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A Nation Divided.  The Civil War in contemporary prints
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1862: July

[ Battle of Malvern Hill | Battle of Hill's Plantation | General Henry Halleck | Battle of Murfreesboro | Militia Act | Reading the Emancipation Proclamation ]


Battle of Malvern Hill: July 1

The Seven Days Battles had seen General McClellan give up his plan to attack Richmond, instead deciding to try to preserve his army from what he mistakenly thought were General Lee's overwhelming numbers of troops. Lee still hoped to deal a crushing defeat on the Union army, so he pursued his attack even though McClellan had established a very strong entrenched position on Malvern Hill. The Confederates bravely attacked the Union entrenchments, but they were slaughtered, mostly by the cannon positioned along the top of the hill. Lee lost 5,590 men compared to less than a third of that for the Union.

Despite weakening Lee's forces and the protests of a number of his subordinates, McClellen decided to continue his retreat to Harrison's Landing on the James River. The very bloody Seven Days Battles (about 35,000 deaths) resolved little, though Richmond was protected for the time being.

Battle of Hill's Plantation: July 7

Also known as the Battle of Cotton Plant or the Battle of Cache River. Union General Samuel R. Custis in Arkansas began a movement of his troops towards Clarendon, in order to meet a convoy with needed supplies. Confederate General Albert Rust was ordered to stop Custis and the two forces met near the Cache River. Initially the Union forward elements were well outnumbered, but they fought off repeated Confederate attacks until reinforcements arrived and the Southerners were forced to retreat. This was still something of a Confederate victory, for Custis did not arrive in Clarendon until after the convey had given up and left.

General Henry Halleck: July 11

Concerned by the failure of McClellan's peninsular campaign, Lincoln called General Henry Halleck from his western command to take over as Commander-In-Chief of all the Union armies.

Battle of Murfreesboro: July 13

Union General Don Carlos Buell was advancing his troops towards Chattanooga at a leisurely pace. Confederate forces under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and Col. John Hunt Morgan set out from Chattanooga to attack the Union supply center at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in order to slow down that advance. Their attack was successful and the Union forces surrendered and their supplies were destroyed.

Militia Act: July 17

On July 17th, Congress passes the Militia Act, which authorizing the use of blacks as soldiers, though they were to be used only as scouts, laborers, spies, kitchen workers, and nurses. Until 1864, black soldiers are paid only half of what white soldiers are paid. On this same date, Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act, declaring all slaves owned by rebels were henceforth freed.

Reading the Emancipation Proclamation: July 22

Carpenter: 1st Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation
Lincoln had been treading very carefully around the issue of freeing the slaves, fearing any such move might cause the loyal slave states to join the Confederacy. He had, for instance, countermanded previous orders emancipating slaves by two of his commanders, General Fré in Missouri in September 1861 and General Hunter in the southern-most states in May 1862. However, by July 1862, things had changed.

Congress was pushing the issue of emancipation, passing the Second Confiscation Act on July 17th, which decreed that all slaves owned by rebels were free. Meanwhile, despite Lincoln's many pleas, the border states refused to accept gradual emancipation in return for federal compensation. And finally, the failure of McClellan's plan to take Richmond forced Lincoln realize he needed to add new vigor to the Union; "What was needed was a new cause, not to supplant, but to supplement the old..."

Thus Lincoln decided it was time for a decisive move to seize the initiative and reinvigorate Union sentiment. He prepared an Emancipation Proclamation, which he read to his cabinet on July 22. This proclamation freed any slave in territory under rebellion as soon as Union armies could make that effective. The cabinet, however, was concerned that this proclamation would seem an act of desperation, so it was agreed that it would not be publicly announced until there was a significant Union victory, something which for which Lincoln would have to wait for another two months.


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