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President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. It transformed the war, but in actuality did not free a single slave. The proclamation declared, "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
The interesting thing to note from this line is that he freed the slaves in the rebellious states. Unfortunately for those slaves, Lincoln's word and rules meant little as the Confederate States of America (CSA) had control over the territory. The Proclamation does not mention the Border States (who had slaves) fighting on the Union side.
The main reason for the proclamation was actually political. The conversion of the struggle into a campaign against slavery made European intervention impossible. The locking up of the world's source of cotton supply had been a general calamity, and the Confederate government and people had steadily expected that the English and French governments would intervene in the war. The proclamation halted all hopes of this actually occurring.
Lincoln's proclamation did allow Blacks to enlist in the armed forces. To this opportunity, nearly 180,000 Blacks enlisted during the war. These Blacks proved to add more muscle to the Union's forces.
The Proclamation freed no slaves but did change the complexion of the war. The focus of the Civil War changed from preserving the Union to eliminating slavery in the USA.