[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Arrest of the Maryland Legislature, 1861

Introduction

Kemp Hall, Frederick, MDIn early 1861, Maryland was walking a tightrope between the Union and the Confederacy. In addition to being physically between the two sides, Maryland depended equally on the North and the South for its economy. Although Maryland had always leaned toward the south culturally, sympathies in the state were as much pro-Union as they were pro-Confederate. Reflecting that division and the feeling of many Marylanders that they just wanted to be left alone, the state government would not declare for either side.

For the Federal Government, however, there was no question about which side Maryland had to take. If she seceded, Washington D.C. would be surrounded by hostile states, effectively cut off from the rest of the Union. The situation came to a head on April 19, 1861, when the soldiers of the 6th Massachusetts Volunteers, moving through Baltimore on the way to Washington, were attacked by a pro-Southern mob. When the mob started shooting at the regiment, the soldiers returned fire, and when the smoke had cleared, four soldiers and twelve civilians had been killed.

To avoid further riots, it was decided to send troops through the Naval Academy at Annapolis. To ensure the safety of the troops and the loyalty of the state government, the Federal Government sent General Benjamin F. Butler to Annapolis to secure the city on April 22. That same day, Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks decided to call a special session of the General Assembly to discuss the crisis. At that time, the General Assembly met biannually, but popular outcry was so strong that the governor felt it necessary to call together the Assembly during an off year. However, he probably felt that anti-Union sentiment would run high in a city that had just been occupied by Northern troops, so Governor Hicks decided to convene the Legislature in Frederick, Maryland, a strongly pro-Union city.

The General Assembly first met in the Frederick County Courthouse on April 26. However, it was quickly found that the courthouse was too small, and so, on the second day, the Assembly moved to Kemp Hall the meeting hall belonging to the German Reformed Church. On April 30, the weekly Frederick Herald reported: "The Legislature seems comfortable and well provided for in their new halls in the German Reformed Building. The Senate occupies the Red Men's Hall, third story -- the House, the hall in the second story. These halls have been tastefully and appropriately fitted up for their purposes."

The main topic of discussion in those tastefully appointed halls was, of course, the question of whether or not to secede from the Union. As the General Assembly met throughout the long summer, a bill and a resolution were introduced calling for secession. Both failed because the legislators said that they did not have the authority to secede from the Union. Even many of the pro-Southern delegates and senators did not support the bills. At the same time, however, the legislators refused to reopen rail links to the Northern States, for fear the they would be used for military purposes and also by pro-Union agitators bent on revenge for the Baltimore riots. One of the few things the General Assembly did agree upon was a resolution sent to President Lincoln protesting the Union occupation of Maryland. It seems that the General Assembly was primarily interested in preserving Maryland's neutrality, for they neither wanted to secede from the Union, nor to allow Union troops to cross its territory in order to attack the Confederacy.

On August 7, the General Assembly adjourned, intending to meet again on September 17. However, on that day Federal troops and Baltimore police officers arrived in Frederick with orders to arrest the pro-Confederate members of the General Assembly. Thus, the special session in Frederick ended, as did Frederick's summer as the state capital, as Maryland found itself inexorably drawn further and further into the heart of the bloodiest war in American history.

SOURCE: Taken from Maryland State Archives, "The General Assembly Moves to Frederick, 1861"

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)

STANDARD 2: The course and character of the Civil War and its effects on the American people. 

Standard 2A: The student understands how the resources of the Union and Confederacy affected the course of the war. 

5-12: Identify the turning points of the war and evaluate how political, military, and diplomatic leadership affected the outcome of the conflict. [Assess the importance of the individual in history] 

Standard 2B: The student understands the social experience of the war on the battlefield and homefront. 

5-12: Compare the human and material costs of the war in the North and South and assess the degree to which the war reunited the nation. [Examine historical perspectives]

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Arrest and Detention of Certain Members of the Maryland Legislature
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: [1861]
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 667-675.

  2. DESCRIPTION: Letter, Abraham Lincoln to Winfield Scott
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: April 25, 1861
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916.
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  3. DESCRIPTION: Letter, Winfield Scott to [Brig. Gen. B. F. Butler]
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: April 26, 1861
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 675-675

  4. DESCRIPTION: Resolutions of the General Assembly of Maryland in relation to the arrest and imprisonment of Ross Winans, edq., & c.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: July 1861
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 587-588. 

  5. DESCRIPTION: Letter, Simon Cameron to Maj. Gen. N. P. Banks
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 11, 1861
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 678-679

  6. DESCRIPTION: Letter, Frederick Schley, Editor of the Examiner to W. H. Seward
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 12, 1861
    NOTES: " There are twenty-two senators, of whom twelve is the requisite majority to enact a law. Of the present senators eight are loyal and reliable, leaving fourteen in whom I have no faith and I speak the sentiment of many."
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 679-680.

