Maryland's proximity to Washington made it a very important state for President Abraham Lincoln -- even though his political support there was limited. Indeed, the hostility of local residents forced President-elect Lincoln to sneak through Baltimore in the middle of the night on February 23, 1861 in order to circumvent a murder plot hatched there. Hostility in Maryland led to the suspension of habeas corpus by the President and a confrontation over civil liberties with the Supreme Court's chief justice, himself a Maryland resident. Maryland was twice invaded by large Confederate armies and on one occasion, a smaller Confederate contingent swept through the state in an attempt to attack Washington. President Lincoln witnessed the attack from the parapet of a Washington fort in July 1864. And finally on April 14,1865, it was a Maryland native who fired the bullet in Ford's Theater that was to kill the President.
Maryland was a conflicted state. It was also pivotal. In the 1860 presidential election, Tennessee Unionist John Bell narrowly edged out Kentucky Democrat John Breckinridge to capture the state's electoral votes. Abraham Lincoln received only 2.5 percent of the state's votes that November. Earlier in May 1860 at the Republican National Convention, Maryland had cast three votes for New York Senator William H. Seward and 8 votes for Edward Bates on the first ballot. It repeated that pattern on the second vote, but on the third ballot, 9 votes went to Mr. Lincoln and just 2 votes for Seward. Soon thereafter, Mr. Lincoln's nomination was made unanimous.
Mr. Lincoln had a somewhat jaundiced view toward Maryland. Friend Ward Hill Lamon recalled: "When Mr. Lincoln was being importuned to appoint to his cabinet another man from Maryland rather than Mr. [Montgomery] Blair, he said laughingly: 'Maryland must, I think, be a good State to move from,' and then told a story of a witness who on being asked his age replied, 'Sixty.' Being satisfied that he was much older, the judge repeated the question, and on receiving the same answer, admonished the witness, saying that the Court knew him to be much older than sixty. 'Oh,' said the witness, 'you're thinking about that fifteen years that I lived down on eastern shore of Maryland; that was so much lost time and don't count.'"1
Nevertheless, when Mr. Lincoln chose a "Border State" representative for his Cabinet in early 1861, he selected Maryland native Montgomery Blair. Blair, however, had spent so much time in Missouri during the 1850s that Maryland residents questioned whether he was a real resident of their state. James G. Blaine, who was the Republican leader of Maine at the beginning of the war, later wrote: "Mr. Blair was appointed as a citizen of Maryland. This gave serious offense to many of Mr. Lincoln's most valued supporters, and was especially distasteful to the Union men of Maryland, with Henry Winter Davis at their head. They regarded Mr. Blair as a non-resident, as not in any sense identified with them, and as disposed from the outset to foment disturbance where harmony was especially demanded."2
President-elect Abraham Lincoln's middle-of-the-night transit through Baltimore early on February 23, 1861, delighted cartoonists who misrepresented the facts of the trip. Although the circumstances of his passage through the city were exaggerated for comic effect, it was nevertheless a true cloak-and-hat operation that responded to a genuine threat to the President-elect's life. Detective Allan Pinkerton had been directed to conduct an undercover investigation by the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, which was worried about possible sabotage to its rail lines. Pinkerton's operatives uncovered a plot to murder President-elect Lincoln as he moved through Baltimore on his way from Philadelphia to Washington. Pinkerton briefed Mr. Lincoln and his entourage in Philadelphia on February 21 and convinced him to change his schedule for the night of February 22.
On February 22, Mr. Lincoln had started his day in Philadelphia, then traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he was expected to stay overnight. Instead, Mr. Lincoln and Ward Hill Lamon took a special train back to Philadelphia and then took a regular train southeast to Baltimore where they had to change to another train bound for the nation's capital. Pennsylvania journalist Alexander K. McClure wrote: "Mr. Lincoln was put into his berth and the curtains drawn. He was supposed to be a sick man. When the conductor came around, Mr. Pinkerton handed him the "sick man's" ticket and he passed on without question. When the train reached Baltimore, at half-past three o'clock in the morning, it was met by one of Mr. Pinkerton's detectives, who reported that everything was "all right," and in a short time the party was speeding on to the national capital, where rooms had been engaged for Mr. Lincoln and his guard at Willard's Hotel. Mr. Lincoln always regretted this 'secret passage' to Washington, for it was repugnant to a man of his high courage. He had agreed to the plan simply because all of his friends urged it as the best thing to do."3
Pinkerton's guards shadowed the President-elect throughout the trip. Lamon recalled: "At thirty minutes past three the train reached Baltimore. One of the spy's assistants came on board and informed him in a whisper that 'all was right.' Mr. Lincoln lay still in his berth; and in a few moments the car was being slowly drawn through the quiet streets of the city toward what was called the Washington depot. There again was another pause, but no sound more alarming that the noise of shifting cars and engineers. The passengers, tucked away on their narrow shelves, dozed on as peacefully as if Mr. Lincoln had never been born, until they were awakened by the loud strokes of a huge club against a night-watchman's box, which stood within the depot and close to the track. It was an Irishman, trying to arouse a sleepy ticket-agent comfortably ensconced within. For twenty minutes the Irishman pounded the box with ever-increasing vigor, and at each blow shouted at the top of his voice, 'Captain! it's four o'clock! it's four o'clock!' The Irishman seemed to think that time had ceased to run at four o'clock, and making no allowance for the period consumed by his futile exercises, repeated to the last his original statement that it was four o'clock. The passengers were intensely amused; and their jokes and laughter at the Irishman's expense were not lost upon the occupants of the two sections in the rear."4 About 6 A.M., Mr. Lincoln's train pulled into Union Station in Washington where he was met by Illinois Congressman Elihu B. Washburne.
Vice President-elect Hannibal Hamlin had met the Lincolns in New York several days earlier but not accompanied Mr. Lincoln on the train ride south. Hamlin was about a day behind the Lincolns in a special car out of Philadelphia, according to biographer H. Draper Hunt. Hunt wrote that "the train pulling it must have left Philadelphia late or been delayed en route, because night had fallen before it rolled into the hotly secessionist city of Baltimore. As Hamlin lay in his berth, he could hear the angry rumblings of a mob at the station and threats that 'No damned Abolitionist like Lincoln or Hamlin should enter the White House.' Suddenly, heavy feet sounded in the corridor, the curtains to his compartment were jerked back and several whiskery, liquor-reeking faces peered in at him. The plug-uglies, searching the train on the chance that Lincoln might be aboard, failed to recognize the Vice-President-elect and stomped out of the car, and Hamlin and his wife arrived in Washington without further incident."5
Baltimore, meanwhile, was offended by Mr. Lincoln's subterfuge -- although in contrast to other major urban areas, there had been no invitation extended to President-Elect Lincoln to visit the city. Lincoln scholar Victor Searcher wrote: "Baltimorean civic pride was cut to the quick. A committee was formed to demand explanation of the President-elect for his unseemly conduct. Such reaction was normal and natural. They did not know the facts which, when fully revealed, disclosed the existence of a conspiracy of hotheaded radicals whose actions could precipitate widespread bloodshed, and who had direct designs on Lincoln's life....Following their failure to kill him, however, their course became unrestrained and in a few weeks they roamed city and countryside, burning and pillaging."6
Maryland was a divided state. Historian James M. McPherson wrote: "The tobacco counties of southern Maryland and the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay were secessionist. The grain-growing counties of northern and western Maryland, containing few slaves, were safe for the Union. But the loyalty of Baltimore, with a third of the state's population, was suspect. The mayor's unionism was barely tepid, and the police chief sympathized with the South. Confederate flags appeared on many city homes and buildings during the tense days after Sumter. The traditional role of mobs in Baltimore politics created a volatile situation. Only a spark was needed to ignite the states secessionists, such a spark hit the streets of Baltimore on April 19."7
Historian David Detzer not that "the city had long been famous, or infamous, for...an ugly tendency toward violence. Eruptions had often exploded during its colonial years. Perhaps it was Baltimore's heterogeneity. The fact that the city had welcomed Catholics may have resulted in antagonisms more than tolerance."8 The passage of Hamlin and Mr. Lincoln through Baltimore proved only a dress rehearsal for what greeted northern soldiers trying to transit through Baltimore two months later. On April 19, President Lincoln was informed by Governor Thomas H. Hicks that several soldiers from the 6th Massachusetts Regiment had been killed travelling through the city. A dozen local residents had also been killed in the confrontation. According to historian Edward G. Everett, "It was three o'clock in the morning of April 19 when the Sixth Massachusetts and the Pennsylvania troops left Philadelphia; by noon they reached Baltimore. Horses were hitched to the passenger cars, and they were driven to the Camden Street station. Nine cars loaded with men of the Sixth Massachusetts made the trip without incident, but as the tenth passenger car was coming over the Pratt Street bridge, some Baltimore plug-uglies piled stones and dumped sand on the track, and even dragged anchors from the Gay Street wharf, to block the passage of any other cars. The tenth car was forced to return to the President Street station. Here a council of war was called, and two alternatives were presented: the troops could either return to Philadelphia or march to the Camden Street station to entrain for Washington. The troops decided on the latter course, and as they marched out of the depot, the mob closed in, hurling stones and bricks. Fence posts provided the mob with additional weapons." The casualties included four Massachusetts soldiers and three Pennsylvania soldiers out of uniform. The unarmed Pennsylvania militia had also been travelling to Washington. According to Everett, "Mayor George William Brown of Baltimore and Marshal George P. Kane, Chief of Police, acted with great courage, getting themselves and the police between the soldiers and the mob, which did not attack the police."9
The city was in turmoil. The prospects of northern troops moving through Baltimore inflamed local residents even more than the passage of the President-elect had. Maryland officials including Mayor Brown and Governor Hicks sought to pacify the mob and prevent more troops from arriving. Hicks was a farmer who in 1857 had been elected Governor of Maryland as a Know Nothing. Historian David Detzer called Hicks a "political hack" who "found himself unexpectedly elected to Maryland's highest office. A chunky man, mentally sluggish and not overly courageous...[by] 1861 Governor Hicks's position had grown untenable, since his Know Nothing party had virtually dissolved, denying him any base of support."10 Hicks and Brown wired President Lincoln on April 18: "A collision between the citizens and the Northern troops has taken place in Baltimore, and the excitement is fearful. Send no troops here. We will endeavor to prevent all bloodshed. A public meeting of citizens has been called, and the troops of the State have been called out to preserve the peace. They will be enough."11
Hicks had supported Union Party candidate John Bell in 1860 and tried to maintain state's neutrality while keeping Maryland in the Union in early1861. Days before the firing on Fort Sumter, Hicks had met with President Lincoln. Mayor Brown and Governor Hicks conferred with Baltimore leaders on April 19. According to Lincoln biographer Josiah G. Holland, "Governor Hicks of Maryland and Mayor Brown of Baltimore were frightened. They did not wish to have any more troops taken through Baltimore. Mr. Lincoln assured them that he made no point of bringing troops through that city, and that he left the matter with General Scott, who had said in his presence that the troops might be marched around Baltimore. By this arrangement a collision with the people of Baltimore would be avoided, unless they should go out of the way to seek it. 'Now and ever,' said Mr. Lincoln, in closing a note to these gentlemen, 'I shall do all in my power for peace, consistently with the maintenance of the government."12 Brown convinced Hicks that the bridges to Baltimore from the north should be burned in order to prevent northern troops from transiting the city. A mob destroyed the bridges for them.
Although Governor Hicks mobilized the state militia, Baltimore remained in chaos. "Maryland flamed with passion," wrote historian James McPherson.13 Historian Everett wrote: "Mobs fired railroad stations and threw locomotives into the river. Somebody got off a message asking Jefferson Davis for Confederate troops to preserve the city's liberties. All communication with Havre-de-Grace [on the Chesapeake) was severed....Two days later a mob completed Baltimore isolation by cutting down the wires and telegraph poles on all lines which gave communication with the North. Washington had all telegraph lines down, with only the single Boston regiment and the five Pennsylvania companies at hand...briefly, Washington was cut off, and Baltimore was blazing with secession sentiment right across the path for help. Rumors permeated the nation's capital."14
In President Lincoln's response to Hicks and Brown on Saturday April 20, he asked the two Maryland leaders to confer with him in Washington: "Gov. Hicks, I desire to consult with you and the Mayor of Baltimore relative to preserving the peace of Maryland. Please come immediately by special train, which you can take at Baltimore, or if necessary one can be sent from hence. Answer forthwith."15 The subsequent meeting was "an extraordinary spectacle, this of the President of the United States and the general of its armies parleying with a mayor and suspending the right of national troops to march through his city to save Washington," wrote historian Allan Nevins.16 As Brown reported the meeting: "The President, upon his part, recognized the good faith of the city and State authorities, and insisted upon his own. He admitted the excited state of feeling in Baltimore, and his desire and duty to avoid the fatal consequences of a collision with the people. He urged, on the other hand, the absolute, irresistible necessity of having a transmit through the State for such troops as might be necessary for the protection of the Federal Capital. The protection of Washington, he asseverated with great earnestness, was the sole object of concentrating troops there; and he protested that none of the troops brought through Maryland were intended for any purposes hostile to the State, or aggressive as against the Southern States. Being now unable to ring them up the Potomac in security, the Government must either bring them through Maryland or abandon the capital.
He called on General Scott for his opinion, which the General gave at length, to the effect that troops might be brought through Maryland, without going through Baltimore, by either carrying them from Perrysville to Annapolis, and thence by rail to Washington, or by bringing them to the Relay House on the Northern Central Railroad, and marching them to the Relay House on the Washington Railroad, and then by rail to the Capital. If the people would permit them to go by either of those routes uninterruptedly, the necessity of their passing through Baltimore would be avoided. If the people would not permit them a transit thus remote from the city, they must select their own best route, and, if need be, fight their way through Baltimore -- a result which the General earnestly deprecated.
The President expressed his hearty concurrence in the desire to avoid a collision, and said that no more troops should be ordered through Baltimore, if they were permitted to go [un]interruptedly by either of the other routes suggested. In this disposition the Secretary of War [Simon Cameron] expressed his participation.
Mayor Brown assured the President that the city authorities would use all lawful means to prevent their citizens from leaving Baltimore to attack the troops in passing at a distance; but he urged, at the same time, the impossibility of their being able to promise any thing more than their best efforts in that direction. The excitement was great, he told the President; the people of all classes were fully aroused, and it was impossible for any one to answer for the consequences of the presence of Northern troops anywhere within our borders. He reminded the President; that the jurisdiction of the city authorities was confined to their own population, and that he could give no promises for the people elsewhere, because he would be unable to keep them if given. The President frankly acknowledged this difficulty, and said that the Government would only ask the city authorities to use their best efforts with respect to those under their jurisdiction.
The interview terminated with the distinct assurance, on the part of the President, that no more troops would be sent through Baltimore unless obstructed in their transmit in other directions, and with the understanding that the city authorities should do their best to restrain their own people.17
Historian Detzer wrote: "During that weekend Baltimore's leaders, having prevented further train travel from the north, took other drastic actions to isolate the city. They saw to it that telegraph wires going north were cut, this time effectively. The mail normally arriving by train from northern states was mostly interrupted because of the destruction of the bridges (though a few items like newspapers were brought in by wagon). On Saturday morning, several outsiders who seemed possible 'spies from the North' were arrested, and only released when it turned out they had been trapped in the city by the bridge destruction. To prevent a surprise naval raid by Yankee ships, the harbor buoys were hauled up."18
Complaints from Maryland residents became a regular feature of White House Life in the spring of 1861. On April 22, a group of nearly 30 residents of Baltimore visited the White House under the leadership of the Rev. Richard Fuller, a prominent Southern Baptist leader. According to Dr. Fuller, "We were at once & cordially received. I marked the President closely. Constitutionally genial & jovial, he is wholly inaccessible to Christian appeals -- & his egotism will forever prevent him comprehending what patriotism means." President Lincoln pressed the delegation for their recommendations. Dr. Fuller told the President he should "let the country know that you are disposed to recognize the independence of the Southern States. I say nothing of Secession; recognize the fact that they have formed a government of their own, that they will never be united again with the North, and peace will instantly take the place of anxiety and suspense, and war may be averted.19
Alexander K. McClure wrote: "President Lincoln replied, laughingly: 'If I grant this concession, you will be back tomorrow asking that no troops be marched 'around' it." The President was right. That afternoon, and again on Sunday and Monday, committees sought him, protesting that Maryland soil should not be 'polluted' by the feet of soldiers marching against the South. The President had but one reply: 'We must have troops, and as they can neither crawl under Maryland nor fly over it, they must come across it.'"20 As reported by the Baltimore Sun, "Dr. Fuller expressed very earnestly the hope that no more troops would be ordered over the soil of his State. He remarked that Maryland had shed her blood freely in the War of Independence, that she was the first to move the adoption of the constitution, and had only yielded her clinging attachment to the Union when the blood of her citizens had been shed by strangers on their way to a conflict with her sisters of the South."21
President Lincoln did not back down on his need for troops and the need for them to transit through Baltimore. "I'll tell you a story," President Lincoln said. "You have heard of the Irishman who, when a fellow was cutting his throat with a dull razor, complained that he haggled it. Now if I can't have troops direct through Maryland, and must have them all the way round by water, or marched across out-of-the way territory, I shall be haggled." 22 The President told the Baltimore delegation: "You, gentlemen, come here to me and ask for peace on any terms, and yet have no word of condemnation for those who are making war on us. You express great horror of bloodshed, and yet would not lay a straw in the way of those who are organizing in Virginia and elsewhere to capture this city. The rebels attack Fort Sumter, and your citizens attack troops sent to the defense of the Government, and the lives and property in Washington, and yet you would have me break my oath and surrender the Government without a blow. There is no Washington in that -- no Jackson in that -- no manhood nor honor in that. I have no desire to invade the South; but I must have troops to defend this Capital. Geographically it lies surrounded by the soil of Maryland; and mathematically the necessity exists that they should come over her territory. Our men are not moles, and can't dig under the earth; they are not birds, and can't fly through the air. There is no way but to march across, and that they must do. But in doing this there is no need of collision. Keep your rowdies in Baltimore, and there will be no bloodshed. Go home and tell your people that if they will not attack us, we will not attack them; but if they do attack us, we will return it, and that severely." 23
Meanwhile, Massachusetts General Benjamin Butler circumvented Baltimore. He came by ship to Annapolis on April 22 with his Massachusetts regiment. He was warned not to disembark by Governor Hicks who wanted no northern troops in his state, but Butler marched to his own drummer and marched his Massachusetts regiment to Washington along the railroad line, repairing it as he went. By April 25, his regiment and New York's Seventh Regiment were in Washington. According to historian Dean Sprague, "Although Baltimore remained untamed, troops continued landing every day at Annapolis and the sheer numbers of volunteers rushing to Washington began to overawe the little state of Maryland. Within a week, nearly 20,000 Union troops passed through Annapolis, a far cry from the few hundred who had gotten into trouble in Baltimore. The Union was beginning to show some muscle in Maryland." 24
"The reign of terror continued until April 24th," wrote historian Allan Nevins. "Hundreds of Unionists were driven from Baltimore, and thousands more fled." 25 Baltimore quickly quieted but Maryland politics did not. Governor Hicks worried that a slave rebellion was imminent. General Butler pledged to work "in suppressing most promptly and efficiently any insurrection against the laws of the State of Maryland." 26
Maryland attorney Reverdy Johnson wrote President Lincoln on April 22. After assuring the President of his loyalty to the Union, Johnson stated: "The existing excitement and alarm of the public mind of my own State and of Virginia, are owing, I have every reason to believe, to an apprehension that it is your purpose to use the military force you are assembling in this District for the invasion of, or other hostile attack upon, these States. In this apprehension, as you already know, I do not share; but that it is sincerely entertained by enlightened and patriotic citizens, I have no doubt."
It is all-important therefore, to present peace at least, that this misapprehension, if it be one, be corrected at the earliest moment. I think that I can use the fact that no such purpose is intended, and that your sole object is to use the force to accomplish your clear duty to defend the Seat of Government, and the property and authority of the Government, from attack from any quarter, so as greatly if not entirely to quiet the existing feeling, and restore the public peace, now so much threatened. This your duty is so clearly imperative, that I cannot doubt that its performance will receive the cheerful sanction of every intelligent and patriotic citizen; and these I am persuaded constitute a large majority of the people of Virginia & Maryland.
May I therefore be permitted most respectfully to inquire if your design is the apprehended one I have mentioned, or is not, on the contrary, exclusively to defend the Seat of Government. And I add with much pleasure, that if this last is your purpose, as I am sure it is, I think I know the feeling of my own State well enough to assure you that you will have no difficulty in rallying to the District as many of her people as you may deem necessary to accomplish that object.27
Two days later, Johnson again wrote President Lincoln, requesting answer to his first letter. Mr. Lincoln wrote Reverdy Johnson on April 24, 1861: "I do say the sole purpose of bringing troops here is to defend this capital....I have no purpose to invade Virginia or any other State, but I do not mean to let them invade us without striking back." 28 Mr. Lincoln wrote:
Your note of this morning is just received. I forebore to answer yours of the 22d because of my aversion (which I thought you understood,) to getting on paper, and furnishing new grounds for misunderstanding.
I do say the sole purpose of bringing troops here is to defend this capital.
I do say I have no purpose to invade Virginia, with them or any other troops, as I understand the word invasion. But suppose Virginia sends her troops, or admits other through her border, to assail this capital, am I not to repel them, even to the crossing of the Potomac if I can?
Suppose Virginia erects, or permits to be erected, batteries on the opposite shore, to bombard the city, are we to stand still and see it done? In a word, if Virginia strikes us, are we not to strike back, and as effectively as we can?
Again, are we not to hold Fort Monroe (for instance) if we can? I have no objection to declare a thousand times that I have no purpose to invade Virginia or any other State, but I do not mean to let them invade us without striking back. 29
Historian Robert J. Brugger wrote: "The Union or secession issues involved procedure that bogged down revolution and focused attention sharply on one man. If Maryland were to withdraw from the Union, the decision would require a convention elected for the purpose. Only the General Assembly could call such an election, and the legislature, convening every other year under the 1851 constitution, was not due to meet until 1862. Everyone watched to see whether the governor would call a special session." 30 On April 25 Mr. Lincoln wrote General Winfield Scott: "The Maryland Legislature assembles to-morrow at Anapolis; and, not improbably, will take action to arm the people of that State against the United States. The question has been submitted to, and considered, by me, whether it would not be justifiable, upon the ground of necessary defence, for you, as commander in Chief of the United States Army, to arrest, or disperse the members of that body. I think it would not be justifiable; nor, efficient for the desired object.
First, they have a clearly legal right to assemble; and, we can not know in advance, that their action will not be lawful, and peaceful. And if we wait until they shall have acted, their arrest, or dispersion, will not lessen the effect of their action.
Secondly, we can not permanently prevent their action. If we arrest them, we can not long hold them as prisoners; and when liberated, they will immediately re-assemble, and take their action. And, precisely the same if we simply disperse them. They will immediately re-assemble in some other place.
I therefore conclude that it is only left to the commanding General to watch, and await their action, which, if it shall be to arm their people against the United States, he is to adopt the most prompt, and efficient means to counteract, even, if necessary, to the bombardment of their cities -- and in the extremest necessity, the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. 31
Historian Philip Paludan wrote: "Rumors flourished that the Maryland legislature would arm the state to fight against the Union, and independently, some Marylanders organized local militia to fight for the Confederacy."32 Governor Hicks had decided to call the Maryland legislature into session on April 26 in Frederick to avoid Union troops who controlled Annapolis. Among those attending were ten secessionist Baltimore delegates who had recently been elected as replacements to legislative seats. Brugger noted that the "lawmakers would not be surrounded by Union troops but would sit in the midst of Union sympathizers." 33 Historian Hesseltine wrote: "Butler begged Lincoln to allow him 'to bag the whole nest of traitorous Maryland legislators,' but this was farther than the President was willing to go. Expecting trouble at Annapolis, Hicks instructed the legislators to meet in Frederick. There, he explained to them that the Baltimore riots were the acts of an irresponsible mob, and the legislators voted to approve the acts of Baltimore's city fathers in the emergency." 34 Historian Brugger wrote that "The Lincoln administration quietly planned every necessary measure, including 'the bombardment of their cities,' should legislators vote to arm against the Union."35
"On April 27 and 28 the Assembly declared that it had no constitutional authority to take any action leading to secession. In the Senate the vote was unanimous, and the House of Delegates the majority was more than four to one," wrote historian Harold R. Manakee. "On May 10 the lawmaking body of the state issued a more detailed statement, protesting the war as unconstitutional and unjust. It called upon the people of Maryland to work for peace between North and South, and declared that the state would have no part in the war. It asked for the recognition of the Confederate States as an independent nation, and protested against military occupation of Maryland as a violation of the Constitution. Finally, it stated that any move to organize and arm the state militia, or to call a state convention to vote on secession would be unwise." 36
Butler "believed that the protest about seizing the railroad was to get an excuse for making that change of place of meeting without giving the true reason. I am convinced that from the hour of my announcement of my purpose to so use the troops in keeping the peace, Maryland was as firmly a loyal State as any in the Union, so that I congratulated myself on the good effect of my announcement to the people of that State that the United States troops, and especially the troops of antislavery Massachusetts, had not come to Maryland to inaugurate a servile war or to promote negro insurrection." 37
"Unquestionably," wrote historian Lawrence M. Denton, the aggressive actions of the federal military in Maryland during late April and early May had a profound impact on the members of the legislature. The occupation of the state by the federal military simply overawed the pro-southern majority while at the same time it encouraged and emboldened the Unionist minority. Resolutions -- words of condemnation -- were the order of the day, whereas action -- a vote on secession -- was not." 38 Denton maintained: "The secession movement in Maryland probably would have been successful if Marylanders had been free to choose, because a majority of her people favored the South. An even larger majority opposed the North, Lincoln's policies, and the Republican Party." 39 But the military force changed the civil situation -- just as it changed the military one. Historian Allan Nevins wrote: "Before the end of April, Fort McHenry had been heavily reinforced, Fort Morris Garrisoned, and gangs of men put to work restoring the railway bridges." 40
Complaining delegates from Washington continued to visit the White House. On Saturday, May 4, John Hay wrote in his diary: "The Maryland Disunionists, that branch of them represented by Bob McLane called today upon the President. They roared as gently as there any nightingale. The only point they particularly desired to press was that there was no special necessity at present existing for the armed occupation of Maryland. That it would irritate and inflame. Still they admitted that the right of the Government to occupy the City and State was undeniable: That the people were on the side of the Union: a majority unconditionally and a majority of the minority favorably inclined, while nearly all were for avoiding any conflict with the federal authorities. They also implored the President not to act in any spirit of revenge for the murdered soldiers. The President coolly replied that he never acted from any such impulse & as to their other views he should take them into consideration and should decline giving them any answer at present." Mr. Lincoln said "he never acted from any such impulse and as to their other views he should take them into consideration and should decline giving them any answer at present."41
But with the presence of Union soldiers, noted historian James M. McPherson, "Indigenous Maryland unionism began to assert itself." 42 Governor Hicks began to cooperate with the Lincoln Administration. "Relying on the support of the federal government, he parted company with his legislature, deprived the state militia of its arms, and refused to answer legislative queries about his acts," wrote historian William B. Hesseltine. 43 On May 8, Governor Hicks wrote President Lincoln: "I deem it to be my duty to inform you that the Virginia troops at and near Harper's Ferry have seized Canal Boats laden with produce destined for Washington and Georgetown; have planted batteries at important positions in the neighborhood; and have grossly violated the rights and injured the property of citizens of Maryland.
I also deem it my duty to apprise you that I am unofficially informed that a certain Tench Tilghman, of Oxford, Talbot county, Maryland, has seized upon the United States Custom House at Oxford, in this State, and refuses to give possession thereof to the person recently appointed by you to perform the duties of collector at that Port.
I suggest, in reference to this, that the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland be directed by you to inquire into the matter, and institute such proceedings as may lead to the punishment of the offender.
In regard to the aggressions of the Virginia troops, I trust your Excellency will take such prompt steps as will effectually prevent their recurrence. 44
General Butler interpreted orders from General Winfield Scott as authorizing him to retake Baltimore on May 13. He arrived in the middle of the night in the middle of a thunderstorm and retook the city without bloodshed. Butler encountered no resistance in retaking the city and seized the city's arms cache without opposition. Caches of weapons held by city authorities were seized. Scott was infuriated and wrote Butler: "Your hazardous occupation of Baltimore was made without my knowledge, and, of course, without my approbation. It is a godsend that it is without conflict of arms. It is also reported that you have sent a detachment to Frederick; but this is impossible. Not a word have I received from you as to either movement. Let me hear from you." 45
Butler wrote in his memoirs: "It is but fair for me to say that I had the strongest possible suspicion that if I asked General Scott for orders to occupy Baltimore he would refuse them, saying that men enough could not be spared from the defence of Washington to make the movement, and that he was waiting for more men. Now I believed and knew, and it so turned out, that it was comparatively as easy to capture Baltimore as it was to capture my supper. I knew it, but Scott did not. Was I not justified in acting upon my knowledge? I agree that the expedition was called hazardous by the know-nothings and timid ones, and it has been said it was undertaken in a spirit of 'bravado,' as say Messrs. Nicolay and Hay in their Life of Lincoln, and that it was so looked upon by all those who did not know what they were talking and writing about; but I did know." 46
Butler, however, came into conflict with the Union army's commander, Winfield Scott, because he acted without orders. Scott biographer John Eisenhower wrote: "The people of Baltimore were justly incensed at this insult, so Scott quickly sent Butler a message of rebuke and acted to remove him from direct command of his brigade. But realizing that Butler was a popular figure -- and important to Lincoln as a strong pro-Union Democrat -- [Scott] proposed placing the general in command of Fort Monroe. At the same time, he promised Butler a promotion to the grade of major general. At first Butler refused the assignment, considering the command of a mere fortress to be in fact a demotion. He stomped into Scott's headquarters, had a severe confrontation with the general-in-chief, went back to his quarters, and burst into tears." 47 President Lincoln backed up General Scott and Butler was duly transferred to command the grandiosely-titled "Department of Virginia, North and South Carolina." Butler was a useful personage for the Lincoln Administration because he was a Democrat who had supported Breckinridge in 1860 and who moreover had proven his ability to get things done.
On April 27, President Lincoln had written General Scott, this time to authorize suspension of habeas corpus in Maryland: "You are engaged in repressing an insurrection against the laws of the United States. If at any point on or in the vicinity of the [any] military line, which is now [or which shall be] used between the City Philadelphia and the City of Washington, via Perryville, Annapolis City, and Annapolis Junction, you find resistance which renders it necessary to suspend the writ of Habeas Corpus for the public safety, you, personally or through the officer in command at the point where the [at which] resistance occurs, are authorized to suspend that writ." 48
"The writ [of habeas corpus] at the Civil War's beginning had a minuscule history. There were few federal crimes and hence few occasions to use it in federal courts; state judges, often elected, sued the writ infrequently. When it was discussed most Americans probably recalled the outcry of abolitionists when fugitive slave laws denied alleged runaways access to it," wrote historian Philip Paludan. "Action was imperative, however, as Baltimore demonstration. Throughout the nation the possibility for similar disloyalty was woven into demography and politics."49 The Lincoln Administration engaged in an essential act of self-preservation -- seeking to differentiate between loyal and disloyal citizens. Many Marylanders were actively secessionist, noted historian Barbara Jeanne Fields: "Men, supplies, and munitions intended for the rebels passed freely in the vicinity, on their way to rendezvous at Point of Rocks and Harper's Ferry." 50
Two Maryland residents took important roles in spotlighting the government's decision to deal swiftly with those working to destroy that government. One was Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. The other was John Merryman, a rich planter with strong secessionist instincts -- on which he took an active leadership roles as leader of secession militia. Historian Allan Nevins wrote that: "Merryman, who had been drilling some secessionist volunteers near Cockeysville, Maryland, and preaching rebel doctrines, had been arrested May 25, 1861, by General George Cadwalader, and thrown into Fort McHenry. He petitioned Chief Justice Taney, sitting as Federal Circuit Judge, for a writ ordering the general to bring him into court for a hearing. Taney issued the writ, and Cadwalader at once refused to obey it. Thereupon Taney sent a marshal to serve the commander with a citation for contempt of court. The officer, who expected this, ordered men with bayonets to prevent entrance to the fort. The helpless Taney could only prepare a written statement denying the constitutional right of the President to suspend the writ, file it in the Circuit Court, and send a copy to Lincoln, calling upon him to perform his constitutional duty by seeing that the civil process of the nation was enforced; whereupon Lincoln's obtained the Attorney-General's opinion that his suspension order had been quite correct."
It was a major legal confrontation between the Maryland-born chief justice and the Kentucky-born President to which Taney sought to attract as much public attention and support as possible. Taney worked swiftly to hear Ferryman's petition, issue his writ of habeas corpus, order to the appearance of General Cadwalader and then issued a far-reaching legal decision. The Lincoln Administration effectively ignored him and his agent, Marshal Washington Bonifant, who was turned away at the entrance to Fort McHenry. In his decision, Chief Justice Taney wrote:
"The case, then, is simply this, a military officer, residing in Pennsylvania, issues an order to arrest a citizen of Maryland, upon vague and indefinite charges, without any proof, so far as appears; under this order, his house is entered in the night, he is seized as a prisoner, and conveyed to Fort McHenry, and there is kept in close confinement; and when a habeas corpus is served on t he commanding officer, requiring him to produce the prisoner before a justice of the Supreme Court, in order that he may examine into the legality of the imprisonment, the answer of the officer is, that he is authorized by the president to suspend the write of habeas corpus at his discretion, and in the exercise of that discretion, suspends it in this case, and on that ground refuses obedience to the write....If the authority which the Constitution has confided to the judiciary department and judicial officers, may thus, upon any pretext or under any circumstances, be usurped by the military power at its discretion, the people of the United States no longer living under a government of laws, but every citizen holds life, liberty and property at the will and pleasure of the army officer in whose military district he may happen to be found.52
Legal scholar James F. Simon wrote: "No wartime U.S. president has ever accepted the impotent constitutional role that Taney assigned to Lincoln." 53 According to Simon. "Taney systematically reduced the president's constitutional powers to Lilliputian proportions. Here Taney displayed the artistry of a partisan trial lawyer than the detachment of a judge. His interpretation was starkly at odds with Taney's own reading of presidential power when he had been President Jackson's Attorney General." But, noted historian James G. Randall, "It was not the Supreme Court, but Chief Justice Taney in his capacity as circuit justice, hearing the Merryman petition in chambers, who declared the President's suspension of the habeas corpus privilege to be illegal. His opinion did not become controlling law; it did not even control the Merryman case. In an unpublished and confidential memorandum to Stanton, Attorney General Bates expressed the fear that, if the legality of the President's suspension were brought up in a test case, the Supreme Court would declare against the power assumed by the President; but the issue was never forced."54
Taney had his supporters in his home state. "Many Marylanders, some northern sympathizers among them, were outraged by President Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. They claimed that, according to the Constitution, such action was not a presidential power, but a right of Congress," wrote historian Howard R. Manakee. .55 Taney's challenge met with their approval. Taney, however, clearly wanted to open judicial war on President Lincoln. James F. Simon wrote: "Taney's rigid demeanor in court and his single-minded opinion directing Lincoln to obey his order left no doubt that the Chief Justice was intent on forcing a showdown with the president. Once he had written his opinion, he did all in his power to draw attention to it. Without waiting for a response from Lincoln, he made his opinion available to the public. It was published in newspapers and journals throughout the country and, with Taney's encouragement, printed as a pamphlet."56 Historian James G. Randall note that "the process of judicial protection and civil procedure were actually complied with -- not immediately nor by honoring the Chief Justice's writ, but within a fairly short time after the prisoner was seized. There was nothing done judicially to punish him, and this fact gives some point to the contention of the Lincoln administration that the courts were too slow and clumsy for handling the dangerous situation."57
Historian David M. Silver wrote: "In midsummer, 1861, Attorney General Bates sent an order of Secretary of War Simon Cameron to the United States district attorney at Baltimore, William M. Addison. It directed the military authorities at Fort McHenry to deliver Merryman to the marshal of the district court if the marshal were properly equipped with a warrant for his arrest on the charge of treason. Merryman was subsequently indicted for treason and his case remitted in November, 1861, to the United States circuit court for Maryland. He was required to put up the sum of $20,000 as a guarantee that he would not renew anti-Union activities. The case went no further; it was continued by the court and ultimately dropped. This was typical of the treatment accorded such cases by the Lincoln administration. When Merryman was no longer capable of harming the Union, Lincoln, who sought no tyranny, gladly washed his hands of the Merryman controversy."58
By a 2-1 margin, young Maryland recruits chose the Union over the Confederate army, but the state was pockmarked by Confederate sympathizers and supporters. Historian Sprague noted that after taking the initiative after Fort Sumter, the secession movement in Maryland began to fall apart. "A combination of political, economic and military factors very quickly wrenched control of Maryland from the secessionists and turned the state back into the arms of the Union."59 Sprague wrote: "As the mood in Baltimore changed, the federal government began repairing the bridges. It was found that their foundations had not been damaged and before the middle of May, the railroads from Philadelphia and Harrisburg were both ready for use." Slavery's importance in Maryland had been steadily dropping in the 19th century. Sprague wrote: "Amidst all the excitement and gaety immediately after the Battle of Baltimore, nobody had worried about Baltimore's trade. But by the end of the first week, the city began to realize what a crippling blow it had dealt itself in burning the bridges. Baltimore was a trading center and its trade was gone. Not only were there no trains, but the ships had left the harbor right after the rioting and had not returned."60 Nevins wrote that "the mob outbreak and flight of citizens caused a collapse of rents, realty prices, tax receipts and trade."61
The Lincoln Administration won a series of small but important electoral victories in the summer of 1861. Unionists were sent to Congress but Henry May defeated Henry Winter Davis for a Baltimore congressional seat on June 13. Lincoln critic William Marvel argued: "Aside from the implied intimidation of the nearby encampments, the June election passed without active military interference -- unlike the rest of Maryland's elections during this war -- and in that last relatively free plebiscite, Union candidates of one stripe or another own every congressional seat and most other offices. These results should have offered more assurance that Maryland posed no threat of secession." Nevertheless, there were secessionist plots and there were rumors of secessionist plots. Marvel attributes many of the rumors to Worthing G. Snethen, who reported from Baltimore for the New York Tribune, and who wrote that Baltimore continued to be a hotbed of secession plotting. Marvel argues that federal authorities overestimated secessionist activity in Maryland and overreacted in suppressing it. "In Maryland the imprisonment of potentially dissident legislators and the shadow of bayonets over the ballot box suggested ultimate mistrust in the democratic process, notwithstanding Lincoln's later tribute to government of, by, and for the people."64
"Over the summer of 1861 the hand of the federal government fell firmly on the shoulders of Marylanders," wrote historian Robert Brugger.65 Federal officials and officers were taking no chances with a repeat of April's chaos. After the reassignment of General Butler, General Nathaniel Banks and General John A. Dix shared responsibility for the state. Historian David Detzer wrote: 'Between late April and early September, Maryland came beneath increasing military pressure. Hundreds of individual were imprisoned on suspicion of having secessionist sympathies....During the Civil War federal authorities would eventually jail 2,094 Marylanders -- including seventeen owners of newspapers, twenty-nine elected members of the state legislature, countless bankers, merchants, and manufacturers -- for such political reasons."66
As historian William E. Gienapp wrote: "Lincoln's policies in Maryland resembled the proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove."67 There was a continuing effort to subdue disloyal element in Baltimore -- including public officials and journalists suspected of disloyalty. Generally, they were kept in custody until a perceived crisis was past and then released. On July 1, General Nathaniel P. Banks wired that he had arrested the Baltimore police board, including George P. Pane, the police chief. Military authorities tried to exercise discretion in the suppression of secession in Maryland. Historian Robert J. Brugger wrote that General John A. "Dix's rule, like Lincoln's presidency, exhibited some latitude and humanity under the circumstances. Dix demanded proof of a persons' alleged disloyalty and discharged some prisoners on insufficient evidence. He advised Union troops not to assume that Marylanders carrying shotguns on a 'sporting excursion' were rebel soldiers."68 At the end of August, Dix wrote Postmaster General Blair after publication of the Baltimore Exchange had been suspended on orders from Washington: "There is no doubt that a majority of the Union men in Baltimore desire the suppression of all the opposition presses in the city but there are many -- and among them some of the most discreet -- who think differently.. The city is now very quiet and under control though my force is smaller than I asked."69
Historian Dean Sprague wrote: "During August, Congressman Henry May of Baltimore had a party for Senator John C. Breckinridge, who had not yet joined the Confederacy, and Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio, a man of brilliant oratory who was completely opposed to the war. During the visit. Breckinridge tried to give a speech from the balcony of Eutaw House, but the crowd in the street was split between Southern Sympathizers and Union men and there was so much shouting, cheering and booing that he could not be heard. A few days later, General Dix issued an order that any person who made a public demonstration 'by word or deed' in favor of the Confederate Government was to be arrested."70 Dix later contended: "A city so prone to burst out into flame and thus become dangerous to its neighbors, should be controlled by the strong arm of the government wherever these paroxysms of excitement occur."71 On September 4, Dix reported to General McClellan: "No secession flag has to the knowledge of the police been exhibited in Baltimore for many weeks, except a small paper flag displayed by a child from an upper window It was immediately removed by them. They have been instructed to arrest any person who makes a public demonstration by word or deed in favor of the Confederate Government and I have prohibited the exhibition in shop windows of rebel envelopes and music."72
Dix wanted enough force to discourage disloyalty without the necessity to use that force in an intrusive way. In late September 1861, Dix instructed a subordinate in Baltimore: "I do not wish any searches made in private dwellings by the military. I prefer it should be done by the police."73 Historian Sprague thought the threats overblown. He wrote: "Of all the events that occurred in the Civil War, none is more remarkable than the absolute certainty with which everyone in the North, from the highest officials down to the most lowly newspaper reader, confidently expected an invasion of Maryland, an uprising in Baltimore, and an attack upon Washington in September, 1861. This was the cloud behind which every action was taken in Maryland, and it prompted many things to be done that would never have been done otherwise." He wrote: "And so panic spread throughout the Administration to President Lincoln and a review was made of the situation to see whether the Maryland legislature should be suppressed. This legislature had met in Frederick immediately after the Battle of Bull Run and even then, with the Confederate army triumphant, no secession move mad been proposed."74
On the other hand, noted historian Lawrence M. Denton wrote: "Maryland newspapers carried reports from towns all over the state of public meetings favoring secession. Lincoln's people, especially the military commanders and spies, read these with growing consternation. In addition, the administration received reports from its commanders in the field that secessionist military units were still drilling throughout Maryland. They also received secret reports regarding the leanings of members of the legislature."75
The Maryland legislature had adjourned in Frederick at the beginning of August intending to reconvene in mid-September. Secretary of War Simon Cameron wrote General Banks on September 11: "The passage of any act of secession by the legislature of Maryland must be prevented. If necessary, all or any part of the members must be arrested. Exercise your own judgment as to the time and manner, but do the work effectively."76 On September 17, General Banks reported that "all 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." Historian James G. Randall questioned whether the arrests were wise or necessary but acknowledged the political situation shifted: "Men of the time felt that a hands-off policy of gentleness and of full freedom as in peace time for dangerous plotters was not among the methods practically open to them. Use of stern measures, they felt, was their only choice. Secessionists themselves were none too scrupulous about full democracy."77
Somewhat surprisingly, Hicks supported these arrests, writing Banks, "We can no longer mince matters with these desperate people. I concur in all you have done."78 But he had begun to shift his political allegiances in the spring. Historian Lawrence M. Denton wrote: "By the end of May, Governor Hicks, with federal regiments nearly in control of the state, took some bold steps to align himself with the Lincoln administration. On May 30, he ordered all state arms to be seized and turned over to federal....the Maryland military was predominantly pro-Southern and Hicks, knowing who had won the game in Maryland, moved to demonstrate this commitment to the national government."79
Decades later, Frederick W. Seward recalled that President Lincoln, Secretary of State Seward and General George B. McClellan met with General Banks in Rockville about the upcoming meeting in Maryland State legislature scheduled for September 17 and the prospects that he might authorize the state's secession. Preventative measures were authorized:
The Secessionists had by no means given up the hope of dragging Maryland into the Confederacy. The Legislature was to meet at Frederick City on the 17th of September. There was believed to be a disunion majority, and they expected and intended to pass an ordinance of secession. This would be regarded as a call to active revolt by many who were now submitting to Federal rule. In Baltimore and throughout Maryland the bloody experiences of Virginia and Missouri would probably be repeated. Governor Hicks was a loyal Union man, but would be unable to control the Legislature. The Union members were understood to be divided in opinion as to the expedience of going to Frederick to fight the proposed ordinance, or staying away, in the hope of blocking a quorum.
The Administration, therefore, had decided to take a bold step that would assuredly prevent the adoption of any such ordinance. To forcibly prevent a legislative body from exercising its functions, of course, saviors of despotism, and is generally so regarded. But when, departing form its legitimate functions, it invites the public enemy to plunge the State into anarchy, its dissolution becomes commendable. So the Administration reasoned and decided.
As few persons as possible would be informed beforehand. General Dix and General Banks, commanding respectively the eastern and western portions of the State, were instructed to carefully watch the movements of members of the Legislature who were expected to respond to the summons to Frederick. Loyal Union members would not be interfered with. They would be free to come and go, perform their legislative duties, or stay away, just as they pleased. But disunion members starting to go there would be quietly turned back toward their homes, and would not reach Frederick City at all. The views of each disunion member were pretty well known, and generally rather loudly proclaimed. So there would be little difficulty, as Mr. Lincoln remarked, in 'separating the sheep from the goats.'"80
Lincoln biographer Isaac N. Arnold wrote: "In September 1861, information was communicated to the government that the Legislature of Maryland was to meet, with a view of passing an act of secession. General McClellan was directed to prevent this by the arrest of the members. His order to General Banks, dated September 12th, 1861, says, among other things: 'When they meet on the 17th, you will please have everything prepared to arrest the whole party and be sure that none escape...If successfully carried out, it will go far towards breaking the backbone of the rebellion....I have but one thing to impress upon you, the absolute necessity of secrecy and success.'"81 McClellan wrote in his memoirs: "Information from various sources received in Aug. and Sept. 1861, convinced the government that there was serious danger of the secession of Maryland.
The secessionists possessed about two-thirds of each branch of the State legislature, and the general government had what it regarded as good reasons for believing that a secret, extra, and illegal session of the legislature was about to be convened at Frederick on the 17th of Sept. in order to pass an ordinance of secession. It was understood that this action was to be supported by an advance of the Southern army across the Potomac....It was impossible to permit the secession of Maryland, intervening, as it did, between the capital and the loyal States, and commanding all our lines of supply and reinforcement. I do not know how the government obtained the information on which they reached their conclusions. I do not know how reliable it was. I only know that at the time it seemed more than probable, and that ordinary prudence required that it should be regarded as certain. So that when I received the orders for the arrest of the most active members of the legislature, for the purpose of preventing the intended meeting and the passage of the act of secession, I gave that order a most full and hearty support as a measure of undoubted military necessity.
On the 10th of Sept. Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, instructed Gen. Banks to prevent the passage of any act of secession by the Maryland legislature, directing him to arrest all or any number of the members, if necessary, but in any event to do the work effectively.
On the same day the Secretary of War instructed Gen. Dix to arrest six conspicuous and active secessionists of Baltimore, three of whom were members of the legislature.
The total number of arrests made was about sixteen, and the result was the thorough upsetting of whatever plans the secessionists of Maryland may have entertained. It is needless to say that the arrested parties were ultimately released, and were kindly treated while imprisoned. Their arrest was a military necessity, and they had no cause of complaint. In fact, they might with justice have received much more severe treatment than they did.82
Among those arrested early on September 13 on orders from General Dix were Mayor Brown and Congressman May as well as the managers of several pro-secession newspapers. They were imprisoned in Fort McHenry in Baltimore's harbor. New York Tribune correspondent Worthing G. Snethen rejoiced at the arrests and the suppression of disloyal newspapers, writing to Secretary of State Seward: "I thank you in the name of every truly [sic] man in Baltimore and in my own poor name too for your arrest of the traitors whom you have sent to Fortress Monroe. A great and a good work has been done. Rebellion has received a staggering blow. I hope General Banks will take care that the Legislature shall not sit at all. There are thin-skinned Union men enough who will seek to get a quorum for the sake of the $4 1 day."83
Seward recalled that as the date of the meeting approached in mid-September, "it was found that no only was no secession ordinance likely to be adopted, but that there seemed to be no Secessionists to present one. The two generals had carried out their instructions faithfully, and with tact and discretion. The Union members returned to their homes rejoicing. No ordinance was adopted, Baltimore remained quiet, and Maryland stayed in the Union."84
Historian Christopher Dell wrote: "On September 18, a majority report was submitted to the Maryland State Assembly by Chairman S. Teakle Wallace of the Committee on Federal Relations, taking strong ground against the Union cause and against the doctrine of military necessity as a basis in suspension of certain civil liberties. On orders from General McClellan, General Dix moved against the legislature, September 18, with the object of arresting every member favoring the report. When the action was opposed by the officers of the Assembly and the State Senate they were also arrested.'85
Historian Mark E. Neely, Jr. discredits reports that President Lincoln ordered the Baltimore and legislative arrests: "It is possible that Seward instigated the arrests, perhaps on the strength of detectives' reports of the intentions of some Maryland political leaders. Neither the victim of the arrests 'S. Teackle Wallis -- nor Lincoln's political foe -- McClellan -- implicated the president in the planning. And for his part, Frederick Seward, who was hazy on the details, certainly had an interest in laying responsibility for the plan on his father's superior rather than on his father. If William H. Seward did cause the arrests of the Maryland legislators, it was an action fully in keeping with his reputation for ruthless suppression of civil liberties during the Civil War."86
John W. Davis, former Baltimore police commissioner, wrote to President Lincoln about his arrest on July 1 with the entire Baltimore police board, and his subsequent imprisonment at Fort McHenry. On or about September 15, President Lincoln wrote out a reply to Davis in the third person: "The President has read this letter; and he deeply commiserates [sic] the condition of any one so distressed as the writer seems to be. He does not know Mr. Davis -- only knows him to be one of the arrested Police Commissioners of Baltimore because he says so in this letter. Assuming him to be one of those Commissioners, the President understands Mr. Davis could at the time of his arrest, could at any time since, and can now, be released by taking a full oath of allegiance to the Government of the United States; and that Mr. Davis has not been kept in ignorance of this condition of release. If Mr. Davis is still so hostile to the Government, and so determined to aid its' enemies in destroying it, he makes his own choice."87
About the same time, Mr. Lincoln issued a public statement: "The public safety renders it necessary that the grounds of these arrests should at present be withheld, but at the proper time they will be made public. Of one thing the people of Maryland may rest assured: that no arrest has been made, or will be made, not based on substantial and unmistakable complicity with those in armed rebellion against the Government of the United States. In no case has an arrest been made on mere suspicion, or through personal or partisan animosities, but in all cases the Government is in possession of tangible and unmistakable evidence, which will, when made public, be satisfactory to every loyal citizen."88
Davis wrote again to President Lincoln on September 21: "I had the honor to address you on the 11th inst. in reference to my continued imprisonment here. I did not ask for my release; but I made an appeal to your Excellency on the grounds of humanity, to order my removal to some other place of detention, at which I might have the privilege, which is not denied to condemned felons of the deepest criminality; that of occasionally seeing my wife and children."
On the 18th my letter was returned to me by the officer in command of this Post, with an endorsement upon it without signature, date, or place, but I presume authorized by you, stating that your Excellency had read it, and that you deeply commiserated the condition of one so distressed as the writer seemed to be, -- It further stated that "the President understands Mr. Davis could at the time of his arrest, could at any time since, and can now be released by taking a full oath of allegiance to the government of the United States, and that Mr. Davis has not been kept in ignorance of this condition of release.-- If Mr. Davis is still so hostile to the government, and so determined to aid its enemies in destroying it, -- he makes his own choice."
Allow me Sir, respectfully to say, that your Excellency has been somewhat misinformed, -- I aver most positively that neither previous to, nor at the time of my arrest was I informed that I could avoid imprisonment by taking an oath of allegiance, or by complying with any other condition, nor has any such intimation been ever given to me, before the return to me of my letter on the 18th inst, except that once at Fort McHenry, some two weeks after my arrest, Col. Morris remarked in a conversation which I considered entirely jocular, and to which I paid no serious attention, that if I chose to take the oath of allegiance, I might obtain my liberty.
It would be out of place for me to say anything to your Excellency upon the general question of the policy adopted by the Government of prescribing an oath of allegiance, as a condition of their release from imprisonment, to citizens of the United States, not holding any office under the Government, and who have been arrested and are detained as "State Prisoners" on no specified allegations of offense, ever made known to them. But Sir, in justice to myself you will I hope permit me to say, that it does not seem just, to infer, if I shall hesitate or even decline to take a "full oath of allegiance to the government of the U. S." that I am either hostile to the government, or that I am even disposed, still less determined, in any way to aid its enemies in destroying it.
I have in fact never done any act either of hostility to the Government, or designed to aid its enemies in destroying it. -- But with regard to taking an unqualified oath of allegiance to it, your Excellency may perhaps not be aware of the peculiar phraseology of the oath prescribed by the Constitution of my native State of Maryland, adopted in 1850, and of course without reference to, or any anticipation of the present troubles.-- As one of the Police Commissioners of Baltimore, I was by Law expressly required to take, and I feel it to be still binding upon me.-- The language of it is, (I write from memory, but I am satisfied correctly) that "I will support the Constitution and Laws of the United States; and that I will be faithful, and bear true allegiance to the State of Maryland, and will support the Constitution and Laws thereof." Without pretending to enter into any argument I appeal confidently to your Excellency to judge whether you cannot believe that a conscientious man who duly regards the solemn and binding force of an oath, may not have some scruples, however ill founded they might appear to others, in taking an absolute and unqualified oath of allegiance even to the United States and the Government of the same, whilst the previous oath above referred to, voluntarily taken in pursuance of Law, still remains uncancelled against him, on the records of Divine and human tribunals.
