken Road was an old country farm lane worn down by years of wagon traffic and erosion. A few hundred yards long and about 5 feet or so below ground level, it was a ready-made fort for the southerners. The Confederates — more than 2,000 — were hunkered down, waiting for the Union troops.

The Confederates peered over the top and watched the northern troops coming across an open field. As the Union soldiers came into view, the southerners rose up and fired, taking out nearly every soldier in the front rank.

One Union general saw his troops disappear into the sunken road, and was heard to say, "God save my poor boys."

But after terrible losses, the Union troops were able to encircle the Confederates, and the Sunken Road became a death trap for the men inside. Men like Sgt. James Shinn of the 4th North Carolina Regiment. He watched hundreds of his fellow soldiers flee to the rear, and later scratched this entry in his diary.

"The Minie balls, shot and shell rained upon us from every direction except the rear. Many men took this chance to leave the field entirely. Many officers were killed and wounded, and I am sorry and ashamed to say, left the field unhurt."

Almost 2,000 Confederate dead and wounded that have piled up on this road, Snyder says. The Sunken Road would forever be known as Bloody Lane, and it was a turning point in the battle.

"Once this thing collapses, the center of Lee's entire Army has been broken wide open," he says. "It is absolute desperation."

The Burnside Bridge

The battle shifted to the third and final phase, next to the waters of Antietam Creek.

Nearby, a stone bridge crosses the creek, and on the other side, there's a steep bluff, 100 feet straight up. Confederate soldiers were dug in and they had a perfect shot at any advancing troops below.

Antietam Park Ranger Keith Snyder describes it as fortress for the Confederates.

"The Union 9th Corps had to attack a castle," he says. "It's almost impossible to take this position."

The plan was to hit the Confederates from two sides. Some would cross the river downstream, while other federal troops would storm straight across the bridge. The bridge was a crucial crossing.

It took three Union assaults — and nearly three hours — to take the bridge. The final assault was led by Brig. Gen. Edward Ferraro, who led veteran soldiers from New York and Pennsylvania.

Ferraro had taken his men's whiskey ration because they got in a little trouble, so one of the soldiers said, "give us our whiskey and we'll take the bridge."

They did take the bridge, and later got a keg of whiskey. Thousands of union troops climbed the bluff, and then the real fight began against the main Confederate force.

Gen. Lee's reinforcements saved his forces, and the Union troops were pushed back to the bridge. But at the end of all the combat, 23,000 casualties and after 12 hours of fighting, Snyder says everyone was just about where they were when they started.

"The lines shifted [about] a hundred yards," he says.

It was basically a stalemate.

Late the next day, Gen. Robert E. Lee slipped his army across the Potomac. The Union commander, Gen. George McClellan, failed to pursue Lee. He was soon fired by President Lincoln.

The partial victory at Antietam, however, gave Lincoln what he needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation that would free the slaves in the Confederate states the following January.

After Antietam, the war would no longer be just about preserving the Union.


TOPICS: Education; History; Military/Veterans
KEYWORDS: antietam; civilwar; dixie
Late the next day, Gen. Robert E. Lee slipped his army across the Potomac. The Union commander, Gen. George McClellan, failed to pursue Lee. He was soon fired by President Lincoln.

The partial victory at Antietam, however, gave Lincoln what he needed to issue the Emancipation Proclamation that would free the slaves in the Confederate states the following January.

After Antietam, the war would no longer be just about preserving the Union.

General McClellan might have won the war then if he had pursued Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. McClellan, however, wanted a compromise peace preserving slavery. He was horrified a few days later at Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

1 posted on 09/17/2012 4:22:27 AM PDT by iowamark
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NY Times: Lee's Lost Order
2 posted on 09/17/2012 4:30:53 AM PDT by iowamark
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To: iowamark
Someone ought to forward this to Mr. Dylan.

The US playing craps with its very existence as a sovereign national entity, risking its future and the lives of everyone here... to end slavery....after the Revolution to throw off the Monarchy, that is THE defining fact of the United States of America!!

If you don't comprehend THIS about America, you don't know America.... whether or not you live here, you MUST know this!

Example: I am sure I could not claim to in the least bit understand Russia or Russians if I was not aware of their Revolution!

