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Chapter 3: Maryland's overthrow.

While the city of Baltimore was in a frenzy of excitement, on Sunday, the 21st of May, at the approach of the Pennsylvanians from Cockeyville, Brig.-Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, with a Massachusetts regiment, landed at Annapolis, whither he had proceeded by a steamer from Perryville on the Susquehanna. The next day, the 2 2nd, he was reinforced by the New York Eighth and pushed up the Annapolis & Elkridge railroad to its junction with the Washington branch of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. On May 5th he took possession of the Relay House, nine miles from Baltimore, where the main branch of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad leading to Harper's Ferry and the West unites with the Washington branch, which leads to Washington, thirty miles distant. His troops were the Eighth New York, the Sixth Massachusetts and Major Cook's battery of Boston light artillery. He promptly fortified the position with earthworks and artillery. All trains going west and south were searched, and scouts scoured the surrounding country. On the 8th of May communication between Washington and the North was further strengthened by a new route by water from Perryville to Locust Point, and thence by rail to Washington. On the night of May 13th General Butler, with the major part of his command, entered Baltimore, seized Federal Hill, which commands the city, fortified it with fifty heavy guns, and Baltimore was in his control. He acted with intelligence and promptness, and to him the Union side was greatly indebted for restoring communications between the capital city and the United States. The United States having control of the bay and the [30] great rivers emptying into it—the Patapsco, the Patuxent and the Potomac, all parts of the State were dominated by Federal guns. The Northern frontier was open, with the Baltimore & Ohio railroad from Wheeling and the West, the Northern Central railroad from Harrisburg and the central North, and the Baltimore, Wilmington & Philadelphia railroad from New York and New England, and the North, West and East in arms to pour down over these great avenues of travel to subjugate Maryland and to protect the capital. It was too late for Maryland to act with the Confederacy. There never had been an hour when she could have struck a blow for independence. It was impossible to move before Virginia. Virginia did not move until May 24th, when Maryland was bound hand and foot to the Union by the overwhelming force of the army of occupation.

The general assembly of the State acted with the dignity and courage of a Roman senate. On the 10th of May, the State in the grip of the Federal army, the committee on Federal relations of the house of delegates, Severn Teakle Wallis, Esq., chairman, made a report that for exact statement, for force and for logic was excelled by no paper of that epoch. They said:

Whereas, in the judgment of the General Assembly of Maryland, the war now waged by the government of the United States upon the people of the Confederate States is unconstitutional in its origin, purposes and conduct; repugnant to civilization and sound policy; subversive of the free principles upon which the Federal Union was founded, and certain to result in the hopeless and bloody overthrow of our existing institutions; and,

Whereas, the people of Maryland, while recognizing the obligations of their State, as a member of the Union, to submit in good faith to the exercise of all the legal and constitutional powers of the general government, and to join as one man in fighting its authorized battles, do reverence, nevertheless, the great American principle of self-government, and sympathize deeply with their Southern brethren in their noble and manly determination to uphold and defend the same; and, [31]

Whereas, not merely on their own account, and to turn from their own soil the calamities of civil war, but for the blessed sake of humanity and to arrest the wanton shedding of fraternal blood in a miserable contest which can bring nothing with it but sorrow, shame and desolation, the people of Maryland are enlisted with their whole hearts on the side of reconciliation and peace;

Now, therefore, it is hereby resolved by the General Assembly of Maryland, that the State of Maryland owes it to her own self-respect and her respect for the Constitution, not less than her deepest and most honorable sympathies, to register this, her solemn protest, against the war which the Federal government has declared against the Confederate States of the South and our sister and neighbor, Virginia, and to announce her resolute determination to have no part or lot, directly or indirectly, in its prosecution.

Resolved, That the State of Maryland earnestly and anxiously desires the restoration of peace between the belligerent sections of the country; and the President, authorities and people of the Confederate States having over and over, officially and unofficially, declared that they seek only peace and self-defense, and to be let alone, and that they are willing to throw down the sword the instant the sword now drawn against them shall be sheathed—

The senators and delegates of Maryland do beseech and implore the President of the United States to accept the olive branch which is thus held out to him, and in the name of God and humanity to cease this unholy and most wretched and unprofitable strife, at least until the assembling of the Congress at Washington shall have given time for the prevalence of cool and better counsels.

