Happy Birthday, Emancipation Proclamation!

Lincoln's risky political gamble wasn't designed to, but it changed the world.
3:00 | 09/21/12

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Transcript for Happy Birthday, Emancipation Proclamation!
-- Kenneth C Davis. Even if it goes through American history -- you probably learn something about Abraham Lincoln. No he was not the vampire. Most. Abraham Lincoln was the great emancipated. He freed the slaves in January 1863. When he signed the emancipation proclamation. Right. Well not exactly. 150. Years of bloody civil war -- -- union armies crushed in a string of defeats. Confederate armies knocking -- beat Washington DC Lincoln attacked daily by friend and everything that could go wrong was going wrong. So what did Lincoln do with the world crashing down around him Lincoln announced a preliminary version of the emancipation proclamation. If the confederate states did not surrender Lincoln would free -- slaves on the first day of 1863. It was a threat pure and simple and the timing was no accident. Few days. Union army when a crucial victory at the -- battle and -- in one day more than war. Thousand men -- Another 171000. Were wounded and missing. Still the worst single day in American military history but this costly victory gave -- -- the political cover he needed. To announce his plan to free the slaves. The confederate ignored -- -- the war reached on and on January 1 1863. Abraham Lincoln issued the formal emancipation. Proclamation. So Lincoln freed the slaves right. Again not exact. The formal proclamation applied only to slaves in the rebellious states. There was still slaves in some union states in Lincoln's proclamation also did not apply to confederate areas in union hands. In the end. The great emancipated or. Freed very few slaves but the political and emotional impact of Lincoln's decision was enormous with a scratch of his pen he turned a fight to save the union into -- war and slavery. African Americans celebrated it but some abolitionist thought it was too little too late. Others saw an illegal abuse of power. And many union and refused to fight to free slaves one reason Lincoln -- so unpopular when he ran again in 1864. The actual end of slavery had to wait for the end of the war. And the thirteenth amendment. I'm Kenneth C Davis and you don't know much just --

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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