Ever since the election of Barack Obama, some politicians have thrown around talk about secession from the Union -- aka, launching a sequel to the Civil War. But even before that, one got the sense that the war was a wound that never healed -- America has seen endless controversy over groups who still insist on rallying around the Confederate flag, for instance.
We might be going out on a limb here, but we're guessing that most of our readers aren't hardcore Civil War historians. And since VH-1 discontinued their I Love the ... series before they got around to the 1860s, a lot of us are walking around with Civil War misinformation firmly wired in our brains. Now is as good a time as ever to clear up some of those myths. Such as ...
6The Emancipation Proclamation Ended Slavery in the United States
It only makes sense that we'd think of the Emancipation Proclamation as the law that freed the slaves; "emancipation" is right there in the title. It's like calling something the "Patriot Act" and then not legislating that everyone wear American flags capes, festoon their cars with airbrushed bald eagles and sing that Lee Greenwood song at dinner every night. Of course the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves. What else would it do?
"The right to vote? Don't push it, guys."
Why it's Bullshit:
It freed some of them. Thanks to a loophole, about a million individuals were still legally slaves after the EP (there were about four million slaves in captivity at the time; it declared three million of them free). The loophole was that the proclamation only applied to states and territories "in rebellion against the United States." In short, if you were a slave in Delaware, Kentucky or even the recently-captured Confederate territories of New Orleans or Tennessee ... sorry, but your freedom-princess was in another castle.
"You got an emancipation proclamation! Collect four pieces total. More documents mean more freedom!"
Why did Lincoln only go half-way? Because as far as political waffling goes, the Emancipation Proclamation was Lincoln's masterpiece. Yes, Lincoln personally detested slavery, but abolition was still a touchy subject on account of four border states remaining loyal to the Union while still being hardcore slave states. There was also the matter of turning the war into a crusade to end slavery, which frankly was not the kind of thing your average Northerner would gladly have his head exploded over.
Other touchy subjects include socialized health care, evolution and sweeping generalizations.
In Lincoln's own words, "I would do it if I were not afraid that half the officers would fling down their arms and three more states would rise."
Lincoln: Just wanted to get home from the office early and have a bit of a sit down, really.
If this sounds out of character for the side that was trying to rescue Africans from bondage, we have to address another myth ...