The Day of Jubilee~January 1, 1863

And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan.– Leviticus 25:10

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor– Isaiah 61:1-2

So on the first day of 1863, it came to pass. Few recognized what a complete change this would make in the nature of the war. Many took no notice of the day. Few, if any, could foresee the great loss of life which would come this year.

African Americans keep a watch meeting awaiting news of emancipation

African Americans keep a watch meeting awaiting news of emancipation

January 1– Thursday– Washington, D.C.–Acting upon his declaration of September 22, 1862, in which he announced his intent to issue a formal emancipation of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863, President Lincoln, under his war powers in Article II, section 2 of the United States Constitution, signs and issues the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect except in locations where the Union has already regained control. “I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons. And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defense; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages. And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service. And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”

January 1– Thursday– Washington, D.C.– Secretary of The Navy Gideon Welles notes in his diary the beginning of the year. “The New Year opens with a bright and brilliant day. Exchanged congratulations at the Executive Mansion with the President . . . . The Emancipation Proclamation is published in the evening’s Star. This is a broad step, and it will be a landmark in history. The immediate effect will not be all its friends anticipate or its opponents apprehend.. . . . The character of the country is in many respects undergoing a transformation.”

January 1– Thursday– New Bedford, Massachusetts– At a meeting called by black clergy, African Americans pass a number of resolutions, one of which says, “we would also remember, with heartfelt gratitude to God, the name of William Lloyd Garrison, whose unwearied exertions and self-sacrifices, with those of his noble coadjutors, have been chiefly instrumental in bringing about the present hopeful crisis in the cause of human freedom.”

January 1– Thursday– Brooklyn, Ne York– Thomas Jefferson Whitman writes to his brother Walt, encouraging him to have their brother George resign from the army. “Speak with him of Mother, who is getting old very old, and if anything should happen [to] him I am quite sure she could not survive it Even now I can see the effect of the weeks worry that she has already had. Certainly no one could find any fault with him, or talk of him other than the bravest of the brave if he should resign to-morrow. And another thing I certainly do not see how this immense risk and sacrifice of life is doing any good at all, it looks very much to me as if we were slowly but surely drifting towards mediation or something worse. Walt, I beg of you, do not neglect to see George and put this thing in its strongest light.”

January 1– Chambersburg, Pennsylvania– William Heyser, businessman and farmer, describes the day in his diary. “Pleasant weather. At the bank, then home to read and write. Town crowded with country people keeping New Year’s Day. This day Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation. I think it will do more harm than good. Little can be done with it, but to make more enemies.”

January 1– Thursday– Richmond, Virginia– John Jones, a clerk in the Confederate government, writes optimistically about the day and makes no mention of emancipation. “This first day of the year dawned in gloom, but the sun, like the sun of Austerlitz, soon beamed forth in great splendor upon a people radiant with smiles and exalted to the empyrean.” [The battle of Austerlitz, Moravia, fought in December, 1805 is considered Napoleon’s greatest victory, a fight against a much larger allied force.]

January 1– Thursday– Falmouth, Virginia– In the Army of the Potomac, Elisha Hunt Rhodes writes, “The new year opens, and we are still in camp with nothing new to report. Camp life goes on and it comes our turn to do picket duty on the river banks occasionally.”

January 1– Thursday– Charleston, South Carolina– Mr Robert Yeadon offers a bounty of $10,000 (Confederate) for the capture of Union General Ben Butler, dead or alive.

January 1– Thursday– Beaufort, South Carolina– Charlotte Grimke, age 25, an African American educator working with freed and escaped slaves, describes the day. “The most glorious day this nation has yet seen, I think. . . . I thought I had never seen a sight so beautiful. There were the black soldiers, in their blue coats and scarlet pants, the officers of this and other regiments, in their handsome uniforms . . . . Colonel Higginson . . . [made] a few elegant and graceful remarks. Dr William Brisbane [former slave owner turned abolitionist] read the President’s Proclamation, which was warmly cheered. . . . . Immediately at the conclusion, some of the colored people– of their own accord sang ‘My Country Tis of Thee.’”

January 1– Thursday– Paris, Tennessee– Charles Alley, Union cavalryman from Iowa, meditates on his life. “New Year’s Day and fine warm weather. Another year has gone into eternity. How many thousands of my fellow creatures have gone into eternity. How many even of my own company and yet I am alive, healthy and strong. Surely in these things God has been good to me. And what return have I made him that of a Christian. Ah, how little do I differ from the other men. Too often do I give way to evil thoughts, to angry words, to an evil disposition. Lord enable me to dedicate myself more entirely to thy service.”

January 1– Thursday– Linwood, Louisiana– Southern woman Sarah Morgan optimistically welcomes the new year in her diary. “1863! Why I have hardly become accustomed to writing ’62 yet! Where has this year gone? With all its troubles and anxieties, it is the shortest I ever spent! ’61 and ’62 together would hardly seem three hundred and sixty-five days to me. Well, let time fly. Every hour brings us nearerour freedom, and we are two years nearer peace now than we were whenSouth Carolina seceded. That is one consolation.”

January 1– Thursday– Prairie Grove, Arkansas– Oliver Coffman, a Union cavalryman, writes excitedly in his diary. “Today I worked all day. The boys had plenty of whiskey & the artillery are making the old cannon roar. Part of the boys are on a scout. A happy new year to all.”

January 1– Thursday– Paris, France– Birth of Pierre de Coubertin, French historian, educator and founder of the International Olympic Committee.

January 2– Friday– Boston, Massachusetts– The Liberator carries the banner headline “Three Million of Slaves Set Free! Glory, Hallelujah!” Garrison reprints the text of the Emancipation Proclamation and an account of “the grand demonstration in this city [Boston], yesterday, at Tremont Temple, probably the only public celebration of the kind in this section of the country. The Proclamation of freedom was not received at the meeting until just previous to the adjournment last evening . . . . The joyous enthusiasm manifested was beyond description, the whole audience rising to their feet and shouting at the tops of their voices. After the meeting at the Temple, a large number wended their way to the Twelfth Baptist Church, where they joined in prayer and congratulations, and partook of a repast which had been there prepared.”

January 2– Friday– Washington, D.C.– Senator John Sherman writes to his brother, General William Tecumseh Sherman. “We are watching with the most eager interest the progress of your expedition. We all hope its success will brighten the gloom cast by operations here. If the Mississippi can only be opened and Texas and Arkansas detached it will be a gleam of hope by which I can see the end of the war. Without an outlet to the South and West and with such a blockade as we can easily keep up, the Southern Confederacy cannot exist. This will settle the cotton question, for Texas and Arkansas can with the free labor that can easily be thrown there grow enough cotton for the world another ground of hope.”

January 2– Friday– London, England– U S Minister Charles Francis Adams sends to Secretary of State Seward and President Lincoln a message drafted yesterday by Mayor Abel Haywood and many of the working men of Manchester, England. “We rejoice in your greatness. . . . We honor your free States, as a singular, happy abode for the working millions. . . . One thing alone has, in the past, lessened our sympathy with your country and our confidence in it; we mean the ascendency of politicians who not merely maintained Negro slavery, but desired to extend and root it more firmly. Since we have discerned, however, that the victory of the free north, in the war which has so sorely distressed us as well as afflicted you, will strike off the fetters of the slave, you have attracted our warm and earnest sympathy.”

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