Yet somehow Mr. Dylan and his friends think that the us IS slavery....NOT

No one thinks of serfdom when they think of Russia... they think of the bloody and monstrous revolution the Russians made (and all the subsequent suffering and destruction they've endured since) in order to remove the Czarist system. We credit them with THAT.

Why not have the decency to credit the US with the tremendous effort, sacrifice and near suicidal risk which Americans took to accomplish just such a noble task?

3 posted on 09/17/2012 4:48:31 AM PDT by SMARTY ("The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings. "Henri Frederic Amiel)
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To: iowamark

,,,,,, a real bad day for Burnside . A creek you could wade accross and a sunken road all elements of a failed day for Americans on both sides . The bloodiest day in American history and most school children don’t even know about it thanks to our liberal public schools . History is bound to repeat itself .


4 posted on 09/17/2012 5:22:29 AM PDT by Lionheartusa1 (-: Socialism is the equal distribution of misery :-)
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To: iowamark
In the mid-70’s the park service asked for volunteers to march the route A.P. Hill's troops took from Harper's Ferry to Sharpsburg on the anniversary of the battle. I joined with about fifty others, and we followed the original route and schedule as closely as possible. We made it on time, but of course we weren't carrying muskets or gear. Still, it was quite a feat, and I remember feeling that my legs were almost detached from my hips at the end of the march. Afterward, we were supposed to get a certificate or something from the park service, but, I assume because we were acting the part of Confederate troops, they changed their mind about that.
5 posted on 09/17/2012 5:29:24 AM PDT by PUGACHEV
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To: iowamark

Antietam .... souls still wander there. Every time I’ve visited, the place really “gets” to me in a way I can’t describe.


6 posted on 09/17/2012 5:38:36 AM PDT by MissMagnolia (Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't. (M.Thatcher))
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To: iowamark
The NPS has a wide range of activities going on today and is posting live dramatic photos of the battlefield, taken at exactly the same time as the key parts of the battle depicted.

NPS Antietam National Battlefield on Facebook

Here's Farmer's Miller's cornfield this morning...


7 posted on 09/17/2012 5:54:55 AM PDT by Timber Rattler (Just say NO! to RINOS and the GOP-E)
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To: Lionheartusa1

High banks that were difficult to climb as well.


8 posted on 09/17/2012 5:59:36 AM PDT by bonfire
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To: iowamark

I’m surprised there hasn’t been a major movie made about Antietam.


9 posted on 09/17/2012 6:01:05 AM PDT by dfwgator (I'm voting for Ryan and that other guy.)
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To: SMARTY

“The US playing craps with its very existence as a sovereign national entity, risking its future and the lives of everyone here... to end slavery.”

False statement. The US/Lincoln may have been playing craps to save the union, but they did NOT engage in war to free the slaves. If they had, Lincoln would have issued an emancipation proclamation on the first day of Sumter...and he would NOT have said:

My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.


10 posted on 09/17/2012 6:01:11 AM PDT by Lee'sGhost (Johnny Rico picked the wrong girl!)
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To: iowamark

The battlefied on the day of the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862

CREDIT: Gardner, Alexander, photographer. “Antietam, Maryland. Battlefield on the day of battle,” 1862. Prints
and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-DIG-cwpb-01162.

11 posted on 09/17/2012 6:03:41 AM PDT by LibFreeUSA
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To: Lee'sGhost

I get that.

But I don’t think that any southern states would have left the Union if they were not challenged over keeping slaves.

That’s what I mean.


12 posted on 09/17/2012 6:04:50 AM PDT by SMARTY ("The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings. "Henri Frederic Amiel)
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To: MissMagnolia

I would agree with you.

I spent some time all alone in the Dunker Church, which is about one third original materials from that day.

It changed hands many times during the battle, and was used by both sides as a field hospital.

The suffering and agony that occurred in there must have been monumental.it was eerie to be alone in there, but it was not due to a feeling of malice; rather it was more due to extreme sadnesses adding the place.

Unlike
Gettysburg, Antietam is not expansive—it is a rather compact battleground.

To have two large armies firing almost point blank at each other for an entire day in such a small area is almost incomprehensible.

