Fire Burns Emancipation Proclamation (and most of Chicago)

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NH Civil War Gal

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Feb 5, 2017
I think Mary Livermore (loved her memoirs) convinced Lincoln herself, to donate the EP for a subscription raffle. It was always a regret of hers that it got destroyed.

Fire burns Emancipation Proclamation, most of Chicago, Oct. 8, 1871


10/08/2014 12:03 AM EDT

On this day in 1871, a two-day blaze ignited in Chicago that killed some 300 people, destroyed 17,450 buildings, left 100,000 people homeless and caused an estimated $3.2 billion in damage when measured in today’s dollars.

The conflagration also consumed the original manuscript of the Emancipation Proclamation — the document written by President Abraham Lincoln at the height of the Civil War that freed the slaves in 11 rebellious Confederate states and enabled them to join the Union Army. It applied to some 3 million of the 4 million slaves in the United States at the time, explicitly asserting their eventual freedom as a war aim.

The proclamation as such, neatly handwritten by a legal copyist and signed by Lincoln on New Year’s Day 1863, resides today at the National Archives.

The final draft, completed by Lincoln on Dec. 31, 1862, arrived in Chicago in the fall of 1863 when Lincoln honored a request by a group of women who were holding a fundraising fair to support wounded soldiers who had returned from the battlefront. They also informed the president that a subscription would be subsequently opened to purchase the document for the Historical Society of Chicago, where it would eventually reside.

“According to the request made in your behalf,” Lincoln wrote back, “the original draft of the Emancipation Proclamation is herewith inclosed [sic]. The formal words at the top and the conclusion, except the signature, you perceive, are not in my handwriting. They were written at the State Department. The printed part was cut from the preliminary Proclamation and pasted on merely to save writing.

“I had some desire to retain the paper, but if it shall contribute to the relief or comfort of the soldiers, that will be better.”

He signed his letter as “Your obedient servant, A. Lincoln.”
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