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The Union men of Maryland.

Hon. W. H. Purnell, Ll.D.
Yet truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth that the inquiry of truth, which is the love-making or wooing of it, the knowledge of truth, which is the enjoying of it, is the sovereign good of human nature. Francis Bacon.

In our late terrible and bloody civil war, Maryland was claimed by both sides. In each of the contending armies her sons were to be found fighting bravely, and it is well known that her people were much divided in sentiment. The late Henry Winter Davis always indignantly denied that a majority of the people of Maryland were ever, at any time, on the side of secession; and he was deeply hurt by the suspicion and coldness that were sometimes shown by the National authorities in their treatment of his State. He resented, with all the ardor of his nature, the wholesale denunciation that not a few of the Northern papers heaped upon her. He was grieved that the President-elect, Mr. Lincoln, should have deemed it prudent to pass through her great city clandestinely on his way to Washington to be inaugurated. This event did, indeed, manifest a want of confidence in the city of Baltimore, at least, if not in the State of Maryland. President-elect Lincoln had intended, after his reception by the Pennsylvania Legislature, at Harrisburg, on the afternoon of February 22d, 1861, to go to Baltimore, on the 23d, by the Northern Central Railway; but was, with difficulty, induced by the advice of friends, and against the indignant protest of his military companion, the brave Colonel Sumner, to change his mind, return to Philadelphia, take a sleeping-car on the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, and thus, unrecognized, to complete the [405] dremainer of his journey to the National capital. His family went on the Northern Central Railway, by the special train intended for him.

It was charged that there existed, in Baltimore, a conspiracy to assassinate the President; but I am not aware that any reliable evidence has ever been produced to sustain the charge. The Albany Evening journal, of that time, says: “The friends of Mr. Lincoln do not question the loyalty and hospitality of the people of Maryland; but they were aware that a few disaffected citizens, who sympathized warmly with the secessionists, were determined to frustrate, at all hazards, the inauguration of the President-elect, even at the cost of his life.” The Baltimore Clipper, a strong Union newspaper, most positively asserted that there was no conspiracy. The Baltimore American, another Union journal, said: “Ample precautions were taken to guard against any violation of the public peace. A large police force was detailed for duty at the depot, * * * and these measures of Marshal Kane, even if they had failed to restrain any expression of disapprobation, would certainly have secured Mr. Lincoln from any insult, had such been intended.” The whole article in the American clearly shows that that paper never thought of the existence of any assassination plot, but attributed the excitement partly to the natural curiosity of the people, and partly to the unpopularity of certain injudicious and ostentatious friends of the President, who wished to welcome him with a public demonstration. When the train, in which the President was expected, arrived at the Northern Central depot, there was a large, noisy, and disorderly crowd there, but the police prevented any injury to the unpopular persons alluded to. There was no appearance of organization, and there were no persons of prominence in the tumultuous crowd. If, then, there was a well-organized plot to take the life of the President-elect, its leaders could not have been present on that occasion, nor were they ever discovered. Most likely the report arose from mere idle talk and empty bluster. It did, however, seriously discredit the State of Maryland throughout the North.

This prejudice against the State was deepened by a subsequent occurrence. On the 19th of April, 1861, two regiments, going to Washington in response to the President's call, were assaulted in the streets of Baltimore by a mob, and three soldiers killed and several severely wounded. The Massachusetts regiment, by the help of their own muskets, and under the protection of the Mayor and police, did succeed, after a trying ordeal, in getting through to the Washington depot. The other, a Pennsylvania regiment, under the command of Colonel Small, was pressed upon by the mob, and [406] ordered by one of Governor Hicks' militia generals to turn back, and, being unarmed, were compelled to obey. The soldiers of the Massachusetts regiment, after exercising great forbearance, at length fired upon the crowd, killing several persons, some of them, as it was alleged, innocent spectators. The excitement throughout the city was intense; exaggerated reports were circulated; the number of citizens killed was magnified from ten to two hundred; youths from sixteen to twenty years of age, armed to the teeth, were seen running wildly about the streets. The thoroughfares were filled with people telling and hearing but one side of the story, and firing one another with the spirit of vengeance. An impromptu mass meeting assembled in Monument Square; the Mayor was called out; the Governor, who had been in the city for several days, was sent for, and appeared; a Maryland flag was hoisted over his head, and his views clamorously demanded. He responded, by declaring that he would suffer his right arm to be torn from his body before he would raise it to strike a sister State. That night, so it is charged, the Governor agreed to an order for the destruction of the bridges on the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore, and the Northern Central Railroads, in order to prevent the passage of any more troops through Maryland to Washington. It is but justice to Governor Hicks to state, that he always denied that he had authorized any such proceeding. However, the bridges were destroyed.

