Due to continued Southern victories and no States returning to his rule with African labor safely secured, Lincoln was persuaded by Secretary of State William Seward “to withhold his proclamation so that it could be issued on the morrow of victory and thus not appear as “our last shriek on the retreat.”
Lincoln would claim his “victory” at the battle of Sharpsburg in mid-September 1862, where his refusal to accept Southern independence caused 23,000 casualties. Northern General George McClellan’s 76,000 man army had been fought to a standstill by General Robert E. Lee’s 38,000 troops.
Even after a bloody Northern defeat at Fredericksburg (18,000 casualties) in December ended a dreadful year of carnage wrought by Lincoln, he remained steadfast in refusing to end the slaughter and inaugurate peace.
Emotional Red Herrings and Shameless Edicts
“During the last months of 1861, United States fortifications along the Niagara were significantly strengthened with guns and men. And even before [captured Southern diplomats] Slidell and Mason had been released from [Northern] custody, followed by strong and prolonged British protest, at the beginning of the following year, Canadian admiration for the Confederate cause persisted – in spite of the slavery issue – which sophisticated foreigners (and not a few Unionists) perceived to be an emotional red herring.
This particular fact of political life was obscured for most Americans a year later, when they heard of the Emancipation Proclamation – but failed to read its text with any care.
President Lincoln had not, by this edict, freed all the slaves, but merely those who resided in Southern territory still under the control of the enemies of the Union. This gesture which was to give the martyred Lincoln the name of the “Great Emancipator” was shamelessly political and selective, designed to split the Confederacy by allowing Southerners to infer that if they only caused their States to rejoin the Union, they might retain their “peculiar institution.”
And as such, the Emancipation Proclamation accomplished nothing concrete – though it undoubtedly gave Northerners a feeling of complacency. It emancipated no one.
It would require three amendments to the Constitution and the passage of more than a century before “emancipation” had any real meaning – and it would be for the blacks to emancipate themselves.”
(The Niagara, Rivers of America, Donald Braider, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972, excerpts pp. 238-239)