Emancipation Timeline


November: Lincoln elected

December 18: John Crittenden of Kentucky proposes compromise that would extended Missouri Compromise line to California and forever preserve slavery where it existed. Lincoln and most Republicans rejected it and Congress tabled it on December 31.

December 20: South Carolina secedes.


February 7: Seven deep South states form Confederate States of America

March 2: Congress sends 13th Amendment to states for ratification.

March 4: Lincoln delivers First Inaugural Address

April 12: Confederates attack Fort Sumter; Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas secede

April 19: A pro-Confederate mob attacks Union soldiers as they travel through Baltimore. The four soldiers and 12 Baltimoreans killed are the first casualties of the Civil War.

May: As slaves increasingly flee to Union lines, army declares runaways contraband and refuses to return them to masters

July 4: Lincoln's message to Congress.

July 21: Battle of Bull Run

July 25: Crittenden Resolution, saying war is solely to save Union and uphold Constitution, passes House and Senate overwhelmingly. Lincoln supports it.

August: Congress adopts Confiscation Act: Slaves used for military purposes become free if they fall into Union hands.

Gen. Fremont frees slaves in Missouri, Lincoln rescinds order.

December: Congress declines to reaffirm Crittenden Resolution.


March: Union wins battle of Pea Ridge, secures Missouri from Confederate threat.

Lincoln introduces plan for compensated emancipation in border states.

April: Lincoln signs bill compensating slave owners in the District of Columbia. Later ended slavery in the territories without compensation.

May: Gen. Hunter frees slaves in some southern states, Lincoln rescinds order

July: Lincoln warns border states to accept compensated emancipation, proposes colonization of freedmen to South America.

Congress passes Second Confiscation Act: Slaves of anyone who supported the rebellion would be freed if they fall into Union hands. Blacks may be enlisted in the Army. Lincoln signs the bill but does not enforce it and prevents Gen. Hunter from raising black regiments in South Carolina, preferring freed slaves to work as laborers rather than soldiers.

July 22: Lincoln informs his Cabinet that he has decided to issue an executive order emancipating the slaves. "I said to the Cabinet that I had resolved upon this step," Lincoln later recalled, "and had not called them together to ask their advice but to lay the subject matter of a proclamation before them; suggestions as to which would be in order after they had heard and read it." Secretary of War Edwin Stanton persuades Lincoln to wait until after a union victory to issue the order, so it won't seem to be an act of desperation.

August 22: Lincoln responds to Horace Greeley, says only goal in war is to save the Union.

September 13: Lincoln meets with anti-slavery clergymen, expresses doubts about emancipation.

September 22: Lincoln issues preliminary Emancipation Proclamation: Slaves in all areas in rebellion as of Jan. 1, 1863 will become permanently free. Will not apply to border states, Confederate areas currently under union control, rebel states which return to the union before Jan. 1, 1863. Efforts to colonize freed slaves will continue.

November: In midterm elections, Democrats run on opposition to emancipation, gain 34 seats in the House of Representatives. New York Times calls the election a "vote of want of confidence in the president."

December: In his annual message to Congress, Lincoln proposes Constitutional amendments providing for gradual emancipation to be completed by 1900, and voluntary colonization of African Americans.


January 1: Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect. This final version of the Emancipation Proclamation calls for enlisting blacks in the armed services and omits call for colonization of freed slaves, which had appeared in the preliminary Proclamation of Sept. 22.

January 12: Jefferson Davis responds to Emancipation Proclamation in address to Confederate Congress.

Union begins allowing black men to serve in army and navy.

May 27: At Battle of Port Hudson, LA, black troops demonstrate courage in battle. Reports appear in NY Times.

June: West Virginia enacts Congressionally mandated gradual emancipation, and is admitted to the Union.

July: New York City draft riots. Twelve blacks lynched.

July 31: New York Times, Chicago Tribune carry reports of the Massachusetts 54th Regiment's role in the unsuccessful assault on Ft. Wagner in Charleston, SC harbor. Tribune headline: "The Colored Troops in Charleston Harbor. Their Bravery Under Fire at Fort Wagner--Scenes in the Hospitals."

Summer: Union officially adopts policy of forcing freedpeople to work on plantations owned or leased by planters loyal to the Union. Conditions approximate slavery:

August: 50,000 black soldiers in Union army.

November: Lincoln delivers Gettysburg Address. Republicans gain in off-year elections.

December: Lincoln issues Amnesty Proclamation outlining his initial proposal for readmitting Confederate states.


April: Senate approves 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery. It fails to gain necessary two-thirds vote in the House.

June: Congress grants equal pay to black soldiers; House fails to pass anti-slavery amendment for second time.

Lincoln renominated for president unanimously by Republican Party. Platform calls for adoption of amendment abolishing slavery.

July: Lincoln writes in a letter to a Confederate peace delegation at Niagara Falls: "Any proposition which embraces the restoration of peace, the integrity of the whole Union, and the abandonment of slavery, and which comes by and with an authority that can control the armies now at war with the United States will be received and considered by the Executive government of the United States, and will be met by liberal terms on other substantial and collateral points."

September: Sherman captures Atlanta

October: Maryland adopts new state constitution abolishing slavery.

November: Lincoln reelected with 55 percent of the popular vote, including 80 percent of soldiers' votes.

Lincoln throws support behind 13th Amendment.


January 31: 13th Amendment passes lame duck House by a vote of 119-56; it is sent to the states for ratification. Slavery abolished in Missouri by decree.

March 4: Lincoln delivers Second Inaugural Address.

Confederacy announces plans to recruit 300,000 slaves for military service. Volunteers and their families will be granted freedom.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis offers to abolish slavery in exchange for diplomatic recognition from Great Britain.

April: Lee surrenders.

Lincoln assassinated.

December: 13th Amendment ratified by states, becomes part of Constitution.


April 14: Frederick Douglass delivers keynote address at the dedication to the Emancipation Memorial, a statue depicting Lincoln freeing a slave from bondage, in Washington D.C.