Resolved, That the State of Maryland desires the peaceful and immediate recognition of the independence of the Confederate States, and hereby gives her cordial consent thereto, as a member of the Union, entertaining the profound conviction that the willing return of the Southern people to their former Federal relations is a thing beyond hope, and that the attempt to coerce them will only add slaughter and hate to impossibility.

Resolved, That the present military occupation of Maryland being for purpose which in the opinion of the legislature are in flagrant violation of the Constitution, [32] the General Assembly of the State in the name of her people does hereby protest against the same and against the arbitrary restrictions and illegalities with which it is attended, calling upon all good citizens at the same time, in the most earnest and authoritative manner, to abstain from all violent and unlawful interference of every sort with the troops in transit through our territory, or quartered among us, and patiently and peacefully leave to time and reason the ultimate and certain reestablishment and vindication of the right.

Resolved: That under existing circumstances it is inexpedient to call a Sovereign Convention of the State at this time, or to take any measures for the immediate organization or arming of the militia.

These resolutions passed the Senate, ayes 11, nays 3; House, ayes 43, nays 12. General Butler replied to this defiance by seizing Baltimore the very night these resolutions passed. He acted, they resolved! An equally significant incident had occurred in Baltimore just the week before. Judge William F. Giles, judge of the district court of the United States for the district of Maryland, issued the writ of habeas corpus on May 4th to Major Morris, commanding at Fort McHenry, commanding him to produce before the court without delay the body of John George Mullen, an enlisted soldier, one of the garrison of the fort who sought his discharge on the ground of minority. Under the law of the United States it was unlawful to enlist a minor under eighteen years of age in the military or naval service without the consent of his parent or guardian. Mullen alleged in his petition that he was under the lawful age and had been enlisted illegally. Major Morris neither produced the man nor made any response to the mandate of the writ; but on May 7th he addressed a letter to Judge Giles, in which he peremptorily refused to obey the writ. In this first trial of strength between law and arms, law became silent, as usual. On May 25th John Merryman, one of the first citizens of Baltimore county, was arrested at his home by a squad of soldiers and locked up in Fort [33] McHenry. The next day Roger Brooke Taney, chief justice of the Supreme court of the United States, assigned to the fourth circuit, of which Maryland formed a part, issued the writ of habeas corpus to General Cadwallader, commanding at Fort McHenry, requiring him to produce the body of Merryman before the circuit court of the United States for the district of Maryland, at Baltimore, on Monday, May 27th. The chief justice issued the writ on Sunday! On Monday Colonel Lee, aidede-camp to General Cadwallader, appeared in the court and said that General Cadwallader's other engagements prevented his appearing in person, but had sent him to express the general's regrets and read the chief justice a letter, which the aide proceeded to do. The general said that Merryman had been arrested for open and avowed hostility to the United States, and that he had been authorized by the President of the United States to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in such cases, which he had done. The chief justice ordered an attachment to issue against General Cadwallader and sent the marshal of the court to arrest the general and bring him before the Court. Upon the marshal's proceeding to Fort McHenry with a few deputy marshals he sent in his card and official designation through the sentry at the gate to the commanding officer. After a reasonable time the messenger came back with the message that there was no answer to the marshal's card and that he would not be permitted to enter the fort. The marshal made return of these facts to the court, and the chief justice directed the clerk to make an entry on the record of the court that the writ of habeas corpus having been disobeyed by General Cadwallader, an attachment for contempt had issued against him, which he had resisted, having a superior force at his command to any which the court or its marshal could control, and he subsequently filed his opinion in the case, in which he demonstrated beyond a cavil that the President of the United States has and can have no authority at [34] any time, under any circumstances, to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, and directed the entire record to be certified to the President of the United States for his information and action.

