Maryland in the Civil War
Maryland's First Patriotic Movement in 1861.Source: Confederate Military History, Vol. 2
On April 12, 1861, South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter, and on April 15th President Lincoln issued his proclamation, calling on the States for 75,000 militia "to maintain the Union and to redress wrongs already too long endured." He did not specify the wrongs nor the period of endurance. With the proclamation went out from the secretary of war a requisition on the governors of each of the States for the State's quota of the 75,000 troops. Virginia promptly responded by passing her ordinance of secession on the 17th, not, however, to take effect until it had been ratified by a vote of the people, to be cast on the 24th of May; and the governor of Virginia, John Letcher, moved Virginia troops to Harper's Ferry and "retook, reoccupied and repossessed" that property of Virginia which she had ceded to the Union for the common welfare and mutual benefit of all the States, East and West, North and South. Now that it was being diverted to the injury of part and the exclusive use of one section, Virginia resumed the control of her ancient territory. Had she had the power, she would have had the right "to resume possession, control and sovereignty" of all the six States she had ceded to the Union, northwest of the Ohio river. But, alas, her own children, born of her blood and bred of her loins, were foremost in striking at the heart and life of their mother. The Northwest was the most ardent in "suppressing the rebellion, "the forerunner of which had been independence from the British nation and the right of self-government for the English in America, and had breathed into their nostrils the breath of Statehood.
With the defiance of old Virginia, went that of North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, who spurned the demand of the government back of it for men and arms to make war on brethren, kinsmen and fellow citizens. Kentucky tried the impracticable role of neutrality, but she was soon overrun by Federal troops. Governor Hicks assured the people that no troops should be sent from Maryland, unless it was to defend the national capital. The mayor of Baltimore, George William Brown, also issued his proclamation, expressing his satisfaction that no troops would be sent from Maryland to the soil of any other State. "If the counsels of the governor," he said, "shall be heeded, we may rest secure in the confidence that the storm of civil war which now threatens the country will at least pass over our beloved State and leave it unharmed, but if they shall be disregarded a fearful and fratricidal strife may at once burst out in our midst." So the governor and the mayor. The first knew well that in the strife of the elements, which was about to burst, in which the foundations of the mountains would be broken up and the winds of the tempest would sweep the land, the cry of "Peace! Peace!" was but the whining of babes--for Governor Hicks was no fool. He was a shrewd, sharp, positive man. He knew what he Wanted and he took efficient means to procure it. He wanted to save Maryland to the Northern States. He believed the Union was gone. In the Southern Confederacy, Maryland must, in his opinion, play a subordinate part and he, himself, fall back into the political obscurity from which he had been recently raised. With the North, Maryland in possession of the national capital, protected by the Northern navy through her bay and great rivers, would be a conspicuous power, and he, as her governor, would fill a distinguished role. He knew that Maryland was as ardently Southern as Virginia. The Marylanders are the more excitable race. They are ardent, sympathetic and enthusiastic. And they were afire at the threat of invasion of Virginia. Had the governor hinted at his ulterior hopes and de-signs---at his purpose to keep Maryland quiet until she could be occupied by Northern troops and delivered, tied and manacled, to the Union authorities--had he given open ground for suspicion of treachery, the State would have risen, he would have been expelled, his government eradicated, and a revolutionary government of action instituted.
Mayor Brown was a high-minded, just and honorable gentleman. But he was a lawyer and an old man. He was devoted to his State and to his city, and no purer patriot ever lived than George William Brown. But he believed in law; he could conceive of nothing higher than law. Force to him meant riot, and in a great city riot always means arson, robbery, murder and license. The mayor believed that with the police and the fire departments he could control revolution and subdue the fires of insurrection. He faithfully did his duty as he saw it. He and his police commissioners tried to keep the peace, and in three months all were landed in Federal prisons, where they were incarcerated for fourteen months, beyond the reach of habeas corpus, without charge or indictment. Maryland thus suffered "the crucifixion of the soul," for her heart was with the Confederacy and her body bound and manacled to the Union.
