The Homestead Act
The Homestead Act was signed into law in May 1862, it is made to open up settlement in the western United States. This also includes free slaves to put in a claim for up to 160 free acres of federal land. By the end of the Civil War 15,000 homestead claims had been established, and more followed in the postwar years.
After the Law
Eventually, 1.6 million individual claims would be approved; nearly ten percent of all government held property for a total of 420,000 square miles of territory. The southern states had regulary voted against homestead legislation because they correctly forsaw that the law would hasten the settlement of western territory, ultimately adding to the number and political influence of the free states.
All information came from history.com