The First Federal Occupation Ends


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First Federal (Union) Occupation

The First Federal Occupation Ends

The First Federal Occupation ended in September 1862.  From April through September, slaves in Fredericksburg and surrounding counties realized if they crossed the Rappahannock River and went into Stafford they would be “free” in Union hands.  The following quotes from Major Rufus Robinson Dawes, 6th Wisconsin Infantry (in what became the Western “Iron Brigade”), reflect the perspective of the Union soldiers:

“Our camps are now flooded with negroes, with packs on their backs, and bound for freedom.  No system of abolition could sweep away the system more effectually than does the advance of our army.  Behind us the slaves, if they choose, are free.  All military authority is gone.”

Happily slaveholders and slave catchers were not be assisted by the military and “the great question of liberty is working its own solution.”  Dawes ended with, “The right must, and surely will, triumph in the end. Let us thank God, and take courage.”