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The Baltimore riots.

Frederic Emory.
The Baltimore riots of April 18th and 19th, 1861, and the disorders which followed them were, next to the conflict at Fort Sumter, the most exciting and significant of the events which preceded the general outbreak of hostilities between the North and the South. President Lincoln and his Cabinet were seriously inconvenienced, the North was aroused, the leaders of the new Confederacy were led to entertain hopes of valuable assistance from the Border States, and a formidable obstacle was interposed to the active prosecution of those military measures which the government at Washington had decided upon. The attack upon the Massachusetts troops was, in another sense, one of the most remarkable events of the civil war; for, unlike similar disturbances elsewhere, it was largely participated in by the friends of order and the enemies of secession. Parodoxical as the statement may appear, the riots of April, 1861, were the work mainly of the strong Union element in Baltimore. The sentiment of the best men of the city was overwhelmingly opposed to secession; but, on the other hand, it was just as strenuously opposed to coercion. The people of Baltimore loved the old flag; but they loved their brethren of the South, also; and, when it was proposed to whip them back into the Union, even the most ultra anti-secessionists were roused into angry opposition to the passage of Northern troops southward.

It is easy to prove by actual occurrences in this city at the time that the feeling here was, as I have said, overwhelmingly against secession. On the 10th of January, 1861, in answer to a call [776] published in the newspapers, a mass meeting was held at the Maryland Institute for the adoption of measures favorable to the perpetuation of the Union of the States. This. meeting was one of the largest and most enthusiastic which had ever been held in the city. Every available spot was occupied, and the officers and speakers comprised some of the best citizens of Baltimore, among them Reverdy Johnson, Governor Bradford, and Judge Pearre. Subsequently, another mass meeting was held of citizens in favor of restoring the constitutional union of the States, in which the Hon. R. M. McLane, Mr. S. Teackle Wallis, Hon. Joshua Vansant, Dr. A. C. Robinson, and other well-known Southern sympathizers took an active part. Even as late as April 12th, when the siege of Fort Sumter.had begun, and only one week before the riot, two men were assaulted and mobbed, one on Baltimore, the other on South street,for wearing a Southern cockade. On Sunday, April 14th, five days only before the riot, a secession flag was displayed from the mast of the Fanny Crenshaw lying at Chase's wharf, but was hauled down by a party of men from the city, who boarded the vessel. The flag was run up again, however, but the vessel had to be placed under the protection of the police authorities. These facts go to show, in the almost utter absence of manifestations to the contrary, that Baltimore was not at that time a secessionist city; and, had the subsequent policy of the government been one of conciliation, instead of coercion, it is doubtful whether serious trouble would have resulted.

Notwithstanding the strong Union feeling which prevailed in Baltimore, there was a decided under-current of sympathy for the South. This was to be expected. Baltimore has always been a Southern city in feeling, customs, and associations. The population is largely made up of immigrants from Virginia and North Carolina, while the rural population of Maryland, particularly of the lower counties, is Southern in methods of life, sympathies, social habits, amusements, as that of any of the Southern States. The slaveholding element, too, were excited over the prospective loss of their slaves. Still, there were very few who were disposed to go the length of opposition to the General Government, and those few were overawed and held in check by the strong anti-secession element. The secession element, however, was aggressive, sometimes boisterous, and never failed to take advantage of any accident or mistake which was calculated to inflame the passions of the more moderate men. They were unintentionally assisted in their schemes by President Lincoln himself, whose secret passage through Baltimore was undoubtedly the result of a misconception. When they [777] were informed that the President had slipped through the city incognito, citizens of all shades of opinion resented it as an undeserved reflection upon the city. The act at once suggested the thought that the government regarded the city of Baltimore with suspicion and hostility, and did more than anything else to create a bad feeling toward the administration. Arrangements were made by the city authorities for the reception and entertainment of President Lincoln in this city, and, it is safe to say, that Mr. Lincoln might have passed through Baltimore without fear of molestation.

It is a mistake to suppose that the riot was an outburst of the rougher classes, or, as some have alleged, simply a rebel demonstration. On the contrary, the rioters were composed of three distinct elements, two of which were distinctly respectable, while the third, a very small one by the way, was composed of young men and boys — some of them roughs, but many of them respectable in their connections — who were attracted to the scene by the noise and excitement. The first and most influential class — the class, in fact, without whose encouragement and assistance the disturbance would have been almost impossible — was composed of sober, intelligent then, many of them Union sympathizers, who were knocked clear off their balance by the announcement that Northern troops were marching on the city. This class had hitherto restrained the most aggressive of the Southern sympathizers; but, having always been opposed to coercion, were infuriated by the announcement that the Northern troops were actually invading “the sacred soil of Maryland.” The second class was composed of more advanced Southern sympathizers, together with the few extremists who were openly in favor of coercion. Of this class the most prominent were the late Judge T. Parkin Scott, then prominent at the bar, and William Byrne, the famous politician and gambler. Byrne was the recognized head of that class which advocated armed resistance to the passage of the troops from the first, and, with his companions, did inconceivable damage by loud talk and bravado. He was, at the time, the most influential man in Baltimore with that large class of hot-headed young men, ward politicians, gamblers, “floaters,” idlers, etc., who are to be found in every large city. A man of good address and strong sense, kind and liberal, he carried with him a large clientele of adventurous spirits. Mr. Scott represented the soberer, but not less aggressive, wing of the extremist faction.

