Three years prior to the ending of slavery via President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Union Army Gen. David Hunter filed his own proclamation to free slaves in the South. On this day in 1862, Gen. Hunter issued General Order No. 11, which ended slavery across three states but was quickly struck down weeks later.
Gen. Hunter had long been an advocate of arming Black soldiers for the U.S. Civil War, doing so after the April 1862 Battle of Fort Pulaski in Georgia. He formed the 1st South Carolina Union Army Regiment, the first such Union Army unit, but it was disbanded, then later approved by Congress. This gave fuel to Gen. Hunter’s desire to arm soldiers across the “Department of the South” – the states of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida respectively.
The order was met with immediate resistance from President Lincoln, who feared that slave-owning Union citizens would defect to the Confederacy if word got out former slaves were being armed to fight in the war. Further, Lincoln wanted an amicable path to emancipation that included padding the pockets of slave owners in the South as slavery was a large part of the Confederacy’s economic power.
On May 19, 1862, President Lincoln revoked Gen. Hunter’s order, though he still advocated for Black Union soldiers and to end their mistreatment under capture by Confederate forces. In 1865, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation officially ended the practice of slavery.
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