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Doc. 56.-the Bridge burning. Letter of Gov. Hicks in reply to Mayor Brown.

To the People of Maryland:
I have heretofore asked a suspension of your judgment in regard to a communication, with accompanying certificates, from the Mayor of Baltimore to the House of Delegates of Maryland, in which is asserted a complicity on my part in the unlawful destruction of the bridges on the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore, and the Northern Central Railroads, on the night of the 19th of April.

A desire to obtain expected information from

the telegraphic despatches recently seized by the Government — but which I have not yet received — added to the pressing nature of my official duties, has prevented me from making this publication at an earlier period.

The Mayor says:

About 12 o'clock P. M., the Hon. E. Louis Lowe and Marshal George P. Kane called at my house, where Gov. Hicks was passing the night, and Marshal Kane informed me that a despatch had been received that other troops were to come to Baltimore over the Northern Central Railroad. There was also a report that troops were on their way, who, it was thought, might even then be at Perryville, on their route to Baltimore. Mr. Lowe, Marshal Kane, my brother, John Cumming Brown, and myself, went immediately to the chamber of Gov. Hicks and laid the matter before him. The point was pressed that if troops were suddenly to come to Baltimore with a determination to pass through, a terrible collision and bloodshed would take place, and the consequences to Baltimore would be fearful, and that the only way to avert the calamity was to destroy the bridges. To this the Governor replied, ‘it seems to be necessary,’ or words to that effect. He was then asked by me whether he gave his consent to the destruction of the bridges, and he distinctly, although apparently with great reluctance, replied in the affirmative. I do not assert that I have given the precise language used by Gov. Hicks, but I am very clear that I have stated it with substantial correctness, and that his assent was unequivocal, and in answer to a question by me which elicted a distinct affirmative reply.

Mr. J. Cumming Brown, the Mayor's brother, in his published certificate, says:

When asked by my brother whether or not he gave his consent to the measure, the Governor expressed a desire for time for reflection. Being reminded by those present of the lateness of the hour, and the necessity for prompt action, my brother again earnestly appealed to Governor Hicks, and asked him for his consent. Gov. Hicks' answer was, in substance, although I may not use his exact words, ‘I see nothing else to be done.’ ‘ But, sir,’ said my brother, ‘I cannot act without your consent; do you give it?’ The Governor's reply was distinctly given in the affirmative.

George P. Kane, in his published certificate, says:

The conversation resulted in the Governor's distinctly and unequivocally consenting, in response to the direct question put to him by the Mayor, that the bridges on the roads by which the troops were expected to come should be destroyed, as the only means of averting the consequences referred to, of their coming at that time.

E. Louis Lowe, in his certificate, says:

Governor Hicks replied that it was a serious affair to undertake to destroy the bridges, and he expressed some doubt as to his authority to give such an order. It was urged, in reply, that it was a case of absolute self-preservation; that in three or four hours time a large body of troops would probably be in the city, inflamed with passionate resentment against the people of Baltimore for the assault made on their comrades in the Pratt street encounter; and that, as the city was filled with hundreds of excited men, armed to the teeth, and determined to resist the passage of troops, a fearful slaughter must necessarily ensue, and the safety of the city itself be put in peril, unless, by the destruction of the bridges, time could be gained to avoid the difficulty by peaceable arrangement of some sort. Governor Hicks fully and most distinctly assented to this, and said, ‘ well, I suppose it must be done,’ or words of precisely that import, to which the Mayor replied, substantially, ‘ Governor, I have no authority to act beyond the city limits, and can do nothing in this matter except by your direction; shall the bridges be destroyed? ’ Gov. Hicks emphatically and distinctly replied in the affirmative. It is absolutely impossible for any misapprehension to exist on this point.

