Little Bits of History

Emancipation Proclamation

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 7, 2015
07 4th_Earl_of_Dunmore

John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore

November 7, 1775: Lord Dunmore’s Proclamation is signed. John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore and royal governor of the British Colony of Virginia, was from Scotland and ruled in the colonies from 1771 to 1775. While governor, he worked to extend the borders of the colony past the Appalachian Mountains even though a prior Proclamation singed in 1763 after the French and Indian War stated the British would remain east while the French would claim west of the mountain line. He had his own little war, the Lord Dunmore War which was fought in 1774, in which he defeated the Shawnee and Mingo tribes in response to the natives increasing hostilities. He was, of course, opposed to the colonial attempts to break free of British governance.

On April 20, 1775 he took control of colonial ammunition stores in what became known as the Gunpowder Incident. This was just one day after the Battles of Lexington and Concord which had been colonial victories. The gunpowder in the magazine at Williamsburg was to be taken to a Royal Navy ship. The colonialists contended the gunpowder belonged to them and not the British crown and led a charge to retrieve the valuable commodity. Dunmore threatened to enact martial law and a group of slaves came to offer their services should he need help in defending his position. He sent them away but as things got more violent, he fled the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg and took refuge on a Royal Navy ship on June 8.

For the next several months, Dunmore kept his forces and supplies replenished by conducting raids on shore. He invited some of the willing slaves to help him carry these out. The Virginia House of Burgesses, fed up with Dunmore’s antics, decided fleeing the Palace and living offshore meant he had resigned his position as governor. In response to this, he signed his Proclamation on this day. The document proclaimed the colony to be in rebellion and the revolutionaries were traitors to the crown. He, the official governor, was declaring martial law. What it also declared was “all indentured servants, Negroes, or others…free that are able and willing to bear arms…”

Dunmore’s hope was that the rebelling slaves would hamper the rebelling colonials as well as bolster his own forces which were cut off from the Royal held center at Boston. His own forces numbered just 300. Although this was the first time there was a mass freeing of slaves, it was not done from any moral consideration as to the horrors of slavery, but rather as a practical recourse to circumstances. Virginians were outraged and increased their efforts to rid the colony of British rule. Estimates of the number of slaves so freed remains between 800 and 2,000 and they fought in just one battle which was a British loss. The strategy was unsuccessful and when Dunmore left Virginia in 1776 he took about 300 freed slaves with him. During the course of the Revolutionary War, about 100,000 slaves were freed when they fought with the British, more than any other time until the US Civil War when Abraham Lincoln also signed a document also called the Emancipation Proclamation.

A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years. – Lysander Spooner

A slave is one who waits for someone to come and free him. – Ezra Pound

We owe to our Mother-Country the Duty of Subjects but will not pay her the Submission of Slaves. – George Mason

African slavery, as it exists in the United States, is a moral, a social, and a political blessing. – Jefferson Davis

Also on this day: Galloping Gertie – In 1940, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsed.
Belief – In 1837, Elijah Lovejoy was killed as he tried to protect his printing press.
MoMA – In 1929, the art museum opened.
Carl was Stoked – In 1967, Carl Stokes was elected mayor of Cleveland, Ohio.
Gifts From the Heavens – In 1492, the Ensisheim meteorite hit the town.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 24, 2013
Map of the United States with Tennessee highlighted

Map of the United States with Tennessee highlighted

July 24, 1866: Tennessee becomes the first state to be readmitted to the Union after the American Civil War. The war was fought between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865 with the last battle ending on May 13. Long before the first shots were fired in anger, there was a rift between the North and South. The agricultural South was dependent on slave labor. Issues with State Rights over Federal interference were of major importance. As the country grew, more states were included in the Union, further upsetting a delicate balance.

On December 24, 1860 South Carolina issued a legal proclamation setting forth the causes she felt would justify Secession from the Union. First was States Rights to choose whether to be slave or free. Secondly, the Fugitive Slave Act was not being enforced, thereby diminishing the authority of the Southern States. Even before Lincoln took office, seven states seceded from the Union. South Carolina first then Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas – in that order – left the Union and established the Confederate States of America (CSA). After the attack on Fort Sumter, four more states (Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) joined the CSA.

Reconstruction began even before the war ended. The period covers 1863-1877. The era is defined as the time when slavery was abolished and the CSA was totally eradicated. The Emancipation Proclamation began the journey towards reuniting the war torn country. Reconstruction began in each state as federal troops took control of the region. The period’s end date coincides with the Compromise of 1877 where the last three Republican supported state governments were removed.

