President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all slaves in rebel states should be free as of Jan. 1, 1863.
Lincoln didnít actually free any of the approximately 4 million men, women and children held in slavery in the United States when he signed the formal Emancipation Proclamation the following January. The document applied only to enslaved people in the Confederacy, and not to those in the border states that remained loyal to the Union.
But although it was presented chiefly as a military measure, the proclamation marked a crucial shift in Lincolnís views on slavery. Emancipation would redefine the Civil War, turning it from a struggle to preserve the Union to one focused on ending slavery, and set a decisive course for how the nation would be reshaped after that historic conflict.