Saturday, December 29, 2012

January 1 2013: Civil War Jubilee

January 1 marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on New Year's Day, 1863.

The event, one step towards freedom for American slaves, was celebrated all over the Union with Night Watches on New Year's Eve.

 The New York Times on New Year's Day, 1863 had headlines:
 A Night-watch of Freedom at Shiloh Church
 Great Excitement and Rejoicing Among the Colored People
Prayers, Speeches, Songs, Dirges and Shouts


The stroke of midnight was anticipated with speeches and at midnight a dispatch from Washington was read,

 "followed by three cheers for ABRAHAM LINCOLN, three cheers for freedom, &c., &c. Mr. GILBERT then resumed his speaking, and threw a damper on the enthusiasm of the audience by commencing to grumble and find fault because the Proclamation was to be 'issued as a military necessity, and not as an act of justice.' His audience did not appear to sympathize with his troubles in that line, and he soon dried up."

Mr. Gilbert, of course, had a point. The Emancipation Proclamation was a Union act freeing slaves in the Confederacy over which the Union had no jurisdiction in January, 1863. The end of the war was still years away.

But, as a gesture, it was an important gesture, indicating that Union goals had changed. The act also changed the status of  people in "Contraband Camps" who had been neither slave nor free.

 A few weeks later Harper's Weekly published a double page drawing by Thomas Nast on "the great event of the day---Emancipation."
The Past
On the left, the past under slavery; on the right, the future as free people.
The Future
Earning a living
The idea of a Jubilee, a celebration of freedom, is an echo of the Bibilical Book of Leviticus. In the Jewish calendar, a fifty year cycle was called a Jubilee in which slaves were to be freed: "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants."
Henry Louis Stephens,
Watercolor of a man reading the news,

The National Archives in Washington is displaying a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation in the  East Rotunda Gallery for three days, beginning tomorrow: December 30, 2012, through January 1, 2013.
Many Night Watch anniversary parties are planned for New Year's Eve.

See more National Archives programming  by clicking here:


Meredith said...

Another great post. I wondered if you saw the Lincoln movie? I wanted to wish you a Happy New Year.

WoolenSails said...

Wonderful piece of history and a cause to celebrate our freedom for all.


kathyinozarks said...

thank you for this historical insights-I really enjoy reading and learning
Happy New Year!

Cindy MW said...

Wow, thank you for the history.
150years is a long time and with how racism still is all over the world, makes you wonder what the next 150 years will bring.
Are they really free????
HAPPY 2013!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

When my daughter was little, we saw an episode of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman which took place in the 19th century on the frontier in which Dr. Quinn voted. I told my daughter "that's not right" because women couldn't vote then. However, I looked into it and was most surprised to learn that the show was set in a Western state, Colorado or Wyoming I believe, and that they were quite right, women could vote there then. How did we go backwards from this equality?

sunflowermorning said...

I love reading the history...thank-you for all your sharing! Happy new Year!

Pantry Doors said...

Thanks for this piece of history. Its amazing to look at old pictures of mid 19th century as if we are peeking into the past.