  7. DESCRIPTION: Letter, John A. Dix to Simon Cameron (Arrests made in Baltimore)
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 13, 1861 
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916.
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  8. DESCRIPTION: Letter, W. G. Snethen to W. H. Seward
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 15, 1861
    NOTES: "I thank you in the name of every truly loyal man in Baltimore an din my own poor name for your arrest of the traitors whom you have sent to Fortress Monroe.... I hope General Banks will take care that the Legislature shall not sit at all.... The arrest of W. Wilkins Glenn, the proprietor of the Exchange, has given intense satisfaction. Beale Richardson and his writing editor Joice, of the Republican, are very violent ...."
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 595. 

  9. DESCRIPTION: Letter, N. P. Banks to Lieutentant-Colonel Ruger
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 16, 1861
    NOTES: "It is not impossible that the members or a portion of them may be deterred from meeting there on account of certain arrests recently made in Baltimore. It is also quite possible that on the first day of meeting the attendance may be small. Of the facts as to this matter I shall see that you are well informed as they transpire. It becomes necessary that any meeting of this Legislature at any place or time shall be prevented."
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 681

  10. DESCRIPTION: Letter, R. Morris Copeland to Major General Banks 
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 18, 1861
    NOTES: "I have just telegraphed to General Dix that we have seized seven members of the house of a very bitter character, and four officers, clerks, & c. who are intensely bitter and are said to have been very forward and to have kept some of the weaker men up to the work. Several arrests were made of violent or resisting persons whom I shall let go after the others are gone. I shall send four men at least to General Dix, at Baltimore, who are very bad men...."
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 682-683

  11. DESCRIPTION: Oath of fidelity taken by members of the Maryland Legislature after arrest
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 18, 1861
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 683

  12. DESCRIPTION: Letter, Arthur Rich to William H. Seward
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 19, 1861
    NOTES: "Allow me to congratulate you upon the Government manifesting its strong arm in giving the quietus to our so-called Legislature. It has had the salutary influence in many respects and has soothed down the temper of the disunionists prodigiously."
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 684

  13. DESCRIPTION: Letter George W. Howard, Jr. to Simon Cameron
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 25, 1861
    NOTES: "As the treasonable documents of the Legislature of Maryland were seized I think that the journals of all the sessions should be seized also...."
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 691

  14. DESCRIPTION: Letter N. P. Banks to Col. R. B. Marcy
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 20, 1861
    NOTES: "I have the honor to report ... that all the members of the Maryland Legislature assembled at Frederick City on the 17th instant known or suspected to be disloyal in their relations to the Government have been arrested."
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 684-685

  15. DESCRIPTION: Letter John A. Dix to W. H. Seward.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 20, 1861
    NOTES: "I have arrested and put on board the Baltimore E. G. Kilbourn, a dangerous successionist, president of the house of delegates. There are two of the arrested persons whose release would I am confident promote the Union cause, and since the Legislature is effectually broken up the Government cannot be injured and may vindicate its justice by its clemency in these cases."
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 685

  16. DESCRIPTIONLetter Thomas H. Hicks, [Governor of Maryland] to Maj. Gen. N. P. Banks
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 20, 1861
    NOTES: "We see the good fruit already produced by these arrests. We can no longer mince matters with these desperate people."
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 685

  17. DESCRIPTIONLetter, Allan Pinkerton to William H. Seward
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: September 23, 1861
    NOTES: Describes some of the arrests, including arrests of newspaper editors.
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 1. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1894): 688

  18. DESCRIPTION: Letter, J. M. Coale to Abraham Lincoln  (Requests release of imprisoned members of the Maryland legislature)
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: November 12, 1861
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE: The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916.
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress, Washington, DC

  19. DESCRIPTION: Letter, John A. Dix to William H. Seward
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: February 17, 1862
    NOTES: Includes report of political prisoners taken, released, and remaining since March 4, 1861, at Fort McHenry, Md.
    SOURCE: United States. War Dept., United States. Record and Pension Office., United States. War Records Office., et al. The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. Series 2 - Volume 2. (Washington, DC. Government Printing Office, 1897): 226-228

  20. DESCRIPTIONSession Laws, Maryland General Assembly, Special Session
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: April - December 1861
    SOURCE: Archives of Maryland Online
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives 

  21. DESCRIPTIONPhotograph, Kemp Hall, Frederick
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: c. 1870
    SOURCE: Fredericktown Bank Collection, MSA SC 4702-1-8
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

See also:

Secondary Resources

Brugger, Robert. "Suspended between Memory and Hope (1816-1865)." In Maryland: A Middle Temperament. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press in association with the Maryland Historical Society, 1988.

Brugger, Robert. "A House Divided (1850-1865)." In Maryland: A Middle Temperament. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press in association with the Maryland Historical Society, 1988.

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

Fort McHenry National Monument 
and Historic Shrine

Fort Avenue
Baltimore, MD

Copyright and Other Restrictions

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Credits

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

This document packet was researched and developed by Nancy Bramucci.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]