Tuesday, April 19, 2011

150 Years Ago -- the Baltimore Riot

Maryland National Guard Sixth Regiment fightin...Image via Wikipedia

On Friday, April 19, 1861, the 6th Massachusetts Regiment, the first fully equipped, organized unit to respond to Lincoln's call for troops, arrived in Baltimore, Maryland, en route to Washington.  Their presence in the city would touch off a bloody riot.

As I've mentioned before -- when talking about the pre-inauguration attempt on Lincoln's life -- there was no railroad line through Baltimore.  Passengers headed for Washington would arrive at the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad station on President Street, then had to travel cross-town to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad station on Camden Street.  The cars were usually pulled the ten blocks through the city with horses.

On this day, the cross-town route was lined with an angry pro-Southern crowd, but nine cars made the trip without serious incident.  Stones were thrown, and the route was blocked, leaving just over 200 men of the 6th Massachusetts and some unorganized soldiers from Pennsylvania stranded at the President Street station.

The four companies of the 6th Massachusetts left the Pennsylvanians behind and set out on foot.  They soon found themselves surrounded by the same hostile crowd.  The crowd threw stones, cheered for Jefferson Davis, and denounced Yankees.  Mayor George Brown tried to appeal to them to keep the peace, but was mostly ignored.

An officer shouted an order to double-quick.  That just exacerbated the situation -- the chicken Yankees were running from a fight.  Soon, the march turned into a full-scale melee with shots fired.  A detachment of police finally arrived and restored enough order for the troops to reach the B&O station.  Four soldiers and twelve Baltimore citizens were dead.

Back at the President Street station, the Pennsylvanians were attacked by the mob, but the police quickly intervened.  The police would send the men back to Pennsylvania.

After attacking the soldiers, the mob set its sights on the offices of the Baltimore Wecker, a German-language newspaper.   They wrecked the offices and threatened the lives of the publisher, William Schnauffer, and the editor, Wilhelm Rapp.  The two left town, but Schnauffer later returned and resumed publication of the paper.

The 6th Massachusetts reached Washington that evening.

The Baltimore Police Board met that evening and agreed that no more troops should pass through the city.  Arrangements were made to burn the railroad bridges that connected Baltimore with the East.  Maryland Governor Thomas Hicks agreed and sent a committee to Washington to inform Lincoln.

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