On April 18th a battery of United States artillery under Major Pemberton, accompanied by six companies of unarmed Pennsylvania militia, arrived by the Northern Central railroad from Harrisburg at Baltimore and marched via Howard street to the Baltimore & Ohio railroad station at Camden street, whence they were promptly dispatched to Washington. They were escorted through the city by a howling mob, who displayed secession flags (the Palmetto flag of South Carolina being conspicuous), and who emphasized their feelings by cheers for "Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy." They were unarmed and as weak looking as a drove of cattle as the regulars escorted them through the streets. But the telegraph flamed out the news of the secession of Virginia, and at night the story of the capture of Harper's Ferry by the Virginia troops, with whom were Marylanders led by Bradley Johnson. The town was afire the night of the 18th. From all quarters came tidings of troops from the North and West, concentrating on Baltimore. The efficient militia of Massachusetts, under Maj.-Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, a man of ability, vigor and executive capacity, were on the march to protect the capital and to save the nation.
The New York Seventh, the ideal soldiers of peace parades, but in reality a gallant and game set, was filling its ranks, its cartridge boxes and its haversacks, and standing at attention, waiting word of command and tap of drum. Pennsylvania was rallying to the call of her great governor. The Democracy of the West, roused by Douglas, was rising as one man to defend the flag, and one serried, unbroken line of steel stretched from the northeast corner of Maine to the Mississippi river, ready to march forward to invade, to crush and to conquer the South. There could be no misunderstanding as to the meaning of all this. It meant war--nothing but war. War by one section on another. War urged on by hatred, by malice, by greed, by desire for conquest, to overthrow institutions existing before the republic, to destroy a social order which had given the world soldiers, statesmen and philosophers, the peers of any who had ever lived. The common people of Maryland understood it. The plain people think with their hearts, and hearts on questions of right and wrong are more unerring than heads. They were all for the South, and they were all for arming and fighting--fighting there on the spot--the first man or men who should presume to attempt to cross Maryland to get at Virginia. But the upper class is always conservative. The ex-governors, the ex-senators, the ex-judges everywhere are always afraid. The "have beens" ever recur to the peaceful times when they directed affairs, and always will be abhorrent of noise, of tumult, of violence, of force and of change. They cannot be leaders in revolution. Maryland at this crisis of her history was cursed by just such "conservatism." It was caused by her geographical position. She could only follow. She can never lead in such a crisis. She lacked young leaders. Kentucky was in a worse situation, for her leaders led her into the quagmire of neutrality. Missouri was better off, for Jackson and Price on the one side and Frank Blair on the other were positive men, and promptly ranged the people of the State in arms, for their respective sides. Maryland had sons who were educated soldiers. Robert Milligan McLane came of soldier blood. His grandfather, Allan McLane, had been the comrade of Light Horse Harry in the campaign of Valley Forge and had led the Delaware Legion, as Lee had the Virginians. McLane graduated at West Point, served with distinction in the Florida campaign, but after that left the army and entered politics in Maryland. He had served in the State legislature, as representative in Congress from Maryland, and occupied a conspicuous place in the confidence of the State rights Southern people of Maryland. George W. Hughes had served with distinction for many years in the army of the United States and had won the grade of colonel in Mexico. He was now living in affluence and retirement on his plantation in Anne Arundel county. The party of action, the young men, looked to these old soldiers for advice and leadership. But they were too old soldiers to plunge into a fight without troops, arms, ammunition or a commissary department. Bradley Johnson and other young men were ready, but they had neither the experience nor the knowledge to qualify them for immediate leadership.