On the 14th of May the legislature adjourned, and Ross Winans, a member of the house of delegates from Baltimore City—the head of the firm of Ross Winans & Co., the greatest manufacturers of locomotive engines and railroad cars in the world—was arrested by General Butler at the Relay House on his way home. Ross Winans was not only a man of great wealth, one of the millionaires of the day, but he was a man whose moral character, whose genius, whose breadth of mind and greatness of heart, whose culture and whose courage would have made him distinguished in any country in the world. His arrest was intended to terrorize the State. It had the effect of rousing it like the long roll. The legislature, at its adjourned session of June 22d, declared that

The unconstitutional and arbitrary proceedings of the Federal executive have not been confined to the violation of the personal rights and liberties of the citizens of Maryland, but have been extended into every department of oppressive illegality, so that the property of no man is safe, the sanctity of no dwelling is respected, and the sacredness of private correspondence no longer exists; and,—

Whereas, the Senate and House of Delegates of Maryland, recognizing the obligations of the State, as far as in her lies, to protect and defend her people against usurped and arbitrary power, however difficult the fulfillment of that high obligation may be rendered by disastrous circumstances, feel it due to her dignity and independence that history should not record the overthrow of public freedom, for an instant, within her borders, without recording likewise the indignant expression of her resentment and remonstrance;

Now, therefore, be it resolved, That the senate and house of delegates of Maryland, in the name and on behalf of the good people of the State, do accordingly [35] register this their earnest and unqualified protest against the oppressive and tyrannical assertion and exercise of military jurisdiction within the limits of Maryland, over the persons and property of her citizens, by the government of the United States, and do solemnly declare the same to be subversive of the most sacred guarantees of the Constitution and in flagrant violation of the fundamental and most cherished principles of American free government.

The legislature of Maryland was composed of brave, high-minded and patriotic men, but it was dominated by the spirit of conservatism, which cannot understand how anything can be right which is unlawful, nor any process expedient or necessary which is illegal. The conservatives never could, never did understand that they were in the midst of a revolution. They stood by constitutional rights. They held on to the claim of constitutional guarantees—to habeas corpus—to trial by jury—to free speech—to law—until they and their constitutional guarantees were landed in Fort Lafayette or the military prisons in New York and Boston. They stood by their faith then and never ceased to protest that they could not be imprisoned without warrant, nor held without bail. They were right in doctrine, but they were imprisoned and held.

The minority party in the State, the party of action in the legislature, never hoped for the secession of the State after the delay of Virginia. After the 24th of May Maryland was a Federal garrison. But they did hope for action—a league offensive and defensive with Virginia, with all that that implied. They introduced into the legislature a bill to provide for a committee of safety to be elected by the legislature, to which should be committed the duty of defending the State and her people and to exercise all the powers of government. The bill appropriated $5,000,000 to be applied by the committee of safety for the defense of the State. The banks in Baltimore had raised $500,000 for the defense of the city [36] in three hours, and the banks of the State would have supplied $5,000,000 for the defense of the State in a week. The plan of the projectors of the committee of safety was to arm the militia. They expected to equip forty thousand men as promptly as the Northern States had armed and equipped their volunteers, and they knew that Maryland volunteers would take arms as quickly as those of Massachusetts and Ohio. They did not propose to carry the State out of the Union, but they intended to arm their young men and command the peace in the State. When that failed, as fail they knew it would, the State would be represented by forty thousand armed and equipped volunteers who would carry her flag in the front line and would make her one of the Confederate States in fact, if not in name.

These were the intentions of Captain Johnson and men of his age in the legislature and in the State, and they were constant and ardent in pressing them in the general assembly. The Conservatives, however, preferred the processes of the law, and could not understand how force could decide questions of right. It would be better to bring trespass quare clausum against Butler at the Relay for digging trenches and piling up earthworks, to sue out injunctions against illegal arrests and a mandamus to make Cadwallader respect Taney's writ of habeas corpus!

