The University of Richmond has posted an interactive, online map that charts the activity of the Union army and (sometimes unrelated) slavery/emancipation events across the states from ’61 to ’65. It’s interesting to note how the red dots (emancipations) generally precede the blue dots (army investments), and to observe the profusion of red and blue dots that signal Sherman’s marches.
The map plots more than 3,000 emancipation-related events from 1861-1865 in 10 categories that range from government actions to abuse of African-Americans. An additional 50,000 entries show Union troop locations during the Civil War, making it easy to see the impact of opportunity on an animated timeline of the war years.
“It tells us that the end of slavery was this really complicated process that happened all over the South, but more in some places than others during the war,” said Scott Nesbit, associate director of the lab.
“The chance for freedom came about on water and on rails. That’s where the Union troops were. But at some places in the South, people remained enslaved the entire war, long after the Emancipation Proclamation.
“And, just because you get to Union lines doesn’t mean you’re going to start having a good time. These first years of freedom, if we can even call it that, were filled with coercion and danger. … (In the contraband camps,) African-Americans were treated as essentially free, as free as someone can be who is impressed into service by the military and not allowed to leave.”