Lincoln's Leadership and the Roles and 

Experiences of African Americans

Fugitive slaves crossing the Rappahannock River, 1862

Jefferson Davis, extract from President's Message to the Senate and House of Representatives of the Confederate States, January 12, 1863 (Official Records, ser. 2, vol. 5 pp. 807-808)

Abraham Lincoln, Order of Retaliation, July 30, 1863

Hannah Johnson, Letter Asking Lincoln to Protect Black Soldeirs, July 31, 1863

Henry Halleck, Letter to Ulysses S. Grant, March 31, 1863 (from Official Records, ser. 1, vol. 24, pt. 3, pp. 156-157) 

Abraham Lincoln. Letter to James C. Conkling, August 26, 1863

Thomas Nast Illustration from Harper's Weekly, March 14, 1863

Susannah Clay, Letter to Her Son, Clement Claiborne Clay, September 5, 1863 (Susanna's husband, a former congressman, governor, and senator in Alabama, owned 70 slaves in 1860. Their primary residence was in Huntsville, but they spent much time on their plantation outside of town, which Susannah increasingly managed due to her husband's declining health.)

.....The negroes are worse than free - they say they are free. We cannot exert any authority. I beg ours to do what little is done. Lucinda makes the beds, Maria gets the morsel we eat for we have  just sufficient to keep us from starvation. She and Crity milk two cows, but grumble and threaten, if Lucinda does not go to get the calves that they will quit. Charles goes to Withers' to make fires in the morning after he has made one here and says he will not go there if he is troubled &c. Alfred does less than Charles. I have to work harder than I ever did but am patient silent and prayerful. Your Father cannot realize the times but is led by the overseer who writes to him to see things differently from what is true. The negroes are so bold, that Alfred told me this morning that if your father went to M.V. [Monte Vista plantation] (as he wishes to do with Alfred's horse) and let the overseer attempt to punish for disobedience that some one would kill the overseer! I asked him how he knew. He said Stephen[,] Hannibal, and Sampson said that they would do it if he ever attempted it!...

     Campbell [a slave] came with an officer, and men, just as I was preparing for bed. They came to my room[.] I was undressed and beged them not to come in[.] they looked at me while I threw on a Robe. I asked, what they wanted? They said the children. I heard that they had your Father at the gate and followed them down where I met Campbell. He was impudent and told lies. I said little to him. He had gone to M.V. and taken Harie to Stephenson before he came here. Harrison took Margaret and Jim two weeks afterwards. Peter and Wesley went, but returned, Peter with a pass for his wife, but said he did not intend to go but the cars ceased to run, and there were no wagons. One came for Margaret.

     Your negroes are free as ours. Where masters are they do better but all I have heard speak, expect that all the negroes able to go will do so when the cars run or the Y's [Yankees] get here...

     Oct. 13th. Severs [the overseer] went out but did not take my letter. I suppose he was angry because I advised him not to punish or force Tempe. She threatened to have his house burned when the Y's came. I beged her to think of the sin &c.... The negroes are making molasses slowly. There is no cotton. The overseer is slow and inert. He has no authority. They have no meat except a beef occasionally. Not a grain of salt and they are too lazy to make it... Milly is the most true one there. Many profess to be so... Milly says that Lydia, Hannah and others are packed to go as soon as they can get news from their friends...

Gertrude Thomas, Excerpts from Journal, May-June 1865

Civil War Contraband Photos

Patrick Cleburne, Letter Recommending Arming Slaves to Fight for the Confederacy, January 2, 1864

"We Want No Confederacy Without Slavery," Charleston Mercury, 13 January 1863

William Fitzgerald to Abraham Lincoln, Saturday, July 04, 1863 (Support from a prisoner in Richmond)

Kevin Levin, Blog Post: "Was the Battle of the Crater the Last Slave Insurrection in the Western Hemisphere?," Civil War Memory, June 16, 2009

"The Massacre at Fort Pillow," Harper's Weekly, April 30, 1864

We give on page 284 a sketch of the horribleMASSACRE AT FORT PILLOW. The annals of savage warfare nowhere record a more inhuman, fiendish butchery than this, perpetrated by the representatives of the " superior civilization" of the States in rebellion. It can not be wondered at that our officers and soldiers in the West are determined to avenge, at all opportunities, the cold-blooded murder of their comrades ; and yet we can but contemplate with pain the savage practices which rebel inhumanity thus forces upon the service. The account of the massacre as telegraphed from Cairo is as follows :

On the 12th inst. the rebel General Forrest appeared before Fort Pillow, near Columbus, Kentucky, attacking it with considerable vehemence. This was followed up by frequent demands for its surrender, which were refused by Major Booth, who commanded the fort. The fight was then continued up until 3 P.M., when Major Booth was killed, and the rebels, in large numbers, swarmed over the intrenchments. Up to that time comparatively few of our men had been killed; but immediately upon occupying the place the rebels commenced an indiscriminate butchery of the whites and blacks, including the wounded. Both white and black were bayoneted, shot, or sabred; even dead bodies were horribly mutilated, and children of seven and eight years, and several negro women killed in cold blood. Soldiers unable to speak from wounds were shot dead, and their bodies rolled down the banks into the river. The dead and wounded negroes were piled in heaps and burned, and several citizens, who had joined our forces for protection, were killed or wounded. Out of the garrison of six hundred only two hundred remained alive. Three hundred of those massacred were negroes; five were buried alive. Six guns were captured by the rebels, and carried off, including two 10-pound Parrotts, and two 12-pound howitzers. A large amount of stores was destroyed or carried away.

George W. Hatton, Letter to the Christian Recorder, May 10, 1864

The progress of Union armies was the most important factor in the destruction of slavery during the war.