Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

John Lee Chapman (1811-1880)
MSA SC 3520-12476

Source:  Wilbur F. Coyle, The Mayors of Baltimore
(Reprinted from The Baltimore Municipal Journal, 1919), 106-115.
John Lee Chapman, who served several terms as Mayor of Baltimore, first assumed this office in the capacity of Mayor ex officio, January 6th, 1862, and continued as ex officio to November 10th of that year.  He became the City's acting executive as a result of the arrest of Mayor George William Brown, who was taken into custody by the Federal authorities September 12th, 1861. 

Mr. Chapman, however, did not immediately succeed Mr. Brown, for John C. Blackburn, who was President of the First Branch of the City Council at the time of Mayor Brown's arrest, was his (Brown's) immediate successor.  Mr. Chapman was elected to the First Branch from the Fourth Ward, October 9th, 1861.  The Branch, however, did not organize until January 6th, 1862, at which time he (Chapman) was unanimously chosen President of that body, thus replacing Mr. Blackburn as Mayor ex officio, and serving the remainder of Mayor Brown's term.  Mayor Chapman other terms were from November 10th, 1862 to November 14th, 1864, and from November 14th, 1864, to November 12th, 1866, and from November 12th, 1866, to November 4th, 1867.  This last tenure was shortened by the adoption of a new State Constitution.  Mr. Chapman, therefore, served part of Mayor Brown's term, which ended in 1862, and three others.  Baltimore was practically under Federal Military control during this time, which has been referred to as the "Bayonet Rule" period.  Many Baltimoreans who were suspected of being sympathetic to the Southern Cause were taken into custody or disfranchised.1

During Mayor Chapman's administrations the Western Maryland Railroad was completed to Union Bridge, the Broadway and Locust Point Ferry was authorized, Union Railroad bonds for $150,000 were endorsed, and a Jones Fall Improvement loan was approved.  An appropriation of $1,000 for park concerts was made June 13th, 1865.  The Building Committee of the new (present) City Hall was organized May 25th, 1867.  The old structure were removed from the site. Excavations were made and foundations were placed.  The corner-stone2 was laid October 18th, 1867.  The first building at Bay View Asylum, eastern suburbs, was completed.  A market house at Hollins Markets was finished and the one at LaFayette Market started.  Provision for new structures at Belair, Broadway and Cross Street Markets was made. The Gunpowder Reservoir site was purchased.  The McDonogh monument, Greenmount Cemetery, was unveiled. 

Ordinances creating a "Board of Commissioners for deepening and improving the channel of the Chesapeake Bay and Patapsco River;" as well as the offices of City Solicitor and that of City Counselor were approved.  The consolidated office of City Commissioner and Port Wardens was abolished and the separate offices of City Commissioner and of Port Wardens were reestablished.  The office of Commissioners for Opening Streets was revived.  Authority to erect a stone bridge over Jones Falls at Eager Street and a wooden one over the same stream at Decker Street (Maryland Avenue), also a bridge over Harris Creek at Lancaster Street was granted.  Provision for five school buildings was made.  The Appeal Tax Court was empowered to issue building permits.  Ordinances to condemn and open Fulton Avenue from Franklin Street to the City limits, and Stricker Street from Mulberry Street to Baker were passed.  The instruction of colored children in separate public schools was begun. 

Mayor Chapman's administration, which covered much of the Civil War period, was characterized by bitter partisan feeling and an analytic investigation of the situation, if space permitted, would not be uninteresting, for as matter developed there were several irreconcilable classes of citizens. 

There was an element that went into the Confederate Army; there were those who went into the Federal Army; there were Unionists who remained non-combatants but who without reservation supported the Federal Government in all measures taken in the interest of that side.  There was a class opposed to the secession of Maryland from the Union, but which sympathized with the South, a sympathy born of an understanding of the great political and domestic problems with which this section was confronted.  On the other hand, many favored secession, but "the great body of those who sympathized with the South had no disposition to take arms against the Union so long as Maryland remained a member of it."3

Dominating the various elements and suppressing all expressions of Southern sympathy, sometimes by harsh measures, was the military establishment that the Federal Government set up in Baltimore shortly after the 19th of April, 1861. 

As the war progressed Baltimore, to all outward appearance at least, was brought under Union influence, for very many gave the Northern authorities loyal support, but as one authority explains, "An account...of the local incidents and episodes arising from the setting up and the maintenance of Federal military authority in the City of Baltimore" would show "the severe regime considered necessary by the Federal authorities for the control of a doubtful or hostile community and for the successful prosecution of the war."4

Only people who were known to be unqualifiedly in favor of the Union were tolerated in office, and this applied to the Mayor, City Council and other municipal officers of that period.  In this way much of the Civil War legislation passed by the City Council did not represent nor reflect the sentiment of a large and (under normal conditions) influential part of the community.  At times considerable feeling was displayed.  There was at least passive resistance to some of the Councilmanic acts, but in the end the Union measures prevailed, which, of course, were heartily endorsed by citizens who had allied themselves with the Federal cause. 