Moreover Sir, and independent of all other considerations I would not like to obtain my liberty now, by taking the oath of allegiance for the following reasons.-- I have since the 1st day of July last, been kept in custody, by the orders of the Government,-- the Grand Jury of the U. S. Court were in constant session for some weeks after my arrest, but found no grounds for preferring any charge against me; but notwithstanding this, and altho' so far as I am aware, no other attempt has been made to investigate my case, I have been denounced throughout the land as a criminal, and there is perhaps scarcely a newspaper in the country in which my name has not been published as such. Now Sir, the dearest if not the only heritage I may have to leave to my children will by my name unsullied, and reputation unblemished, to clear these from every thing like a stain, I now chiefly and most earnestly desire a full and fair examination of my past conduct, and an investigation of every charge that can be brought against me. If I cannot obtain this the least justice that can be rendered to me, would in my humble apprehension, be my free, honorable, and unconditional release.-- For, Sir, it does seem to me, that if after an imprisonment of nearly three months, I were to procure my release by taking an oath in reference to my future conduct, my compliance with that, as with any other condition whatever, might perhaps be construed into an admission by me that something in my past life, justified the imposition of such an obligation upon me. As I am not conscious of ever having committed an illegal act against the Government, or of having given it any just cause of complaint against me, I naturally feel averse to subjecting myself to any such imputation. With the foregoing statement of facts I beg that you will at least, grant me the favor sought for in my former communication, for which I shall be truly thankful.89
Union officials were also worried about the upcoming election when a successor to Governor Hicks and a new legislature would be chosen. Unionist Augustus W. Bradford faced States Rights candidate Benjamin C. Howard in the gubernatorial contest . Historian Harold Manakee wrote that "military authorities determined that only those loyal to the Union should have the right to vote. The former names of political parties disappeared. Those citizens, most of them Republicans, who favored continuing the war now called themselves the Union Party. Southern sympathizers, those believing in states' rights and others organized the Peace Party."90 Union troops were furloughed so they could vote. General McClellan also ordered General Banks and General Dix to be sure that Union soldiers were deployed on election day to make sure that Union loyalists were not discouraged by secessionists. Provost marshals were deployed at the polls. With this strong use of military force, the election went off relatively quietly; Bradford and Unionist legislative candidates triumphed easily. In mid-November 1861, President Lincoln replied to a delegation of Baltimore citizens: "I thank you for the address you have presented to me in behalf of the people of Baltimore. I have deplored the calamities which the sympathies of some misguided citizens of Maryland had brought down upon that patriotic and heretofore flourishing State. The prosperity of Baltimore up to the 19th of April last, was one of the wonders produced by the American Union. He who strangles himself, for whatever motive, is not more unreasonable than were those citizens of Baltimore who, in a single night, destroyed the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the Northern Pennsylvania Railroad, and the railroad from Baltimore to Philadelphia. From the day when that mad transactions occurred, the Government of the United States has been diligently engaged in endeavoring to restore those great avenues to their former usefulness, and, at the time, to save Baltimore and Maryland from the danger of complete ruin through an unnecessary and unnatural rebellion.
I congratulate you upon the declaration which the people of Baltimore and Maryland have made in the recent election, of their recent approbation of the Federal Government, and of their enduring loyalty to the Union. I regard the results of these elections as auspicious of returning loyalty throughout all the insurrectionary States.
Your wishes for a fair participation by the mechanics and laboring men of Baltimore in the benefits of supplying the Government with materials and provisions are reasonable and just. They have deserved that participation. Loyalty has involved them in some danger, and has demanded of them some sacrifices. Their wishes, as you have communicated them, shall be referred to the proper Departments, and I am sure that every member of the Administration will cheerfully lend his aid to carry them out so far as it can be done consistently with the prudence and economy which ought always to regulate the public service.91
In his annual message to Congress on December 3, 1861, Mr. Lincoln reported: "The insurgents confidently claimed a strong support from north of Mason and Dixon's line; and the friends of the Union were not free from apprehension on the point. This, however, was soon settled definitely and on the right side, South of the line, noble little Delaware led off right from the first. Maryland was made to seem against the Union. Our soldiers were assaulted, bridges were burned, and railroads torn up, within her limits; and we were many days, at one time, without the ability to bring a single regiment over her soil to the capital. Now, her bridges and railroads are repaired and open to the government; she already gives seven regiments to the cause of the Union and none to the enemy; and her people, at a regular election, have sustained the Union, by a larger majority, and a larger aggregate vote than they ever before gave to any candidate, or any question.92
Mr. Lincoln contrived to seek a balance between public order and private liberties in Maryland. At one point at the beginning of 1862, Mr. Lincoln drafted but did not issue a proclamation to the People of Maryland: "In view of the recent declaration of the people of Maryland of their adhesion to the Union so distinctly made in their recent election [November 6, 1861], the President directs that all the political prisoners who having heretofore been arrested in that State are now detained in military custody by the President's authority be released from their imprisonment on the following conditions, namely: That if they were holding any civil or military offices when arrested the terms of which have not expired they shall not resume or reclaim such offices; and secondly, all persons availing themselves of this proclamation shall engage by oath or parole of honor to maintain the Union and the Constitution of the United States, and in no way to aid or abet by arms, counsel, conversation or information of any kind the existing insurrection against the Government of the United States. To guard against misapprehension it is proper to state that this proclamation does not apply to prisoners of war."93
If the situation in Maryland wasn't difficult enough in 1861, for the rest of the Civil War, Mr. Lincoln had to confront a cantankerous cast of civil and military leaders in the state, beginning with his own postmaster general, Montgomery Blair. Historian Richard N. Current wrote that "Blair, a tall lean, hatchet-faced man with small and deep-set eyes, always spoke of secessionists deliberately but defiantly, though the family had many secessionist relatives. In his cold animus there was not a trace of the abolitionist spirit. True, he had won the respect fo some abolitionists by serving as counsel for the slave Dred Scott, but he was no Negrophile. His racist convictions were as strong as his Unionist convictions, and these were strong indeed."94
Historian Adam I. P. Smith wrote: "From their Jacksonian heritage, the Blairs derived a fiercely nationalist rhetoric. After he was appointed to Lincoln's cabinet, Montgomery Blair declared, "I am for the Union, now and forever, and against all its enemies, whether fire-eaters or abolitionists.'...Blair was well aware of the need for administration to maintain the support of fervent Unionists like himself who retained a deep suspicion of the radicals and their plans. In Maryland he had been helping to build a Union organization of former Whigs, Know-Nothings, and Democrats under the banner of supporting the war to restore the Union as it was. As an old Free Soiler, Blair did not oppose the idea of freeing the slaves per se, but feared that the Emancipation Proclamation would polarize politics, making it appear that the purpose of the war was to revolutionize the South rather than merely to restore the Union."95
Because of their proximity to Washington, Maryland politicians were particularly difficult for President Lincoln to evade or to please. Their attitudes toward slavery and the Union spanned a wide spectrum. Montgomery Blair's political opposite in Maryland was Baltimore Congressman Henry Winter Davis. Technically, Davis was not even a Republican at the time he aspired to the Cabinet in early 1861. Historian Allan Nevins wrote that Davis' "emotional instability reflected his intense ambition for national prominence and personal advancement. He had allied himself in succession with the Whigs, Know-Nothings, Republicans, Bell-Everett men, and Radical Republicans, consistent only in seeking to further his own career. He had never failed to cherish the dream that he might ultimately become President."96
Journalist Noah Brooks described Davis as "eloquent and able man, but, except for his record as a persistent and violent critic of Lincoln's reconstruction policy, he has not left any lasting trace of his public career. At that time he as about forty-five years of age. Light in complexion, with a round, boyish head, sandy hair and mustache. He had a high, clear, ringing voice, and a manner of speaking which was peculiar in its sharpness and firmness. He was a brilliant speaker, but not a ready debater; and he had a compact and direct way of putting things which always commanded close attention whenever he spoke."97
President Lincoln later claimed that "in the formation of his cabinet, he was for some days balancing between Montgomery Blair and Henry Winter Davis, and finally settled on Mr. Blair....that in the disposition of the Maryland patronage, he had, as far as possible, met the wishes of Mr. Davis. Subsequently, he regarded Mr. Davis as holding ground not the most favorable to the best interests of the country. Still later, that gentleman made a speech in the House which wholly disabused his mind, and he was greatly rejoiced to find his first opinion of him correct. In Mr. Davis's contest for Congress, he had rendered him all the aid he consistently could. He also understood that Mr. Chase favored Mr. Davis's Union opponent. Since that election, Mr. Davis had desired some aid in the Maryland constitutional election, which he could not see his way to afford him, and Mr. Davis had become very cool towards him."98
The political situation in Maryland worsened in 1863 -- particularly as elections in November approached. Historian Jean H. Baker wrote: "Behind the Unionist split in 1863 lay the conflicting ambitions, personalities, and past political choices of two state leaders -- Henry Winter Davis,...and Montgomery Blair, Lincoln's Postmaster General. As part of a larger design to realign American political parties, both men wished to direct Maryland's Unionist organization, and such a contest helped to create, and then to continue, the split between Conservatives and Unconditionals." Blair's patronage power was great. "As Postmaster General, the efficient Blair managed a vast network of 27,000 officeholders. The 500 postal employees who ran Maryland's postal service gave Blair control over the largest group of federal or state appointments in the state. This federal patronage served as the fulcrum for Blair's attempts to direct the Union party of Maryland," wrote Baker. "Not satisfied with this supply of officeholders, Blair tried to dominate other Lincoln appointments. In this, the postmaster was not entirely successful, and he ended in sharing these positions with the supporters of Henry Winter Davis."99 Historian William E. Gienapp observed of this fight that President "Lincoln tried as much as possible to keep out of this fight, which he viewed as largely personal. Again, he steered a middle course, taking a more radical stand on emancipation than Blair, whom he removed from the Cabinet in 1864, yet unwilling to go as far as Davis and the radicals on this and related questions."100
On October 3, 1683 Postmaster General Blair gave a speech in Rockville, Maryland, which attracted attention and criticism throughout the north. He attacked "ultra" abolitionists in Congress who were interfering with reconstruction policies of the administration. Among his clear targets was Massachusetts Senator Charles who had recently written an article in the Atlantic Monthly proclaiming his theory that southern states had committed political suicide when they seceded. Lincoln scholar John Waugh wrote: "It was a funeral Montgomery Blair had in mind when he went to Rockville, Maryland, in early October to address a Union Party meeting. The intended corpse was [Charles] Sumner's congressional-supremacy thesis. Just when it appeared peace was nearly won, the rebellion destroyed, and slavery suppressed, Blair began, 'we are menaced by the ambition of the ultra-Abolitionists, which is equally despotic in its tendencies and which, if successful could not fail to be alike fatal to Republican institutions."101
Historian Ernest Smith wrote "Montgomery Blair...attacked the ultra-abolitionists
and Radicals whose policy he conceived to be entirely out of harmony with that of the President. Bates thought that Blair courted the President assiduously in 1863 in order to retain his good opinion while he appealed to the Democrats for their support. Montgomery Blair, he said, was looking for jobs for his family whether the country went Republican or Democrats in the elections. Bates was unjust to Blair, inasmuch as Blair was begging his friend through letters to keep the Republicans in power to guarantee the end of slavery, and was supporting the President at every turn while he was attempting to organize a Republican party in the border states. Nevertheless, Bates noted that Blair yielded ready assent to whatever the President proposed. He certainly must have felt assured that his speech would be favorably received at the White House. His speeches in New York and Cleveland were in defense of the president and his proclamation."102
According to historian William C. Harris, Blair "attempted to relieve some of the Radical pressure on the president with a shrill and ill-advised speech at Rockville, Maryland. Entitled a 'Speech on The Revolutionary Schemes of the Ultra Abolitionists, and in Defense of the Policy of the President,' Blair, though supporting emancipation, charged that the Radicals 'would make the manumission of the slaves the means of infusing their blood into our whole systems by blending with it 'amalgamation, equality, and fraternity.'"103 Blair maintained: "The Slavocrats of the South would found an oligarchy -- a sort of feudal power imposing its yoke over all who tilled the earth over which they reigned as masters. The Abolition party whilst pronouncing philippics against slavery, seek to make a caste of another color by amalgamating the black element with the free white labor of our land, and so to expand far beyond the present confines of slavery the evil which makes it obnoxious to republican statesmen. And now, when the strength of the traitors who attempted to embody a power out of the interests of slavery to overthrow the Government is seen to fail, they would make the manumission of the slaves the means of infusing their blood into our whole system by blending with it amalgamation, equality, and fraternity.'"104
In the speech Blair maintained that the Southern states were only "paralysed" in their relationship to the Union -- awaiting the moment "for resurrection in the persons of their loyal people." Blair was seeking to create a new political alliance -- separate from the secessionists and radicals he despised. According to historian Jean H. Baker, "In Montgomery's view, Democrats, Unionists, former Whigs, and Know-Nothings could all meet on a platform of Constitution and Union. Such a strategy rested on the conviction that Southerners would rally behind a Unionist party which effectively isolated extremists of both sections."105
Pennsylvania Congressman Thaddeus Stevens typified the reaction of Radical Republicans to the Blair speech. Stevens wrote to Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase: "I have read with more sorrow than surprise the vile speech made by the P.M. Genl. It is much more infamous than any speech made by a Copperhead orator. I know of no rebel sympathizer who has charged such disgusting principles and designs on the Republican party as this apostate. It has and will do us more harm at the election than all the efforts of the Opposition. If these are the principles of the Administration no earnest Anti-Slavery man will wish it to be sustained. If such men are to be retained in Mr. Lincoln's Cabinet, it is time we were consulting about his successor."106 California journalist Noah Brooks wrote:
"There is but one expression, and that of reprobation, toward Postmaster General Blair for his extraordinary course, and it now remains to be seen whether Lincoln will sacrifice his chances of a renomination by tacitly indorsing Blair's ratiocinations by retaining him in the Cabinet. Although he was appointed to his place upon the urgent request of such radicals as Sumner and Wilson, against whom he now turns, we cannot expect that any sense of obligation to them would induce him to modify his own private views or restrain his public utterances. Good faith is not a characteristic trait of the Blair family. But good sense, at least, might have restrained him from loading his own wrong-headed opinions upon the Administration of which he is a member. Soon after the Pennsylvania election Judge [William D.] Kelley, of Philadelphia, and John W. Forney called upon the President with their congratulations -- and Forney, with his usual outspoken candor, very plainly said to the President, Blair being then present, that his conservative friend Governor Curtin desired the President to know that if the Rockville speech of Postmaster General Blair had been made thirty days earlier it would have lost the Union ticket in Pennsylvania twenty thousand votes. He also expressed his astonishment to Blair that he, a Cabinet Minister, should have the hardihood to utter such sentiments in public, just on the even of important elections in other States, as those of the Rockville speech. Blair responded that whatever Forney might think of the matter, he had only spoken at Rockville his honest sentiments. 'Then,' said the impetuous Forney, turning upon him, 'why don't you leave the Cabinet,' and not load down with your individual and peculiar sentiments the Administration to which you belong?'107
On November 1, aide John Hay "handed the President' Blair's Rockville speech, telling him I had read it carefully and saving a few intemperate and unwise personal expressions against leading Republicans which might better have been omitted, I saw nothing in the speech which could have given rise to such violent criticism."