This is the sum of the charges brought against me by Mayor Brown and his witnesses. It is due to the Mayor to say, unequivocally, that I do not believe he had any knowledge of the plot of which the destruction of the bridges was a part. I had little acquaintance with him at the time referred to, but I had formed a high estimate of his character as a faithful public servant, and as a high-toned gentleman; and I believe that the proceedings which he countenanced, and in which he seems to have been a participant, were inaugurated by others. His apparent complicity was only what might have attached to any other man in the trying and delicate and painful circumstances in which he found himself. The evil men who surrounded [182] him, and who clouded his better judgment, had designs which could be consummated only by his official aid; and they spared no efforts to entangle him in the snares they had prepared.

It is alleged by the Mayor and his witnesses that I gave my consent verbally. I am sure the public will agree with me in thinking it strange, under all the circumstances, that an act of so great importance, requiring, as it is alleged, my authority to make it valid, should have been consummated under a pretended verbal assent, admitted to have been unwillingly given by a person who “expressed some doubt as to his authority to give such an order.” None but bold conspirators would have proceeded to perpetrate such an unlawful act without authority in writing from whomsoever they believed competent to give the necessary order. According to their showing, a written order from me would have absolved the Mayor and his associates from all responsibility in the premises. But they confess they had no such authority, and attempt to justify their unlawful acts by a pretended verbal assent by me certified to by witnesses interested very materially in sustaining the position assumed by the Mayor. It seems to me that in this respect my accusers find themselves in a difficulty from which they cannot extricate themselves.

The Mayor's communication does not profess to quote the language used by me on the occasion referred to.--It is admitted that I alleged want of authority to order the destruction of the bridges. The Mayor's witnesses admit that I desired time for reflection. But time for reflection would have materially damaged the plot, inasmuch as men were already on the way to do what they desired me to endorse. Accordingly they jumped to the desired conclusion that I consented, because I contended that I had no power to consent to, and no power to prevent the outrage contemplated, and which was then in process of execution. The visit of Messrs. Brown, Kane, and Lowe to my bedchamber was at a late hour of the night. The Mayor's companions were men in whom I have no confidence. Indeed, it was only on account of the official nature of the visit that, under the circumstances, I consented to any communication with such people. No man of intelligence can fail to see that it was impossible for me to consent unequivocally to the unlawful act which was proposed to me by such men as Kane and Lowe, no matter how necessary it might have appeared to be in the emergency. Consequently I unhesitatingly assert that I refused my consent, and gave as my reason therefor that “I had no authority in the premises — that the bridges were private property — that the proposed act was unlawful — that I was a lover of law and order — that the Mayor could act as he pleased — and that I had no power to interfere with his designs.” If this be consent to the destruction of the bridges, then I consented. If this be complicity in an unlawful act, then I was accessory.

I do not deny that the proposed act, unlawful though it was, seemed to be the only means of averting threatened bloodshed. But it would have little become me, as Governor of the State, to interfere with the province of the Mayor of Baltimore to prevent a riot. Still less did it become me to forget my oath of office, and consent to an infraction of the laws which I had sworn to enforce. I am sure no unprejudiced man can conclude it to be within the range of probability that I could have acted in the manner ascribed to me.

As a matter of course, it is not easy to adduce proof of my position. Those who were near me throughout that trying day can bear but little accurate testimony as to what was said or done by me. Every one was full of excitement, and men whose judgment had always challenged my respect urged me to do many things which they now regret to remember. I was, perhaps, no cooler than those who surrounded me, but it was not possible for me to forget what was due to my position and to my oath of office. I did not do either. I strenuously resisted all propositions which I deemed inconsistent with law and order, and I did nothing on that eventful day which I have any reason to regret.

My accusers seem to forget that long before nightfall I positively and persistently refused my assent to the scuttling or even removal of the steam ferry boat Maryland, at Perryville, which was proposed to me by so many persons, and which, if consummated, would have prevented any necessity for the destruction of the bridges. The following letter from Col. R. S. Mercer, of Anne Arundel county, is evidence that I did refuse my assent to this proposition:

Parkhurst, May 16, 1861.
To His Excellency, Gov. Hicks--
Dear sir: I have just read your card in the American, denying the charge made by the Mayor of Baltimore, Marshal Kane, and others, that you had given your consent and approbation to the burning of the various railroad bridges leading from Baltimore to Pennsylvania.

