The strategic value of an alliance with the contrabands
become more and more apparent to Lincoln throughout 1862. By
the close of the year, Lincoln finally bowed to the requests of his generals and allowed the contrabands to
fight. Their military prowess quickly sparked an emotional and political
revolution. As the black rebels succeeded in war, Northerners found it
increasingly hard to deny them their freedom. By January 1, 1863, President
Lincoln reversed his earlier position against emancipation and embraced freedom
for all slaves “within any State … [then] in rebellion against the United
States.” He had decided that the “War for Union” would now be a war to end
slavery. “In the end it was not free blacks or white abolitionists, but slaves
in the South whose actions most hastened emancipation [in 1863],” writes James
Brewer Stewart in Holy Warriors:
The destruction of slavery was thus begun on the battlefield and
then ratified in the Emancipation Proclamation. In this quite restricted but
important sense, abolition was first achieved neither by Republican politicians
nor by white abolitionists, but by those blacks, free and slave, who intruded
into a white nation’s civil war.
Stewart’s analysis is equally apt for the smaller—but earlier—emancipation of rebellious
American blacks, which took place when the Black Seminoles "intruded" on
nation's plans for territorial expansion in Florida.
Sources: Stewart Holy Warriors 186, 188.
Part 4, Freedom: l