The committee on Federal relations agreed on their report May 7th that it was inexpedient to take any steps toward the organization and arming of the militia, though it was not made until the 10th. But on the 8th Johnson and his company marched to Virginia. At the Point of Rocks he arranged with Capt. James Ashby to ride into Frederick, seize the governor and carry him off to Virginia and thus break up the State government and throw it into the hands of the legislature, who would be obliged to take charge during the interregnum. A notice to this effect was sent to the leaders in the [37] legislature and they promptly dispatched T. Parkin Scott, member from Baltimore City, to Johnson, then on the Maryland Heights with the Maryland battalion, demanding that he cease his enterprises and let them alone. He obeyed them and they went to prison; while he went into the field.

The battalion at Harper's Ferry was helpless. Company A was the only company that pretended to be armed, and it carried Hall's carbines, which had been procured in Baltimore by its captain. This arm was the original breechloader manufactured at Harper's Ferry for the United States army, and was so inefficient that it was promptly condemned and discarded. Hence it was sold cheap to innocent militiamen. But the others didn't have even these worthless carbines. They had rushed off from home, fired by the enthusiasm of those days in Baltimore, had stolen rides on the cars or had walked to Point of Rocks and to Harper's Ferry where they were fed. Provisions were plenty, but they had no clothes, blankets, tents, cooking utensils—nothing that soldiers need and must have to be of any service. They had no government to appeal to for arms. In fact, they were outlaws from their own State government. They were too proud to go back home; stay and fight they would and must. All around them were warmhearted comrades who shared their blankets with them at night and their rations by day. Unless something could be done to keep them together, unless they could be armed, equipped and legally organized, they must inevitably dissolve, be absorbed in surrounding commands, and thus Maryland lose her main hope and best chance to be represented by her own sons, bearing her flag in the army of the Confederate States.

At this crisis Mrs. Bradley T. Johnson came forward and offered to go to North Carolina and apply there for arms and equipment. She was the daughter of the Hon. Romulus M. Saunders, for a generation a leading [38] and distinguished member of Congress from North Carolina, and by appointment of Polk, minister plenipotentiary and envoy extraordinary to Spain, with a special mandate to purchase Cuba and pay one hundred millions for it. His young daughters were with him and were introduced to court and presented to the queen. There they became intimate with Eugenie de Montijo, countess de Teba, who afterward became empress of the French. Mrs. Johnson was then in the prime of her youth, handsome, graceful, accomplished. She had. left her comfortable home in Frederick with her little boy, a lad five years old, to follow her husband. She now volunteered to serve him. She was the only hope of Maryland. Captain Johnson applied to Colonel Jackson for advice in this emergency. Jackson ordered that Mrs. Johnson be furnished with escort and transportation and that she start at once. On May 24, 1861, she left the camp of Companies A and B at the Point of Rocks, escorted by Capt. Wilson Carey Nicholas, Company G, and Second-Lieut. G. M. E. Shearen, Company A, to go to Raleigh via Richmond. At Leesburg they found that Alexandria had that day been occupied by the Federals and thus communication southward cut. Returning, she and her staff went up to Harper's Ferry and thence by Winchester and Strasburg and Manassas Junction to Richmond and Raleigh, where she arrived on the night of the 27th. The next morning, accompanied by her father and her escort, she applied to Gov. Thomas H. Ellis and the council of state for arms for her husband and his men. There were on that council some plain countrymen, in their home spun, but they bore hearts of gold. It was a picturesque incident. Here this elegant, graceful, refined young lady, whose family was known to every man of them, and to some of whom she was personally known—there the circle of grave, plain old men taking in every word she uttered, watching every movement. Her father, Judge Saunders, [39] one of the most illustrious citizens of the State, as simple, direct, frank a gentleman as ever lived, had put his daughter forward to tell her plain story in the fewest and simplest words possible. She said: ‘Governor and gentlemen, I left my husband and his comrades in Virginia. They have left their homes in Maryland to fight for the South, but they have no arms, and I have come to my native State to beg my own people to help us. Give arms to my husband and his comrades, so that he can help you!’

Madam,’ said one of the council, old, venerable and gray-haired, slapping his thigh with a resounding blow, —‘Madam, you shall have everything that this State can give.’ And the order was made then and there, on the spot, at the instant, that she should be supplied with five hundred Mississippi rifles and ten thousand cartridges, with necessary equipments. This at the time when, in the language of the day, every cartridge was worth a dollar.

