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Chapter 7: Baltimore.

Or all the Border Slave States, Virginia held the most equivocal and deceptive attitude. Beyond all doubt a majority of her people desired to adhere to the Union, and at an election for members of a State convention held in February the majority of professedly Union men chosen was as three to one. But when this convention met, it appeared that many of these so-called Unionists had trifled with their constituents, and finally betrayed their trust; they were Unionists only upon conditions to which the Union would never consent. Governor Letcher, of Virginia, also labored in secret activity to promote secession. There was a pestiferous clique of radical disunionists about Richmond, and, under an outward show of qualified loyalty, the conspiracy was almost as busy and as potent in the “Old Dominion” as in the Cotton States themselves. When Sumter fell, all this hidden intrigue blazed out into open insurrection. The convention, notwithstanding many previous contrary votes, held a secret session on April 17th, and passed an ordinance of secession, eighty-eight to fifty-five. The gradual but systematic arming of the State militia had been going on for a year past. Governor Letcher insultingly refused the President's call for troops on the 16th, and immediately set military expeditions in movement to seize the United States [83] Navy Yard at Norfolk, and the United States Armory at Harper's Ferry. The convention made a pretence of submitting the question of secession to a popular vote, to be taken on May 23d following; and then, as if in mockery, entered at once into a secret military league with the “Confederate States” on April 24th, placing Jefferson Davis in control of all her armies and military affairs, and filling the State with “foreign” regiments from the South.

In the Border State of Maryland the situation was somewhat different. The Unionists were also in the majority, with an active and influential minority for secession. Here, as elsewhere, conspiracy had been at work for months, and gained many of the prominent leaders in politics. The Legislature was believed to be unreliable. Treason had so far taken a foothold in the populous city of Baltimore, that a secret recruiting office was sending enlisted men to Charleston. But all local demonstration was as yet baffled by the unwavering loyalty of the Governor of Maryland, Thomas Holliday Hicks. He had refused and resisted all the subtle temptations and schemes of the traitors, especially in declining to call the Legislature together to give disunion the cloak of a legal starting-point.

To understand correctly the series of sudden and startling events which now occurred in quick succession, it is necessary to bear in mind that the ten miles square of Federal territory known as the District of Columbia, in which the capital of the country, Washington, is situated, lies between Virginia and Maryland, and was formed out of the original territory of those States.

In all wars, foreign or domestic, the safety of the capital, its buildings, archives, and officers, is, of course, a constant and a paramount necessity. To guard the City of Washington against a rumored plot of seizure by the conspirators, [84] President Buchanan had in January permitted Secretary Holt and General Scott to concentrate a small number of regular troops in it. Some of these had ever since remained there. As soon as President Lincoln decided to send provisions to Sumter, he had, in anticipation of coming dangers, ordered General Scott to take additional measures for the security of the capital, and to that end authorized him to muster into the service of the United States about fifteen companies of District militia. When Sumter fell and the proclamation was issued, as a still further precaution the first few regiments were ordered directly to Washington.

To the Massachusetts Sixth belongs the unfading honor of being the first regiment, armed and equipped for service, to respond to the President's call. Mustering on Boston Common, on Tuesday morning, April 16th, it embarked on railroad cars on Wednesday evening, April 17th, and, after a continuous popular ovation along the route, it reached Philadelphia Thursday evening, April 18th. Friday, April 19th, was the anniversary of the battle of Lexington, famous in American history. Early that morning, after a short bivouac, the regiment was once more on its way. It had been warned of danger in Baltimore; the unruly populace was excited by a series of secession meetings; part of an unarmed Pennsylvania regiment had, in its transit, been hooted and stoned the evening before. As the train approached the city, Colonel Jones, commanding the Sixth, ordered his men to load and cap their rifles, and instructed them to pay no attention to insults or even ordinary missiles, but to vigorously return any attack with firearms.