On Thursday, the 18th day of April, I went from Annapolis to Baltimore. I had expected to find some excitement among the Baltimore people in consequence of the assault upon Fort Sumter and its surrender, which last event had occurred on the Sunday previous, the 14th; but, to my regret, I found the excitement at fever-heat. The Southern sympathizers were open and fierce in the expression of their views; the Union men were more moderate, but firm. The first congregated to hear fiery speeches from their leaders, and loudly applauded the condemnation of Mr. Lincoln's proclamation for troops. Governor Hicks, who had gone to Baltimore on the 17th, and had ascertained the state of feeling, issued his proclamation on the 18th, counseling peace and neutrality on the part of the people of Maryland. It had little or no effect. It was not bold enough to suit the the temper of the times. It was something of a wet blanket to the Union men, and the secessionists despised it and took courage. Thus matters stood on the morning of the 19th. No speaker had directly counseled an attack upon the troops that might pass through, but the incitements were all in that direction, and there were idle, restless, and reckless spirits at hand-few it may be; [407] but enough to make the onslaught, and there was an abundance of fuel when once the flame was kindled. When the troops came it seemed to be a surprise to all, police as well as citizens; but a mob soon collected and began to hoot and jeer, and finally to throw stones and bricks. Some Union men came forward and endeavored to restrain the crowd and to protect the troops, but they were overborne, and the mob worked its will with the results above given. Mayor Brown, in a letter, dated April 20th, replying to Governor Andrews, who had requested him to have the Massachusetts dead taken care of and forwarded to Boston, says: “No one deplores the sad events of yesterday in this city more deeply than myself; but they were inevitable. Our people viewed the passage of armed troops to another State through the streets as an invasion of our soil, and could not be restrained.”

On the day of the riot, I dined at Barnum's Hotel, where I had been stopping since the day before. Marshal Kane came in, and taking a seat at the table near Mr. Robert Fowler, afterward State Treasurer, they began to talk of the attack upon the troops, Mr. Fowler severely blaming the police department for not preventing the perpetration of such an outrage. The Marshal answered, in substance, as follows: “The administration at Washington was to blame for not giving the city authorities timely notice of the coming of the troops. He could and would,” he said, “have arranged to pass the troops safely.” He added, that he was afraid the affair would be misunderstood in the North, and the people in that section, becoming infuriated, would cry out for vengeance on Baltimore. I withdrew before the conversation was concluded. In the evening, during the progress of a secession meeting, held in front of Barnum's, I saw Marshal Kane eject from the hotel three men who came to the clerk's desk demanding the whereabouts of Senator Sumner. Upon inquiry, I learned that Mr. Sumner had been at the hotel in the forepart of the day, but, by the advice of friends, had withdrawn to a private house. Colonel Kane appeared to be very active and successful in his endeavors to keep the peace. In the morning, I read with astonishment his famous dispatch to Bradley Johnson:

Baltimore, April 19th, 1861.
Thank you for your offer. Bring your men in by the first train, and we will arrange with the railroad afterward. Streets red with Maryland blood. Send express over the mountains and valleys of Maryland and Virginia for the riflemen to come without delay. Fresh hordes will be down on us to-morrow (20th). We will fight them or die.


Colonel Kane may have been influenced, however, by the desire to shield Baltimore from the indiscriminate violence anticipated by him and others from an aroused and indignant North.

The unexpected turn things had taken, greatly discouraged the Union men, and some sought their homes in despair; but I saw a large number, in the course of the day and night, that were as firm and determined as ever. The Hon. Alexander H. Evans volunteered as an aide to the Governor, and exerted himself as far as possible to rescue him from the secession influences by which he was surrounded on that unfortunate day.

On the morning of the 20th, I was sent for by the Hon. Henry Winter Davis, and requested to accompany him to Washington. I understood that a mob had visited his house twice; he was not at home, as he had just returned that morning. I found him much agitated, but hopeful and resolute. We started for Washington in the afternoon, driving out to the Relay, and taking the train there. When we reached the Annapolis Junction, Mr. Davis said, upon reflection, he thought I could do more good by returning to Annapolis and “stiffening up the Governor.” On arriving at Annapolis I saw an unusually large number of persons at the depot, and was prepared to witness some demonstrations of secession sympathy; but all were as polite and courteous to me as ever, and there was a general expression of regret at the occurrences in Baltimore. In the evening, I called to see the Governor. He was much prostrated and very desponding; complained of loss of sleep; said he had been put in a false position by the administration; that he was a true Union man still, but they were taking the ground from beneath him by rash and hasty measures; that he supposed all of us would be regarded as traitors, and Maryland treated as if she had attempted to secede. I endeavored to reassure him, and expressed my earnest sympathy with him in his trying position. After conferring with him about some provision for the safety of his family, in case the mob from Baltimore should seek him in Annapolis, of which, however, I had not the slightest apprehension, we discussed the question of convening the Legislature. I begged him to adhere to his former and often-repeated resolution not to call it, but he was manifestly inclined to think the time had come to share his great responsibility with that body. On Sunday night he made up his mind, and on Tuesday he issued his proclamation, fixing the 26th as the day of meeting.