One of the most curious features of the riot was the attitude of the city and State governments. The city government was largely composed of ardent Southern men, but, at the same time, men who [778] were sober and clear-headed enough to see that a collision between the Federal authorities and the citizens of Baltimore could not but result in the most disastrous consequences. The Mayor of Baltimore, at the time, was George William Brown, now Chief Judge of the Supreme Bench of that city, a person of determined courage and impartial judgment. The Marshal of Police was George P. Kane, a man of inflexible honesty and singleness of purpose and great determination. To these two men must be ascribed the highest honor for their strenuous efforts, in the great part successful, to prevent further bloodshed after the first attack at the Pratt street bridge. Had they been notified in time of the coming of the troops, it is probable that the riot might have been prevented altogether. It has frequently been asserted at the North that the city authorities were in league with the mob; but, after a diligent search, I think I may say, with perfect truth, that Mayor Brown and the Chief of Police, notwithstanding their strong Southern sympathies, did everything in their power to prevent bloodshed.

The Governor of Maryland, Thomas H. Hicks, was a Union man, although he had been elected as a Pro-slavery Know-Nothing. His loyalty was suspected at Washington, but he lent no countenance whatever to the proposed resistance to the “Federal invasion.” After the event, Governor Hicks was the first man, however, to suggest the armed resistance which he afterward deprecated with so much honor; and, in this connection, I cannot forbear printing the following curious document written by him:

State of Maryland, Executive chamber, Annapolis, November 9th, 1860.
Hon. E. H. Webster.
My Dear Sir :--I have pleasure in acknowledging receipt of your favor introducing a very clever gentleman to my acquaintance (though a Democrat). I regret to say that, at this time, we have no arms on hand to distribute, but assure you that, at the earliest possible moment, your company shall have arms; they have complied with all required of them on their part. We have some delay in consequence of contracts with Georgia and Alabama ahead of us, and we expect, at an early day, an additional supply, and of the first received your people shall be furnished. Will they be good men to send out to kill Lincoln and his men? If not, suppose the arms would be better sent South. How does late election sit with you? 'Tis too bad. Harford nothing to reproach herself for.

Your obedient servant,

The writer became conspicuously “loyal” before spring!

On the 18th of April, a dispatch was received in Baltimore from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, announcing that the Northern Central [779] Railroad had been requested to furnish accommodations for the transportation of a number of troops through Baltimore. When the news became generally known, large crowds assembled on the street, and intense excitement reigned. About nine o'clock A. M. a meeting of the military organization known as the Maryland National Volunteers was held under the presidency of Mr. T. Parkin Scott, and inflammatory speeches were made. At two o'clock two trains, containing twenty-one cars, which had left Harrisburg at ten minutes after eight o'clock that morning, arrived in Baltimore. There were six companies of troops-two of United States Artillery from St. Paul, commanded by Major Pemberton, two from Pottsville, Pennsylvania, one from Reading, Pennsylvania, and one from Lewistown, Pennsylvania, the latter known as the Logan Guards. A large and excited crowd had assembled at the depot and, previous to the arrival of the troops, occupied itself in singing “Dixie's land” and noisily cheering for the Confederacy. As the troops disembarked, they were pushed and hustled by the crowd, but no one was seriously hurt. Finally the line of march was taken up for Mount Clare station, where the troops were to re-embark for Washington.

The troops were accompanied through the streets by the crowd, which guyed and hissed them, all the while cheering for the Southern Confederacy and “JeffDavis, and groaning for “Abe” Lincoln. The troops behaved remarkably well, none of the men showing any signs of annoyance beyond an occasional angry look or exclamation. The city police accompanied them and succeeded in holding the crowd in check. When the troops arrived at Mount Clare, however, the crowd became more aggressive. The troops were subjected to numberless indignities, such as being spit upon, taunted, hustled, etc.; the mob all the while indulging in wild curses, groans, and yells, with threats such as these: “Let the police go and we'll lick you!” “Wait till you see Jeff Davis!” “We'll see you before long!” “You'll never get back to Pennsylvania!” etc. Several of the more adventurous rioters caught some of the soldiers by the coat tails and jerked them about, while others taunted individuals in the ranks about their appearance, awkwardness, etc. It was a severe trial for the Pennsylvania volunteers, but they passed through the ordeal with commendable nerve and courage.

As the train was leaving the station, a stone was thrown, by some one in the mob, into one of the cars, and, with a wild yell, the mob rushed after the slowly receding train. They were checked, however, by the city police, who behaved admirably throughout. [780] Later that afternoon, a disturbance occurred in the central part of the city, and a crowd of some two thousand people assembled, but were dispersed by the police after several persons had been slightly hurt. The same evening, an immense assemblage of people gathered in front of Taylor's building, on Fayette street, where a State's Rights' Convention of Marylanders was being held.