A misunderstanding existed about the method of proceeding. Colonel Jones expected that his regiment would march in a body through the open streets, and had made his dispositions accordingly. When, therefore, the train halted, he [85] was surprised and disconcerted to find that the cars were suddenly detached from the train and from each other, and, with the troops still in them, were rapidly drawn by horses through the streets on a track running from the Philadelphia depot to the Washington depot, the two being about a mile apart. Himself and the regimental officers were in the first car; others followed, and, until eight cars had thus passed, no detention or demonstration occurred. But an excited

Route of the Massachusetts Sixth through Baltimore.

crowd meanwhile gathered along the track; the ninth car was received with hootings and insults, was detained by slight obstructions, and, before it finally reached the Washington depot, its windows were smashed by stones and bricks, and some of its occupants wounded by gun-and pistol-shots, the soldiers having also returned the scattering fire.

By this time the crowd, grown to formidable proportions, and fully maddened, succeeded in placing more permanent [86] obstructions on the track-sand, paving-stones, heavy anchors from a wharf near by, and in one place had partially torn up a small bridge. Four companies still remained behind; and these were now notified by the railroad employees of the dangers ahead, and the impossibility of proceeding in the cars as the preceding companies had done. The officers thereupon consulted together, and determined to undertake the trip on foot; and, placing Captain Follansbee in command, they descended from their cars, formed deliberately on the sidewalk, and started forward.

Almost at the outset they encountered an improvised procession of the mob following a secession flag, and in an instant there was a quick and short melee. Disentangling themselves from this, the officers urged the men into a double-quick, which, however, only encouraged the rioters, who looked upon it as a sign of fear and flight. New and increased crowds were soon met; they were threatened in rear and front, and a discharge of firearms began from sidewalks and windows. Then the order was given to return the fire. There was struggle, confusion, smoke, hooting, yells of “nigger thieves,” “traitors,” men dropping on the sidewalk and falling from windows, and wounded soldiers crawling feebly away under the feet of the rushing, howling mob.

Into the midst of this terror there suddenly came a little ray of hope and help. People began to shout, “Here comes the Mayor!” The city authorities, who had been waiting at the Washington Depot, had heard of the riot and were hastening to the rescue. The crowd fell back; a man came up, shook hands with Captain Follansbee, saying, “I am the Mayor of Baltimore.” Mayor Brown courageously placed himself beside the captain, and, by voice and gesture, endeavored to quell the tumult, but to little purpose. The [87] struggling, fighting column pushed ahead doggedly a square or two farther, the attack increasing rather than diminishing. The Mayor's own patience and temper was exhausted, and, seizing a gun from the hands of a soldier, he fired at and brought down one of the rioters.

At this point, Captain Follansbee states, the Mayor disappeared-most probably, as it would seem, because of the fortunate arrival of more effective help. Marshal Kane, chief of police, also hastening to the relief, here arrived on the scene of conflict with a squad of fifty policemen. Taking advantage of a favorable instant, he deployed his men in a line across the street, opened their ranks to allow the troops to pass through, and then, closing his line again, confronted the advancing mob with drawn revolvers. The movement diverted a moment's attention and checked the onward rush; the barrier held firm, the column of soldiers passed quickly on, and, though it met one or two slight additional attacks, it made its way to the Washington Depot. Here also there was a great crowd and excited tumult; the men were got into cars, and the train put into motion toward Washington under much difficulty; but no bloodshed occurred till at the last moment, when a shower of stones or a pistol-shot provoked a return volley from a window of the rear car, killing a prominent citizen. The number of casualties was never correctly ascertained. The soldiers lost four killed and some thirty wounded; the citizens probably two or three times as many.

