Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became official Jan. 1, 1863. The proclamation declared that “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”
However, the Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on Texas because there were only a minimal number of Union troops to enforce the executive order.
In spring 1864, the Union commander, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, began a series of campaigns to wear down the Confederate army led by Gen. Robert E. Lee. Lee inflicted heavy casualties on Grant’s larger army, but was unable to replace his own losses. In early April 1865, near the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, Lee’s depleted forces began a strategic retreat. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865. There were several other confederate field armies during that time, but by June 1865, all of the remaining Confederate armies had surrendered.
On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers, led by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free—two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation became official.
For more information about Juneteenth visit http://www.juneteenth.com/history.htm
For more information on the Emancipation Proclamation visit http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/emancipation_proclamation/