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Chapter 5:

  • Maryland first approached by Northern invasion
  • -- denies to United States troops the right of way across her domain -- mission of Judge Handy -- views of Governor Hicks -- his proclamation -- arrival of Massachusetts troops at Baltimore -- passage through the city disputed -- activity of the police -- burning of bridges -- letter of President Lincoln to the Governor -- visited by citizens -- action of the State Legislature -- occupation of the Relay House -- the city arms surrendered -- city in possession of United States troops -- remonstrances of the city to the passage of troops disregarded -- citizens arrested; also, members of the Legislature -- accumulation of Northern forces at Washington -- invasion of West Virginia by a force under McClellan -- attack at Philippi; at Laurel Hill -- death of General Garnett.

The border state of Maryland was an outpost of the South on the frontier first to be approached by Northern invasion. The first demonstration against state sovereignty was to be made there, and in her fate were the other slaveholding states of the border to have warning of what they were to expect. She had chosen to be, for the time at least, neutral in the impending war, and had denied to the United States troops the right of way across her domain in their march to invade the Southern states. The governor (Hicks) avowed a desire, not only that the state should avoid war, but that she should be a means for pacifying those more disposed to engage in combat.

Judge Handy, a distinguished citizen of Mississippi who was born in Maryland, had in December, 1860, been sent as a commissioner from the state of his adoption to that of his birth, and presented his views and the object of his mission to Governor Hicks, who in his response (December 19, 1860) declared his purpose to act in full concert with the other border states, adding, “I do not doubt the people of Maryland are ready to go with the people of those States for weal or woe.”1 Subsequently, in answer to appeals for and against a proclamation assembling the legislature, in order to have a call for a state convention, Governor Hicks issued an address in which, arguing that there was no necessity to define the position of Maryland, he wrote: “If the action of the [288] Legislature would be simply to declare that Maryland was with the South in sympathy and feeling; that she demands from the North the repeal of offensive, unconstitutional statutes, and appeals to it for new guarantees; that she will wait a reasonable time for the North to purge her statute-books, to do justice to her Southern brethren; and, if her appeals are vain, will make common cause with her sister border States in resistance to tyranny, if need be, it would only be saying what the whole country well knows,” etc.

On April 18, 1861, Governor Hicks issued a proclamation invoking them to preserve the peace, and said, “I assure the people that no troops will be sent from Maryland, unless it may be for the defense of the national capital.” On the same day Mayor Brown, of the city of Baltimore, issued a proclamation in which, referring to that of the governor above cited, he said, “I can not withhold my expression of satisfaction at his resolution that no troops shall be sent from Maryland to the soil of any other State.” It will be remembered that the capital was on a site which originally belonged to Maryland, and was ceded by her for a special use, so that troops to defend the capital might be considered as not having been sent out of Maryland. It will be remembered that these proclamations were three days after the requisition made by the Secretary of War on the states which had not seceded for their quota of troops to serve in the war about to be inaugurated against the South, and that rumors existed at the time in Baltimore that troops from the Northeast were about to be sent through that city toward the South. On the next day, April 19, 1861, a body of troops arrived at the railroad depot; the citizens assembled in large numbers, and though without arms, disputed the passage through the city. They attacked the troops with the loose stones found in the street, which was undergoing repair, and with such determination and violence, that some of the soldiers were wounded, and they fired upon the multitude, killing a few and wounding many.