With the departure of the Massachusetts Sixth, the Chief of Police supposed his immediate troubles at an end. But not yet; he was again notified that a new riot was beginning at the Philadelphia Depot. Hurrying there, he found that the regimental band had been left behind; and worse still, that a large number of cars constituting the rear end of the [88] train, yet contained Small's Pennsylvania Brigade, numbering some thousand men, all unarmed. The former had already been driven from their car and scattered; the latter were just beginning to debark, entirely ignorant of what had happened. Gathering such of his policemen as were in the neighborhood, Marshal Kane intervened actively and with success for their temporary protection; and a hasty conference having been held with the railroad officers, the train was, by common consent, backed out of the depot and speedily despatched on its return toward Philadelphia.

These events took place in the forenoon, between ten and twelve o'clock. As the intelligence of the riot and its bloodshed was diffused through the great city, it called into immediate action the worst passions of the populace. For the remainder of the day the city was virtually at the mercy of the mob. By good fortune no general or widespread damage or spoliation occurred; but many minor acts of injury and law-breaking were perpetrated with impunity. Persons were maltreated, newspapers were mobbed, and stores and gunshops were broken into and robbed of their contents.

The secession conspirators were prompt in their endeavor to turn the incident to their own advantage. Under their management a mass meeting was called to meet that afternoon at four o'clock, in Monument Square, where, at the appointed hour, an immense concourse assembled. All the sweeping tide of popular sentiment ran against the Union and the North. There was not a National flag to be seen. The State flag of Maryland was displayed above the rostrum. In substance, most of the speeches were secession harangues. Denunciation of the soldiers, eulogies of the South, appeal and protest against invasion and coercion, met stormy applause. Governor Hicks was called to the stand, and yielding to the torrent of treasonable fury, made a short address [89] which chimed in with the current outburst of hostile feeling. He intimated that the Union was broken, and that he was ready to bow before the will of the people. He would rather lose his right arm than raise it to strike a sister State.

Finding the Governor thus giving way, and the populace of Baltimore rising in response to their revolutionary promptings, the conspirators pushed forward their scheme of insurrection with all diligence, and succeeded in placing Maryland in a state of thorough revolt against the General Government, which lasted nearly a week. They prevailed on the Governor to call out the militia, which, under officers mostly inclined to secession, put all military acts and authority directly against the Union. They induced him to call a special session of the Legislature, and under the revolutionary terror of the hour, at a special election held in Baltimore the following week, a farcical minority vote was made to result in the choice of a city delegation to the Lower House, from among the rankest disunionists. They controlled the City Council, which, under plea of public defence, appropriated half a million to purchase and manufacture arms and gather the material of war. From Baltimore the furor spread to the country towns, where companies were raised and patrols established under the instructions and command of the secession militia general of Baltimore. Within a few days the United States flag practically disappeared from Maryland.

Their most effective act remains yet to be noticed. Near midnight of the day of the riot (April 19, 1861), the Mayor and police authorities made an official order (secret at the time, but subsequently avowed) to burn the nearest bridges on the railroads leading into Baltimore from the Free States, and immediately sent out different parties (the Chief of Police himself leading one of them), to execute the order- [90] Before daylight next morning, the bridges at Melvale, Relay House, and Cockeysville, on the Harrisburg road, and over the Bush and Gunpowder Rivers and Harris Creek on the Philadelphia road, were accordingly destroyed by fire, completely severing railroad communication with the North. The excuse was that they feared reprisal and revenge from the Northern armies; the real motive appears to have been the stronger underlying spirit of insurrection. Mayor Brown claimed that Governor Hicks approved the order; the Governor soon afterward publicly and officially denied it. Whether Mayor Brown was a secession conspirator seems doubtful; but it is hard to resist the inference that the revolutionists influenced his action. The controlling animus of the deed is clearly enough revealed in a telegram sent out that night by Marshal Kane:

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 expresses 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 (the 20th). We will fight them and whip them, or die.

This language at night, from the man who that morning had risked his life to protect the Massachusetts soldiers, sufficiently shows the overmastering outbreak of revolutionary madness.

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