Slaves No More.

Essay by KRISTINOUniversity, Bachelor's December 2005

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The newly found freedom for slaves was fleeting and conditional upon the presence of the Union Army who played a duel role of liberator and enforcer. When the Army moved on, Southern plantation owners reverted to old attitudes and practices, and meted out punishments, which were in many ways, harsher, crueler, more brutal and punitive. As for the union Army, their life and death struggle to survive and/or retain the ground that they had won pushed all other concerns including the welfare a newly freed slaves in a position of at minimum secondary importance. Therefore slaves who participated in actions of rejoicing, refusing to work, or proclaiming their human-hood, now that they considered themselves free, or engaged in criminal acts such as looting or "giving aid and comfort" to the Union Army were meted swift and sometimes deadly punishments. "They tol' us we were free," and ex-North Carolina slave testified about the Yankees, but the master' "would get cruel to the slaves if they acted like they were free."

"Although recognizing that he was free, a former Alabama slave knew better than to claim that freedom in the presence of his master. 'Didn't do to say you was free. When de war was over if a nigger say he was free, dey shot him down. I didn't say anythin', but one day I run away'." Such was "freedom" for the slave under Union occupation and southern reality.

The reaction of Southern whites to the Emancipation Proclamation and the surrender of the Confederacy was a sense of utter devastation, betrayal, acts of brutal retaliation towards slaves who took serioiusly, their newly found freedom, and Southern whites refusing to relinguish control of their human property until the fall of Richmond, which signaled for whites the futility of their situation and the finality...