Timothy H. O'Sullivan, Fugitive Slaves Crossing the Rappahannock River, 1862
At the beginning of the war, emancipation had not been a northern objective. But as thousands of black people fled to safety behind Union lines and many of them joined the Union army to fight for the freedom of African Americans, the issue could no longer be ignored. In the same year that Timothy O'Sullivan photographed slaves in Virginia escaping to freedom, Abraham Lincoln announced his Emancipation Proclamation. Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens concluded, "the corner stone of the Confederacy is . . . knocked out."
Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress