Continuing with today’s earlier post… Here’s a more military-inclined perspective on the origins and history of Juneteenth.
The Emancipation Proclamation issued on January 1, 1863 did not end slavery in the United States, but it changed the moral and political course of the war into a struggle for freedom, instead of merely suppressing a secession of rebelling states. The proclamation declared “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free”. It also allowed blacks to serve in the federal army and navy, and as a result, almost 200,000 would before the war ended in 1865.
Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia on April 9th, 1865 and General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his forces in North Carolina on April 26th. General Edmund Kirby Smith followed suit and did the same to the Army of Trans-Mississippi on May 26th. The remnant of that force in Galveston, TX laid down its arms on June 2nd. Seventeen days later, Major General Gordon Granger, commander of the Military Department of Texas, came ashore June 19th, 1865 with 2,000 soldiers from XIII Corps and marched to a number of locations throughout Galveston to read aloud General Order No. 3:
“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor. The Freedmen are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”
Although Brigadier Stand Watie would not surrender the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles until June 23rd, this effectively marked the end of slavery in the United States. [The Thirteenth Amendment, passed by the U.S. Senate April 8, 1864, the U.S. House of Representatives January 31, 1865, was ratified by the required number of states and went into effect, December 6, 1865.]
Galveston blacks celebrated Juneteenth, marking the end of slavery in Galveston, for the first time in 1866. The holiday was recognized by the Texas legislature in the 1970s as a “holiday of significance” and eventually became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday in 1980. Currently 47 states and the District of Columbia recognize Juneteenth as an official state holiday or a ceremonial holiday for observance.