Having, on the 19th of April, acted as your aide-de-camp, I was present at all your consultations and interviews with the city officials and other prominent citizens, until the violent excitement which marked that day had subsided. I conceive it to be my duty to make the following statement, which suggests itself to me, as a simple act of justice to you.

I heard the request made you by Mr. McLean and others, in which His Honor, the Mayor, acquiesced, that you should order the scuttling or removal of the steam ferry boat Maryland, so as to cut off all means for the transmission of troops through Baltimore, over the Philadelphia Railroad. You peremptorily refused even to remove the boat, and explicitly gave as your [183] reason for such refusal that you had no right to interfere with the passage of troops of the United States through Maryland to the National Capital; but in view of the wild excitement then prevailing, which overwhelmed and defied the restraints of civil authority, as a measure of humanity, and regard for the loyal citizens of Baltimore, you agreed to unite with the Mayor in a telegraphic despatch to the President, and to the Governors of the Northern States, invoking them to send no more troops through Baltimore while the laws were set at defiance.

It is alleged that your consent to the destruction of the bridges was given at the residence of the Mayor.--Of this, of course, I cannot speak, not having accompanied you there. But if such be the fact, you have committed a most monstrous and improbable inconsistency. If you acquiesced in this work of destruction, you departed (in the Mayor's house) from a principle which in his office, during the trying events of the day, you had consistently and manfully insisted upon: the right of the Government to pass troops through Maryland to the Capital. This sentiment you reiterated on the next day, on board of the steamer Pioneer, as I accompanied you to Annapolis.

You can use this statement as you think best. I could make it more full if you wish it. I could allude to the liability of every one in Baltimore, on the 19th, confused by the excitement, to be mistaken. Indeed I remember an instance of this. General Egerton was ordered by you to drive back the mob who were pressing upon the Pennsylvania troops. He drove back the troops. I heard you give the order to Egerton, and I heard him report to you. You disapproved of his act, and he pleaded misapprehension of your order.

I remain, sir, respectfully, yours, &c.,

R. S. Mercer, Col. Third Regiment, M. C.

I had not retired to my bed when the scuttling of the ferry boat was proposed to me. It was not proposed by men in whom I had no confidence. Highly respectable gentlemen urged it as the easiest and most lawful means of effecting the desired object. Yet I unhesitatingly refused my consent to the step. But the people of Maryland are asked to believe that, after this, in the still watches of the night, when requested by Enoch L. Lowe and George P. Kane to consent to the destruction of the bridges, I gave an “unequivocal, and decided, and distinct reply in the affirmative.” I leave my vindication from such an absurd charge to the good sense of the people, in the full confidence that justice will be done me.

It will readily occur to the reader that the time when the bridges were destroyed is a material point of this subject. The Mayor and his witnesses concur in their statement of the hour when they went to my bed-chamber to solicit my consent to the destruction of the bridges. They say it was 12 o'clock at night. The bridges destroyed on the Northern Central Railroad were at Ashland and Monkton, 16 and 18 miles from Baltimore. The parties who destroyed them left Baltimore in omnibuses. The bridges were fired a little after one o'clock. It being impossible for the men to have left Baltimore after it was alleged my consent was given, they must have started before my consent was asked. Thus showing that the destruction of the bridges was determined upon, and would have been consummated, no matter what might have been my opinion in the premises. As evidence of this, I offer the following letter from a highly respectable citizen, who has been kind enough to ascertain the particulars for me:

Towsontown, May 29, 1861.
His Excellency, Governor Hicks--
my dear sir: Yours of this date was handed me by our mutual friend, Mr. Bryson, and I at once started to Cockeysville in company with Mr. Bryson and our friend Edward Rider, Jr., and after getting such facts connected with the burning of the bridges as we could obtain, I hasten to answer your inquiries.

