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Baltimore riot of 1861

Baltimore riot of 1861
Part of American Civil War

Massachusetts Militia Passing Through Baltimore, an 1861 engraving of the Baltimore riot
Date April 19, 1861
Location Baltimore, Maryland

Confederate sympathisers ultimately suppressed


United States (Union)

Confederate sympathizers

  • National Volunteers
Commanders and leaders
Col. Edward F. Jones None
Casualties and losses
4 killed, 36 wounded 12 killed, unknown wounded

The Baltimore riot of 1861 (also called the Pratt Street Riot and the Pratt Street Massacre) was a conflict on April 19, 1861, in Baltimore, Maryland, between anti-War Democrats (the largest party in Maryland), as well as Confederate sympathizers, and members of the Massachusetts militia en route to Washington for Federal service. It produced the first deaths by hostile action in the American Civil War.[1]


  • Background 1
  • April 19, 1861 2
  • Aftermath 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
    • Bibliography 5.1
  • External links 6


In 1861, most Baltimoreans were anti-War, and did not support a violent conflict with their southern neighbors. Many sympathized passionately with the Minute Men."[5]

The American Civil War began on April 12, one week before the riot. At the time, the slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas had not yet seceded from the U.S. The status of Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky (later known as "border states"), remained unknown. When Fort Sumter fell (without casualties) on April 13, the Virginia legislature took up a measure on secession. The measure passed on April 17 with little debate. Virginia's secession was particularly significant due to the state's industrial capacity. Sympathetic Marylanders, who had supported secession ever since John C. Calhoun spoke of nullification, agitated to join Virginia in leaving the Union. Their discontent increased in the days afterward when Lincoln put out a call for volunteers to serve 90 days and end the insurrection.

New militia units from several Northern states were starting to transport themselves south, particularly to protect

  • Baltimore Riot Trail Death at President Street Station Historical Marker Database
  • Church Home and Hospital Historical Marker Database
  • Newspaper article presenting eyewitness account of the Baltimore Riot

External links

  • Harry Ezratty, Baltimore in the Civil War: The Pratt Street Riot and a City Occupied, Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2010. ISBN 978.1.60949.003.4.
  • Johns Hopkins University), 1887.