Baltimore was now at fever heat of excitement. Business was entirely suspended and the male population of the city turned out en masse. The streets were crowded all day, and until a late hour that night Baltimore, or Market street as it was then called, was thronged by a surging mob, which was thickest at the newspaper offices and other centres of information. The Union sympathizers had disappeared, and the city seemed to be a unit in opposition to the passage of Northern troops through Baltimore. The staidest and soberest citizens were infected by it. Men who all along had been opposed to secession, now openly advocated armed resistance, and it was declared, over and over again, in the most public manner, that no Northern troops should be permitted to enter Baltimore, or, if they did enter, to leave the city alive. The mob, however, was still under the control of the city authorities — that is to say, the Mayor and Marshal of Police retained, in spite of the open threats and great excitement, sufficient power to prevent any outbreak of violence. Unfortunately, however, the authorities at Washington attempted a maneuvre similar to that by which Mr. Lincoln was got through Baltimore. Finding that the feeling in Baltimore had become intense, and suspecting the city authorities of collusion with the mob, the government directed the officer in command of the troops en route for Baltimore to proceed to that city, from Philadelphia, without notice to the authorities of Baltimore, and to get through as quickly as he could. This was a most unfortunate order, for there is little doubt that had Mayor Brown been notified of the expected arrival of the troops, he could have provided for their efficient protection by the police. The Mayor and Chief of Police were not only not notified, but were kept in the dark as to the movements of the troops-so that when the troops reached the President street depot, they were completely taken by surprise. President Lincoln and his advisers are not to be blamed for not taking the Baltimore authorities into their confidence, for it was exceedingly difficult, in those days, to tell whom to trust and whom not to trust. It is to be regretted, however, that in this case the President was over-cautious, for I am pursuaded that, had the police of Baltimore been notified in time, the loss of life might have been avoided. [781]

Early on the morning of April 19th, 1861, a train of thirty-five cars left the Broad and Washington avenue depot, Philadelphia, having on board twelve hundred troops from Boston, Lowell, and Acton, Massachusetts, and known as the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment, under the command of Colonel Edward F. Jones, a gallant soldier and courteous gentleman; and a regiment, one thousand strong, from Philadelphia, under the command of Colonel William F. Small. Nothing was known in Baltimore of their departure from Philadelphia, but about eleven o'clock it became noised abroad that a large force of Federal soldiers had arrived at President street depot. This depot is in the southeastern portion of the city, and is connected with the Baltimore and Ohio depot, which is situated in the southwestern section, by a line of rail along Pratt street — a leading thoroughfare-and some minor streets. It was necessary for the troops, on disembarking at President street depot, either to march to the Baltimore and Ohio depot or to be drawn thither in the cars by horses. The news of the arrival of the troops spread like wildfire, and in a comparatively short time an immense crowd gathered on Pratt street, with the intention of preventing the passage of the troops. While waiting for the appearance of the soldiers the crowd kept itself up to the requisite pitch of indignation and enthusiasm by “groaning” for Lincoln, Hicks, and the Federal Government, and by cheering Jefferson Davis and the Southern Confederacy. The first intimation had by the city authorities that the troops were about to enter the city was received by Mayor Brown about ten o'clock. Mr. Brown at once repaired to the office of the Police Commissioners, but found that the Marshal of Police had already gone to Camden station, where he had concentrated his men by request of the railroad authorities. The Mayor at once followed him to Camden station, and on arriving there found him posted with his men prepared to put down any attack. Unfortunately the mob had gathered not at Camden station but on Pratt street, at a point a short distance west of the depot where the troops were disembarking. Pratt street is a narrow thoroughfare, and easily capable of defense. The strategical position of the mob was excellent as they proceeded to fortify it.

About half-past 11 o'clock a car drawn by horses was seen approaching, and was greeted by the mob with cheers for the South. The car, and eight others which followed, were, however, permitted to pass without any molestation, except the usual taunts and gibes at the occupants. A trivial accident, which happened to the tenth car, let loose all the elements of disorder in the mob, and precipitated the [782] fatal conflict. As this car neared Commerce street the brake was accidentally thrown out of gear, and the car stopped. The crowd took advantage of the mishap at once, and began to attack the occupants with stones. Windows were broken, and a few of the soldiers were hurt, but not seriously. Finally the driver of the car became frightened, lost his head, and, having attached his team to the other end of the car, started to haul it back to the depot. The mob followed the car, stoning it all the while, but the driver having urged the horses to a run, succeeded in distancing them. A large portion of the mob, however, followed it into the depot.