So on the night of April 18, 1861, Maryland was standing alert, braced up, ready to charge at the word. Virginia had seceded, the North was marching. Maryland was the outpost to receive the first attack. At that hour there was no division of opinion. The State rights clubs had been flying the secession flag, the stars and bars of the Confederacy, and the palmetto of South Carolina. The Union clubs had over their halls the stars and stripes; but during the afternoon of April 18th the Union flags were hauled down and the State flag of Maryland everywhere substituted. And the black and gold was everywhere saluted with cheers, with shouts, with tears. The telegraph gave hourly notice of the approach of the enemy. General Butler had left Boston; he had passed New York; he had gone through Philadelphia; he was on the Susquehanna. What next? Maryland held her breath. Through New England their route had been an ovation. Down Broadway in New York the people went wild, as they did through New Jersey and Philadelphia. There were eleven companies of Massachusetts troops attached to the Sixth Massachusetts under command of Colonel Jones. At Philadelphia an unarmed and ununiformed mob of Pennsylvanians, called a regiment, under Colonel Small, was added to Colonel Jones' command. They came in a train of thirty-five cars and arrived at the President street station at 11 a.m. Thence it was the custom of the railroad company to haul each car across the city, over a track laid in the street, to Camden station of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, a distance of a little over a mile. Nine cars with seven companies got through to Camden station. But that was as much as human nature could bear. The mob of infuriated men increased every minute and the excitement grew. The stones out of the street flew up and staved in the car windows. The drivers unhitched their teams, hitched to the rear of their cars and made all haste back to President Street station, where had been left the unarmed Pennsylvanians and the rest of the Massachusetts regiment. These men were marched out of the station, formed in front of it, and then moved in a column of fours toward Camden station. In the meantime the railroad track had been torn up, the bridge on the south dismantled and obstructed, and the march of the troops was necessarily laborious and very slow. The streets were packed with a dense mass of infuriated and excited men, encouraged by the apparent retreat of the troops and the success of the opposition to them. The foremost files had to force their way through this pack of humanity. George William Brown, mayor of the town, with a gallantry and chivalry beyond imagination, for he was a Southern man and certified his fidelity by fourteen months' imprisonment in Union dungeons, placed himself by the side of the captain of the leading company and forced their way through the crowd. No man in Baltimore was more loved, respected and admired than Brown, and his escort of the" invader" was submitted to while he was present. But as soon as he had passed stones began to hail on the column. The officers became rattled. Instead of halting and confronting their enemy, they accelerated the step until the march became a half run. Then a pistol went off; then a musket; then two muskets, three muskets cracked, and citizens fell and died in their tracks. Then reason fled. The mob tore the muskets out of the hands of the soldiers and shot them down. One man jerked the sword out of the hand of an officer and ran him through with it. Frank Ward, a young lawyer, snatched the flag out of the hands of the color bearer and tore it from the lance, and while making off with it was shot through both thighs. He survived though, to serve gallantly as adjutant of the First Maryland regiment, and is alive to-day. Marshal Kane had gone to the Camden station to protect the troops there, when news came of this melee on Pratt street. He swung fifty policemen down the street in a double-quick, formed them across the street in the rear of the soldiers and ordered their pursuers to "halt." They halted, and then with the mayor of Baltimore in front, the chief of police in rear, the baited, harried, breathless preservers of the Union reached Camden station, where they were loaded on trains and dispatched, panic-stricken, to Washington.
Outside the city limits, however, after the danger had passed, some heroic soul signalized his devotion to the flag by shooting in cold blood Robert W. Davis, a reputable and well-known citizen and merchant, whose crime was alleged to have been a cheer for Jeff Davis and the South. That evening, April 19th, Marshal Kane telegraphed to Bradley T. Johnson at Frederick: "Streets red with Maryland blood. Send expresses over the mountains of Maryland and Virginia for the riflemen to come, without delay. Fresh hordes will be down on us to-morrow. We will fight them and whip them or die."
Johnson, since the failure of the conference convention of March to act, had been engaged in organizing companies of minute men to resist invasion, by bushwhacking or any other practicable method. He had corresponded with the captains of many volunteer companies in the State, and all were moving toward concert of action. The receipt of Kane's telegram was the match to the magazine. By seven o'clock on the 20th the Frederick company was assembled, took possession of the moving train on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad to Baltimore, and by eleven o'clock marched down Baltimore street to Monument Square. Monument Square was the forum of Baltimore, where the citizens always assembled in times of peril to consult and determine that the commonweal should receive no harm. They were the first reinforcements to Baltimore. Next came two troops of cavalry from Baltimore county, and next the Patapsco Dragoons from Anne Arundel rode straight to the city hall and presented themselves to Mayor Brown to assist in the defense of the city. The afternoon papers of the 19th spread all over the State during the next day, and the State rose. Early on the morning of the 20th the city council appropriated $500,000 for the defense of the city, to be used at the discretion of the mayor. The banks furnished the money in two hours. Capt. Wilson Carey Nicholas, with the Garrison Forest Rangers--afterward Company G., First Maryland regiment, seized the United States arsenal at Pikesville, where there was a deposit of antiquated arms and a considerable supply of gunpowder. All the city companies of militia were under arms in their armories. Col. Benjamin Huger, of South Carolina, who had been in command at Pikesville for some years, but who had just resigned from the army of the United States, was made colonel of the Fifty-third regiment, Maryland militia, composed of the Independent Grays and the six companies of the Maryland Guard. The command was admirably instructed, drilled and officered, and a majority of its officers and men afterward served in the army of the Confederate States. The mayor issued a notice calling on all citizens who had arms to deposit them with the commissioner of police, to be used in the defense of the city, and upon all who were willing to enroll themselves for military service. Under this call over fifteen thousand volunteers were enrolled and partly organized on Saturday, the 20th, and Col. Isaac R. Trimble was assigned to command them. The railroad stations and State tobacco warehouses were used for drill rooms. On Saturday night the bridges on the railroads leaving north from Baltimore were burnt or disabled by a detachment of police and of the Maryland Guard, acting under the orders of Governor Hicks. The governor was in Baltimore during the attack on the troops and was carried off his feet and out of his head by the furor of the hour. He gave the order to burn the bridges. He afterward strenuously denied giving it, but he gave it.