  1. ^ Vogler, Mark E. (April 18, 2009). "Civil War Guard on duty in Baltimore to save President Street Station". Eagle Tribune. Archived from the original on April 19, 2009. Retrieved April 28, 2015. 
  2. ^ "Baltimore: A House Divided & War on the Chesapeake Bay". January 13, 2008. Retrieved July 14, 2012. 
  3. ^ Ezratty, Baltimore in the Civil War (2010), p. 31.
  4. ^ Ezratty, Baltimore in the Civil War (2010), p. 31. "Baltimore's citizens were politically and emotionally divided between pro- and anti-South and slavery. There were clashes as passions ran high about these issues and the right of a state to secede from the Union."
  5. ^ a b Gary L. Browne, "Baltimore Riot (19 April 1861)", Encyclopedia of the American Civil War, ed. David Stephen Heidler, Jeanne T. Heidler, David J. Coles; New York: Norton, 2000, p. 173; ISBN 9780393047585.
  6. ^ Ezratty, Baltimore in the Civil War (2010), pp. 43–45.
  7. ^ Catton, Bruce (January 1, 1961). The Coming Fury. Doubleday & Company, Inc. pp. 340–341.  
  8. ^ Ezratty, Baltimore in the Civil War (2010), p. 45.
  9. ^ The first connection was created with the opening of the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel in 1873.
  10. ^ Ezratty, Baltimore in the Civil War (2010), p. 47. "...the thirty-year-old ordinance forbidding the operation of steam engines in the city obliged the Union troops on both the eighteenth and nineteenth to transfer from their terminating depots on their way to Camden Station, where trains to Washington awaited them. The forced transfer made the soldiers of the Sixth Massachusetts vulnerable as, unlike the Pennsylvanians a day earlier, they had to stop and wait while horsecars hitched up and then rolled over Pratt Street's rails to Camden Station."
  11. ^ Jones' report also notes that during their travel, a James Brady was "taken insane" and left in Delanco Township, New Jersey, with J. C. Buck.
  12. ^ United States. War Department. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1. Edited by John Sheldon Moody, et al. Vol. 2. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1880, p. 7.
  13. ^  
  14. ^ Phillip Fazzini. "Luther C. Ladd". Photos from the Past. Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Archived from the original on February 10, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2008. 
  15. ^ a b Phillip Fazzini (October 23, 2009). "Charles A. Taylor (1836–1861)". Find A Grave Memorial# 43430939. Find A Grave. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  16. ^ James Ford Rhodes (1917). History of the Civil War, 1861–1865. The Macmillan Company, New York. p. 19. 
  17. ^ Eric Thomsen (July 25, 2003). "Corp Sumner H. Needham". Find A Grave Memorial# 7708886. Find A Grave. 
  18. ^ Eric Thomsen (July 12, 2003). "The Ladd and Whitney Monument". Find A Grave. Retrieved August 26, 2011. 
  19. ^  
  20. ^ Albert B. Faust (1963). "Rapp, Wilhelm".  
  21. ^ Alexander Crosby Brown (1961). Steam Packets on the Chesapeake. Cambridge, Maryland: Cornell Maritime Press. pp. 48–50.  
  22. ^ Brown, Baltimore and the 19th of April, 1861 (1887), p. 10
  23. ^ The New York Times. "The Baltimore Treason.; The Indictment Against John Merryman." July 12, 1861.
  24. ^ Benson John Lossing (1866/1997), Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War, reprint, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, Vol. I, Chap. XVII, "Events in or near the National Capital", pp. 419–420.
  25. ^ "Burning the Bridges". Straddling Secession: Thomas Holliday Hicks and the Beginning of the Civil War in Maryland. Maryland State Archives. Retrieved January 3, 2015. Merryman appealed to Roger B. Taney, ... who issued a landmark opinion saying that only Congress could suspend the right of habeas corpus. 
  26. ^ Benson John Lossing (1866/1997), Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War, reprint, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, Vol. I, Chap. XVIII, "The Capital Secured—Maryland Secessionists Subdued—Contributions by the People", pp. 434–436, [italics in reprint].
  27. ^ Benson John Lossing (1866/1997), Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War, reprint, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, Vol. I, Chap. XVIII, "The Capital Secured—Maryland Secessionists Subdued—Contributions by the People", pp. 439–440.
  28. ^ Mitchell, p.87
  29. ^
  30. ^ "Arrest of the Maryland Legislature, 1861"Teaching American History in Maryland – Documents for the Classroom: . Maryland State Archives. 2005. Archived from the original on January 11, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2008. 
  31. ^ "Arrest of the Maryland Legislature, 1861"Teaching American History in Maryland – Documents for the Classroom: . Maryland State Archives. 2005. Archived from the original on January 11, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2008. 
  32. ^ a b Schoettler, Carl (November 27, 2001). "A time liberties weren't priority". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  33. ^ a b c Howard, F. K. (Frank Key) (1863). Fourteen Months in American Bastiles. London: H.F. Mackintosh. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  34. ^ Benson John Lossing (1866/1997), Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War, reprint, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, Vol. I, Chap. XVIII, "The Capital Secured—Maryland Secessionists Subdued—Contributions by the People", pp. 449–450, [italics in reprint].
  35. ^ Benson John Lossing (1866/1997), Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War, reprint, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, Chap. XXIII, "The War in Missouri—Doings of the Confederate 'Congress'—Affairs in Baltimore—Piracies", pp. 551–553.
  36. ^ Benson John Lossing (1866/1997), Pictorial Field Book of the Civil War, reprint, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, Vol. I, Chap. XXIII, "War in Missouri—Doings of the Confederate 'Congress'—Affairs in Baltimore—Piracies", pp. 553–554.
  37. ^ Phair, Monty. "A Brief History of Randallstown". Baltimore County Public Libraries. Retrieved July 27, 2009. 
  38. ^ Maryland State Archives (2004). Maryland State Song – "Maryland, My Maryland". Retrieved 27 Dec. 2004.
  39. ^ "Another Try for Maryland's State Song?". The Washington Post. April 6, 2000. 
  40. ^ Helderman, Rosalind S. (March 1, 2009). "O Controversy!". The Washington Post. p. C01. Retrieved January 3, 2015. 
  41. ^ William C. Harris, Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union (University Press of Kansas, 2011) p 71
  42. ^ "Arrest of the Maryland Legislature, 1861"Teaching American History in Maryland – Documents for the Classroom: . Maryland State Archives. 2005. Archived from the original on January 11, 2008. Retrieved February 6, 2008. 


