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Practical Liberators

Union Officers in the Western Theater during the Civil War

By Kristopher A. Teters

Practical Liberators

240 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3886-7
    Published: June 2018

Civil War America

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During the first fifteen months of the Civil War, the policies and attitudes of Union officers toward emancipation in the western theater were, at best, inconsistent and fraught with internal strains. But after Congress passed the Second Confiscation Act in 1862, army policy became mostly consistent in its support of liberating the slaves in general, in spite of Union army officers' differences of opinion. By 1863 and the final Emancipation Proclamation, the army had transformed into the key force for instituting emancipation in the West. However, Kristopher Teters argues that the guiding principles behind this development in attitudes and policy were a result of military necessity and pragmatic strategies, rather than an effort to enact racial equality.

Through extensive research in the letters and diaries of western Union officers, Teters demonstrates how practical considerations drove both the attitudes and policies of Union officers regarding emancipation. Officers primarily embraced emancipation and the use of black soldiers because they believed both policies would help them win the war and save the Union, but their views on race actually changed very little. In the end, however, despite its practical bent, Teters argues, the Union army was instrumental in bringing freedom to the slaves.

About the Author

Kristopher A. Teters is a course faculty member at Western Governor's University.
For more information about Kristopher A. Teters, visit the Author Page.


"Kristopher Teters boldly asserts that for Union officers in the Western Theater, emancipation was little more than a tool they hesitantly picked up in order to preserve the nation. His extensively researched and nuanced volume is sure to become a crucial touchstone in the ongoing debate over why Civil War soldiers fought and died."--Kenneth W. Noe, Auburn University

"This book makes an important contribution by expanding our understanding of the role of antislavery sentiment in motivating the Union war effort."--Wayne Hsieh, United States Naval Academy