A New Birth of Freedom:
The Civil War, in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, brought to America “a new birth of freedom.” And during the war began the nation’s efforts to come to terms with the destruction of slavery and to define the meaning of freedom.
By the war’s end it was already clear that Reconstruction would bring far-reaching changes in Southern society, and a redefinition of the place of blacks in American life.
The resulting casualties dwarfed anything in the American experience. Some 650,000 men died in the war, including 260,000 Confederates — over one-fifth of the South’s adult white male population.
The Proclamation also authorized the enlistment of black soldiers.
By the end of the Civil War, some 200,000 black soldiers had served in the Union army and navy, staking a claim to citizenship in the postwar nation.
In addition, a group of young Northern reformers came to the islands to educate the freedpeople and assist in the transition from slavery to freedom. The conflicts among these groups offered a preview of the national debate over Reconstruction.