, moving toward Harper's Ferry
, and McClellan
in West Virginia
, in order to reassure non-combatants, severally issued orders that all attempts at slave insurrection should be suppressed.
It was a most pointed and significant warning to the leaders of the rebellion how much more vulnerable the peculiar institution was in war than in peace, and that their ill-considered scheme to protect and perpetuate slavery would prove the most potent engine for its destruction.
The first effect of opening hostilities was to give adventurous or discontented slaves the chance to escape into Union camps, where, even against orders to the contrary, they found practical means of protection or concealment for the sake of the help they could render as cooks, servants, or teamsters, or for the information they could give or obtain, or the invaluable service they could render as guides.
Practically, therefore, at the very beginning, the war created a bond of mutual sympathy, based on mutual helpfulness, between the Southern
negro and the Union
volunteer; and as fast as the Union
troops advanced, and secession masters fled, more or less slaves found liberation and refuge in the Union
At some points, indeed, this tendency created an embarrassment to Union commanders.
A few days after General Butler
assumed command of the Union
troops at Fortress Monroe
, the agent of a rebel master who had fled from the neighborhood came to demand, under the provisions of the fugitive-slave law, three field hands alleged to be in Butler
responded that as Virginia
claimed to be a foreign country, the fugitive-slave law was clearly inoperative, unless the owner would come and take an oath of allegiance to the United States
In connection with this incident, the newspaper report stated that as the breastworks