On May 9, 1862, Major General David Hunter issued General Orders #11 where he wrote: “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.”
On May 19th, President Abraham Lincoln rescinded General Hunter’s Orders! So much for “forever.”
Lincoln offered a compromised and nuanced preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. In this version, Lincoln offered to withhold emancipation in exchange for the rebellious states’ voluntary, “immediate or gradual abolishment of slavery.” Additionally, the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation explained that, if the rebellious states cooperated, slave owners would “be compensated for all losses by acts of the United States, including the loss of slaves.”
(The U.S. always seems ready to give a bailout to the bad guys.)
Justice and freedom were delayed until January 1, 1863 when Lincoln finally signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
General Hunter’s foiled attempt at ending slavery a few months prior to Lincoln is commemorated with a lone plaque at Fort Pulaski in Georgia.