Tennessee was the last state to officially join the CSA. East Tennessee tired to remain aligned with the US. Many battles were fought inside the state’s boundaries. By the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, most of Tennessee was under Union control (which is why the state isn’t named in the Proclamation). The Tennessee state legislature outlawed slavery on February 22, 1865 with the state’s voters approving in March. In 1864 Andrew Johnson, a War Democrat from Tennessee, became Vice President with Lincoln’s second term. After Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson’s leniency toward Tennessee allowed members to be admitted back into the US Congress on this date. This allowed for Tennessee to be the only seceded state to avoid being ruled by a military governor during Reconstruction.

“All we ask is to be let alone.” – Confederate President Jefferson Davis

“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery.” – President Abraham Lincoln

“[The house Rhett Butler built for Scarlett] could have been in Omaha so little does it resemble any dwelling in the Atlanta of the Reconstruction period.” – Margaret Mitchell

“Gettysburg proved a significant turning point in the war, and therefore in the preservation of the United States and abolition of slavery. The Civil War ended lingering doubts since its conception about whether the United States would survive.” – James McPherson

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863. It was an order to all segments of the Executive branch of the US including the Army and Navy. The order stated that all slaves in Confederate territory were free. Thus, 3.1 million of the 4 million slaves in the country were immediately freed. It further proclaimed that “suitable” people among the now free ex-slaves should be enrolled in the paid services of the US forces. Because the President is Commander in Chief of the military, this order was issued constitutionally. It was not a law passed by Congress and it could not be enforced in areas still in rebellion. However, there was already much of the South that had been subdued and in these areas, the slaves were now freed. This order did not involve the five slave states that were not in rebellion and did not outlaw slavery itself. It also did not compensate the owners for the loss of their property nor did it make the ex-slaves citizens.

Also on this day: The Manly Peak – In 1911, Machu Picchu was found – again.
Oh, Henry – In 1901, William Porter was released from prison.
Eastland – In 1915, the SS Eastland capsized.

Emancipation Proclamation, a Bit Late

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 19, 2012

Major-General Gordon Granger

June 19, 1865: Union Major-General Gordon Granger reads General Orders, No. 3 to the people of Galveston, Texas. The American Civil War ended on April 9 of that year. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862 and went into effect January 1, 1863. However, it didn’t do much to change the everyday lives of most blacks, especially in Texas which was almost entirely under Confederate control. While East Texas was home to many slaves, the Western areas were far less so, particularly in the Hill Country. This was where many German-Americans lived and they were resistant to the practice.

General Granger arrived in Galveston, along with 2,000 federal troops. He was to take possession of the territory and enforce the terms of the Proclamation. Legend states he was standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa when he read the contents of General Order No. 3. The order stated it was from the President of the United States and all slaves were free. They were to be treated as equals in both personal and property issues. Former slave holders were to be considered employers and former slaves were hired labor, deserving wages. Former slaves were not to travel to military posts and idleness was not to be tolerated.

Former slaves rejoiced in the streets of Galveston that day. They made a portmanteau of the words June and nineteenth and proclaimed the day Juneteenth. The following year they once again celebrated the day of their personal freedom. The celebration spread through Texas. By the close of the nineteenth century, Juneteenth had become a ritualized celebration. By the years of the Great Depression, the celebrants were too short of funds and employers were unlikely to let workers off to party. The celebrations fell out of favor.

During the years of the Civil Rights movement, some once again began to remember the past and take the time on June 19th to observe the date when ancestors were told of their status as equals among men. Slowly, the celebrations have caught on, even outside Texas. There is now a push to have Juneteenth declared a National Holiday with Rev. Dr. Ronald V. Myers, Sr. leading the push toward a country wide celebration. He is the leader of the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign to make Juneteenth Independence Day a National Day of Observance. As of 2009, 32 states and the District of Columbia have endorsed the idea.

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. – Abraham Lincoln

Freedom means choosing your burden. – Hephzibah Menuhin

Freedom is that instant between when someone tells you to do something and when you decide how to respond. – Jeffrey Borenstein

Liberty doesn’t work as well in practice as it does in speeches. – Will Rogers

Also on this day:

NASCAR – In 1949, NASCAR begins.
Julius and Ethel – In 1953, the Rosenbergs were executed.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis – In 1939, Lou Gehrig’s illness was named.