We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, who are still here, and we honor with gratitude the land itself and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

What is Juneteenth and Why Do We Celebrate on June 19?

Because the Southern Confederacy viewed themselves as an independent nation, the Emancipation Proclamation did not immediately free all of the enslaved population because the Rebel governments would not enforce Lincoln’s proclamation. Texas became a stronghold of Confederate influence in the latter years of the Civil War as the slaveholding population ‘refugeed’ their slave property by migrating to Texas.

Consequently, more than 50,000 enslaved individuals were relocated to Texas, effectively prolonging slavery in a region far from the Civil War’s bloodshed, and out of the reach of freedom—the United States Army. Only after the Union army forced the surrender of Confederate General Edmund Kirby Smith at Galveston on June 2, 1865, would the emancipation of slaves in Texas be addressed and freedom granted. On June 19, 250,000 enslaved people were freed.

The issuing of General Order No. 3 on June 19, 1865, marked an official date of emancipation for the enslaved population. Nonetheless, those affected faced numerous barriers to their freedoms. General Order No. 3 stipulated that former slaves remain at their present homes, were barred from joining the military, and would not be supported in ‘idleness.’ Essentially, the formerly enslaved were granted nothing beyond the title of emancipation. The official end of slavery in the United States came with the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

After becoming emancipated, many former slaves left Texas in great numbers. Most members of this exodus had the goal of reuniting with lost family members and paving a path to success in postbellum America. This widespread migration of former slaves after June 19 became known as ‘the Scatter.’