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This Day in Georgia History

May 09, 1862

Union General Ordered Slaves Freed

Maj. Gen. David Hunter, commander of Union Army’s Department of the South, issued General Order No. 11 freeing the slaves of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. Hunter’s directive provided:

“The three States of Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, comprising the military department of the south, having deliberately declared themselves no longer under the protection of the United States of America, and having taken up arms against the said United States, it becomes a military necessity to declare them under martial law. This was accordingly done on the 25th day of April, 1862. Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible; the persons in these three States - Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina - heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free.”

President Abraham Lincoln, however, was concerned that Hunter’s order might cause border states to join the Confederacy and immediately countermanded the proclamation, although stating that Hunter was “an honest man.”