The bravery of the men who fought that day is unequalled.


13 posted on 09/17/2012 6:11:14 AM PDT by exit82 (Pass the word: Obama is a FAILURE!! Democrats are the enemies of freedom!)
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To: SMARTY

“But I don’t think that any southern states would have left the Union if they were not challenged over keeping slaves.”

When were they challenged? BY whom and under what force?


14 posted on 09/17/2012 6:14:29 AM PDT by CodeToad (Be Prepared...They Are.)
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To: CodeToad

States declared for the South because the Union was NOT already polarized by Abolishionist rhetoric?


15 posted on 09/17/2012 6:22:06 AM PDT by SMARTY ("The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings. "Henri Frederic Amiel)
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To: Timber Rattler

I was there all day Saturday. Very moving and very well-done on everyone’s part.


16 posted on 09/17/2012 6:28:46 AM PDT by HokieMom (Pacepa : Can the U.S. afford a president who can't recognize anti-Americanism?)
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To: iowamark

Never forget.


17 posted on 09/17/2012 6:30:57 AM PDT by EternalVigilance ("The opposite of compromise is character." -- Frederick Douglass)
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To: SMARTY

That one I accept. It’s a pet peeve of mine. Our wonderful public education system no long teaches facts and too many people are ignorant of the facts. Most people actually believe that Lincoln and the remaining Union declared war on the Confederacy with a declared goal to free slaves. Simply not true. It kills them to find out that their whole view of war is false.

As you correctly allude, people can argue that slavery was the cause of the war, but they can’t say that the war started with the intent of freeing slaves. Two totally different concepts. I mean, who are they going to believe, their public school teachers or Lincoln’s own words.


18 posted on 09/17/2012 6:43:22 AM PDT by Lee'sGhost (Johnny Rico picked the wrong girl!)
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To: Lee'sGhost

It was part of the equation right from the beginning... the fact that Lincoln articulated it later, differently or possibly for different reasons that people in the South, is not the issue, historically.

The South was an agrarian economy and they were only successful and prosperous at it because they held slaves.... their way of life and consequently their politics as well was tied to slavery.

For THEM, it was a central issue right up front and only became so for everyone else, later.

That’s the way I always understood it.


19 posted on 09/17/2012 7:06:40 AM PDT by SMARTY ("The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings. "Henri Frederic Amiel)
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To: All

I’m proud to report my one and only son fought for the Rebs this past Sat at - ahem - Sharpsburg...
He was a Reb on the Bloody Lane site and said that when the Yanks assaulted, he got shivers just getting a feel for what it must have been like.
His grandfather and great grandfather are named after Gen Wade Hampton....
We are blessed with a great heritage.


20 posted on 09/17/2012 7:13:46 AM PDT by matginzac
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To: SMARTY

I believe all those things to be true. There are nuances associated with those views that make it a complicated discussion at best. As I told someone the other day, it wasn’t just that Lincoln got elected, it was that the entire balance of power in Congress had swung the other way. Slave states knew their days were numbered one way or the other.

They made a bunch of wrong moves and played into Lincoln hands. At the same time, at one point northern support for the war was so low that even Lincoln probably would not have been able to continue with it had Confederates won one more major victory. That’s what Antietam was all about.


21 posted on 09/17/2012 7:20:46 AM PDT by Lee'sGhost (Johnny Rico picked the wrong girl!)
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To: MissMagnolia

Antietam has always been one of my favorite battlefields to visit. I always enjoyed visiting Gettysburg, Antietam, and other sites during the winter months because you practically had them to yourself. The place that really got to me the first time I went there was Andersonville. I walked the perimeter of the wall, all the way around the camp, and as I walked, I felt an unbelievable sorrow and depression come over me, to the point that by the time I had gotten back to where I had started, I felt like bursting into tears, and had to fight the feeling off. It took several hours for those feelings to finally leave me, and it only happened after I’d left the park. I’ve been to many battlefields, but this was the first time I had ever been effected that severely.


22 posted on 09/17/2012 8:22:08 AM PDT by mass55th (Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway...John Wayne)
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To: Lee'sGhost

Correct... and between us (whether or not we totally agree) we certainly know more about the thing than Mr. Dylan and THAT’S what I meant all long.