On Monday, the 22d, the Governor came up State House Hill, looking composed and seeming to be quite cheerful. I inquired his [409] conclusion about the Legislature; he replied he should call it, and would prepare his proclamation immediately. The wish was then expressed that the State might as speedily as possible be filled with Federal bayonets. There were several gentlemen standing around, and the Governor, putting his hand on my shoulder, whispered: “That is exactly what I wish.” Yet, the day before, he would not grant General Butler, who was in — Annapolis harbor, permission to land his troops. He afterward protested against the seizure of the Annapolis and Elk Ridge Railroad, and fixed upon Frederick City for the meeting of the General Assembly, in order to free that body from the presence of Federal troops. He asked the President to send no more soldiers into Maryland. He proposed to the administration to submit the questions between the North and the South to Lord Lyons, the British Minister, for arbitration. He very tardily responded to the President's call for troops, and when he did so, he required an assurance from the Secretary of War that all the forces raised in Maryland should be kept within her own borders.

From things like these Mr. Greeley was led to sneer at him as the “model Union Governor,” forgetting that he, himself, had said: “Let the wayward sisters go.” There was, indeed, throughout the North a prevalent suspicion of Maryland Unionism. Even Mr. Lincoln, with all his acuteness and all his means of knowledge, and with a Maryland representative in his Cabinet, harbored doubts, though he was very cautious in expressing them. The Hon. Alexander H. Evans, before mentioned, relates a ludicrous incident, which serves to show the lurking suspicion in the President's mind. After the 19th of April riot Mr. Evans made application to the President on behalf of the Union men of Cecil county for a thousand stand of arms. “You shall have them,” said Mr. Lincoln; and then, with that well-known, but indescribable expression playing around his mouth, he added, after a pause, “but are you quite certain which way they will point them?” It must be admitted that appearances gave room for doubt; and yet I firmly believe that Winter Davis was right in claiming for a majority of the Maryland people a fealty to the Union. There were many secessionists — not a few, able, earnest, and fearless; but the real, true sentiment of the mass of the people was on the other side. Governor Hicks, too, notwithstanding some mistakes, and despite the overawing of him on the 19th of April, was a Union man to the core. I knew him well, and for more than three years had been in almost daily intercourse with him.

In dealing with the Union question he had endeavored to practice in the State the same Fabian tactics that President Lincoln so [410] successfully carried out in his management of National affairs. This policy on the part of the Governor was a wise one-at least it was so up to the 18th of April, 1861. He paid respect to the opinions and humored the prejudices of the great body of his people, being himself, in fact, one of them. He possessed great personal popularity. His appearance told much in his favor. He had a downright honest look — a very John Bull he was-softened with a most benevolent expression of countenance. Of medium stature, thick set, rather corpulent, with broad head and face, strong features, prominent chin, mouth shutting firmly down upon molar teeth in front, easy in address, and of dignified carriage, he gave assurance of a man that could do the State some service. He had not the learning of the schools, for he had come up from the ranks, where, in his youthful days, one could scarcely find even that little learning which Pope calls “a dangerous thing.”

But he had. used his natural gifts to some purpose. He was a close observer, and had studied men until he knew well how to capture them. Beside, he was really kind-hearted, and delighted to do favors. For years he had been the leading Whig in his native county of Dorchester, on the Eastern Shore, and when that old and honored party suddenly declined and died, he joined the Know-Nothing or American organization, “to beat the Democrats.” He was elected Governor, in 185T, and had given himself earnestly and faithfully to the discharge of his important duties. At the breaking out of the civil war, he was about sixty years of age, and in appearance was strong and robust, but, in fact, his health was seriously impaired; and he had recently suffered severe family bereavement which greatly unnerved him. In the late Presidential election, Maryland had cast her electoral vote for Breckenridge, who had received not quite a thousand more of the popular vote than Bell, and who, if the nearly six thousand votes cast for Douglas, and the little more than two thousand cast for Lincoln be counted, was in an actual minority. A large majority of the secessionists were found among the voters for Breckenridge; but by no means were all who supported him for secession, for such able and influential men as the Hon. Reverdy Johnson, the i-on. John W. Crisfield, and the lion. Henry H. Goldsborough, may be taken to represent thousands of others that stood boldly for the integrity of the Union. .There were, of course, a number of the Bell men who took the other side; and there were a great many men that sympathized with the South, and yet loved the Union. There were many strong ties between the people of Maryland and the people of the more Southern States. Beside the [411] common property interest in slavery, there was constant intercourse between the people, and the commercial interests of the city of Baltimore were largely dependent upon the South. When the appeal was made that Maryland must go with Virginia, the Union men found it most difficult to answer in the negative with satisfaction to the people; in truth, while Virginia seemed to hesitate, Governor Hicks deemed it prudent to assent to the proposition, feeling hopeful that the “Mother of States” would preserve her allegiance. The complications in which our people were involved may be imagined; and a full appreciation of them would bring a favorable judgment both to the State and its Governor. Robert Burns aptly says:

What's done we partly may compute,
But know not what's resisted.

