Tuesday, April 26, 2011

150 Years Ago -- Stonewall Jackson/Maryland

Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas "Stonewall&qu...Image via Wikipedia

Thomas Jackson, who everyone would soon be calling "Stonewall," was appointed colonel of the Virginia militia on April 26, 1861.

Jackson, a West Point graduate (17th in the class of '46) and Mexican War veteran, was a major in the Virginia militia and a VMI professor of artillery and natural philosophy when the war began.  Soon after Virginia seceded, he arrived in Richmond with his VMI cadets.  Governor John Letcher made him a colonel and sent him to his new post, commanding the state troops that had taken over Harper's Ferry.

Also on this date, in Maryland, the state legislature met in regular session -- normally, not a noteworthy event, but these were not normal times.  The state was still in an uproar over the Baltimore riot and State Senator Coleman Gellott was calling for a rump session in Baltimore.  To forestall this, Governor Thomas Hicks called the legislature into regular session on April 26.  Since Federal troops were occupying the capital, Annapolis, they were to meet in Frederick, in more pro-Union territory.

When the lawmakers convened, Hicks addressed them, advising that Maryland take a neutral position in the war.  After some debate, the state legislature agreed.  They would issue a proclamation stating that they lacked the authority to an ordinance of secession, then neglected to call for a state convention that could.  Maryland would not be leaving the Union.

Lincoln had to make sure of that.  With Washington lying between Virginia, which was essentially out of the Union, and Maryland, Lincoln had to have Maryland or the capital would be lost before the war had barely begun.  When he learned that Hicks was convening the legislature, Lincoln considered arresting the lawmakers to prevent the session, but finally decided that it "would not be justifiable, nor efficient for the desired object."  But Lincoln would do whatever it took to keep Maryland in the Union.

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