Passage Through Baltimore
March 8, 2013 10:22 AM Subscribe
"Baltimore had always been seen as an explosive city, hypersensitive to the shifting currents of politics. The present crisis was no exception. While most Baltimoreans felt that Lincoln should keep his hands off the South, there was also a smaller contingent of Confederate zealots there who were more than willing to go to war over it. Sending Northern troops through their hometown was like putting a lit match to a powder keg."The Baltimore Riot of 1861, also known as the Pratt Street Riots, underline Maryland's complex and often tragic part in the US Civil War.
Maryland was a slave state: census records from 1860 count just over 87,000 slaves and just under 600,000 free men in that state. At the same time, Maryland's geographical position compelled Lincoln to maintain a military presence throughout the state, with such results as:
"Assembling the [US Colored Troops] began at Camp Stanton in Benedict, Maryland (Charles County). While black troops trained at Benedict, there were still thousands of slaves living in the area surrounding the Camp."
But Lincoln was hugely unpopular in Maryland, getting only 2.5% of the popular vote in that state in the previous elections. Tensions came to a head when the Sixth Massachusetts Militia got off their train at Bolton Street, in Baltimore, April 19, 1861, and were met by an angry mob. When all was said and done, 16 were dead, at least 36 soldiers and unknown numbers of rioters were injured, and both the city and state were taken under the administration of the US military.
James Randall, living in Louisiana at the time of the riots, was a Confederate supporter who became inspired by the event, and penned a poem encouraging Maryland to fight the Union. Entitled "Maryland, My Maryland", it was made the state song in 1939.
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