Friday, April 20, 2012

Palmer's General Order No. 10

By early 1865 emancipation was progressing well in the in the border states. Maryland emancipated their slaves in November 1864 and Missouri did the same in January 1865. Kentucky and Delaware held out. Both continued to delay until the passage of the 13th amendment in December forced the eventuality upon them.  However, on March 3, 1865, a segment of the slave population did receive their freedom by law from the Federal Government.

An incident at Camp Nelson, Kentucky in the late fall of 1864 helped prompt the passage of the law.  In November 1864 the commander of the camp, Speed S. Fry ordered the families of black soldiers at Camp Nelson to leave the garrison. Without time to dress properly or make arrangements the wives and children were expelled into the bitterly cold weather and scores suffered. On March 12, 1865, commander of Kentucky, General John M. Palmer, issued General Orders, No. 10.

"The General commanding announces to the colored men of Kentucky that by an act of Congress passed on the 3rd day of March, 1865, the wives and children of all colored men who have heretofore enlisted, or may hereafter enlist, in the military service of the Government are made free.

This act of justice to the soldiers claims from them the renewed efforts, by courage, fortitude, and discipline, to win a good name, to be shared by a free wife and free children. To colored men not in the army it offers an opportunity to coin freedom for themselves and posterity.

The rights secured to colored soldiers under this law will, if necessary, be enforced by the military authorities of this Department, and it is expected that the loyal men and  women of Kentucky will encourage colored men to enlist in the army; and, after they have done so, recognize them as upholders of their Government and defenders of their homes, and exercise toward the helpless women and children made free by law that benevolence and charity which had always characterized the people of the State."

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