The section of the mob which remained at the bridge on Pratt street then, under the advice of their leaders, many of whom, as I have said, were well known citizens of Baltimore, began to build a barricade, Paris fashion. They commenced by digging up the paving stones and the railroad track for a distance of some fifty yards. The stones were piled up with the iron rails, the bridges over the gutters were torn up, and eight large anchors which were found on the wharf near by were placed on the barricade. A car loaded with sand attempted to pass, but was seized by the rioters, who backed it up to the barricade, and emptied the sand on the pile of stones and anchors. A large number of negroes were working on the wharves at the time. These were ordered to quit work, which they did with alacrity, and were directed by the rioters to assist them on the barricade. They complied and, as Colonel J. Thomas Scharf, in his “Chronicles of Baltimore” relates, “worked away with a will for Massa Jeff Davis and de Souf.” At this stage of the proceedings Mayor Brown, who had hurried from Camden Station, arrived on the scene. What followed is best given in Mayor Brown's own words:

On arriving at the head of Smith's wharf,

he says in his official report, “I found that anchors had been piled on the track to obstruct it, and Sergeant McComas and a few policemen, who were with him, were not allowed by the mob to remove the obstructions. I at once ordered the anchors to be removed, and my authority was not resisted.”

This, in my judgment, is signal proof that had the passage of the troops been intrusted to the city authorities, it might have been effected in safety, as the Mayor had the confidence of even the extreme secessionists. In the meantime, the commander of the Massachusetts troops, finding that the cars would not be permitted to pass through, decided to disembark his men and force a passage on foot through the mob. When this determination was announced, some confederates of the Pratt street rioters at once communicated the news to them. It was also rumored that the troops had decided to go by a [783] different route to Camden station. A portion of the rioters at once started to head them off, while the main body maintained its position on Pratt street. A. large crowd assembled at the depot during the disembarkation of the troops, and here several exciting, but not very sanguinary, encounters occurred between Unionists and secessionists in the crowd. As the troops descended from the cars they were hooted, jeered, and twitted. They succeeded, however, in forcing their way to the footway, which extends for several hundred yards along the outer edge of the depot, where they formed in double file and awaited the orders of their officers.

At this point a man appeared bearing a Confederate flag at the head of about one hundred rioters. His appearance was the signal for wild cheering. A rush for the flag was made by several Northern sympathizers in the crowd, and the flag-staff was broken. One of these men was caught by the flag-bearer who, with his companions, throttled, and would have killed him, but for the interference of the police, who succeeded in bearing him away. The shreds of the flag were caught up and tied to the flag-staff. On being raised again they were saluted with an outburst of cheering. The men surrounding the flag then began to taunt the troops, and declared that they would be forced to march behind it to the Camden depot. Colonel Jones gave the order to march, and the troops started. The men surrounding the flag, however, planted themselves directly in front of the soldiers and refused to yield an inch. The troops wheeled about, but found themselves surrounded on. all sides, and were unable to move in any direction. Several of the soldiers were hustled away from their comrades, and would have been roughly used by the crowd but for the police, who succeeded, with great difficulty, in rescuing them. The troops again endeavored to force a passage, and this time, with the assistance of the police, they succeeded. As they started, however, the Confederate flag was borne to the front, and they were compelled to march for several squares behind this flag. Too much praise cannot be given to the commander or men for their admirable self-control during this trying episode.

The presence of the Confederate flag was the immediate cause of the sanguinary street fight and loss of life which followed. Several Northern sympathizers in the mob, exasperated at the triumph of the flag-bearer and his friends, made another dash for the flag, but were defeated and pursued. Some of them took refuge in the ranks of the soldiers. This exasperated the citizens against the soldiers, and a savage attack upon the latter was made with stones and other missiles. One of the soldiers, William Patch, was struck in the back [784] with a large paving-stone, and fell to the ground. His musket was seized, and the poor wretch was brutally beaten by the rioters before the police could rescue him. When Patch was seen to fall Colonel Jones gave the order “double quick” to his men, and the whole column started off on a run, ducking and dipping to avoid the stones. At this the crowd set up a yell of derision and started after them full tilt. Two soldiers were knocked down, while running, but managed to make their escape-one of them with the assistance of the police, While the foregoing events were transpiring in and near President street depot, an. immense concourse of people had gathered at the barricade. When the troops appeared in full run a great shout was raised, and the head of the column was greeted with a shower of paving-stones. The troops faltered, and finally, in the face of a second shower of stones, came to a dead halt. The patience of their commander was at last exhausted. He cried out in a voice, which was heard even above the yells of the mob, “Fire!” The soldiers leveled their pieces and the mob seemed to pause, as if to take breath. The soldiers fired. A young man, named F. X. Ward, now a well-known lawyer of this city, fell pierced by a ball. A hoarse yell of fear and rage went up from the mob, but it did not give way. The troops fired again and again, and the crowd wavering, they rushed upon them with fixed bayonets and forced a passage over the barricade. A scene of bloody confusion followed. As the troops retreated, firing, the rioters rushed upon them only to be repulsed by the line of bayonets. Some of the rioters fought like madmen. Finally, the mob, exasperated by their failure to prevent the passage of the troops, made a desperate rush upon them, and one young man, who was in the front rank of the rioters, was forced close upon the soldiery. One of the soldiers raised his gun, took deliberate aim at the rioter and fired. The cap exploded, but the gun failed to go off. The rioter rushed forward, seized the gun, wrested it by an almost superhuman effort from the soldier's grasp, and plunged the bayonet through the man's shoulder. During the firing a number of the rioters fell, killed and wounded. At the intersection of Charles and Pratt streets, Andrew Robbins, a soldier from Stoneham, Massachusetts, was shot in the neck by a rioter. He was carried into a drug store near by, and was protected from the mob. At Howard street a strong force of rioters from Camden station met the troops and refused to yield. The soldiers fired again and the mob gave way. The soldiers again started at the double quick and reached Camden station without further trouble. Thirteen cars were drawn out, and the soldiers left the depot amid the hisses and groans of the multitude. One of the [785] most remarkable features of the riot was the persistency and courage with which the mob hung on to the troops, in spite of the continued firing. Another remarkable feature was the extraordinary coolness and forbearance of the troops.