See also

Delaware, bordering Maryland, was reinforced with Union troops to prevent similar events. Kentucky declared its neutrality (although it would eventually join the Union's side), and although Missouri seceded from the Union on October 31 and was later occupied, a Confederate government-in-exile existed in Arkansas and Texas.

On September 17, 1861, the day the legislature reconvened to discuss these later events and Lincoln's possibly unconstitutional actions, twenty-seven state legislators (one-third of the Maryland General Assembly) were arrested and jailed by federal troops, using Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, and in further defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice's ex parte Merryman ruling.[41][42] Because of this large-scale arrest of state representatives the legislative session was canceled, and no further debate on anti-war measures or secession could take place.

Some Southerners reacted with passion to the incident. James Ryder Randall, a teacher in Louisiana but a native Marylander who had lost a friend in the riots, wrote "Maryland, My Maryland" for the Southern cause in response to the riots.[37] The poem was later set to "Lauriger Horatius", the tune of O Tannenbaum, a melody popular in the South, and referred to the riots with lines such as "Avenge the patriotic gore / That flecked the streets of Baltimore." It was not until seventy-eight years later that it became Maryland's state song;[38] there have been efforts to remove it since.[39][40]

Major General John Adams Dix succeeded Banks in command of the Department of Annapolis, and Colonel Abram Duryée's 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, "Duryée's Zouaves," constructed Fort Federal Hill, Baltimore.[36]

[35] Just before daybreak on June 27, soldiers marched from Ft. McHenry on orders from Major General

A man supposed to be a Maryland State Militia soldier was detained in Ft. McHenry, and Judge Giles, in Baltimore, issued a writ of habeas corpus, but Major W. W. Morris, commander of the fort, wrote back, "At the date of issuing your writ, and for two weeks previous, the city which you live, and where your court has been held, was entirely under the control of revolutionary authorities. Within that period United States soldiers, while committing no offense, had been perfidiously attacked and inhumanly murdered in your streets; no punishment had been awarded, and, I believe, no arrests had been made for these crimes; supplies of provisions intended for this garrison has been stopped; the intention to capture this fort had been boldly proclaimed; your most public thoroughfares were daily patrolled by large numbers of troops, armed and clothed, at least in part, with articles stolen from the United States; and the Federal flag, while waving over the Federal offices, was cut down by some person wearing the uniform of a Maryland soldier. To add the foregoing, an assembly elected in defiance of law, but claiming to be the legislative body of your State, and so recognized by the Executive of Maryland, was debating the Federal compact. If all this be not rebellion, I know not what to call it. I certainly regard it as sufficient legal cause for suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus." Moreover, Morris wrote, "If, in an experience of thirty-three years, you have never before known the writ to be disobeyed, it is only because such a contingency in political affairs as the present has never before arisen."[34]

