Figure 1.--There are no photographic images of slaves being liberated. The photographic processes of the day did not permit it. Nor could magazines reproduce photographs. Magazines could, however, public engravings. Harper's published this scene of a Federal column arriving at a plantation and freeing the slaves during 1863. How accurate the depiction is we are not sure. We suspect it was somewhat less dramatic.

Much has been made of the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation did not free the slaves in the border states. But relatively few slaves lived in the border states. The great bulk of the slave population lived in the Deep South where they worked on cotton and other plantations. And while the Army of the Potomac struggled to reach Richmond in the East, other Federal armies took substantial areas of the Condederacy in the West. New Orleans fell early in the War because of Federal naval power. Grant after a long campaign took Vicksburg, Mississppi (July 1863). Sherman finally took Atlanta, Georgia (September (1864). Federal armies seized coastal areas of South Carolina, in part using black regiments (1863). In the process of these campasigns, large numbers of black slaves were freed. Federal columns reached the plantations where large numbers of black slaves lied and toiled. The arrival of Federal troops was a shok for both the plantation owners and the slaes on the plantations Soe of those Federal coluns included black regiments. I am not sure how many slaves were freed in this manner as oppossed to running away to Federal lines. Nor do I know of any reliable estimates exist on this. The most emotive image we know is an Alexander Gardner portrait of a freed Afro-American family in Richmond taken at about the time that General Lee was surrendeying to General Grant (April 1865). Gardner posed the freed slaves against the backdrop of the ruined Confederte capital.

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Created: 12:58 AM 8/23/2005
Last updated: 2:04 PM 3/29/2015