Mayor Brown, during the progress of the riot, did one of the bravest things on record, and his conduct is remembered and frequently quoted in Baltimore to-day as a conspicuous example of unselfish devotion and courage. After ordering the removal of the anchors at the barricade, the Mayor made his way to Pratt street bridge, where he saw the troops approaching. He ran at once to the head of the column, the people crying as he passed: “Here comes the Mayor!” The Mayor shook hands with the officers in command, saying as he did so: “I am the Mayor of Baltimore.” He then placed himself by Colonel Jones' side, and marched with him for several squares, begging, warning, and commanding the citizens not to offer any violence. In the excited state of feeling at the time, the Mayor's conduct was as plucky as anything I have ever read or heard of. His presence, doubtless, saved a great deal of bloodshed. When the Mayor left the head of the column, Marshal Kane, with fifty policemen with drawn revolvers, rushed to the rear of the column, formed a line across the street, and succeeded in keeping back the mob. This was one of the most exciting episodes of the riot.

The list of the killed and wounded was as follows: Soldiers killed-Addison O. Whitney, a young mechanic, of Lowell, Massachusetts; Luther C. Ladd, another young mechanic, also from Lowell; Charles A. Taylor, decorative painter, from Boston, and Sumner II. Needham, a plasterer from the same city-4. A number of soldiers were wounded. The citizens killed were: Robert W. Davis, Philip S. Miles, John McCann, John McMahon, William R. Clark, James Carr, Francis Maloney, Sebastian Gill, William Maloney, William Reed, Michael Murphy, Patrick Griffith--12. Wounded-Frank X. Ward, Coney, James Myers, and a boy whose name was not ascertained-4. The fact that more of the troops were not killed is to be ascribed to the fact that the citizens had no arms except paving-stones. Many more of the citizens were wounded beside those whose names were returned, and, perhaps, some more were killed. The lower classes generally concealed their injuries.

The death of Mr. Robert W. Davis was one of the most tragic incidents of the day. Mr. Davis was a member of the firm of Paynter, Davis & Co., dry goods dealers, on Baltimore street, and one of the most prominent citizens of Baltimore. Early on the [786] morning of the riot he went out on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, a short distance from the city, for the purpose of looking at some land which he thought of purchasing. He was standing near the railroad track with some friends, among whom was Mr. Thomas W. Hall, Jr., a prominent journalist and lawyer of this city, and who is now City Solicitor of Baltimore. Mr. Davis was not aware that there had been a riot in the city, and as a car containing the troops came by, he incautiously shook his fist at them in mock defiance. A soldier in the car, however, mistaking the gesture for one of real hostility and, probably, thrown off his balance by the fearful occurrences of the day, raised his gun and fired. The unfortunate man, who had been laughing and chatting with his friends a moment before, fell into their arms. Mr. Hall asked him if he was hurt. “I am killed,” was all he said. When the news of Mr. Davis' death reached the city, it added fuel to the flames.

Marshal Kane's three hundred and fifty policemen were almost powerless in the face of the mob, which meanwhile had broken into all the gun stores in town, and had completely gutted them. During the afternoon, Governor Hicks issued an order for the assembling of the State troops, and by five o'clock quite a number had reported for duty, In the meantime, however (about half-past 2), news reached the rioters that the renowned Seventh Regiment from New York was expected. An immense mob at once repaired to the depot and surrounded some volunteers from Philadelphia, who were found to have arrived there. The windows of the cars were smashed with paving-stones, and a number of the Philadelphians injured, but none of them seriously. Marshal Kane, accompanied by Colonel C. C. Egerton, a personal friend and well-known as an officer, and one of the militia organizations, appeared on the scene and succeeded in appeasing, for a time, the passions of the mob by announcing that it had been decided that the troops should return to Philadelphia. The mob, believing that the Marshal would act toward them in good faith, withdrew. Later, however, it was rumored that the command was about to force a passage through the city, and with a howl of disappointment, the rioters again repaired to the depot. This time they could not be reasoned with. Rushing pell-mell upon the train, they riddled it with stones. Some twenty of the volunteers were badly injured about the head and body by being struck with heavy stones. The soldiers were, with considerable difficulty, removed to some freight cars near at hand, where they were better protected from the mob. Over one hundred of the soldiers were separated from their comrades during the transfer, but were rescued by the [787] police, who took them to the Eastern station-house for safety. A short time after the freight train was backed out of the depot and, finally, the soldiers returned to Philadelphia, rather than attempt to force a passage through the streets of Baltimore. The mob was thus victorious, and all that night, and for several days after, the riotous element was practically in control of the city.