Many more Union troops arrived. On May 13, Butler sent Union troops into Baltimore and declared United States Volunteers. Lincoln subsequently had the mayor, police chief, entire Board of Police, and the city council of Baltimore imprisoned without charges, as well as one sitting U.S. Congressman from Baltimore.[32] The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, who was also a native of Maryland, ruled on June 4, 1861 in ex parte Merryman that Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus was unconstitutional, but Lincoln ignored the ruling, and later when Baltimore newspaper editor Frank Key Howard, Francis Scott Key's grandson, criticized this in an editorial he too was imprisoned without trial.[33] (Ironically, federal troops imprisoned the young newspaper editor in Fort McHenry, which, as he noted, was the same fort where the Star Spangled Banner had been waving "o'er the land of the free" in his grandfather's song.[33]) In 1863 Howard wrote about his experience as a political prisoner at Fort McHenry in the book Fourteen Months in the American Bastille;[33] two of the publishers selling the book were then arrested.[32]

There were calls for Maryland to declare secession in the wake of the riot. Governor Hicks called a special session of the state legislature to consider the situation. Since Annapolis, the capital, was occupied by Federal troops, and Baltimore was harboring many pro-Confederate mobs, Hicks directed the legislature to meet in Frederick, in the predominantly Unionist western part of the state. The legislature met on April 26; on April 29, it voted 53–13 against secession,[28][29] though it also voted not to reopen rail links with the North, and requested that Lincoln remove the growing numbers of federal troops in Maryland.[30] At this time the legislature seems to have wanted to maintain Maryland's neutrality in the conflict.[31]

The 8th Massachusetts, with the 7th New York, proceeded to Annapolis Junction (halfway between Baltimore and Washington), and the 7th New York went on to Washington, where, on the afternoon of April 25, they became the first troops to reach the capital by this route.[27]

On April 19, Major General Robert Patterson, commander of the Department of Washington (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia), ordered Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Butler, with the 8th Massachusetts, to open and secure a route from Annapolis through Annapolis Junction to Washington. The 8th Massachusetts arrived by ship at Annapolis on April 20. Gov. Hicks and the Mayor of Annapolis protested, but Butler (a clever politician) bullied them into allowing troops to land at Annapolis, saying, "'I must land, for my troops are hungry.'—'No one in Annapolis will sell them anything,' replied these authorities of the State and city. Butler intimated that armed men were not always limited to the necessity of purchasing food when famished."[26]

After the April 19 riot, some small skirmishes occurred throughout Baltimore between citizens and police for the next month, but a sense of normalcy returned as the city was cleaned up. Mayor Brown and Maryland Governor Hicks implored President Lincoln to send no further troops through Maryland to avoid further confrontations. However, as Lincoln remarked to a peace delegation from the Young Men's Christian Association, Union soldiers were neither birds to fly over Maryland, nor moles to burrow under it.[24] On the evening of April 20 Hicks also authorized Brown to dispatch the Maryland state militia for the purpose of disabling the railroad bridges into the city—an act he would later deny. One of the militia leaders was John Merryman, who was arrested one month later, and held in defiance of a writ of habeas corpus, which led to the case of Ex parte Merryman.[25]

On July 10, 1861, a grand jury of the United States District Court indicted Samuel Mactier, Lewis Bitter, James McCartney, Philip Casmire, Michael Hooper and Richard H. Mitchell for their part in the riot.[23]

In Brown's later assessment, it was the Baltimore riot that pushed the two sides over the edge into full-scale war, "because then was shed the first blood in a conflict between the North and the South; then a step was taken which made compromise or retreat almost impossible; then passions on both sides were aroused which could not be controlled".[22]


As a result of the riot in Baltimore and pro-Southern sympathies of much of the city's populace, the Baltimore Steam Packet Company also declined the same day a Federal government request to transport Union forces to relieve the beleaguered Union naval yard facility at Portsmouth, Virginia.[21]

