In June 1862, President Abraham Lincoln is still months away from issuing his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. But 150 years ago this week in the Civil War, Lincoln signed a bill passed by Congress that would ban slavery in the U.S. territories without compensating former slaveowners.
It signals Lincoln is giving deep thought to the issue of slavery as the war drags on. On Sept. 22, 1862, following the Union victory at Antietam, Lincoln would issue his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, ordering that in 100 days the federal government would deem all slaves free in those states still rebelling against the Union.
Meanwhile, the week opens with a vast Union army bristling in eastern Virginia for several major battles that would erupt in coming days and weeks. Those engagements would claim thousands of lives as Confederate forces under Gen. Robert E. Lee would seek to defend their capital of Richmond, Va., from Union foes.
The Associated Press reports intermittent shelling followed by calm. One AP dispatch dated June 22, 1862, reports from the field headquarters of Union Gen. George B. McClellan in Virginia that "this has been a remarkably quiet day, considering the close proximity of the two contending forces."
But the AP reports there had been "brisk skirmishing" the previous day and concludes: "Everything indicated that a general engagement was at hand."
Meanwhile, there are the usual daily incidents of war. A dispatch this week reports that Union soldiers hunting for deserters in northern Virginia "came upon a rebel mail carrier, who was endeavoring to conceal himself in the woods." It added a "large quantity of letters to prominent officers in the rebel service, many of which contain valuable information," were found in the mail bag" of the arrested man.