On Sunday morning, April 21st, the Howard County Dragoons, Capt. George R. Earltree, came in, and by the boat two companies from Easton, and news came that the companies from Harford, Cecil, Carroll and Prince George's were on the march. Three batteries of light artillery were out on the streets, and the city was braced up in tense excitement.
Just after the people had gone to church on that day, about half-past ten, two men rode down Charles Street, in a sweeping gallop, from beyond the boundary to Lexington and down Lexington to the city hall. They shouted as they flashed by, "The Yankees are coming, the Yankees are coming!" Twenty-four hundred of Pennsylvania troops, only half of them armed, had got as far as Cockeysville, twenty miles from Baltimore, where they had been stopped by the burnt bridges, and had gone into camp. These couriers of disaster brought the news of this fresh invasion and it flashed through the city like an electric shock. The churches dismissed their congregations, their bells rang, and in the twinkling of an eye the streets were packed with people--men and women in the hysterics of excitement pressing guns, pistols, fowling pieces, swords, daggers, bowie knives, every variety of weapon, upon the men and beseeching them to drive back the hated invader. In an hour Monument Square was packed, crammed with such a mass of quivering humanity as has rarely been seen in human history.
Early that morning the mayor had gone to Washington on a special train to see the President and General Scott at the invitation of the former to the governor and mayor to visit him for conference as to the best way to preserve the peace. They arrived at an understanding that no more troops were to be marched through Baltimore. They were to be brought from Harrisburg down to the Relay House on the Northern Central railroad, seven miles north-west of the city, and thence by rail to Washington. General Scott proposed this plan to the President, if the people of Maryland would permit it and would not molest the troops. But if they were attacked, the general of the army said, he would bring troops from Perryville by boat to Annapolis and thence by rail to Washington. The President and General Scott both seemed to take it for granted that the Potomac would be blockaded. Mayor Brown returned from Washington with the assurance that the detachment at Cockeysville would be ordered back, and that no troops should attempt to pass through Baltimore. The wires were all cut north of the city and all communication by rail or telegraph between the capital and the Northern States was absolutely closed for several days. The Eighth Massachusetts, with Brig. -Gen. B. F. Butler, arrived at Perryville on the 20th, took the steamboat Maryland, and arrived at Annapolis on the 21st. On the 22d, the governor called an extra session of the general assembly to meet at Annapolis on the 26th. On the 24th the governor, "in consequence of the extraordinary state of affairs," changed the place of meeting to Frederick. On its meeting there the Hon. James Murray Mason appeared before it, as a commissioner from the State of Virginia authorized to conclude a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, between the two States. The legislature had been elected in 1859 and was charged with no mandate for revolutionary times. Ten members from Baltimore were elected at a special election held in that city on the 24th, in the place of the delegation returned as elected in 1859, but unseated on account of .fraud and violence at the election. The new members were the leading men of the town--merchants, lawyers, representatives of the great business of commerce and trade of a great city. They were John C. Brune, Ross Winans, Henry M. Warfield, J. Hanson Thomas, T. Parkin Scott, H. Mason Morfit, S. Teakle Wallis, Charles H. Pitts, William G. Harrison, and Lawrence Langston.
It was evident in twenty-four hours that "conservatism" would rule the councils of the general assembly, as it had done those of the governor, and that all the influence of that body would be exerted against any action by the State looking toward taking part in the revolution, which it was clear, was upon the whole country.