The same day, after the attack on the soldiers, the office of the Baltimore Wecker, a German-language newspaper, was completely wrecked and the building seriously damaged by the same mob. The publisher, William Schnauffer, and the editor, Wilhelm Rapp, whose lives were threatened, were compelled to leave town. The publisher later returned and resumed publication of the Wecker which continued throughout the war a firm supporter of the Union cause.[19] The editor moved to another paper in Illinois.[20]

Four soldiers (Corporal Sumner Needham of Co I and Privates Luther C. Ladd, Charles Taylor, and Addison Whitney of Company D)[14][15] and twelve civilians were killed in the riot. About 36 of the regiment were also wounded and left behind. It is unknown how many additional civilians were injured.[16] Sumner Henry Needham is sometimes considered to be the first Union casualty of the war, though he was killed by civilians in a Union state. Needham is buried in Lawrence, Massachusetts.[17] Ladd and Whitney are buried in Lowell, Massachusetts.[18] Taylor was buried in Baltimore; though his grave was lost, his name appears on the Lowell Monument.[15]

Indeed, as the militia regiment transferred between stations, a mob of anti-War supporters and Southern sympathizers attacked the train cars and blocked the route. When it became apparent that they could travel by horse no further, the troops got out of the cars and marched in formation through the city. However, the mob followed the soldiers, breaking store windows and causing damage until they finally blocked the soldiers. The mob attacked the rear companies of the regiment with "bricks, paving stones, and pistols."[13] In response, several soldiers fired into the mob, beginning a giant brawl between the soldiers, the mob, and the Baltimore police. In the end, the soldiers got to the Camden Station, and the police were able to block the crowd from them. The regiment had left behind much of their equipment, including their marching band's instruments.

The regiment will march through Baltimore in column of sections, arms at will. You will undoubtedly be insulted, abused, and, perhaps, assaulted, to which you must pay no attention whatever, but march with your faces to the front, and pay no attention to the mob, even if they throw stones, bricks, or other missiles; but if you are fired upon and any one of you is hit, your officers will order you to fire. Do not fire into any promiscuous crowds, but select, any man whom you may see aiming at you, and be sure you drop him.[12]

Sometime after leaving Philadelphia, the unit's Colonel Edward F. Jones received information that passage through Baltimore "would be resisted".[11] According to his later report, Jones went through the railroad cars and gave this order:

On April 17, the Sixth Massachusetts Militia departed from Boston, Massachusetts, arriving in New York the following morning and Philadelphia by nightfall. On April 19, the unit headed on to Baltimore, where they anticipated a slow transit through the city. Because of an ordinance preventing the construction of steam rail lines through the city, there was no direct rail connection between the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad's President Street Station and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Camden Station (ten blocks to the west).[9] Rail cars that transferred between the two stations had to be pulled by horses along Pratt Street.[10]

Union route through Baltimore, as later depicted by Mayor George Brown

April 19, 1861

On April 18, 460 newly mustered Pennsylvania volunteers (generally from the Pottsville, Pennsylvania area) arrived from Harrisburg on the Northern Central Railway at the Bolton Street Station off North Howard Street (present site of the later Fifth Regiment Armory).[7] They were joined by several regiments of regular United States Army troops under John C. Pemberton (later the Confederate general and commander at the siege of Vicksburg in Mississippi whose surrender in July 1863, resulted in the first split of the Confederacy) returning from duty on the western frontier. They split off from Howard Street in downtown Baltimore and marched over east to Fort McHenry and reported for duty there. Seven hundred "National Volunteers" of southern sympathizers rallied at the Washington Monument and traveled to the station to confront the combined units of troops, which unbeknownst to them were unarmed and had weapons unloaded.[5] Kane's city police force generally succeeded in ensuring the Pennsylvania troops' safe passage marching south on Howard Street to Camden Street Station of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Nevertheless, stones and bricks were hurled (along with many insults) and Nicholas Biddle, a Black servant traveling with the regiment, was hit on the head. But that night, the Pennsylvania troops, later known as "The First Defenders" camped at the U.S. Capitol under the uncompleted dome, which was under construction.[8]


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