Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Baltimore Riot

Since the firing on Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for 75,000 troops to attack the South, Virginia had already seceded and the secession was moving forward in several other states. Maryland, one of the slave-holding states, was favorable towards secession, especially Baltimore. When Lincoln was traveling to Washington for his inauguration a few months before, he had traveled through Baltimore at night for fear of assassination.

On April 19th, 1861 150 years ago today, the Sixth Massachusetts regiment was traveling through Baltimore on the way to defend Washington. The railroad cars in which the troops were transported had to be dragged by horse through the city because of a law against the use of locomotives in the city. As the Northern troops were moving through the streets, anti-Union men blocked the road to prevent their progress. Seeing this, the troops exited the cars and marched in formation. The rioters attacked the regiment, throwing bricks and firing pistols. Eventually the soldiers were able to reach the train station with the help of the police, leaving behind four soldiers and twelve civilians dead, and many more wounded.

The Marylanders asked Lincoln to not send any further troops through the city to prevent further riots. However Lincoln refused, saying that the troops were needed and that was the only way they could travel. As we will see later, the city was occupied and secession was prevented.
James Ryder Randall
Author of Maryland, My Maryland
Another consequence of the riot was the writing of Maryland, My Maryland. James Ryder Randall, a Marylander who was living in Louisanna, was a friend of one of the men killed in the riot. In the song he referred to the riots and Maryland's martial past and urged them to secede and resist the tyranny of Lincoln and the federal government. It was sung throughout the war by Marylanders sympathetic to the South and, amazingly, after the war it was made the state song and has remained so until the present.
The despot's heel is on thy shore,
His torch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!
Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Virginia should not call in vain,
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain,
Arise in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I see the blush upon thy cheek,
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Better the fire upon thee roll,
Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!
You can read the complete words here.


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