It is difficult to overestimate the strength and depth of the popular indignation excited by the riot at the North For days after the outbreak the newspapers teemed with bitter denunciation of the Baltimoreans, whose opposition to the passage of the troops was generally set down to “pure cussedness,” and all-prevailing sympathy with secession. After the years which have rolled by this is seen to be a narrow and partisan view of the occurrence. The people of the North had good reason, however, to think that henceforth Baltimore must be regarded as one of the enemy, for the attack upon the Northern troops was one of the bloodiest and most vindictive outbursts of popular feeling on record. It confirmed all that had been said of the Baltimoreans, and lent a decided color of reason to the President's secret passage through the city.

After the departure of the Northern troops, the police department was informed that a freight car was at the depot containing a large quantity of arms and ammunition, which had been left there by the Massachusetts troops. General James M. Anderson at once repaired to the depot, and with a large force of policemen took possession of the car. Subsequently the arms and accoutrements were removed and appropriated by the city authorities, who used them in arming the citizens and militia for the protection of the city.

On the afternoon of the riot a meeting of citizens was held in Monument Square, at which the Governor, the Mayor, and a number of prominent citizens made addresses, counseling moderation. The indignation of the populace, however, was so great that the efforts at pacification met with little encouragement. Seeing that the temper of the people was even angrier and more excited than before, the authorities decided to request the President to prevent, if he could, the further passage of troops through the town. Accordingly, the following letter was dispatched to the President:

Mayor's Office, Baltimore, April 19th, 1861.
Sir:--This will be presented to you by the Hon. H. Lennox Bond, George W. Dobbin, and John C. Brune, Esqs., who will proceed to Washington by an express train, at my request, in order to explain fully the fearful condition of affairs in this city. The people are exasperated to the highest degree by the presence of troops, and the citizens are universally decided in the opinion that no more should be ordered to come. The authorities of the city did their best to-day to protect both [788] strangers and citizens, and to prevent a collision, but in vain; and but for their great efforts a fearful slaughter would have occurred. Under these circumstances it is my solemn duty to inform you that it is not possible for more soldiers to pass through Baltimore unless they fight their way at every step. I, therefore, hope and trust, and most earnestly request, that no more troops be permitted or ordered by the government to pass through the city. If they should attempt it, the responsibility for the bloodshed will not rest upon me.

With great respect, your obedient servant,

George Wm. Brown, Mayor. To His Excellency, Abraham Lincoln, President United States.

It is easy, from the foregoing, to obtain an idea of the actual state of affairs in Baltimore at the time, for Mayor Brown, to my own knowledge, is thoroughly dispassionate, and, of all men, one of the least likely to over-state a case. The response to this letter was conveyed through a dispatch from the committee sent to Washington by the Mayor, as follows:

Washington, April 20th, 1861.
To Mayor Brown, Baltimore:
We have seen the President and General Scott. We have from the former a letter to the Mayor and Governor, declaring that no troops shall be brought through Baltimore if, in a military point of view, and without interruption from opposition, they can be marched around Baltimore.

This response of Mr. Lincoln was very unsatisfactory to the people of Baltimore, although it is difficult to see, looking back upon it from this point of time, how Mr. Lincoln could have unreservedly promised that no troops should pass through Baltimore. It was of the highest importance that easy and rapid communication should be maintained with the North, and that the troops should be forwarded as rapidly as possible. It was simply asking the government to cut off its right hand to request that it should not continue the transportation of troops through Baltimore. The people of this city, however, were not concerned about the inconvenience which it might cause the government. They were agreed on one point, viz., that the passage of troops through Baltimore should not be permitted under any consideration.

In response to the general sentiment, Mayor Brown, on Saturday morning, issued the following:

Mayor's Office, Baltimore, April 20th, 1861.
All the citizens having arms suitable for the defense of the city, and which they are willing to contribute for the purpose, are requested to deposit them at the office of the Marshal of Police.


