Thomas Holliday Hicks
and the Beginning of the Civil War in Maryland
"If the president had had forty of those men [secessionist
leaders] hung, I would have voted for exonerating him from any responsibility"
-Hicks, speech in U. S. Senate, February 28, 1863
|After the rioting in Baltimore, Hicks had no choice but to convene
the General Assembly. He decreed that for the "safety and comfort" of the
legislators, the Assembly would meet in Frederick on April 26, rather than
Annapolis, where thousands of Federal troops were encamped, which Hicks
interpreted as an occupation.
Hicks may also have hoped that, by having the legislature meet in Frederick, rather than the capital, he could lessen that chances that a secession ordinance was passed, since Frederick was a more pro-Union city than Baltimore or Annapolis. In addition, Frederick's location made it much more difficult for legislators and citizens to get to from the strongly secessionist southern and eastern parts of the state.
After he called a special session of the General Assembly, Hicks wrote this letter, shown below left, to General Benjamin F. Butler and expressed his concern about the legislators' ability to arrive in Annapolis on the 26th, as the Annapolis & Elk Ridge Railroad was under the military's control. While the Maryland Constitution dictates that the legislature is to meet in the seat of government, the governor "may direct their sessions to be held at some other convenient place" if the capital is under enemy control or may otherwise be deemed unsafe.
|The legislature began its first meeting with a resolution announcing
that fears that it would pass "some measure committing this State to secession.are
without just foundation. We know that we have no constitutional authority
to take such action." The Assembly adjourned on May 14, after taking little
conclusive action. It met twice briefly during the summer of 1861, debating
what Maryland's position towards the Federal government should be, still
taking no definitive stance.
Beginning on September 12, days before the legislature was to meet once
again, Federal troops carried out a series of raids, arresting approximately
thirty prominent secessionist leaders, including a number of members of
the General Assembly. With only a small number of pro-Union representatives
able to attend the session, the legislature took no steps towards establishing
diplomatic ties with the Confederacy or seceding.
Click on image to view entire letter
Hicks to Butler
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