Governor Hicks received a communication from prominent citizens, shortly after the election, in 1860, requesting him to call an extra session of the Legislature, in order to consider the condition of the country, and to determine what course Maryland should take. The members of the Legislature had been elected in the fall of 1859, mainly on State issues, and were not authorized to represent the people on the momentous questions pending in 1861. The Governor promptly refused to make the call. He was solicited again and again, privately and publicly, by individuals and by county meetings, but he most decidedly declined to do so. He resisted all blandishments, threats, and importunities. A commissioner from Mississippi, a native of Maryland, came to him and invited the co-operation of Maryland, but the Governor declined to accept the invitation. He pursued the same course with the Alabama commissioner, speaking bold, firm words for the Union. He was talking and writing constantly, and encouraging and receiving encouragement in the interest of the Union. Many public gatherings throughout the State passed resolutions commending his course. Such eminent men as the Hon. Reverdy Johnson, Hon. A. W. Bradford, and William H. Collins, Esq., sustained him by eloquent and powerful arguments, made through the press and directly to the people.

The Hon. Henry Winter Davis, not a politic man like the Governor, and, therefore, distrusted by the latter as imprudent and rash, declared himself an unconditional Union man, and by his untiring energy, unequaled eloquence, and matchless ability, did much to mould public opinion, and, eventually, succeeded in bringing a strong party to his own advanced position. He never followed the people; he led them-nor did he care to see how near [412] they were to him. He marched straight on, taking n.o step backward, and looking neither to the right nor the left. Governor Hicks admired him greatly, but shunned him. The Hon. Montgomery Blair, who was the only prominent man in Maryland that had supported Mr. Lincoln in 1860, by his non-partisan course after his accession to the Cabinet, making everything subordinate to the preservation of the Union, obtained great influence with the Governor, and was regarded as a safe counselor. Both Judge Blair and Mr. Davis contended strongly that the people of Maryland were on the side of the Union, and they were right, for notwithstanding all the mistakes of the National administration, all temptations, associations, adverse influences, and provocations, no considerable portion of them ever declared for secession. Indeed, as far as I can recollect, such a declaration was confined to an out-of-the-way meeting, composed of a mere handful of men. Even after the 19th of April riot, when things had a very bad look in Baltimore, an election for delegates to the Legislature resulted in a withering rebuke of secession. There was but one set of candidates, and they were men of ability and integrity of character, not open and avowed secessionists, but opposed to coercion; and yet, in the midst of all the prevailing excitement, they received, out of a voting population of more than thirty thousand, only nine thousand votes.

In May, 1861, at the special election for the extra session of Congress, all the Union candidates were elected except one, and he was beaten by a “Union and peace” candidate. In November, 1861, the Governor and all the other members of the Union State ticket were elected, with a large majority of both branches of the Legislature. General Butler, in May, 1861, replying to Governor Andrews, who found fault with him for offering to suppress an apprehended slave insurrection at or in the neighborhood of Annapolis, declares that he had found, by intercourse with the people there, that they were not rebels, but a large majority of them strongly for the Union. He also expresses confidence in the Governor.

But, after all, the critical time was between the election of Lincoln and his inauguration. There had been a fierce partisan conflict, and the party in power had lost and expected to be removed from the places they held so long. The expiring Buchanan administration was supine and inert. Maryland was at the very door of the capital-her great city overshadowing it. Let us suppose that she had been disloyal, and that in all those months she had bent her energies to the plotting of treason; that her Governor had come to [413] an understanding with the Governors of the other Southern States, and perfected arrangements for resistance accordingly, would Mr. Lincoln have been inaugurated and installed in power at Washington? Would not the Confederate authorities have held the National capital, and, consequently, have had their independence acknowledged by the leading power of Europe?

Is it too much, then, to claim for Maryland that her fidelity to her obligations in the early days of secession preserved the National capital for the installation of the lawfully-elected President; materially shortened the internecine strife, and, under God, determined possibly the ultimate issue of the mighty contest? When other States are honored, let her not be despised. When others are mentioned with affection and gratitude, let her name not be left out.

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