But her visit and her errand lighted the greatest enthusiasm among her fellow countrymen. The constitutional convention of North Carolina was then in session. It was the most illustrious body of Carolinians that ever assembled. The members of it called a meeting at night in the capitol, under the leadership of Hon. Weldon H. Edwards, president of the convention, Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin of the supreme court of the State, her father, Judge Saunders, and others. The meeting was held in the hall of the house of commons, was presided over by ex-Gov. Thomas S. Reid and was attended with great enthusiasm. The cause of the Marylanders was espoused with ardor, the meeting making a liberal contribution of money on the spot. Hon. Kenneth Raynor, ex-member of Congress, addressing the meeting, said:

‘If great events produce great men—so in the scene before us we have proof that great events produce great [40] women. It was one that partook more of the romance than of the realities of life. One of our own daughters, raised in the lap of luxury, blessed with the enjoyment of all the elements of elegance and ease, had quit her peaceful home, followed her husband to the camp, and leaving him in that camp, has come to the home of her childhood to seek aid for him and his comrades, not because he is her husband, but because he is fighting the battles of his country, against a tyrant.’

He paid a high tribute to the patriotism and love of liberty which eminently characterized the people of Maryland. ‘They were fighting our battles,’ he said, ‘with halters round their necks.’

On the 29th Mrs. Johnson left Raleigh with her escort and her arms, and her route was a continued ovation. At every town, at every station, the people had gathered to see the woman who was arming her husband's regiment, and they overwhelmed her with enthusiasm and hearty sympathy. At Petersburg a substantial sum of money was handed to her, and stopping at Richmond she procured from John Letcher, governor of Virginia, a supply of camp-kettles, hatchets, axes, etc., and with the money in her hands, ordered forty-one wall tents made at once. On the 31st of May she left Richmond with her arms, ammunition and supplies. At Manassas Beauregard gave her an order to take any train she might find necessary for transportation and to hold all trains subject to her orders. She rode in the freight car on her boxes of rifles. Companies A and B had during her absence been moved up to Harper's Ferry to unite with the rest of the command, and on June 3, 1861. after an absence of ten days from camp, she returned and delivered to her husband the results of her energy, devotion and enthusiasm. The following receipt from the chief of ordnance of Stonewall Jackson's command has probably no parallel in the history of war: [41]

Received, Ordnance Department, Harper's Ferry, Va., June 3, 1861, of Mrs. Bradley T. Johnson, Five Hundred Mississippi rifles (cal. 54) Ten Thousand cartridges and Thirty-five Hundred caps.

G. N. Cochrane, Master of Ordnance.

Such an incident of courage, of heroism, of devotion and of enthusiasm thrilled that army through every rank and fiber. Colonel Jackson, then in command at Harper's Ferry, afterwards the world-famous ‘Stonewall,’ called on her, with his staff, and thanked her. The officers of the battalion in meeting:

Resolved—That the thanks of the Maryland Line be tendered to Mrs. Captain Bradley T. Johnson for her earnest, patriotic and successful efforts in arming and equipping the Maryland Line.

Resolved—That we, the officers, pledge ourselves and for our men that the arms she has obtained shall at the close of the war be returned to the State of North Carolina, without stain or dishonor.

Resolved—That these resolutions be signed by the officers of the meeting and presented to Mrs. Johnson.

James R. Herbert, President. I. G. W. Harriott, Secretary.

She forthwith returned to Richmond for clothes and the tents. She secured cloth for uniforms, by permission of Governor Letcher, by purchasing it from the mills where it was manufactured for the State of Virginia, and she paid for making it up into uniforms. Shoes, blankets and underclothes were supplied by Col. Larkin Smith, quartermaster-general; and the tents had been ordered on her way back from North Carolina. On June 29th she started back for camp with forty-one tents, and uniforms, underclothes and shoes for five hundred men. She had paid out ten thousand dollars, the contribution of enthusiastic North Carolinians and Virginians.

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