One difficulty Hunter faced was the lack of
administrative support. Since his scheme did not have official governmental
approval, he had to scrounge for staff officers. Some of the Roundheads,
invited to help with the formation of the black regiment, witnessed at first
hand the unit's problems of leadership and organization. John H. Stevenson
This was called the 1st South
Carolina Volunteers, though the fact of volunteering was far from being a fact,
as many of the slaves were brought in as recruits by squads of armed white
soldiers. [I] was tendered a commission, but Col. Leasure dissuaded me from
accepting the same, though quite a number of "Round Heads" were
accepted as captains [and] lieutenants, and this regiment was subsequently
disbanded as the government did not seem to be ready for such a bold scheme.
real problem was that the Federal government was not yet ready to accept
emancipation, and President Lincoln acted quickly to repeal Hunter's decree. On
19 May, he issued the following statement:
I, Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States, proclaim and
declare, that the government of the United States, had no knowledge,
information, or belief, of an intention on the part of General Hunter to issue
such a proclamation; nor has it yet, any authentic information that the
document is genuine. And further, that neither General Hunter, nor any other
commander, or person, has been authorized by the Government of the United
States, to make proclamations declaring the slaves of any State free; and that
the supposed proclamation, now in question, whether genuine or false, is
altogether void, so far as respects such declaration.
Lincoln went on to explain that he would
encourage any state to consider the gradual emancipation of slaves and would
offer the cooperation of the federal government in such efforts, but Hunter's
decree was effectively dead. Most of the blacks rounded up in the recruitment
drive of 12 May were home within ten days.
Little wonder, therefore, that when the official announcement finally arrived later that year, the slaves were reluctant to believe that this time the government really meant it. On New Year's Eve, we are told, slave churches were full, holding "Watch Night" services, but with fervent prayers that the coming Emancipation Proclamation would last longer than the previous one.