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Sheet Music of the Week: Emancipation Edition

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"Gen. Frémont's march," by A.J. Vaas. Chicago: Root & Cady, 1861.

The following is a guest post by Head of Acquisitions & Processing Denise Gallo.

On Sept. 22, 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation stating “That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free….” This Emancipation Proclamation was one of the most important pronouncements during the Civil War and certainly a defining statement in Lincoln’s presidency. It may seem strange then that Lincoln actually reversed an earlier order that freed slaves in Missouri, a difficult decision based on the need to keep the then-neutral state from aligning with the Confederacy.

The man who emancipated Missouri was Major General John C. Frémont. A colorful explorer, army officer, and politician (as a Radical Republican, he would oppose Lincoln in 1864), Frémont was impetuous and stubborn. After the Battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861, this ardent foe of slavery marched on St. Louis and declared martial law, confiscating property of secessionists and freeing all slaves. Although Frémont (and other abolitionists) defended his actions, he had created an uneasy balance among the states that had already chosen sides in the conflict. Feeling this political quagmire keenly, Lincoln removed Frémont from his command and rescinded the emancipation order on Sept. 11, 1861. Just a little over a year later, though, Lincoln’s proclamation, with its farther-reaching effects, was issued.

Although Frémont was relieved of his command, he was not dismissed from the army, going on to assume command of forces that tackled the Confederates in the mountainous regions of Virginia and Kentucky. His popularity as a soldier and commander is demonstrated in the dedication of this parlor piano march, its cover art depicting him seated proudly on his horse, never hinting at any of the ignominy of the Missouri affair.

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