A series of bounty ordinances were the cause of trouble and controversy.  In order to encourage enlistment's in the Union Army bounties from $100 to $300 were offered and paid by the municipality.  The first bounty loan Ordinance was defeated in the Second Branch and was then referred to a committee of conference.  In the committee it was opposed by several Second Branch members.  A large number of persons interested in this ordinance, having assembled about the City Hall at the time the committee met, created considerable excitement upon learning of the defeat of the bill.  Police squads are said to have escorted home Councilmen who opposed the measure.  These members resigned shortly afterwards and an election to fill the vacancies was held August 1st, 1862.  There was no opposition to the Union ticket and the vote was insignificant.  Upon the reorganization of the Second Branch, the bounty ordinance, which had caused the trouble, was passed.  In September, 1862, authority for another loan of $350,000 was approved.  These ordinances provided for paying $100 to each volunteer, larger bounties were authorized by later ordinances.  One of these, approved February 16th, 1864, appropriated $600,000, thus creating a fund which was to be paid to persons who volunteered, each receiving in installments the sum of $200.  Ordinance No. 63, approved May 10th, 1864, provided an additional bounty of $100 to be paid to a soldier's family in case of his death during the term of enlistment.  This carried a net appropriation of $400,000.  Ordinance No. 82, of June 28th, 1864, authorized the creation of a Bounty Board and appropriated $750,000; persons mustered into the United States Army or Navy, not being commissioned officers, and enlisting for one year, received $150.  A two-year enlistment entitled him to $200; and to those enlisting for three years, $300.  Ordinance No. 91, approved October 5th, 1864, appropriated $15,000 for the relief of families whose main support was in the army or navy of the United States.  Ordinance No. 1, January 17th, 1865, appropriated $750,000 and provided for the payment of $300 bounty for one years' service to any person not drafted but mustered in the army or navy of the United States.  Ordinance No. 14 authorized $200 for each man drafted or accepted, if in the judgment of the Bounty Board such person, by reason of his necessities, war entitled to pecuniary aid. 

5"The first 'defense loan' was authorized in April, 1861, when the Legislature empowered the Mayor and City Council to raise whatever funds might be necessary for the protection of the City; and to provide for the repayment by taxation or otherwise.  The sum of $500,000---to be secured by the issue of promissory notes, and to be expended under the direction of the Mayor---had already been appropriated by the City for purpose of defense.  This action by the municipality was promptly confirmed by the General Assembly and its legality was upheld by the Court of Appeals.  The amount actually expended within the next twelve months was only some $80,000.  This was borrowed on short time, and in April, 1862, was funded in six per cent. 20-year bonds, together with $145,000 of floating indebtedness.  A second appropriation of $100,000, to be taken from unexpended parts of the bounty loan of June, 1863, was made in 1863 for strengthening local defenses.  This sum was to be expended by a Defense Committee composed of the Mayor, the President and one member from each Branch of the City Council."

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

John Lee Chapman, according to some historians, was born in Harford County in 1811 and was of Scotch parentage.  He came to Baltimore at an early age; later was a clerk in a drug-store and years afterwards became proprietor of a similar establishment.  Mayor Chapman left the drug trade and, with his brother Jonathan, embarked in the glass business.  Before the war (Civil) Mr. Chapman was an "old time" Whig, but later was very active in the Union Party.  He was a member of the First Branch of the City Council in 1860 and was again elected in 1861.  During this latter term, as has been stated, he was chosen President of that Branch.  He entered the Mayoralty from the City Council under circumstances that have been fully explained heretofore. 

Mr. Chapman was President of the Western Maryland Railway Company for two years, and upon retiring from the Mayor's Office held several minor positions under the Federal Government.  He was twice married, his first wife being also his cousin and a daughter of Mr. George Chapman.  His second wife was a daughter of Mr. William Thompson.  John Lee Chapman died November 18th, 1880. 

1.  Kent's History of Maryland Politics,--"The close of the Civil War found the flower of manhood of Maryland disfranchised.  In those days it was not only a one-party State, but there was practically but one ticket in the field.  During the war the ballot was denied every man known or suspected to be in sympathy with the Confederacy.  The polls were surrounded by Federal soldiers.  Tickets known as the Union and the Union Republican tickets were put up and elections were carried and men put into office by the votes of an insignificant faction of the male population.  The test oaths and intimidation tactics employed by the military and the politicians that stood behind it disfranchised three-fourths of the white male citizens of Maryland, and popular suffrage was really almost extinct."

"On October 9th, 1861, an election for members of the First Branch of the City Council was held, and the candidates of the Union party were elected by a total vote of 9,587.  No opposition was permitted and the size of the vote polled indicated that the citizens regarded the balloting as a mere formality."  (Mr. Mathew Page Andrews, in the Lewis Historical Publishing Company's Baltimore:  Its History and Its People.)

2.  "The building committee appointed subsequent to the laying of the cornerstone, of which Robert T. Banks was chairman, on the 18th of February, 1869, adopted a resolution directing its removal to the northeast corner of the building, upon the theory that the original locality was unusual for public edifices." 

3.  George William Brown, Baltimore and the 19th of April, 1861.

4.  Matthew Page Andrews, History of Baltimore. Lewis Publishing Co.

5.  J. H. Hollander, The Financial History of Baltimore.

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