23 posted on 09/17/2012 8:37:25 AM PDT by SMARTY ("The man who has no inner-life is a slave to his surroundings. "Henri Frederic Amiel)
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To: Lee'sGhost

Based on letters I’ve read of Union soldiers, had they been told that the war was to free the slaves, they never would have enlisted. If Lincoln had declared emancipation early on, enlistment would have been much lower, and I believe the draft would have had to be enacted long before it was in 1863.


24 posted on 09/17/2012 8:43:23 AM PDT by mass55th (Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway...John Wayne)
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To: SMARTY

Amen!


25 posted on 09/17/2012 8:47:16 AM PDT by Lee'sGhost (Johnny Rico picked the wrong girl!)
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To: mass55th

I think you’re missing a key point. Just because slaves were “emancipated” by decree on paper, that did not make them free in reality.

Think about it.


26 posted on 09/17/2012 8:51:37 AM PDT by Lee'sGhost (Johnny Rico picked the wrong girl!)
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To: Lee'sGhost
Of course, the Emancipation Proclamation was a useless document because it only freed slaves in the rebellion states, but the point I was making is that I believe if the government had pushed the war as a war of emancipation, whether that emancipation only applied to the states that had seceded, the enlistment rate for Union forces would have been a lot lower than it was in 1861. You'd only get massive enlistments by declaring the war was for a patriotic reason, ie., to hold the Union together.

In 1861, when Fremont issued his own emancipation of slaves in Missouri, Lincoln ordered him to revise the proclamation because he thought the Union would lose the southern states they had gained control of. Fremont refused, and was removed from command, and sent east. In 1864, he ran for President, backed by abolitionists. Besides Fremont, McClellan had thrown his hat in the ring, nominated by the Democrats. Lincoln firmly believed he would not be re-elected.

The following letter was widely published in several of the newspapers of New York State in late 1864. It was discovered in the 10/15/1864 issue of the Poughkeepsie Telegraph:

A Soldiers Letter

We have been favored by an old resident of Mabbettsville, in this county with the following interesting letter written to him by a nephew in the army, dated

Morris Island, S.C.

September 24, 1864

Dear Uncle:--Your good advice I will try and follow. I tell you, George B. McClellan is the only man, that can carry the old ship of State safely through; already we are drifting near the rock that will submerge the noble ship, and we need a man at the helm that will take her out into the broad ocean and gide her toward and into the port of Peace. I say there is too much negro about this matter; only look at the thousands of valuable lives that have been sacrificed for the black man, but my opinion is the South are not fighting for slavery now, but for their honor; but the present administration are continually harping on the negro. They say we are determined to break the bonds of every slave--or disunion God forbid I should ever have those feelings. No, no. The Union must and shall be preserved. Let the negro go. The white man must rule and reign. The noble and tried patriot to-day stands before the American people for the high position of President of these United States. His enemies will ask you what he has ever done to entitle him to occupy the presidential chair? He has done much. Why did he not do more? Simply because he was neveer supported by the Administration as he should have been; troops were withheld from him, when he called loudly for them. The great secret was, he was too popular with the people and soldier. The Republicans were afraid of him. But thank God he is as much beloved to-day as ever. The soldiers love him, and when their votes are counted you will find we will roll-up such a majority for General George B. McClellan that will astonish the country. He is our choice, and if you could have witnessed as I did the scene that transpired when he was relieved from command, it would have made your heart (though it were adament) melt to see the tears trickle down the cheek of the war worn veteran and the raw recruit when the news reached them, but I trust the day of deliverance is at hand. Dear Uncle, though you may have never engaged in politics before in your life, I implore you to put your shoulder to the wheel, and every chance you have don't neglect the opportunity of urging the claim of Little Mac upon your friends. Please tell them to stand by him. I hope Old Duchess [county] will roll up a large majority for him. I must close as it is near 10 o'clock at night. Please write me a few lines. Your nephew, Edwin A. Hoag.

