Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of civil war. The Proclamation declared, “that all persons held as slaves are, and henceforward shall be free." Yet the Proclamation did not immediately free a single slave. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union, exempted parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control and, most important, the freedom it promised depended upon Union military victory. The Emancipation Proclamation did succeed however, in fundamentally transforming the character of the war. After January 1, 1863, every advance of federal troops expanded the domain of freedom. Moreover, the Proclamation announced the acceptance of black men into the Union Army and Navy, enabling the liberated to become liberators. As a milestone along the road to slavery's final destruction, the Emancipation Proclamation has assumed a place among the great documents of human freedom.
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