I asked him if Blair was really opposed to our Union ticket in Maryland. He said he did not know anything about it -- had never asked: he says [John W.] Crisfield plainly told him he was opposed to the Administration.108
The Blair family continued to rock the political boat. In late December 1863, journalist Noah Brooks wrote, "The Blair Family are thrusting themselves upon Mr. Lincoln, as his natural allies, so that it is difficult for people to believe that they are not the exponents of his policy, but he knows and seems to care nothing about their political views. He tolerates Montgomery Blair in the cabinet because he is efficient in his Department, but, to my certain knowledge, he never read his Rockville speech until months after it was delivered. He appears to care nothing at all about the political opinions of his cabinet provided they are useful in the separate departments. But Blair, though a good Postmaster General, is the meanest man in the whole government."109
The controversy was epitomized by the continuing conflict between Blair and Henry Winter Davis. Davis hated Democrats and former Democrats -- so his antagonism to Blair came naturally. Historian Jean H. Baker noted: "What Blair's Negrophobia was to his Union party, Davis's hatred of the Democrats was to his politics."110 Since both men were accomplished haters, they made President Lincoln's political life difficult. Davis was a firm opponent of colonization. It "was, in Davis's view, 'simple craziness -- Expel four millions of people? Where are the ships? Where is the land that will receive them? Where are the people that will pay taxes to remove them? Who will cultivate the deserted regions that they leave?'"111
Davis was a talented but vindictive politician. "Of the members of the House during the war period, Henry Winter Davis was the most accomplished speaker," wrote fellow Congressman George S. Boutwell in his memoirs. "His courage was constitutional and he was ready to make good his positions whether by argument or blows. His speeches in the delivery were very attractive."112 There was an unattractive side to Davis's speeches. "Left out of Congress by the Maryland election of 1861, Davis employed the next two years in delivering anti-Administration speeches all over the East. He resumed his diatribes as soon as he reentered the House in 1863. It was not the Blairs and Lincoln alone that he attacked, for he indicted Seward, Gideon Welles, and all moderate editors, governors, and Congressmen as hotly."113 Davis could turn a very mean phrase. In February 1864, Davis charged that "the President has called on General Banks to organize another hermaphrodite government, half military, half republican, representing the alligators and the frogs of Louisiana, and to place that upon the footing of a government of a State of the United States."114 That meanness was turned on many opponents. "Even before the war, many Marylanders had viewed Davis's nativism and his occasional verbal excesses on the dangers of immigration and Roman Catholicism as indicative of his extremism," wrote historian Jean H. Baker. "Convinced of the rectitude of his own positions, he displayed characteristic arrogance toward those who disagreed with him. Opponents were 'fools,' chattering, whining, and timorous merchants,' 'mutton heads,' and even 'rattlesnakes.'"115
"It is a matter of regret that a man of so much oratorical ability and legal sharpness as Henry Winter Davis should be so much of a politician charlatan as he is; but he is, like the Blairs, insatiate in his hates, mischievous in his schemes and hollow hearted and cold blooded," wrote journalist Noah Brooks. "Revengeful, sore-headed and proud, Davis, like others of his sort here, appears to forget that the defeat of Lincoln, the nominee of the people and the Union organization, would necessarily be the triumph of a copper-head minority, under whose rule the status of these individuals would be worse than it now is under an Administration which has failed to satisfy their personal demands..."116 Historian Jean Baker observed that "Davis's congressional career earned him national prominence, but not the adulation of his fellow Marylanders, many of whom disliked his 'extremists' stands. In 1860, Davis's support of William Pennington for Speaker led to his censure by the Maryland legislature, and in 1864, Davis further alienated Marylanders by his sponsorship of the Wade-Davis Bill, which gave Congress control of the process of Reconstruction and made more difficult the return of seceded states to the Union."117
At the other end of the political spectrum in Maryland was unpredictable Reverdy Johnson, who returned to the Senate after defeating Davis in a legislative election in March 1861. Johnson had a long political career dating back to service as a Whig Senator when Mr. Lincoln served in Congress. He had also served Attorney General (1849-50) under President Zachary Taylor, A respected constitutional lawyer, he was opposing counsel in McCormick patent case in which Lincoln participated, defense counsel in Dred Scott case, and counsel for Mary Surratt in the assassination conspiracy trial in 1865. In 1860, he was a key supporter of Stephen Douglas in 1860. Johnson was erratic on slavery issues; he started war as pro-slavery Democrat and opposed emancipation in District of Colombia in 1862. Johnson served as Secretary of State Seward's representative in New Orleans in 1862 to resolve diplomatic disputes with General Benjamin Butler, who considered him a secessionist at heart. He supported President Lincoln against Chief Justice Taney on habeas corpus, but Johnson was unpredictable.
Also troublesome was Unionist Congressman John W. Crisfield, a prominent Maryland slaveholder who represented a district with strong secessionist leanings. On July 12, 1862, President LIncoln urged congressmen from Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri to support a plan for compensated emancipation in border states. When Congressman Crisfield was at the White House one day in July 1862, Mr. Lincoln said: 'Well, Crisfield, how are you getting along with your report, have you written it yet?' Mr. Crisfield replied that he had not." President Lincoln told him "You had better come to an agreement." The price of slaves "will never be higher."118 Crisfield and a majority of the congressman rejected the proposal. Crisfield broke with President Lincoln over emancipation and was defeated in 1863 in an election that Crisfield claimed had been determined by military intervention.
In June 1862, Crisfeld pressured President Lincoln to release Judge Richard B. Carmichael, who had been arrested by military authorities for disloyalty. President Lincoln responded: "I have been considering the appeal made by yourself, and Senator [James A.] Pearce in behalf of Judge Carmichael. His charge to the Grand-Jury, was left with me by the Senator, and on reading it, I must confess I was not very favorably impressed towards the Judge. The object of the charge, I understand, was to procure prosecutions [sic], and punishment of some men for arresting, or doing violence to some secessionists -- that is, the Judge was trying to help a little, by giving the protection of law to those who were endeavoring [sic] to overthrow the Supreme law -- trying if he could find a safe place for certain men to stand on the constitution, whilst they should stab it in another place." Nevertheless, "The Secretary of War and I have agreed that if the Judge will take the oath of allegiance, usually taken in such cases, he may be discharged."119 More than five months later, Judge Carmichael was finally released.
Maryland residents were seldom happy with the Union commander of their department. They despised General Butler in April 1861. In 1862, they took out their frustrations on Union commander John Wool. He was eventually transferred north to New York City in January 1863. On October 31, 1862, Thomas Hicks, now a U.S. senator, wrote President Lincoln:
On returning to this place last evening, I found, our people much excited, and have to day quietly and prudently (I think) sounded the Union men here in regard to Genl. Morris as successor to Genl. Wool and am satisfied that Morris' appt. will be entirely satisfactory to all, but those near Genl. Wool, and now say that I believe, no better thing can be done in the case than the appointment of Morris, as you determine, wisely I think, not to take either Genl. Banks or Kenley from the Army. a change must be made.
The Secessionists and their Sympathizers will oppose Morris' appt.120
The status of blacks was one of the continuing disputes for military commanders who at the beginning of the war quietly returned most escaped slaves to their masters. Maryland's blacks were about equally divided between free blacks and slaves, who were concentrated in southern Maryland. According to historian Eric Foner, "The amalgam of hostility to the antebellum regime, commitment to democratic change for Unionist whites, reluctance to push beyond emancipation as far as blacks were concerned, and reliance on wholesale proscription of former Confederates to retain political power characterized wartime Unionism throughout the border region. Nowhere was this more evident than in Maryland, a state as divided internally as any in the South."121 But the old social and political order was being upset by the war. "Slaveholders accustomed to respect and obedience fond themselves repeatedly stymied by an alliance of slaves with soldiers," wrote historian Barbara Jeanne Fields. She noted: "knowing that escape was possible, slaves behaved with greater independence and -- in their owners' eyes-- insolence. Some slaves did not scruple to remind overbearing owners that the army was nearby to afford a haven if need be."122
The situation in Maryland was also complicated by the congressional emancipation of slaves in the District of Colombia in the spring of 1862 -- providing a natural refuge for Maryland slaves seeking to escape. It was further complicated by the strong emancipationist sympathies of some Union commanders in Maryland. One was General Robert Schenck of Ohio, who commanded the Baltimore region in 1862 and 1863. The other was General James Wadsworth of New York, who commanded in Washington and was a fervent emancipationist in frequent conflict with U.S. Marshal Ward Hill Lamon, who tended to support the rights of slave owners. Wadsworth biographer Wayne Mahood wrote: "Wadsworth's "actions did not go unnoticed. President Lincoln was confronted by a committee of a hundred Prince George's County, Maryland, slaveholders who complained to him about 'the hindrances [to enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law] alleged to have been thrown in [the] way by Gen. Wadsworth.' They protested that Wadsworth was deliberately slow to execute the law, and in fact was 'taking the evidence of the slaves' rather than the slaveholders. However, the May 20, 1862, New York Tribune reported Lincoln's in General Wadsworth's good intentions. The intermittent warfare with Marshal Lamon would continue, but declined after July 17, when the second Confiscation Act (liberating slaves of secessionists) was passed."123
Through 1863 and 1864, the recruitment of black soldiers in Maryland presented a major problem for President Lincoln who wanted their help but also wanted political peace in the state. While President Lincoln advocated this recruitment policy, he was very concerned about the political consequences in border states at a time when Confederate armies occasionally threatened to invade these states. On February 3, 1863 a group of Union army soldiers traveling through Baltimore attacked blacks on the streets. President Lincoln wired General Schenck on February 4: "I hear of some difficulty in the streets of Baltimore yesterday. What is the amount of it?"124
As Confederate troops marched across Maryland at the end of June 1863, Schenck organized "four thousand able bodied at work on fortifications....I sent papers ten days ago urging and recommending a proposition to create from among them a regt. Of Sappers & Miners." President Lincoln wrote: "Your dispatches about negro regiment are not uninteresting or unnoticed by us, but we have not been quite ready to respond. You will have an answer to-morrow." Shortly thereafter, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton authorized the recruitment of a black regiment in Maryland.125 At the same time, the creation of a system of provosts marshals across the state provided a way to create an ant-slavery political structure, noted historian Barbara Jeanne Fields. "The new arrangement readily became a system of patronage allowing the administration -- through the Provost Marshal General -- to penetrate deeply into the state electoral system. It proved a boon to the Unconditional Unionist faction in Maryland."126
Historian James A. Rawley wrote: "Recruiting in Maryland fell under the supervision of Colonel William Birney, son of the Liberty party candidate for president in the 1850s. Overly zealous and ambitious, Birney enthusiastically proceeded with black recruitment, stirring up white antagonism. In his annual message to the Maryland assembly in January 1864, Governor Augustus W. Bradford protested the recruitment policy. His legislature, however, in early February 1864 offered bounties to both masters and slaves for enlisting in the Union army."127
A tug of war ensued. Historian Barbara Jeanne Fields wrote: "The War Department sought to postpone the inevitable by restricting enlistment to free black men. However well-intentioned, the effort backfired immediately. It was found to fail, for it left out of account the intricate and precarious balance upon which slavery in Maryland depended: that between slaveholders and nonslaveholders, between large slaveholders and small slaveholders, between free blacks and slaves. By disturbing one element, the enlistment of free blacks upset the others, leaving no one satisfied."128 Under General Schenck, Union recruiters aggressively sought prospective black soldiers in Maryland. They did not distinguish carefully between slaves and the state's large population of free blacks. Slaveholders raised a storm of protest which reached the White House. President Lincoln wrote Schenck on October 21, 1863: "A delegation is here saying that our armed colored troops are at many if not all the landings on the Patuxent river, and by their presence, with arms in their hands, are frightening quiet people, and producing great confusion. Have they been sent there by any order? and if so, for what reason?129 The same day, President Lincoln wrote General Schenck: "Please come over here. The fact of one of our officers being killed on the Patuxent, is a specimen of what I would avoid. It seems to me we could send white men to recruit better than to send negroes, and thus inaugurate homicides on punctillio.130
Schenck's top aide was Donn Piatt, a one-time lawyer and future journalist from Cincinnati, Ohio who was a supporter of Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase and friend of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. The well-connected Piatt had helped elect Chase to the Senate in 1859 He became adjutant general to General Robert C. Schenck in Baltimore. Donn Piatt recalled: "General Schenck, with the intense loyalty which distinguished that eminent soldier, shifted the military sympathy from the aristocracy of Maryland to the Union men, and made the eloquent Henry Winter Davis and the well-known jurist Judge Bond our associates and advisers. These gentlemen could not understand why, having such entire command of Maryland, the Government did not make it a free State, and so, taking the property from the disloyal, render them weak and harmless, and bring the border of free States to the capital of the Union. The fortifications about Baltimore, used heretofore to threaten that city, now under the influence of Davis, Bond, Wallace, and others, had their guns turned outward for the protection of the place, and it seemed only necessary to inspire the negroes with faith in us as liberators to perfect the work. The first intimation I receive about this policy of freeing Maryland was distasteful to the administration came from Secretary Stanton. I had told him what we thought, and what we hoped to accomplish. I noted an amused expression on the face of the War Secretary, and when I ended, he said dryly:
"You and Schenck had better attend to your own business."
"I asked him what he meant by 'our business.' He said, 'Obeying orders, that's all."