The promptness and heartiness with which this call was responded to, showed the depth of the popular feeling on the subject. At nine o'clock, on the morning after the riot, the City Council met and appropriated half a million dollars for the defense of the city. The directors of the banks also met on the same morning and volunteered to lend the city half a million dollars at once. From this fact alone it may be seen that the feeling was not confined to a clique or even a small majority of the citizens. Almost every respectable citizen, whatever his political convictions, shared in the earnest opposition to any further encroachment upon the soil of Maryland from the North. Early that morning the Confederate flag had been displayed from Taylor's building, the rendezvous of the Maryland Guard, and had been greeted with vociferous cheers. The city was given over to excitement throughout the day. There was a rumor of a projected raid upon Fort McHenry, several miles below the city, where a number of troops were quartered, but a strong military force was sent out by the civil authorities and the attack was prevented. The populace was further excited by the arrival of companies of militia from the counties, who came to defend the city against the Northern myrmidons. About half-past 2 o'clock that afternoon the mob broke into a public hall belonging to the German Turners, who were supposed to be Northern in their sympathies. The furniture was destroyed and a large quantity of liquor which was found there was appropriated by the crowd. A recruiting office was opened at the City Hall, under the nose of the Mayor, and large numbers of persons enrolled themselves for the defense of the city. As the men were enrolled, they were formed into companies of forty each. They selected their own officers, and joined what regiments they pleased.

There is little doubt that the formation of this military force prevented untold violence and bloodshed. In the first place, it gave the hungry, roving mob something to do, and thus distracted it for the time being. In the second place, it brought the element of disorder under a responsible head, and gave the city authorities an opportunity to recover themselves and to reassert their authority. Had the mob been left to itself, there is no telling what might have happened. As it was, the city, for many days, was in imminent danger, and it was only by seeming to co-operate with the riotous elements that the Mayor and his subordinates were enabled to prevent pillage and destruction.

Partly as a sop to the multitude, and partly to prevent the possibility of any immediate recurrence of the disturbance, it was [790] decided by the authorities of the city and State to order the destruction of the bridges on the Philadelphia road. Accordingly, on Saturday night, a detachment of militia, assisted by citizen volunteers, set fire to several railroad bridges on the line of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad and the Northern Central Railroad, and thus effectually prevented any further passage of troops. Early on Sunday morning, the news reached the city that a large force of military were encamped at Ashland, on the Northern Central Railroad, about fifteen miles from Baltimore, and that this force would advance and take possession of the city during the day. The most intense excitement ensued. The congregations left the churches en masse, and in a comparatively short time the streets were thronged with excited men. Had the troops actually attempted to enter Baltimore, an immense loss of life must have resulted, for the riotous elements were inflamed to the point of desperation. The relatives and friends of the men who had been killed the day before were particularly anxious to “get at” the troops, and the bare announcement to the citizens that twelve Baltimoreans had been killed, enraged them beyond measure. Fortunately, however, the troops were ordered to return to Harrisburg, and the danger, for the time being, was averted.

For days after this occurrence Baltimore was the centre of warlike preparations. It was, in fact, an armed camp. Nearly every citizen capable of bearing arms presented himself for enrolment, and in a short space of time there were riot less than twenty thousand men under arms. There were not enough muskets, of course, for this large force and, accordingly, the men were provided with pikes until muskets could be obtained. I have seen in a Northern city two of these pikes exhibited as a curiosity. The person in charge of them — an ordinarily intelligent man by the way-informed me that they were Marshal Kane's pikes, and that they had been used against the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania volunteers on the memorable 19th of April. The absurdity of the declaration will appear when it is stated--first, that Marshal Kane armed the mob simply in order to make it believe that the authorities were in sympathy with it, and prevent untold mischief; second, that Marshal Kane knew that so long as the mob was kept busy drilling, it could, to a certain extent, be held in control; third, that the idea of the authorities was that, by pacifying the mob, a few days could be obtained, and it might thus be possible to take such steps as would effectually prevent any recurrence of the trouble; fourth, that Marshal Kane's pikes were never used against the Northern soldiers at all. [791]

From the 19th of April until the 13th of May, Baltimore was practically a Confederate town — a wedge of disaffection between the North and the South. President Lincoln and his Cabinet were greatly annoyed by this fire in the rear, and it was decided that the city must be reduced to submission as soon as possible. The President and his advisers wisely concluded, however, to allow things to remain as they were until the excited passions of the multitude had subsided. After the retreat of the volunteer troops from Ashland, the city was placed under patrol, guard-houses were established, and every precaution was taken to prevent a surprise. Colonel Isaac R. Trimble, who afterward became a general in the Confederate service, was placed in command of the ununiformed volunteers, and took possession of the Northern Central Railroad depot, where a regular camp was established. A curious feature of the preparations for defense was the tender, on the part of several hundred colored men, of their services “against the Yankees!” The Mayor thanked them for the offer, and informed them that their services would be called for if required.

Colonel Huger, of the regular army, afterward general under Lee, who had been for some time in command of the arsenal at Pikesville, a village near Baltimore, was in the city during all these troublous times, and, being a prime, social favorite of the young men about town, was approached for advice and assistance. The old colonel, who was decidedly Southern in his sympathies, and, in fact, went South shortly afterward, did a great deal to avert serious trouble. He was a splendid old fellow — a high liver, witty, good-humored, and a fine old-school officer. It was he who suggested the arming and drilling of the mob as the best means of keeping them employed and out of trouble. He was full of sadness, however, at the prospect before him, and when some of the young swells came to him bubbling over with indignation and sectional fervor, he would cry out: “Ah, boys, you'll get enough of this before you're through!”

