I begin at the beginning—Baltimore. By 1861, issues of slavery and states’ rights had split the country in two and the drumbeats of secession were pounding at Maryland’s door. In South Carolina, Fort Sumter had fallen and newly elected President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the “insurrection.” Militias from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts began arriving in Baltimore.
Lincoln proclaimed, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” At the outset of the war, Maryland, a slave state, exemplified the national divide, and that division came to a dramatic head on the streets of Baltimore, a railroad boomtown with industrial ties to the North but a culture deeply rooted in the South. Baltimore: A House Divided centers on a one-and-a-half mile walking trail through the Inner Harbor and revisits the events of the Baltimore Riot of 1861. The war’s first blood would be shed just outside the doors of the ESPN Zone.
On the morning of April 19, 1861, an angry mob of Southern sympathizers attacked the 6th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment as they marched along Pratt Street en route to Camden Station to board a train bound for Washington, D.C. Pelted with stones and bricks, the militia panicked and fired into the crowd. By the time the troops had reached Camden Station, four soldiers and at least a dozen rioters had been killed with many others injured.
The trail begins at the President Street Station, the oldest big city railroad station still standing in the United States. Following six interpretive markers to Camden Station (at Camden Yards), not only do my feet get a workout but so does my imagination. The past is conjured amidst tourists with iPods lining up to enter the National Aquarium, and the distant sound of musket fire competes with the cheering from an Orioles game.
Following the Baltimore Riot, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and hundreds of Marylanders suspected of disloyalty to the Union were detained without formal charges, many of them imprisoned at Fort McHenry. Ironically, among the detainees held at Fort McHenry, was newspaper editor Francis Key Howard, grandson of Francis Scott Key.
To see the introduction to this series, click here.