The Story: Emancipation

Many Southerners strongly protested recruiting slaves, claiming they would leave the Confederate Army rather than fight alongside black soldiers. Others worried about providing slaves with guns, even to serve in the military. Southern whites still held the fear that arming slaves would lead to violent uprisings. Before the North Carolina state government could decide the question of recruiting blacks, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, ending the war.

"Sherman had swept from the northern border of Georgia through the heart of the Confederacy down to the sea, striking the death-blow to the rebellion. Grant had pursued General Lee beyond Richmond, and the army of Virginia, that had made such stubborn resistance, was crumbling to pieces. Fort Sumter had fallen;--the stronghold first wrenched from the Union, and which had braved the fury of Federal guns for so many years, was restored to the Union; the end of the war was near at hand, and the great pulse of the loyal North thrilled with joy. The dark war-cloud was fading, and a white-robed angel seemed to hover in the sky, whispering "Peace--peace on earth, good-will toward men!" Sons, brothers, fathers, friends, sweethearts were coming home. Soon the white tents would be folded, the volunteer army be disbanded, and tranquillity again reign. Happy, happy day!--happy at least to those who fought under the banner of the Union. There was great rejoicing throughout the North. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, flags were gayly thrown to the breeze, and at night every city blazed with its tens of thousand lights."

Elizabeth Keckley, former resident of Hillsborough, N.C.

President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, stating that slaves in the Confederate states were freed. The proclamation had little immediate effect on most of North Carolina’s slaves. It served mainly as a promise that the Union government would free slaves after the war. Slaves in the Confederate states were officially freed by the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in December of 1865.