In mid-1862, President Abraham Lincoln wrestled with the idea of issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. With Confederate armies pressing into Maryland and Kentucky, Lincoln realized that he could not issue the Proclamation until the Union secured a major military victory. In addition, Lincoln feared how Unionists in Kentucky, Missouri, and Maryland would react, although the Proclamation did not free border-state slaves.
However, three Confederate failures in the autumn of 1862 gave Lincoln the political conditions necessary to issue the final version of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The Union victory at the battle of Antietam, fought near Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, provided Lincoln the first military victory that he had been looking for. Five days later, the president issued the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation, which was to take effect on January 1, 1863. It gave Union soldiers a moral cause to fight for and helped keep European powers out of the Civil War.
Two other Confederate failures that October ensured that the Proclamation would become official. On October 3-4, attacking Southern troops were driven from Corinth, Mississippi.
Four days later, here at Perryville, the Confederates won a tactical victory but were eventually forced to leave Kentucky. The inability of the rebels to hold the Bluegrass State was another Union victory and ensured that Lincoln had enough political cachet to make the Proclamation official.
Had either or both of these battles ended differently, it is possible that Lincoln would have delayed issuing the final Proclamation. Instead, the chain of Union victories in the autumn of 1862 ensured that the Proclamation would take effect.
Kentucky slaves were finally freed when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified inDecember 1865.
Kentucky Lincoln Heritage Trail
1809 Abraham Lincoln born at Sinking Spring farm, in present-day Larue County, Kentucky.
1816 Lincoln family moved from Kentucky.
1841 Abraham Lincoln visited his friend Joshua Speed at Farmington, the Speed family plantation, in Louisville, Kentucky.
1842 Abraham Lincoln married Mary Todd of Lexington, Kentucky.
1847 The Lincoln family visited Lexington, Kentucky, en route to Abraham's only term in Congress.
1860 Abraham Lincoln elected President of the United States in November.
1865 Abraham Lincoln assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C.
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