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How Virginia supplied Maryland with arms.

John W. Garrett's advice.

Wanted Virginia army to Occupy Baltimore, but General Lee refused. Major McDonald's reminiscences.

Major E. H. McDonald, of Charlestown, W. Va., contributes to the sun some war history never before published, and which will prove interesting to Marylanders, particularly Baltimoreans. Major McDonald is a gentleman of high standing, and is now extensively engaged in farming and stock raising in Jefferson county. He is one of four brothers who served with distinction in the Confederate Army, and is a son of the late Colonel Angus McDonald, who commanded a Virginia cavalry regiment in the Confederate service.

On the night of April 18, 1861, the Virginia troops, under command of General Kenton Harper, marched into Harpers Ferry by the light of the burning arsenal and armory, fired by the Federal soldiers before their evacuation. On the day following, Federal troops from Massachusetts were attacked by the people of Baltimore as they passed through her streets on their way to the South. Maryland's best and noblest sons were in sympathy with the South, but situated as she was, between the North and Washington, she would [164] have been foremost in the brunt of a terrible war. Her business men had large interests in the North as well as the South, and hesitated to stake all upon the issues of war; so, at first, she stood for neutrality, and denied the Federal troops the right to pass through her territory without her consent. When, in defiance of this right, Massachusetts troops were marched through the streets of Baltimore and her citizens were shot down in cold blood, the whole State became aroused, and would, if they could, have joined the South in her attempt to resist the invasion of her soil, by recourse to arms. In Baltimore the excitement was intense, and the offer of volunteers far exceeded the ability of the authorities to arm them. General George H. Stewart, commanding the troops in Baltimore, appealed at once to Virginia for arms, in a letter sent by L. P. Bayne and J. J. Chancellor, who, in delivering it said: ‘The people of Baltimore and the citizens of Maryland, generally, were united in at least one thing, viz: that troops volunteering for Federal service against Virginia or other sister Southern States, should not pass over the soil of Maryland if they could prevent it.’

Arms for Maryland.

In response to this appeal, Governor Letcher, of Virginia, sent the following telegram on April 22d: ‘Major-General Kenton Harper, in command at Harpers Ferry, is hereby ordered to deliver to General Stewart, at Baltimore, 1,000 of the arms recently taken at Harpers Ferry.’ On the same day, at the recommendation of the Governor, the Advisory Council of the State of Virginia agreed to loan the State of Maryland 5,000 more arms from the arsenal at Lexington, Va. The dispatch, arriving late that night, was given me as one of General Harper's aides-de-camp, and carried to headquarters after the General and his staff had retired. He sent for Major Harmon, his quartermaster, who said it was impossible to ship them that night.

Seeing the importance of the order, I suggested to the General that it could be done, and proposed to deliver them in Baltimore before morning if he would give me a regiment and transportation. The necessary orders were given, and I went, to the railroad station and telegraphed for an engine and car, which were promised to be ready within an hour. I then went to the officer in command of the Second Virginia Regiment, and told him to turn out his command. He demurred until he saw the orders, and appreciating the importance [165] of the service, he and his men obeyed cheerfully, some carrying arms, others straw, while we packed them in the car.

By 2 A. M. I was on my way to Baltimore, riding on the bumper of the car which carried the arms, enveloped in a cloud of steam and cinders, until, at the end of the journey I resembled more a miner than a soldier, so blackened and disfigured was I. But, notwithstanding my appearance, I met with a royal welcome from those gallant sons of old Maryland whom I afterwards learned to admire for their soldierly bearing in times that tried men's souls.

I was escorted to the Institute, where the Maryland Line was quartered; then to Holliday street, where Marshal Kane had his police and cannon. Everywhere the colors of the Confederacy were displayed—upon the houses and the people—as if all Baltimore was of one mind, and that was with the South; I was urged to tell the Virginia authorities to move the army from Harpers Ferry to Baltimore. Before leaving for Harpers Ferry that evening, I was told that John W. Garrett, president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, desired to talk to me. I went to his office, where I met him and the chief officers of the road.

John W. Garrett's advice.

He told me to go at once to Richmond, and tell the authorities there to move their men to Baltimore and make the fight there; that everything was favorable for such a move; the railroads north of Baltimore were cut and nothing from the west was leaving the city; that they were taking all the freight offered in the west, and that Baltimore was then full of supplies necessary to an army. They seemed much in earnest, and desirous to have the move made.

Lee refused.

When I reached Harpers Ferry and delivered their messages to General Harper, he sent me immediately to Richmond. Arriving there the next day, I had an interview with General Lee, who, on the 23d of April, had been put in command of all the Virginia troops. He was eminently a cautious leader and did not approve of moving our forces to Baltimore. If the command of the troops had not been turned over to him, the armies of Virginia would have been marched to join the Marylanders in the defense of Baltimore, and the first battle of the war would have been fought there. Lee's caution may have lost Maryland from the list of Confederate States, [166] but from within her borders came many of the bravest men who followed the fortunes of the South. Her best blood stood in the forefront of most of the battles of the Army of Northern Virginia. In numbers she may not have furnished her quota, but in heroism and self-denial they were peerless among the troops that followed the colors of the South.

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E. H. McDonald (8)
C. C. Lee (8)
Kenton Harper (8)
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George H. Stewart (4)
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J. J. Chancellor (2)
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