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Contrabands:  Slaves who had escaped across Union lines or who had been captured by Union forces, and were not returned to their owners.  In May 1861, Union General Benjamin Butler refused to comply with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required the return of escaped slaves to their owners.  Instead, he labeled the fugitive slaves, whom the Confederacy considered to be property, “contraband of war” (i.e., seized property) if their masters would not pledge loyalty to the Union.  The federal government later expanded the categories of slaves not to be returned or who were declared free.  The term “contraband” continued to be used throughout the war for former slaves. 

Copperhead:  See “Peace Democrat.” 

Emancipation:  Freeing slaves in law or in fact.  Emancipation may or may not include abolition of the institution of slavery.  During the Civil War, emancipation was often limited to certain types of slaves (e.g., of disloyal owners) or to particular areas (e.g., Confederate-held territory). 

Gradual Emancipation:  Ending slavery over a period of years (e.g., freeing slaves when they reached 21 years of age).

Peace Democrat:  A member of the Democratic Party who supported a ceasefire in the Civil War and a negotiated settlement with the Confederacy.  The negative term “Copperhead” (after the poisonous snake) was applied to both Peace Democrats and Confederate sympathizers in the North, even though the two groups were usually distinct.

Radical Democracy:  A short-lived political party (1864) composed of a small group of Radical Republicans and War Democrats.

Radical Republican:  A member of the Republican Party who supported Reconstruction policies that were more comprehensive and punitive than those advocated by moderate or conservative politicians.  Some radicals, for example, argued that the former Confederacy should be treated as conquered territory for which Congress would dictate terms for Reconstruction, such as the confiscation of Confederate property, disfranchisement of former Confederates, and voting rights for black men.  Congressional Reconstruction was a compromise between radical and moderate Republicans.

Reconstruction:  The policies related to incorporating the former Confederate states back into full and equal participation in the federal union of the United States.

Secession:  The act or process of withdrawing allegiance to and participation within a sovereign political jurisdiction.  In 1860-1861, eleven Southern slave states announced that they had seceded from the United States, and then formed the Confederate States of America (also known as the Confederacy).

War Democrat:  A member of the Democratic Party who supported the Union war effort against the Confederacy.  Most War Democrats remained affiliated with the Democratic Party during the Civil War, but a few, such as Andrew Johnson, formally joined with the Republican Party in 1864 under the National Union banner.

War Powers:  Extraordinary governing authority during a national crisis that may be exercised by the commander-in-chief, who under the United States Constitution is the president.

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