The Union Army’s Struggle over the Limits of Confiscation in the West

Kristopher A. Teters

in Practical Liberators

Published by University of North Carolina Press

Published in print June 2018 | ISBN: 9781469638867
Published online May 2019 | e-ISBN: 9781469638881
The Union Army’s Struggle over the Limits of Confiscation in the West

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From the beginning of the war to the summer of 1862, officers in the West adopted policies toward fugitive slaves that ranged from barring them altogether from their lines to aggressively liberating them. In August 1861, Congress offered some guidance on the issue with the First Confiscation Act, but the act’s limited scope led to minimal confiscation or none at all by top officers. Sensitive to the sentiments of border states like Missouri, who supported the Union but wanted slavery preserved, Lincoln was not yet ready to push for emancipation. At times, however, officers in the Border South still carried out the First Confiscation Act, but much depended on the dispositions and political views of the officers. Some Union officers, like William T. Sherman, Henry Halleck, and Ulysses S. Grant, held conservative views and pushed back against letting fugitive slaves enter Union lines and confiscating slaves belonging to Unionists. Officers, particularly in states like Tennessee, Alabama, and Louisiana, had very different ideas about how to handle fugitive slaves, and they were willing to pursue them even if it meant conflict with each other, their superiors or subordinates, or Washington.

Keywords: fugitive slaves; confiscation; diverse policies; First Confiscation Act; border states; confiscated slaves; officers; William T. Sherman; Henry Halleck; Ulysses S. Grant

Chapter.  12649 words. 

Subjects: Military History

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