On the night of the 19th ultimo I left Baltimore at precisely ten minutes past ten o'clock, and in about ten minutes more reached a point about one hundred yards nearer the city than the cemetery entrance, at which place I saw an omnibus with four horses, heads turned northward, or up the road; and about one hundred yards nearer the city I had passed previously two groups of men, about fifteen each; and when we passed the omnibus I remarked to a friend who was with me, “there is some devilment connected with that omnibus.” Well, after I was home in bed, at about a quarter past eleven o'clock, the same omnibus, full of men, passed here, and a lady informed me that she saw it pass her house at precisely twelve o'clock, nine miles and a half from the city. The watchman at the bridge, whom I saw to-day, states positively that when they arrived at the bridge, and penned him in his shanty, it was about ten minutes past one o'clock; and that after cutting the telegraph wires, which took but a few minutes, they fired the bridges at about twenty or twenty-five minutes after one o'clock.

As to who the party were, I cannot say; but a gentleman at Cockeysville said that a man named Philip Fendall (I think of the firm of Duvall, Keighler & Co.) was one of the party, but I am not prepared to say so positively. He is a cousin to the wife of John Merryman, now under arrest.

Any thing further that I can do for you, I will do with great pleasure. Please excuse this hurried account of the affair, as Mr. Bryson is waiting.

Your obedient servant,

I have not the slightest doubt that the destruction of the bridges referred to was an important part of the secession programme. The [184] necessity of such a step, in furtherance of the evident designs of the secession leaders, must be apparent to all. It little becomes me, however, except for my own vindication, and incidentally, to enter upon an exposition of that plot. Time will fully unveil the plans of the traitors. Already has sufficient been disclosed to satisfy any unprejudiced mind that all the details were matured which were designed to precipitate Maryland into rebellion against the General Government, and thus render our State the theatre of war. The following letter will show that the burning of the bridges was a foregone conclusion before my consent was asked--

Frederick city, Md.
His Excellency, Thomas H. Hicks, Governor of Maryland--
Dear sir: We have received yours of the 23d instant, and, in reply, state that during the night of the 19th of April, ultimo, about one o'clock, Bradley T. Johnson sought and had an interview with us relative to a telegraphic despatch which he had received within an hour before from George P. Kane, Marshal of Police of Baltimore City, and which has since appeared in the public prints. In the course of that interview, Mr. Johnson, in unfolding the plans of those with whom he was cooperating, stated that they were determined to resist the passage of Federal troops through Maryland; and, as one of the means to accomplish that end, that the bridges on the railroads leading into Baltimore would be burned or destroyed. Some of us are clear in our recollection that he said the bridges would be destroyed that night. Others are not so clear in our recollection on that point.

Very respectfully, your obedient servants,

The annexed copy of a handbill circulated throughout Western Maryland by Bradley T. Johnson, is evidence that Marshal Kane and his allies had made all the necessary provisions in anticipation of the pre-arranged attack upon the Massachusetts troops:

∧ latest News!
Marylanders, arouse!

Frederick, Saturday, 7 o'clock A. M., 1861.
At 12 o'clock last night, I received the following despatch from Marshal Kane, of Baltimore, by telegraph to the Junction, and express to Frederick:

Thank you for your offer. Bring your men 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 their riflemen to come without delay. Fresh hordes will be down upon us to-morrow (the 20th.) We will fight them, and whip them, or die.

All men who will go with me will report themselves as soon as possible, providing themselves with such arms and accoutrements as they can; double-barrelled shot guns and buckshot are efficient. They will assemble, after reporting themselves, at 10 1/2 o'clock, so as to go down in the 11 1/2 train.

Add to this the undeniable fact that many of the volunteer companies in Maryland were eagerly looking for an outbreak, and the subsequent attempt of the Legislature to pass the “Public safety bill” in secret session, and I think no one can fail to see that the conspiracy, of which an attempt has been made to make me a participant, was fully and deliberately planned, and might have accomplished its diabolical designs had not the people frustrated it by an unmistakable expression of their determination to crush it at the point of the bayonet.

Deeply regretting the necessity which has impelled me to vindicate myself from the charge brought against me, and with the assurance that I have done so only out of regard to the honor and dignity of my official position, I leave the matter to the judgment of a people whom I have endeavored faithfully to serve, and whose interests and safety I have constantly had in view.

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