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A House Divided
Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 04/19/2011

Dana Shoaf: How do you explain the crazed, homicidal fury of city residents during the Baltimore Riots of April 19, 1861 in response to Massachusetts troops passing through that city. Was that event an anomaly?

Editor of Civil War Times magazine


Just because Baltimore was in the upper South, no one should ever confuse the city with being pro-Northern. The eastern shore of Maryland depended upon a plantation-based slave economy almost as much as did the tidewater region of South Carolina, and it was strongly pro-Confederate. Baltimore was the urban anchor for that region.

If other upper South cities were similarly tied to the plantation economy for their well-being, I believe violence would have occurred. What would have happened, for example, if the 6th Mass. had marched through Alexandria,Va., a town that made substantial money off of the slave trade? See Ellsworth, Elmer, and his death in Alexandria’s Marshall House hotel for the answer to that question.

Back to Baltimore, the 6th Massachusetts was forced to detrain at

President’s Street Station and march down Pratt Street to the Camden Station area because Baltimore’s 19th century version of the Teamster’s Union had enough power to prevent a direct rail link--they wanted to make money hauling merchandise and passengers from one station to the others. Had troops been able to pass directly through the town on trains without stopping, the riots would likely not have taken place.

James Ryder Randall, a pro-secession man, wrote the song “Maryland, my Maryland” in tribute to the “heroes” that resisted the Northern troops. The song contains lines such as “Avenge the patriotic gore, That flecked the streets of Baltimore, And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland! My Maryland!” and “Huzza! She spurns the Northern scum!” It was adopted as Maryland’s state song in 1939--and remains so.

By Dana Shoaf  |  10:00 AM ET, 04/19/2011

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