Not long after this talk with Mr. Stanton, the gallant General William Birney, son of the eminent James G. Birney, came into Maryland to recruit for a negro brigade, then first authorized. I directed Birney to recruit slaves only. He said he would glad to do so, but wanted authority in writing from General Schenck. I tried my general, and he refused, saying that such authority could come only from the War Department, as Birney was acting directly under its instructions. I could not move him, and knowing that he had a leave of absence for a few days, to transact some business at Boston, I waited patiently until he was fairly off, and then issued the order to General Birney. The general took an idle Government steamer, and left for the part of Maryland where the slaves did most abound. Birney was scarcely out of sight before I awakened to the opposition I had excited. The Hon. Reverdy Johnson appeared at headquarters, heading a delegation of solid citizens, who wanted the Union and slavery saved one and inseparable. I gave them scant comfort and they left for Washington. That afternoon came a telegram from the War Department, asking who was in command at Baltimore. I responded that General Schenck being absent for a few days only had left affairs in control of his Chief of Staff. Then came a curt summons, ordering me to appear at the War Department. I obeyed, arriving in the evening at the old, sombre building. Being informed that the Secretary was at the Executive Mansion, I repaired there, sent in my card, and was at once shown into the presence, not of Mr. Stanton, but of the President. I do not care to recall the words of Mr. Lincoln. I wrote them out that night, for I was threatened a shameful dismissal from the service, and I intended appealing to the public. They were exceedingly severe, for the President was in a rage. I was not allowed a word in my own defense, and was only permitted to say that I would countermand my order as well as I could. I was saved cashiering through the interference of Stanton and Chase, and the further fact that a row over such a transaction at that time would have been extremely awkward.
My own act made Maryland a free State. Word went out and spread like wildfire that 'Mr. Linkum was a callin' on de slaves to fight foh freedum,' and the hoe-handle was dropped, never again to be taken up by unrequited toil. The poor creatures poured into Baltimore with their families, on foot, on horseback, in old wagons, and even on sleds stolen from their masters. The late masters became clamorous for compensation, and Mr. Lincoln ordered a commission to assess damages. Secretary Stanton put in a proviso that those cases only should be considered wherein the claimant could take the iron-bound oath of allegiance. Of course no slaves were paid for."131
The rebuked Piatt later claimed that the President had personally turned down Piatt's opportunity to be promoted to brigadier general because he had authorized recruitment of black slaves in Maryland for the army. The situation in Maryland was aggravated that autumn by a decision that Schenck made to use federal troops to police state elections in November 1863. Under Schenck's General Order 53, provost marshals were instructed to require a loyalty oath from all voters arrest any Confederate sympathizes found near the polls. He assigned ten Union soldiers to each polling place. Schenck was not exactly impartial in the election and made speeches on behalf of the Union party. Lincoln biographer Carl Sandburg wrote; "Just before the elections in Maryland, Governor Bradford complained of Union troops instructed to man the polls in his State, arrest all 'disloyal persons,' and unduly control the voting through requirement as to election judges and oaths of allegiance. The President in a final long letter to Governor Bradford said that General Schenck, in charge in Maryland, gave assurance that violence would be used in the forthcoming election at some of the voting places on election day unless his provost guards prevented it, and furthermore at some of the places union voters would not attend at all, nor try to run a ticket, unless they had protection."132
Just before the November 1863 elections, John Hay recorded in his diary: "This evening Genl. Schenck, accompanied Genl. [James] Garfield & Judge [William D.] Kelley came in to insist upon some order which would prevent disloyal people from voting at the ensuing Maryland election."133 Schenck was back the next day at the White House, "and the President fixed up a letter to Bradford about Schenck's election order, in which while he guaranteed to all loyal people the right of voting for whom they pleased[;] he strongly intimates that the loyalty of the candidates is not a sufficient safeguard -- that men elected by disloyal votes are not wholly to be trusted."134 That night, wrote Hay, "Schenck sent for copies of the correspondence between the Presdt. And Bradford. The President came into his room with the despatch in his hands, clad in an overcoat pure & simple reaching to his knees & sleepily fumbled for the papers in his desk till he found them & travelled back to bed. I took the letters to the telegraph office & sent them off about midnight."135 President Lincoln wrote Governor Bradford on November 2:
"Yours of the 31st ult. was received yesterday about noon, and since then I have been giving most earnest attention to the subject matter of it. At my call Gen. Schenck has attended; and he assures me it is almost certain that violence will be used at some of the voting places on election day, unless prevented by his provost-guards. He says that at some of those places Union voters will not attend at all, or run a ticket unless they have some assurance of protection. This makes the Missouri case, of my action in regard to which, you express your approval. The remaining point of your letter is a protest against any person offering to vote being put to any test not found in the laws of Maryland. This brings us to a difference between Missouri and Maryland. With the same reason in both States, Missouri has, by law, provided a test for the voter, with reference to the present rebellion, while Maryland has not. For example, Gen. Tremble, captured fighting us at Gettysburg is, without recanting his treason, a legal voter by the laws of Maryland. Even Gen. Schenck's order, admits him to vote, if he recants upon oath. I think that is cheap enough. My order in Missouri, which approve, and Gen. Schenck's order here, reach precisely the same end. Each assures the right of voting to all loyal men; and whether a man is loyal, each allows that man to fix by his own oath. Your suggestion that nearly all the candidates are loyal, I do not think quite meets the case. In this struggle for the nation's life, I can not so confidently rely on those whose elections may have depended upon disloyal votes. Such men, when elected, may prove true, but such votes are given them in the expectation that they will prove false.
Nor do I think that to keep the peace at the polls, and to prevent the persistently disloyal from voting, constitutes just cause of offence to Maryland. I think she has her own example for it. If I mistake not, it is precisely what Gen. Dix did when your Excellency was elected Governor.
I revoke the first of the three propositions in Gen. Schenck's general order No. 53; not that it is wrong in principle, but because the military being, of necessity, exclusive judges as to who shall be arrested, the provision is too liable to abuse. For the revoked part I substitute the following:
'That all Provost Marshals, and other Military officers, do prevent all disturbance and violence at or about the polls, whether offered by such persons as above described, or by any other person, or persons whomsoever'
The other two propositions of the order I allow to stand.
Gen. Schenck is fully determined, and has my strict orders besides, that all loyal men may vote, and vote for whom they please.136
Governor Bradford didn't help matters by issuing a proclamation that declared General Schenck's order unjustified and condemned it as "an intervention with the privileges of the Ballot Box." There were few arrests but numerous complaints from Maryland residents. The Union party -- with a little help from Schenck -- won the election. Hay reported that on November 12, Schenck again visited the White House with some "Maryland Emancipationists. He is a little severe on Bradford & Reverdy Johnson for their recent demonstrations in Maryland."137
Earlier that fall, President Lincoln had demonstrated the dexterity with which he handled Maryland problems In September 1863, journalist Brooks wrote: "Almost everybody would like to be President, and there are but few persons who realize any of the difficulties which surround a just administration of the duties of the Executive office. The other day a delegation from Baltimore called upon the President by appointment to consider the case of a certain citizen of Baltimore whom it was proposed to appoint to a responsible office in that city. The delegation filed proudly in, formed a semi-circle in front of the President, and the spokesman stepped out and read a neat address to the effect that, while they had the most implicit faith in the honesty and patriotism of the President, etc., they were ready to affirm that the person proposed to be placed in office was a consummate rascal and notoriously in sympathy, in not in correspondence, with the rebels. The speaker concluded and stepped back, and the President replied by complimenting them on their appearance and professions of loyalty, but said he was at a loss what to do with ____, as a delegation twice as large, just as respectable in appearance and no less ardent in professions of loyalty, had called upon him four days before, ready to swear, every one of them, that -- was one of the most honest and loyal men in Baltimore. 'Now,' said the President, we cannot afford to call a Court of inquiry in this case, and so, as a lawyer, I shall be obliged to decide that the weight of testimony, two to one, is in favor of the client's loyalty, and as you do not offer even any attempt to prove the truth of your suspicions, I shall be compelled to ignore them for the present.' The delegation bade the President good morning and left.'"138
In mid-April 1864, President Lincoln delivered an important message on political changes wrought by the Civil War. He did so in Baltimore where he traveled to address a U.S. Sanitary Commission Fair: "Looking upon these many people, assembled here, to serve, as they best may, the soldiers of the Union, it occurs at once that three years ago, the same soldiers could not so much as pass through Baltimore. The change from then till now, is both great, and gratifying. Blessings on the brave men who have wrought the change, and the fair women who strive to reward them for it." President Lincoln addressed the questions about liberty raised by the Civil War as well as the government's reaction to the recent massacre of black soldiers at Fort Pillow:
But Baltimore suggests more than could happen within Baltimore. The change within Baltimore is part only of a far wider change. When the war began, three years ago, neither party, nor any man, expected it would last till now. Each looked for the end, in some way, long ere to-day. Neither did any anticipate that domestic slavery would be much affected by the war. But here we are; the war has not ended, and slavery has been much affected -- how much needs not now to be recounted. So true is it that man proposes, and God disposes.
But we can the past, though we may not claim to have directed it; and seeing it, in this case, we feel more hopeful and confident for the future.
The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name-- liberty. And it follows that each of the things is, by the respective parties, called by two difference and incompatible names-- liberty and tyranny.
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty, especially as the sheep was a black one. Plainly the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty; and precisely the same difference prevails to-day among us human creatures, even in the North, and all professing to love liberty. Hence we behold the processes by which thousands are daily passing from under the yoke of bondage, hailed by some as the advance of liberty, and bewailed by others as the destruction of all liberty. Recently, as it seems, the people of Maryland have been doing something to define liberty; and thanks to them that, in what they have done, the wolf's dictionary, has been repudiated.
It is not very becoming for one in my position to make speeches at great length; but there is another subject upon which I feel that I ought to say a word. A painful rumor, true I fear, has reached us of the massacre, by the rebel forces, at Fort Pillow, in the West end of Tennessee, on the Mississippi river, of some three hundred colored soldiers and white officers, who had just been overpowered by their assailants. There seems to be some anxiety in the public mind whether the government is doing its duty to the colored soldier, and to the service, at this point. At the beginning of the war, and for some time, the use of colored troops was not contemplated; and how the change of purpose was wrought, I will not now take time to explain. Upon a clear conviction of duty I resolved to turn that element of strength to account; and I am responsible for it to the American people, to the Christian world, to history, and on my final account to God. Having determined to use the negro as a soldier, there is no way but to give him all the protection given to any other soldier. The difficulty is not in stating the principle, but in practically applying it. It is a mistake to suppose the government is indifferent to this matter, or is not doing the best it can in regard to it. We do not to-day know that a colored soldier, or white officer commanding colored soldiers, has been massacred by the rebels when made a prisoner. We fear it, believe it, I may say, but we do not know it. To take the life of one of their prisoners, on the assumption that they murder ours, when it is short of certainty that they do murder ours, might be too serious, too cruel a mistake. We are having the Fort-Pillow affair thoroughly investigated; and such investigation will probably show conclusively how the truth is. If, after all that has been said, it shall turn out that there has been no massacre at Fort-Pillow, it will be almost safe to say there has been none, and will be none elsewhere. If there has been the massacre of three hundred there, or even the tenth part of three hundred, it will be conclusively proved; and being so proved, the retribution, shall as surely come. It will be matter of grave consideration in what exact course to apply the retribution; but in the suppose case, it must come.139
Earlier in the month, according to Lincoln scholar Keith Bernard, "a group of city officials went to Washington to visit the Columbia Institute for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind. Following the visit to the Institute the party paid a call at the White House. After the usual courtesies had been exchanged, the suggestion was made that one of the guests who was an excellent singer favor the group with a song. The singer obliged. There was hearty applause, and Mr. Lincoln commented that 'the song contained an excellent sentiment and was sung in a manner worthy of the sentiment." Wilson G. Horner had sung "We Are Coming, Father Abraham!' -- a song he repeated when President Lincoln visited the Baltimore Sanitary Commission Fair.140
On September 7, President Lincoln was presented with a Bible by a delegation of African-Americans from Baltimore. The Rev. S. W. Chase to President: "The loyal colored people of Baltimore have entrusted us with authority to present this Bible as a testimonial of their appreciation of your humane conduct towards the people of our race. While all others of this nation are offering their tribute of respect to you, we cannot omit suitable manifestation of ours. Since our incorporation into the American family we have been true and loyal, and we are now ready to aid in defending the country, to be armed and trained in military matters, in order to assist in protecting and defending the star-spangled banner."
Towards you, sir, our hearts will ever be warm with gratitude. We come to present to you this copy of the Holy Scriptures, as a token of respect for your active participation in furtherance of the cause of the emancipation of our race. This great event will be a matter of history. Hereafter, when our children shall ask what mean these tokens, they will be told of your worthy deeds, and will rise up and call you blessed.
The loyal colored people of this country everywhere will remember you at the Throne of Divine Grace. May the King Eternal, an all-wise, Providence protect and keep you, and when you pass from this world to that of eternity, may you be borne to the bosom of your Savior and your God.141
The President responded: "This occasion would seem fitting for a lengthy response to the address which you have just made. I would make one, if prepared; but I am not. I would promise to respond in writing, had not experience taught me that business will not allow me to do so. I can only now say, as I have often before said, it has always been a sentiment with me that all mankind should be free. So far as able, within my sphere, I have always acted as I believed to be right and just; and I have done all I could for the good of mankind generally. In letters and documents sent from this office I have expressed myself better than I now can. In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man."
