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Abraham Lincoln. Library of Congress, Words and Deeds in American History Collection Alternate: The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the cabinet

[Detail] The first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation

Historical Research Capabilities: The Fort Pillow Massacre, the Sioux Uprising, and the New York Draft Riots

The collection's materials provide good starting points for research into several interesting events and issues of the 1860s.

Search on Fort Pillow for materials related to the Confederate massacre of African-American soldiers at Fort Pillow, Tennessee. On April 12, 1864, Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his cavalry of 2,500 men captured the fort occupied by 557 Union soldiers. According to an official investigation made after the war, the Confederates murdered most surviving African-American troops and their officers despite their having surrendered. They buried African-American soldiers alive, and set fire to the tents of wounded prisoners of war.

The collection contains Lincoln's request to his cabinet for recommendations on how to respond to the massacre and each cabinet member's proposal. Do further research outside the collection to learn how Lincoln ultimately responded to the massacre and to find out more about the Confederacy's response to the Union's employment of African-American troops. Analyze Lincoln's decision based on the recommendations of his cabinet.

  • What did the cabinet members' proposals have in common? How did they differ?
  • To what degree did Lincoln follow the advice of his cabinet?
  • According to the cabinet members, what were the advantages and dangers of the course Lincoln eventually took? What was the actual impact of Lincoln's decision?
  • Do you think that Lincoln made a good decision? What would you have done and why?

Search on Sioux Uprising for materials related to the conflict between Dakota Native Americans, called the Santee Sioux, and federal troops and civilians in Minnesota. The Santee Sioux gave up nine-tenths of their land as 150,000 settlers came into Minnesota before the Civil War. In 1862, the Federal Government failed to provide the Santee Sioux with the food it had promised in exchange for their lands. When the Santee Sioux tried to trade for food at the reservation agency, the Euro-American traders cheated them. And when the Santee Sioux chief, Little Crow, asked the reservation agent to open the agency's food storage to his starving people, he refused.

In August, the Santee Sioux attacked the agency, a nearby federal fort, and the town of New Ulm. Colonel Henry H. Sibley was sent in to end the "Sioux Uprising." He captured 600 Santee Sioux,and 303 of them were sentenced to death, but Lincoln commuted sentences for all but 38, who were executed on December 26, 1862. Chief Little Crow had evaded capture by Sibley, but was eventually killed for the bounty on his head, and his scalp was displayed in St. Paul.

Learn more about the "Sioux Uprising" in the collection and do further research to investigate the Federal Government's policy towards Native Americans during the Civil War.

Finally, use the collection to research the New York Draft Riots of 1863. Explain the causes of the riots and the measures that were taken to secure peace.