The police of Baltimore were very active in their efforts to prevent conflict and preserve the peace; they rescued the baggage and munitions of the troops, which had been seized by the multitude; the rear portion of the troops was, by direction of Governor Hicks, sent back to the borders of the state. The troops who had got through the city took the railroad at the Southern depot and passed on. The militia of the city was called out, and by evening quiet was restored. During the night, on a report that more Northern troops were approaching the city by the railroads, the bridges nearest the city were destroyed, as it was understood, by orders from the authorities of Baltimore. [289]

On April 20th President Lincoln wrote in reply to Governor Hicks and Mayor Brown, saying, “For the future, troops must be brought here, but I make no point of bringing them through Baltimore.” On the next day, the 21st, Mayor Brown and other influential citizens, by request of the President, visited him. The interview took place in presence of the cabinet and General Scott, and was reported to the public by the mayor after his return to Baltimore. From that report I make the following extracts. Referring to the President, the mayor uses the following language:

The protection of Washington, he asseverated with great earnestness, was the sole object of concentrating troops there, and he protested that none of the troops brought through Maryland were intended for any purposes hostile to the State, or aggressive as against the Southern States. . . . He called on General Scott for his opinion, which the General gave at great length, to the effect that troops might be brought through Maryland without going through Baltimore, etc. . . . The interview terminated with the distinct assurance, on the part of the President, that no more troops would be sent through Baltimore, unless obstructed in their transit in other directions, and with the understanding that the city authorities should do their best to restrain their own people.

The Mayor and his companions availed themselves of the President's full discussion of the question of the day to urge upon him respectfully, but in the most earnest manner, a course of policy which would give peace to the country, and especially the withdrawal of all orders contemplating the passage of troops through any part of Maryland.

The legislature of the state of Maryland appointed commissioners to the Confederate government to suggest to it the cessation of impending hostilities until the meeting of Congress at Washington in July. Commissioners with like instructions were also sent to Washington. In my reply to the commissioners, dated May 25, 1861, I referred to the uniform expression of desire for peace on the part of the Confederate government, and added:

In deference to the State of Maryland, it again asserts in the most emphatic terms that its sincere and earnest desire is for peace; but that, while the Government would readily entertain any proposition from the Government of the United States tending to a peaceful solution of the present difficulties, the recent attempts of this Government to enter into negotiations with that of the United States were attended with results which forbid any renewal of proposals from it to that Government. . . . Its policy can not but be peace—peace with all nations and people.

On May 5th the Relay House, at the junction of the Washington and Baltimore and Ohio railroads, was occupied by United States troops under General Butler, and, on the 13th of the same month, he moved a portion of the troops to Baltimore, and took position on Federal Hill [290] —thus was consummated the military occupation of Baltimore. On the next day, reenforcements were received; on the same day, the commanding general issued a proclamation to the citizens, in which he announced to them his purpose and authority to discriminate between citizens, those who agreed with him being denominated “well disposed,” and the others described with many offensive epithets. The initiatory step of the policy subsequently developed was found in one sentence: “Therefore, all manufacturers of arms and munitions of war are hereby requested to report to me forthwith, so that the lawfulness of their occupations may be known and understood, and all misconstruction of their doings avoided.”

There soon followed a demand for the surrender of the arms stored by the city authorities in a warehouse. The police refused to surrender them without the orders of the police commissioners. The police commissioners, upon representation that the demand of General Butler was by order of the President, decided to surrender the arms under protest, and they were accordingly removed to Fort McHenry.

Baltimore was now disarmed. The army of the United States had control of the city. There was no longer necessity to regard the remonstrance of Baltimore against sending troops through the city, and that more convenient route was henceforth to be employed. George P. Kane, marshal of the police of Baltimore, who had rendered most efficient service for the preservation of peace, as well in the city of Baltimore as at Locust Point, where troops were disembarked to be dispatched to Washington, was arrested at home by a military force, and sent to Fort McHenry, and a provost marshal was appointed by General Banks, who had succeeded to the command. The excuse given for the arrest of Marshal Kane was that he was believed to be cognizant of combinations of men waiting for an opportunity to unite with those in rebellion against the United States government. Whether the suspicion was well or ill founded, it constituted a poor excuse for depriving a citizen of his liberty without legal warrant and without proof. But this was only the beginning of unbridled despotism and a reign of terror. The mayor and police commissioners, Charles Howard, William H. Gatchell, and John W. Davis, held a meeting, and after preparing a protest against the suspension of their functions in the appointment of a provost marshal, resolved that, while they would do nothing to “obstruct the execution of such measures as Major-General Banks may deem proper to take, on his own responsibility, for the preservation of the peace of the city and of public order, they can not, consistently with their views of official duty [291] and of the obligations of their oaths of office, recognize the right of any of the officers and men of the police force, as such, to receive orders or directions from any other authority than from this Board; and that, in the opinion of the Board, the forcible suspension of their functions suspends at the same time the active operations of the police law.”2 The provost marshal, with the plenary powers conferred upon him, commenced a system of search and seizure, in private houses, of arms and munitions of every description.