In this connection, General Huger said to the city authorities: “If we don't give these fellows plenty to do, gentlemen, they will give us plenty to do!” And he was right. Baltimore had, at that time, one of the worst elements with which any city was ever afflicted. There was a certain class of men which lived and fattened on disorder. For a number of years the city had been the prey of brutal ruffians, who controlled the elections, and conducted themselves exactly as they pleased. You have probably heard of the “Plug-Uglies” and “Rip-Raps” of Baltimore. Well, these men had been cowed by the election of a reform administration; but the [792] same spirit animated them still which had animated them before, when they openly beat, stabbed, and prodded with awls every citizen who attempted to vote according to his own mind. When the 19th of April disorder broke out, this element began to show its head again-profiting by the excitement and confusion to commit excesses. It was of the first importance that these people should be kept out of mischief, and all substantial citizens, whatever their political convictions, were agreed that the only way of keeping them quiet was to organize them into companies, put them under the drillmaster, and, as General Huger suggested, “give them plenty to do.” To the government, however, this action of the city authorities seemed to be a deliberate note of defiance, and was, probably, the main cause of the bad blood and suspicion which afterward were found to exist.

This state of things continued for nearly a month, and no enemy having appeared, the rebellious elements began to tire of playing soldier, and, as had been expected, began to disintegrate. In a few days more the “roughs” were completely under control, a great many having gone off to Harper's Ferry to join General J. E. Johnston's army there, and the city authorities had resumed their legitimate influence. The arms which had been distributed among the rioters were buried, in order to prevent the wholesale stealing which was found to be going on, and also to prevent them from falling into the hands of irresponsible parties. These arms were afterward recovered by General Butler, who pretended, with an immense flourish of trumpets, that their concealment was part of a rebel plot to get possession of the city. This performance was of a piece with several others of the doughty warrior's feats. The people of Baltimore were very much excited against Butler, for his conduct here was marked by the same bravado, the same overbearing “loyalty,” the same disingenuousness, which characterized his “military” career throughout the war. While he was encamped at the Relay House, seven miles from Baltimore, he set afloat the most absurd stories-one of them alleging that rebel sympathizers had poisoned the water in the neighborhood, and another that the Baltimore rebels had attempted to poison his men with strychnine. One of his soldiers, who was suddenly taken ill, was declared to have been poisoned, but on examination, made by a physician sent by the authorities of Baltimore city to investigate this particular case, it was found that the man was a person of intemperate habits, that he had been very imprudent in his diet, and that the symptoms were not such as ordinarily accompany poisoning by strychnia. Butler [793] also ordered the arrest of a number of persons for seditious utterances, and actually issued a proclamation “concerning one Spencer,” who had been heard to express disloyal sentiments, and warning others not to imitate his example. The General seems to have stood in considerable awe of the Baltimore mob, although, at this time, the civil authorities had regained full control of affairs. The following letter from his aide, as late as May 11th, shows that an attack at the Relay House, even then, was feared:

camp at Relay, Saturday, P. M.
To Mayor Brown:
Sir:--I represent General Butler at this camp during his absence at Annapolis. I have received intimations, front many sources, that an attack on us by the Baltimore roughs is intended to-night. About four P. M. to-day these rumors were confirmed by a gentleman from Baltimore, who gave his name and residence in Monument street. He said he heard positively that on Saturday night the attack would take place by more than a thousand men, every one “sworn to kill a man” before he returned; a portion were Knights of the Golden Circle. I wish you to guard every avenue of your city, and prevent these men from leaving town. They are coming in wagons, on horses, and on foot, we are informed. We are also told that a considerable force is approaching from the west, probably Point of Rocks, to attack on that side, and co-operate with the Baltimore mob, with whom they have constant communication. Mr. Clark, whom I have already sent to you, will tell something about it. It may be all a sham, but the evidence is very cumulative, and from several sources.

Edward G. Parker, Aide-de-Camp.

It was all a sham. The attack existed only in the fertile imaginations of General Butler's informants. Quiet had for some days been completely restored in Baltimore. A number of the prominent agitators had gone South, and the riotous element — what there was left of it — was without leaders. On the night of the 13th of May, General Butler, with a strong force of volunteers, moved from the Relay House to Federal hill — an elevation commanding the harbor of Baltimore-and took possession.

The civil authority was, of course, deposed; the administration of affairs was handed over to the military, and for several weeks General Butler reigned supreme. Subsequently, he was removed to new fields of activity, and was succeeded in turn by Generals Dix, Wool, and Wallace. The only trouble which the government had, subsequently, in Baltimore, was with the women — they did not yield as soon as the men. A number of the most obstreperous were imprisoned; fortifications, barracks, and hospitals were erected, and Baltimore, for the remainder of the war, was practically a Federal town.

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