At the end of 1862, the eastern theater of the Civil War had reached a stalemate. The conflict between the Merrimack and the Monitor marked the birth of the ironclad warship but had little impact on the Union's conventional naval dominance. Initially the Confederacy sought King Cotton diplomacy, a strategy based on the belief that cotton-starved western European powers would be forced to enter the conflict by offering diplomatic recognition to the Confederacy and breaking the Union blockade to secure cotton. When the Civil War broke out, President Lincoln chose not to make the conflict a struggle over slavery because he
doubted his right under the Constitution to tamper with the "domestic institutions" of any state, even those in rebellion. In March 1862, Congress tilted toward emancipating slaves when it forbade the practice of returning fugitive slaves to their masters. On July 17, 1862, Congress adopted a second Confiscation Act, legislation that declared all slaves of rebel masters "forever free of their servitude." Abraham Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation because he considered emancipation to be "a military necessity, absolutely essential to the preservation of the Union." Among free black men of fighting age in the North, most fought in the Union army. From the beginning, the Confederacy faced formidable odds in pursuing its bid for independence; it had to succeed in all of the above Despite their ideological commitment to states' rights and limited government, Confederate leaders expanded their power by drafting soldiers into the Confederate army and confiscating large amounts of property for the war effort. Aside from leading to the legal destruction of slavery, the Civil War itself helped destroy slavery in practice by disrupting the routine, organization, and discipline necessary to keep slavery intact. White Southerners' greatest fear regarding their slaves during the Civil War was that they would engage in violent revolt. Slaves increasingly used the chaos and turmoil of the Civil War to whittle away at their bondage by employing various means to undermine white mastery and expand control over their own lives. In 1862, the Homestead Act helped to encourage Westerners to be loyal to the Union. While the North's industrial production boomed during the Civil War, the working class there found that
inflation and taxes cut so deeply into their wages that their standard of living actually fell.
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