On July 1st General Banks announced that “in pursuance of orders issued from the headquarters at Washington for the preservation of the public peace in this department, I have arrested, and do detain in custody of the United States, the late members of the Board of Police—Messrs. Charles Howard, William H. Gatchell, Charles D. Hinks, and John W. Davis.” If the object had been to preserve order by any proper and legitimate method, the effective means would palpably have been to rely upon men whose influence was known to be great, and whose integrity was certainly unquestionable. The first-named of the commissioners I knew well. He was of an old Maryland family, honored for their public services, and himself adorned by every social virtue. Old, unambitious, hospitable, gentle, loving, he was beloved by the people among whom his long life had been passed. Could such a man be the just object of suspicion if, when laws had been silenced, suspicion could justify arrest and imprisonment? Those who knew him well accept as a just description:

In action faithful, and in honor clear,
Who broke no promise, served no private end,
Who gained no title, and who lost no friend.

Thenceforward, arrests of the most illustrious became the rule. In a land where freedom of speech was held to be an unquestioned right, freedom of thought ceased to exist, and men were incarcerated for opinion's sake.

In the Maryland legislature, the Hon. S. Teacle Wallis, from a committee to whom was referred the memorial of the police commissioners arrested in Baltimore, made a report upon the unconstitutionality of the act, and “appealed in the most earnest manner to the whole people of the country, of all parties, sections, and opinions, to take warnings by the usurpations mentioned, and come to the rescue of the free institutions of the country.”3 [292]

For no better reason, so far as the public was informed, than a vote in favor of certain resolutions, General Banks sent his provost marshal to Frederick, where the legislature was in session; a cordon of pickets was placed around the town to prevent anyone from leaving it without a written permission from a member of General Banks's staff; police detectives from Baltimore then went into the town and arrested some twelve or thirteen members and several officers of the legislature, which, thereby left without a quorum, was prevented from organizing, and it performed the only act which it was competent to do, i.e., adjourned. S. Teacle Wallis, the author of the report in defense of the constitutional rights of citizens, was among those arrested. Henry May, a member of Congress, who had introduced a resolution which he hoped would be promotive of peace, was another of those arrested and thrown into prison. Senator Kennedy, of the same state, presented a report of the legislature to the United States Senate, reciting the outrage inflicted upon Maryland in the persons of her municipal officers and citizens, and, after some opposition, merely obtained an order to have it printed. Governor Hicks, whose promises had been so cheering in the beginning of the year, sent his final message to the legislature on December 3, 1861. In that, referring to the action of the Maryland legislature at its several sessions before that when the arrest of its members prevented an organization, he wrote, “This continued until the General Government had ample reason to believe it was about to go through the farce of enacting an ordinance of secession, when the treason was summarily stopped by the dispersion of the traitors. . . .” After referring to the elections of June 13th and November 6th he says the people have “declared, in the most emphatic tones, what I have never doubted, that Maryland has no sympathy with the rebellion, and desires to do her full share in the duty of suppressing it.” It would be more easy than gracious to point out the inconsistency between his first statements and this last. The conclusion is inevitable that he kept himself in equipoise, and fell at last, as men without convictions usually do, upon the stronger side.