27 posted on 09/17/2012 10:23:01 AM PDT by mass55th (Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway...John Wayne)
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To: MissMagnolia

Shaprsburg sits on a wide bend in the Potomac River, and, for whatever reason, it has always had a reputation for violence and the macabre. Long before the Civil War, the indians used to think it was haunted, and they avoided the place. Later, when the B&O Railroad and the canal came through, it became the site of deadly battles between Irish and German laborers who were competing for jobs. When that was settled, a cholora epidemic swept through and killed hundreds of the survivors, who are burried in a mass grave now lost to hisory. I’ve camped out on the C&O Towpath nearby the battlefield, and I know what the indians were talking about.


28 posted on 09/17/2012 11:51:16 AM PDT by PUGACHEV
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To: Lee'sGhost

His Proclamation didn’t free any one. It proposed freeing slaves in the South only-no mention of the North. (Ths South had already seceded and Abe had no authority there.)

The 13th Amendment later abolished slavery whem ratified in the latter part of 1865.


29 posted on 09/17/2012 11:56:12 AM PDT by TurboZamboni (Looting the future to bribe the present)
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To: mass55th; exit82

The feelings you describe are similar to mine ... not malicious, but sadness, sorrow .... always brings me to tears. I tend to think that the suffering and horror of the Antietam battle were so awful that it’s taking a long, long time to dissipate and I’m not sure it ever will. I am convinced, as I said before, some souls still wander there.

There used to be a museum of sorts (visitor’s center) at The Wilderness battlefield park. In it was a soldier’s uniform - a teenager. It was SO tiny, almost like a childs - really hits home how much smaller folks in that day and age were. Anyway, the pant leg was cut/ripped off because he was shot in the leg. He survived that battle, but I was absolutely transfixed by that uniform when I saw it - for some reason, it became very real to me that a human being had been in those very clothes and what he must have gone through.

A fairly ‘famous’ battle took place on my great-great-grandparents farm in the Shenandoah Valley and a cousin was executed by Union soldiers .... the Civil War definitely figures in our family history and that is one reason it interests me so much.


30 posted on 09/17/2012 4:31:52 PM PDT by MissMagnolia (Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't. (M.Thatcher))
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To: MissMagnolia
"A fairly ‘famous’ battle took place on my great-great-grandparents farm in the Shenandoah Valley and a cousin was executed by Union soldiers."

Which battle was it? I've been to Fisher's Hill, Winchester I, II, and III (aka Opequan), Cedar Creek, New Market, and probably a few of the others. Haven't been there in many years though.

31 posted on 09/17/2012 4:45:46 PM PDT by mass55th (Courage is being scared to death - but saddling up anyway...John Wayne)
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To: TurboZamboni

“Ths South had already seceded and Abe had no authority there.” LOL! If only it had been that simple. Abe didn’t see it that way nor did he recognize the Southern states secession, thus, in his mind, he did have the authority. It sucks, I know, but that’s the long and short of it.

Note the repeated use of the word “free” or “freed”.

The Emancipation Proclamation is an executive order issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War using his war powers. It was not a law passed by Congress. It proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states then in rebellion, thus applying to 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the U.S. at that time. The Proclamation immediately freed 50,000 slaves, with nearly all the rest (of the 3.1 million) freed as Union armies advanced. The Proclamation did not compensate the owners, did not itself outlaw slavery, and did not make the ex-slaves (called freedmen) citizens.[1]


32 posted on 09/18/2012 5:04:16 AM PDT by Lee'sGhost (Johnny Rico picked the wrong girl!)
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To: mass55th

Nice letter. Note that he is one person arguing against what turned out to be the majority and that majority proves my point.


33 posted on 09/18/2012 5:06:36 AM PDT by Lee'sGhost (Johnny Rico picked the wrong girl!)
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To: MissMagnolia

Antietam is definitely spooky.


34 posted on 09/18/2012 5:10:02 AM PDT by central_va ( I won't be reconstructed and I do not give a damn.)
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To: SMARTY

“Why not have the decency to credit the US with the tremendous effort, sacrifice and near suicidal risk which Americans took to accomplish just such a noble task? “

More like the “noble task” to preserve the cotton tarrif’s. LOL!!


35 posted on 07/27/2013 4:51:38 PM PDT by Georgia Girl 2 (The only purpose of a pistol is to fight your way back to the rifle you should never have dropped.)
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