Peterboro Emancipation Watch Night New Year’s Eve

The First Steps to Freedom: Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation brochures from the New York State Museum will be distributed at Watch Night in Peterboro Dec. 31, 2016.

Retired Navy Commander Owen Corpin will again host the annual Peterboro Watch Night at 4 pm Sunday, December 31, 2017 at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro. Watch Night is held by the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in commemoration of the long wait through the night of December 31, 1862 to see if President Abraham Lincoln would issue the Emancipation Proclamation on the first day of 1863. After remarks and historical information, the program will move to Peterboro Green for the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation beside the prepared watch fire.

On September 22, 1862 President Lincoln had issued a (Preliminary) Emancipation Proclamation ordering that in one hundred days the federal government would deem all slaves free in those states still rebelling against the Union.

On January 1, 1863 Lincoln did issue the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1864 Lincoln donated the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to the U.S. Sanitary Commission, which raffled off the document at the Albany Relief Bazaar to help raise money for the Union war effort. Abolitionist Gerrit Smith won the raffle after buying one thousand tickets.

Smith, in turn, sold the document to the New York State Legislature, with funds going to the Sanitary Commission. The legislature, in turn, deposited the document in the New York State Library, where it remains today. The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation is the only surviving Proclamation document in Lincoln’s own hand. The New York State Library gifted NAHOF with a facsimile of the Proclamation – which will be on display at NAHOF at 3:30 prior to the 4 pm program.

The public is encouraged to join in this free observance of the 1862 Watch Night. Copies of The First Step to Freedom: Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation are free. Dress warmly! Bring a flashlight! For more information: Owen Corpin at 315-750- 6561 or

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