Captain Johnson had brought back his company from Baltimore, armed with Hall's carbines, an antiquated and rejected breechloader, and had got his men into some sort of shape. He remained in Frederick at the request of the State rights members of the legislature to guard and protect them from the Unionists of the town, who were loquacious and loud in their threats against "the Secesh." And the legislature was prompt to range itself on the side of peace and Union. It met on the 26th of April. On the 27th it issued an address disclaiming all idea, intention or authority to pass any ordinance of secession. It appointed Otho Scott, Robert M. McLane and William J. Ross commissioners to confer with the President of the United States and see what arrangements could be made to preserve the peace of the State. On May 6th these commissioners reported that they had had an interview with the President, and that he had assured them that the State of Maryland, so long as she did not array herself against the Federal government, would not be molested or interfered with, except so far as it was necessary for the preservation of the Union. But neither governor, general assembly nor commissioners to the President had the faintest conception of the real state of things in Maryland. She was devoted to the Union. She was hostile to secession. She abhorred the men who precipitated the Gulf States into revolution. She had no sympathy with slavery, for she had emancipated more than half her slaves and had established a negro State of Maryland in Africa, where she was training her emancipated servants to take control of their own destiny as free men, and this colony she supported by annual appropriations out of her public taxes. There was no involuntary servitude in Maryland, for as soon as a servant became discontented he or she just walked over the line into Pennsylvania, where they were safely harbored and concealed.
Therefore there was no sympathy in Maryland for the proceedings convulsing the Southern States. But the proclamation of the President, calling for 75,000 men "to redress wrongs already too long endured," changed the whole situation in the twinkling of an eye. It was no longer union or disunion, secession or State rights. It was a question of invasion and self-defense. The President had declared war on her sister State. Was Maryland to support that war, or was she to stand by with hands folded and see her friends and kindred beyond the Potomac put to the sword and the torch? War on a State was against the common right. The cause of each was the cause of all; and precisely as Maryland had responded in 1775 to the cry of Massachusetts for assistance, so now did the people of Maryland, over governor, over general assembly, over peace commissioners, respond to the call of Virginia. The peace commissioners reported on May 6th. On the 8th Captain Johnson, having secured from Mason an engagement that all troops that would go from Maryland should be promptly received into the army of the Confederate States, and from Colonel Jackson, in command at Harper's Ferry, permission to rendezvous on the Virginia side, opposite Point of Rocks, marched out of Frederick to that place, crossed the Potomac and reported to Capt. Turner Ashby, then posted there with his troops of horse. Ashby was to feed the Marylanders until further orders. This pioneer company showed the way, and in a few days detachments of companies began to straggle in--the debris of Trimble's fifteen thousand enrolled volunteers in Baltimore. Some marched with a semblance of order from Baltimore to the Point of Rocks. Some straggled in by twos and threes. Some came in squads on the railroad. But the State was aflame and a steady stream of gallant youth poured into the rendezvous at Point of Rocks and Harper's Ferry. By May 21st there were the skeletons of eight companies collected at Point of Rocks:
Co. A Capt. Bradley T. Johnson Co. B Capt. C. C. Edelin, at Harper's Ferry Co. C Capt. Frank S. Price Co. D Capt. James R. Herbert Co. E Capt. Harry McCoy Co. F Capt. Thomas G. Holbrook Co. G Capt. Wilson Carey Nicholas Co. H Capt. Harry Welmore
They were mustered into the service of the Confederate States on May 21st and 22d by Lieut.-Col. George Deas, inspector-general on the staff of Gen. Jos. E. Johnston, who in the meantime had superseded Colonel Jackson in command at Harper's Ferry. Captain Johnson, as senior captain, refused to recognize the Virginia authorities. Relying on the promise of Mr. Mason, he insisted that the Marylanders should be received into the army of the Confederate States, and not into the army of Virginia. On May 21, 1861, Virginia was not one of the Confederate States. He believed that Maryland ought to be represented in the army by men bearing arms and her flag. It was impossible for her to be represented in the political department of the government; therefore it was of vital importance that the flag of Maryland should always be upheld in the armies of the Confederate States. In these eight companies there were about five hundred men. They effected a temporary organization among themselves under their senior captain, and sent up through the regular channels to President Davis their application to have their battalion organized into the army of the Confederate States, with Charles S. Winder, late captain Ninth infantry, U.S. A., as colonel, and Bradley T. Johnson as lieutenant-colonel.
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