The date of the latest federal holiday, June 19th, was touted as the one marking the end of slavery in America. While few today would argue with the idea of honoring emancipation, the selection of that date in 1865 leaves much to be desired. If one truly wanted to commemorate the legal end of American slavery, the date for such a memorial should have been December 6th . . . the day in 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified and actually accomplished full and legal emancipation.
June 19th is merely the day in 1865 when Union troops under the command of Major General Gordon Granger landed in Galveston, Texas, a little over a week after Confederate Major General Kirby Smith effectively ended the War by surrendering the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. After General Gordon’s arrival, he immediately issued General Order Number Three which proclaimed that the slaves in Galveston were now free. As the Thirteenth Amendment had not yet been ratified, the general had no legal authority to issue such an order other than basing it on Lincoln’s two-year old Emancipation Proclamation.
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