Henceforth the story of Maryland is sad to the last degree, only relieved by the gallant men who left their homes to fight the battle of state rights when Maryland no longer furnished them a field on which they could maintain the rights their fathers left them. This was a fate doubly sad to the sons of the heroic men who, under the designation of the “Maryland line,” did so much in our Revolutionary struggle to secure the independence of the states; of the men who, at a later day, fought the battle of North Point; of the people of a land which had [293] furnished so many heroes and statesmen, and gave the great Chief Justice Taney to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Though Maryland did not become one of the Confederate States, she was endeared to the people thereof by many most enduring ties. Last in order, but first in cordiality, were the tender ministrations of her noble daughters to the sick and wounded prisoners who were carried through the streets of Baltimore; it is with shame we remember that brutal guards on several occasions inflicted wounds upon gentlewomen who approached these suffering prisoners to offer them the relief of which they so evidently stood in need.

The accumulation of Northern forces at and near Washington City, made it evident that the great effort of the invasion would be from that point, while assaults of more or less vigor might be expected upon all important places which the enemy, by his facilities for transportation, could reach. The concentration of Confederate troops in Virginia was begun, and they were sent forward as rapidly as practicable to the points threatened with attack.

It was soon manifest that, besides the army at Washington, which threatened Virginia, there was a second one at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, under Major General Patterson, designed to move through Williamsport and Martinsburg, and another forming in Ohio, under the command of Major General McClellan, destined to invade the western counties of Virginia.

This latter force, having landed at Wheeling on May 26th, advanced as far as Grafton on the 29th. At this time Colonel Porterfield, with the small force of seven hundred men sent forward by Governor Letcher of Virginia, was at Philippi. On the night of June 2d he was attacked by General McClellan, with a strong force, and withdrew to Laurel Hill. Reenforcements under General Garnett were sent forward and occupied the hill, while Colonel Pegram, the second in command, held Rich Mountain. On July 11th the latter was attacked by two columns of the enemy, and after a vigorous defense, fell back on the 12th, losing many of his men, who were made prisoners. General Garnett, hearing of this reverse, attempted to fall back, but was pursued by McClellan, and while striving to rally his rear guard, was killed. Five hundred of his men were taken prisoners. This success left the Northern forces in possession of that region.

The difficult character of the country in which the battle was fought, as well from mountain acclivity as dense wood, rendered a minute knowledge of the roads of vast importance. There is reason to believe [294] that competent guides led the enemy, by roads unknown to our army, to the flank and rear of its position, and thus caused the sacrifice of those who had patriotically come to repel the invasion of the very people who furnished the guides to the enemy. It was treachery confounding the counsels of the brave. Thus occurred the disaster of Rich Mountain and Laurel Hill.

General Robert Garnett was a native of Virginia and a graduate of the United States Military Academy. He served in Mexico, on the staff of General Z. Taylor, and was conspicuous for gallantry and good conduct, especially in the battles of Monterey and Buena Vista. Recognizing his allegiance as due to the state of Virginia, from which he was appointed a cadet, and thence won his various promotions in the army, he resigned his commission when the state withdrew from the Union, and earnestly and usefully served as aide-de-camp to General R. E. Lee, the commander in chief of the army of Virginia, until she acceded to the Confederacy.

When Western Virginia was invaded he offered his services to go to her defense, and relying confidently on the sentiment, so strong in his own heart, of devotion to the state by all Virginians, he believed it was only needful for him to have a nucleus around which the people could rally to resist the invasion of their country. How sadly he was disappointed, and how bravely he struggled against adverse fortune, and how gallantly he died in the discharge of his duty, are memories which, though sad, bear with them to his friends the consolation that the manner of his death was worthy of the way in which he lived, and that even his life was an offering he was not unwilling to make for the welfare and honor of Virginia.

He fell while commanding the rear guard, to save his retreating army, thus exemplifying the highest quality of man, self-sacrifice for others, and such devotion and fortitude as made Ney the grandest figure in Bonaparte's retreat from Moscow.

1 Annual Cyclopaedia, Vol. I, p. 443.

2 Baltimore American, June 28, 1861.

3 New York World, August 6, 1861.

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