All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it. To you I return my most sincere thanks for the very elegant copy of the great Book of God which you present.142
The Republican National Convention had been held in Baltimore in early June 1864. Lincoln aide John G. Nicolay attended on behalf of his boss. Colleague John Hay wrote in his diary on June 6: "Everybody comes back from Convention tired but sober. Nicolay says it was a very quiet Convention. Little drinking -- little quarreling -- an earnest intention to simply register the expressed will of the people and go home. They were intolerant of speeches -- remorselessly coughed down the crack orators of the party."143 The convention endorsed a congressional amendment to abolish slavery. President Lincoln continued to look to Maryland to abolish slavery within its borders. Journalist Noah Brooks quoted Mr. Lincoln as saying: "I had rather have Maryland upon that issue than have a state twice its size upon the presidential issue; it cleans up a piece of ground."144
But underneath the national consensus in Baltimore were radical complaints against President Lincoln's administration, focused on Postmaster General Montgomery Blair. Historian Burton J. Hendrick wrote: "Soon after the Baltimore convention, Lincoln had told a committee of radicals, headed by George W. Boutwell, who had called to ask for Blair's resignation in accordance with the request of the national convention, that he intended, if elected, to make certain changes in his cabinet. Everyone understood, of course, that this referred to Montgomery Blair. Personally fond as Lincoln was of his Postmaster General, and highly as he esteemed his abilities and his worth, his presence in the cabinet had been an embarrassment for a considerable time."145
Although Mr. Lincoln sternly rebuffed such interferences in his executive prerogatives, he was pressed again for Blair's resignation in September as part of an effort to get John C. Frémont to withdraw as a third party candidate. Historian John Niven wrote: "Blair, Mr. Lincoln knew, was a prime source for the continuous bickerings and intrigues within the Cabinet. Stanton had not spoke to Blair for months. Seward distrusted and disliked him. As for Blair, he seized every opportunity to malign both of them, in public and in private. Sooner or later harmony had to be restored, if only to ease the pressure in the administration."146
Mr. Lincoln wrote Blair: "You have generously said to me, more than once, that whenever your resignation could be a relief to me, it was at my disposal. The time has come. You very well know that this proceeds from no dissatisfaction of mine with you personally or officially. Your uniform kindness has been unsurpassed by that of any other friend, and while it is true that war does not so greatly add to the difficulties of your department as to those of some others, it is yet much to say, as I most truly can, that in three years and a half during which you have administered the General Post Office, I remember no single complaint against you in connection therewith."147
Blair himself wrote his wife on the day of his dismissal: "I have just written my resignation of the office of P.M. General. When the Baltimore Convention passed a resolution requesting the President to re-organize his Cabinet, I told him not to stand on any ceremony with me but to be frank and tell me whenever he thought it advisable for him that I should quit. This morning he wrote me saying that time had come, and accordingly my resignation has now been written and will be delivered when I got to the other end of the Avenue. He made me no explanation and I asked none. I suppose, however, that he thinks it will help to appease the Fremonters' and Radicals, if I am dropped, and I think myself it will give them a temporary triumph to see me reduced to the ranks, which will operate well....The President has, I think given himself and me too, an unnecessary mortification in this matter; but then I am not the best judge and I am sure he acts from the best motives. I do not think he will, if he succeeds, permit me to be the worse for it; but I am sure it is for the best all around."148
When the Roger B. Taney, chief justice of the Supreme Court, died the following month, the Blairs thought that Montgomery might be rewarded for his loyalty with Taney's position. To their chagrin, it went instead to former Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase, the Blair's archenemy. Historian William C. Harris wrote that Blair "had become too extreme in his views for Lincoln to appoint him to the Supreme Court. After listening to one of the former postmaster general's harangues, John Hay wrote in his diary, 'Blair denounces nearly everybody as Lincoln's malignant enemies.' Blair also falsely claimed that Seward and Stanton had conspired against Lincoln in the election. Though the president personally liked Blair, it would have been foolhardy to appoint such an intemperate person to the country's highest judicial position."149 When President Lincoln appointed Chase as Chief Justice, Frank Blair was disillusioned, writing Montgomery that the "appointment shakes my confidence in the President's integrity."150
That summer the state legislature had devised a new convention that would abolish slavery in the state. Mr. Lincoln wrote one of the proponents, Henry W. Hoffman, chairman of the Maryland Unconditional Union Central Committee: "A convention of Maryland has framed a new constitution for the State; a public meeting is called for this evening, at Baltimore, to aid in securing its ratification by the people; and you ask a word from me, for the occasion. I presume the only feature of the instrument, about which there is serious controversy, is that which provides for the extinction of slavery. It needs not to be a secret, and I presume it is no secret, that I wish success to this provision. I desire it on every consideration. I wish all men to be free. I wish the material prosperity of the already free which I feel sure the extinction of slavery would bring. I wish to see, in process of disappearing, that only thing which ever could bring this nation to civil war. I attempt no argument. Argument upon the question is already exhausted by the abler, better informed, and more immediately interested sons of Maryland herself. I only add that I shall be gratified exceedingly if the good people of the State shall, by their votes, ratify the new constitution."151 After the meeting that night, Hoffman wrote Mr. Lincoln that his letter "was recd with the unbounded applause of the many thousands assembled The meeting was a great success in point of numbers Harmony & enthusiasm The new constitution will be adopted The majority in this city will not fall short of ten thousand from present indications. The voting is proceeding quietly."152
Maryland's voting population had been drastically reduced by loyalty qualifications; only the votes of Union soldiers assured passage by a narrow margin. On October 19, Mr. Lincoln addressed a group of Maryland and Washington residents who serenaded at the White House. He replied: "I am notified that this is a compliment paid me by the loyal Marylanders resident in this District. I infer that the adoption of the new Constitution for that State, furnishes the occasion; and that, in your view, the extirpation of slavery constitute the chief merit of the new Constitution. Most heartily do I congratulate you and Maryland and the nation, and the world upon the event. I regret that it did not occur two years sooner, which I am sure would have saved to the nation more money than would have met all the private loss incident to the measure. But it has come at last, and I sincerely hope its friends may full realize all their anticipations of good from it, and that its opponents may be its effect be agreeably and profitably disappointed."153
The President's reelection chances were further complicated by the opposition of Henry Winter Davis during 1864 over reconstruction issues. According to historian William C. Harris, Davis "did not openly oppose Lincoln until the summer of 1864, when the political current turned against the president; then he became the most vehement opponent of the administration's reconstruction policy."154 "In part," wrote historian Herman Belz, "Henry Winter Davis' opposition to executive reconstruction rested on political considerations. Davis' first public protest, in late January, against Louisiana reconstruction coincided with his bitter resentment against Lincoln for refusing to aid him in his struggle against the Blair faction in Maryland politics. Complaining that 'Lincoln is thoroughly Blairized,' Davis said that he was breaking off political relations with the President and declared that he 'would be responsible for Lincoln's not getting the electoral vote in Md.'" A few weeks later Lincoln, observing that 'Mr. Davis had become very cool toward him,' expressed his belief that he 'was now an active friend of the Secretary of the Treasury.' Under these circumstances Davis' reconstruction bill signified, not only his adherence to the principle of congressional control of reconstruction, but also the rejection of Lincoln's policy in Louisiana and Arkansas and opposition, some circles at least, to his renomination."155 Just after the conclusion of the congressional session in July, Mr. Lincoln pocket-vetoed the reconstruction legislation sponsored by Davis and Senator Benjamin F. Wade. The two men then published the "Wade-Davis Manifesto" attacking the president. As Davis biographer Bernard C. Stiner wrote: "With the most exalted purpose, and with a fundamentally correct constitutional position, he prepared a document, whose fierce attack on the President could do no good..."156
Davis himself was not pleased by President Lincoln's victory in Maryland and the country, complaining: that "the people now know Lincoln and voted for him to keep out worse people -- keeping their hands on the pit of the stomach the while! No act of wise self-control -- no such subordination of disgust to the necessities of a crisis and the dictates of cool judgment has ever before been exhibited by any people in history...."157 Friends of Mr. Lincoln were gratified when Congressman Davis lost his reelection that fall. On election night when Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox expressed joy that Davis had gone down to defeat, the President replied, "You have more of that feeling of personal resentment than I. Perhaps I have too little of it, but I never thought it paid. A man has no time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to attack me I never remember the past against him. It has seemed to me recently that Winter Davis was growing more sensible to his own true interests and has ceased wasting his time by attacking me. I hope for his own good he has. He has been very malicious against me but has only injured himself by it. His conduct has been very strange to me. I came here, his friend, wishing to continue so. I had heard nothing but good of him; he was the cousin of my intimate friend Judge Davis. But he had scarcely been elected when I began to learn of his attacking me on all possible occasions. "158
John Hay reported on the day after the election: "Montgomery Blair came in this morning. He returned from his Kentucky trip in time to vote at home. He is very bitter against the Davis clique, (what's left of it) and foolishly I think confounds the War Department and the Treasury as parties to the Winter Davis conspiracy against the president. He spoke with pleasant sarcasm of the miscalculation that has left Reverdy Johnson out in the cold, & gave an account of his 'being taken by the insolent foe' in the Blue Grass Region. He says he stands as yet by what he has said, that Lincoln will get a unanimous electoral vote. The soldier vote in Kentucky he thinks will save the state if the guerillas have allowed the country people peace enough to have an election."159
On November 17, a delegation of Maryland residents visited the White House. The President responded: "'He had to confess that he was fully notified of the intention thus kindly to call upon him, and by that means he had a fair opportunity offered to be ready with a set speech; but he had not prepared one, having been very busy with his public duties; therefore, he could only speak as the thoughts might occur to him. He would not attempt to conceal from them the fact that he was gratified at the results of the Presidential election, and he would assure them that he had kept as near as he could to the exercise of his best judgment, for the promotion of the interests of the whole country; and now, to have the seal of approbation marked on the course he had pursued was exceedingly gratifying to his feelings. He might go further and say that, in as large proportion as any other man, his pleasure consisted in the belief that the policy he had pursued would be the best and the only one that could save the country. He had said before, and would now repeat, that he indulged in no feeling of triumph over any one who thought or acted differently from himself. He had no such feeling towards any living man.
'When he thought of Maryland in particular, it was that the people had more than double their share in what had occurred in the elections. He thought the adoption of their free State constitution was a bigger thing than their part in the Presidential election. He could, any day, have stipulated to lose Maryland in the Presidential election to save its free constitution, because the Presidential election comes every four years and the adoption of the constitution, being a good thing, could not be undone. He therefore thought in that they had a victory for the right worth a great deal more than their part in the Presidential election, although he thought well of that. He once before said, and would now say again, that those who had differed from us and opposed us would see that it was better for their own good that they had been defeated, rather than to have been successful. Thanking them for their compliment, he said he would bring to a close that short speech.'160
In contrast to 1860, President Lincoln easily won Maryland's electoral votes in 1864 by a 55-45% margin. A few weeks earlier, Maryland had voted on its new constitution. Historian William B. Hesseltine wrote: "Maryland's vote was clearly the product of federal bayonets. In October the citizens of Maryland voted for a new constitution, providing for emancipation and bearing a drastic proscription of Democrats. Although General Lew Wallace took control of the polls in Baltimore, the voters rejected the constitution by a majority of 2,000. But the proposed constitution had given votes to soldiers in the field, and 2,294 soldiers voted for it, and only 76 against. It took ten days to count the votes, but on October 29 Governor Bradford proclaimed the constitution in effect. This fortunate result came just in time for the November elections. On election day General Wallace again guarded the ballot boxes, and Baltimore cast nearly 15,000 votes for Lincoln to less than 3,000 for McClellan. The soldiers in the field completed the work, and Maryland gave Lincoln a majority of 7,000 in a total vote of 70,000."
Augustus Bradford had succeeded Thomas H. Hicks as governor in 1862. Late that year, Hicks was appointed by Bradford to fill the Senate seat vacated by the death of James A. Pearce. Historians Harry. J. Carman and Reinhard H. Luthin, wrote: "Senator Hicks died in mid-February (1865), thus throwing the patronage muddle in this state into further confusion. No sooner had Hicks been laid to rest than a mad tussle ensued between Blair and Congressman John A. J. Creswell (Davis's chief lieutenant), for the vacant Senate seat. At Annapolis the Maryland legislature waxed war over the rival candidates, the conservative members supporting Blair because he 'was expected to favor compensation for the slaves liberated,' while the radical members (or extreme emancipationists) worked for Creswell's election. Although Lincoln was said to favor Blair, the War Department patronage in Maryland at the direction of the radical Secretary of War Stanton and the pro-Chase officeholders in the Treasury Department were utilized for Creswell. The pro-Blair Baltimore Clipper charged bitterly: 'The purse and the sword, the Treasury of the United States and all the patronage of the War Department may elect him [Creswell]....No persons ever wished him to be a candidate but Henry Winter Davis and his friends.'"162
Blair had tried to unite Democrats with his Conservative Unionist faction behind his candidacy to replace Thomas Hicks in the Senate. Democrats in the state legislature failed to rally behind him. Historian Jean H. Baker wrote: "Evidently the strong bonds of party prevented Democrats from voting for a Unionist, no matter how similar their positions. Later a Democratic newspaper explained that Blair had been a part of the Lincoln administration and therefore deserved the 'opprobrium' of Democrats." Baker wrote: "Despite Blair's appearance in Annapolis, fusionists could not deliver the Democratic vote. On two important roll calls involving procedures for the senatorial election, Democrats either did not vote or they cast ballots against the Blair position....Evidently the strong bonds of party prevented Democrats from voting for a Unionist, no matter how similar their positions."163
Historians Carman and Luthin wrote: "The election of Creswell to the United States Senate brought no improvement in the Maryland scene as far as Lincoln was concerned, although the President tried valiantly to bring harmony to the warring factions. The Blairs, stung by Montgomery's defeat, were in no mood for peace, while Davis, apparently flushed by Creswell's victory, resumed his baiting of the administration. Indeed, on March 3 (1865), the last day of the expiring Congress, Davis joined such radical leaders as Thaddeus Stevens, of Pennsylvania, in opposing Lincoln's conciliatory Reconstruction policy toward Louisiana. 'Justice to all' was proving a difficult rule for Lincoln to apply practically in Maryland."164 As Davis biographer Bernard C. Steiner wrote, Davis' "breach with the administration was wide and the parties on either side of it were bitter in their remarks concerning those on the other one."165
Mr. Lincoln himself would suffer the ultimate injustice at the hand of a Maryland native, actor John Wilkes Booth, on April 14, 1865. Davis died before the end of the year.