On September 17, 1862, Union and Confederate troops squared off at Antietam Creek in the first major battle of the Civil War on Northern soil. By sunset, almost 23,000 men lay dead or wounded but the Union had won a desperately needed strategic victory. Five days later, President Abraham Lincoln, bolstered by the Union Army's performance, issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, publicly declaring his intention to make abolition a goal of the war.
One hundred and fifty years later, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) sponsored Emancipation Nation: Celebrating Freedom on Constitution Day to mark the occasion.
NEH sponsored a panel discussion by five prominent Civil War scholars of pre-Emancipation life and the events that led to the issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. The discussion was live-streamed on September 17 from the Warner Brothers Theater in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, thanks to the generosity of the History Channel.
The panel was moderated by University of Richmond President Edward L. Ayers, award-winning author of books on the Civil War and creator of the Valley of the Shadow digital project. Eric Foner, Dewitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and winner of both the Pulitzer and Bancroft prizes, described the perspective of President Lincoln. Thavolia Glymph, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and History at Duke University and the author and coauthor of award-winning books on enslaved and slaveholding women, slavery, and emancipation, described the situation as it appeared to enslaved African Americans. Gary Gallagher, John L. Nau III Professor in the History of the American Civil War at the University of Virginia and author and editor of groundbreaking books on the Civil War, analyzed the military context of Emancipation, and Christy Coleman, President and CEO of the American Civil War Center in Richmond, Virginia and writer and lecturer on Civil War topics, portrayed the views of Frederick Douglass, abolitionists, and Northern free blacks.
Watch the video here: