Baltimore riot of 1861
The Baltimore riot of 1861 (also called the Pratt Street Riot and the Pratt Street Massacre) was an incident that took place on April 19, 1861, in Baltimore, Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 between Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 sympathizers and members of the Massachusetts militia en route to Washington for Federal service. It is regarded by historians as the first bloodshed of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...


Causes of the riot

On April 12, one week prior to the riot, the battle of Fort Sumter
Battle of Fort Sumter
The Battle of Fort Sumter was the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter, near Charleston, South Carolina, that started the American Civil War. Following declarations of secession by seven Southern states, South Carolina demanded that the U.S. Army abandon its facilities in Charleston Harbor. On...

 started, signaling the beginning of the American Civil War. At the time, the slave state
Slave state
In the United States of America prior to the American Civil War, a slave state was a U.S. state in which slavery was legal, whereas a free state was one in which slavery was either prohibited from its entry into the Union or eliminated over time...

s of Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

, North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

, Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

, and Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

 had not yet seceded
Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession also can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.-Secession theory:...

 from the U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. In addition, it was not yet known whether four other slave states, (Delaware
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

, Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

, Missouri
Missouri is a US state located in the Midwestern United States, bordered by Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. With a 2010 population of 5,988,927, Missouri is the 18th most populous state in the nation and the fifth most populous in the Midwest. It...

, and Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

) (later known as "border states
Border states (Civil War)
In the context of the American Civil War, the border states were slave states that did not declare their secession from the United States before April 1861...

"), would remain in the Union. When Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter is a Third System masonry coastal fortification located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.- Construction :...

 fell on April 13 without a single man lost, the Virginia legislature
Virginia General Assembly
The Virginia General Assembly is the legislative body of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere, established on July 30, 1619. The General Assembly is a bicameral body consisting of a lower house, the Virginia House of Delegates, with 100 members,...

 took up a measure on secession. After little debate, the measure passed on April 17. The southern states and border states
Border states
Border states is a term referring to the European nations that won their independence from the Russian Empire after the Russian Revolution, the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, and ultimately the defeat of the German Empire in World War I...

 watched with interest to see what would happen, as the secession of Virginia was important because of the state's industrial value. Influential Marylanders, who had been supportive of secession ever since John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun
John Caldwell Calhoun was a leading politician and political theorist from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. Calhoun eloquently spoke out on every issue of his day, but often changed positions. Calhoun began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent...

 spoke of "nullification
Nullification (U.S. Constitution)
Nullification is a legal theory that a State has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has deemed unconstitutional...

", agitated to join Virginia in leaving the Union. Their discontent increased in the days afterward while Lincoln put out a call for volunteers to serve 90 days and end the insurrection; newly formed units were starting to transport themselves south. Baltimore was a particularly secession-sympathetic city; Abraham Lincoln received only 1,100 of more than 30,000 votes cast for president in 1860. 460 newly called up Pennsylvania volunteers passed through Baltimore on April 18; however, anti-Union forces were too disorganized and surprised to do anything about it. When the next regiment came on April 19, however, they were ready.

April 19, 1861

On April 19, the Union's Sixth Massachusetts Regiment was traveling south to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 through Baltimore. At that time, there was no direct rail connection between the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad
Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad
The Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad was the Pennsylvania Railroad's main line from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania southwest to Baltimore, Maryland in the 19th and early 20th centuries...

's President Street Station
President Street Station
thumb|Back of the Baltimore Civil War Museum, 2008The President Street Station in Baltimore, Maryland is a former train station. Built in 1850, it is the oldest surviving big city railroad terminal in the United States...

 and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was one of the oldest railroads in the United States and the first common carrier railroad. It came into being mostly because the city of Baltimore wanted to compete with the newly constructed Erie Canal and another canal being proposed by Pennsylvania, which...

's Camden Station
Camden Station
Camden Station, now also referred to as Camden Yards, is a train station at the intersection of Howard and Camden Streets in Baltimore, Maryland, served by MARC commuter rail service and local Light Rail trains. It is adjacent to Oriole Park at Camden Yards...

 (ten blocks to the west) and would not be until the opening of the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel in 1873
Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel
The Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel is a double track, masonry arch railroad tunnel beneath Baltimore, Maryland. It now serves Northeast Corridor rail service operated by Amtrak and MARC Train passenger railroads with an average of 135 trains per weekday traversing the tunnel.Whether considered a...

. Rail cars that transferred between the two stations had to be pulled by horses along Pratt Street
Pratt Street
Pratt Street is a major street in Baltimore. It forms a one-way pair of streets with Lombard Street that run west-east through downtown Baltimore. For most of their route, Pratt Street is one-way in an eastbound direction, and Lombard Street is one way westbound. Both streets begin in west...


As the regiment transferred between stations, a mob of secessionists and Southern sympathizers attacked the train cars and blocked the route. When it became apparent that they could travel by horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

 no further, the troops got out of the cars and marched in formation through the city. However, the mob followed the soldiers, breaking store windows and causing damage until they finally blocked the soldiers. The mob attacked the rear companies of the regiment with "bricks, paving stones, and pistols." In response, several soldiers fired into the mob, and chaos immediately ensued as a giant brawl began between the soldiers, the violent mob, and the Baltimore police. In the end, the soldiers got to the Camden Station, and the police were able to block the crowd from them. The regiment had left behind much of their equipment, including their marching band's instruments.

Four soldiers (Corporal Sumner Needham of Co I and Privates Luther C. Ladd, Charles Taylor, and Addison Whitney of Company D) and twelve civilians were killed in the riot. About 36 of the regiment were also wounded and left behind. It is unknown how many additional civilians were injured. Sumner Henry Needham
Sumner Henry Needham
Sumner Henry Needham is regarded by some as the first Union casualty of the American Civil War though he was killed by civilians of the United States. He was killed in the Baltimore riot of 1861 as the troops passed through that city....

 is sometimes considered to be the first Union casualty of the war, though he was killed by civilians in a Union state. Needham is buried in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Ladd and Whitney are buried in Lowell, Massachusetts. Taylor was buried in Baltimore; though his grave was lost, his name appears on the Lowell Monument.

The same day, after the attack on the soldiers, the office of the Baltimore Wecker
Baltimore Wecker
Der Baltimore Wecker was a daily paper published in the German languagein Baltimore, Maryland. It was the object of violence in the civil unrest at Baltimore in April 1861 that produced the first bloodshed of the American Civil War.-History:...

, a
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

was completely wrecked and the building seriously damaged by the same mob. The publisher, William Schnauffer, and the editor, Wilhelm Rapp
Wilhelm Rapp
Wilhelm Rapp was born on July 14, 1827, in what is now the Baden-Württemburg region of southwest Germany. As a student at Tübingen University Rapp participated in the German revolution of 1848, and was imprisoned for a year for his activities...

, whose lives were threatened, were compelled to leave town. The publisher later returned and resumed publication of the Wecker which continued throughout the war a firm supporter of the Union cause. The editor moved to another paper in Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...


As a result of the riot in Baltimore and pro-Southern sympathies of much of the city's populace, the Baltimore Steam Packet Company
Baltimore Steam Packet Company
The Baltimore Steam Packet Company, which was also known as the , was an American steamship line from 1840 to 1962, providing overnight steamboat service on the Chesapeake Bay, primarily between Baltimore, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia...

 also declined the same day a Federal government request to transport Union forces to relieve the beleaguered Union naval yard facility at Portsmouth, Virginia.


After the April 19 riot, some small skirmishes occurred throughout Baltimore between citizens and police for the next month, but a sense of normalcy returned as the city was cleaned up. Mayor Brown
George William Brown
George William Brown was the mayor of Baltimore, Maryland from 1860 to 1861.-Pratt Street Riot:Brown played an important role in controlling the Pratt Street Riot on April 19, 1861, at the onset of the American Civil War. After the Pratt Street Riot, some small skirmishes occurred throughout...

 and Maryland Governor Hicks
Thomas Holliday Hicks
Thomas Holliday Hicks was an American politician from Maryland. He served as the 31st Governor of Maryland from 1858 until 1862, and as a U.S...

 implored President Lincoln to send no further troops through Maryland to avoid further confrontations. However, as Lincoln remarked, Union soldiers were neither birds to fly over Maryland, nor moles to burrow under it. On the evening of April 20 Hicks also authorized Brown to dispatch the Maryland state militia for the purpose of disabling the railroad bridges into the city - an act he would later deny. One of the militia captains was John Merryman
John Merryman
John Merryman was the petitioner in one of the best known habeas corpus cases of the American Civil War, a militia officer during the Civil War, and a Maryland politician.-Early life:...

, who was arrested one month later, and held in defiance of a writ of habeas corpus
Habeas corpus
is a writ, or legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention. The remedy can be sought by the prisoner or by another person coming to his aid. Habeas corpus originated in the English legal system, but it is now available in many nations...

, which led to the case of Ex parte Merryman
Ex parte Merryman
Ex parte Merryman, 17 F. Cas. 144 , is a well-known U.S. federal court case which arose out of the American Civil War. It was a test of the authority of the President to suspend "the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus"...


More Massachusetts troops under General Benjamin Butler
Benjamin Franklin Butler (politician)
Benjamin Franklin Butler was an American lawyer and politician who represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and later served as the 33rd Governor of Massachusetts....

 arrived by ship at Annapolis on April 20. Hicks protested, but Butler (a clever politician) bullied him into allowing troops to land at Annapolis and proceed to Washington by rail via Annapolis Junction
Annapolis Junction, Maryland
Annapolis Junction is an unincorporated community in Howard County, Maryland, United States.-Demographics:The ZIP Code for Annapolis Junction is 20701. 2000 Census for 20701*Population 40*Median age 31.5 years*Single family homes 6...

 (halfway between Baltimore and Washington). Butler was then ordered to take command of this route.

The first troops to reach Washington by this route were the 7th New York
7th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment
The 7th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It is also known as the Steuben Guard or the Steuben Regiment.-Service:...

, on April 25.

There were calls for Maryland to declare secession in the wake of the riot. Governor Hicks called a special session of the state legislature
Maryland General Assembly
The Maryland General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Maryland. It is a bicameral body. The upper chamber, the Maryland State Senate, has 47 representatives and the lower chamber, the Maryland House of Delegates, has 141 representatives...

 to consider the situation. Since Annapolis, the capital, was occupied by Federal troops, and Baltimore was harboring many pro-Confederate mobs, Hicks directed the legislature to meet in Frederick
Frederick, Maryland
Frederick is a city in north-central Maryland. It is the county seat of Frederick County, the largest county by area in the state of Maryland. Frederick is an outlying community of the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is part of a greater...

, in the predominantly Unionist western part of the state. The legislature met on April 26; on April 29, it voted 53-13 against secession.

Many more Union troops arrived. On May 13, Butler sent Union troops into Baltimore and declared martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

. The mayor, city council, and police commissioner, who were pro-South and seemingly unable to maintain order, were arrested and imprisoned at Fort McHenry
Fort McHenry
Fort McHenry, in Baltimore, Maryland, is a star-shaped fort best known for its role in the War of 1812, when it successfully defended Baltimore Harbor from an attack by the British navy in Chesapeake Bay...

. Over the next several weeks, Union troops were deployed throughout the state.

The legislature's special session at Frederick continued for several weeks. Secession resolutions were submitted, but rejected in part because it was believed that the legislature did not have the power to declare secession. The legislature adjourned on August 7, planning to reconvene on September 17. However, on that day several pro-secession members were arrested by Federal troops and Baltimore police officers, and the session was canceled.

Some Southerners reacted with passion to the incident. James Ryder Randall
James Ryder Randall
James Ryder Randall was an American journalist and poet. He is best remembered as the author of "Maryland, My Maryland".-Biography:Randall was born on January 1, 1839 in Baltimore, Maryland....

, a teacher in Louisiana but a native Marylander who had lost a friend in the riots, wrote "Maryland, My Maryland
Maryland, My Maryland
"Maryland, My Maryland" is the official state song of the U.S. state of Maryland. The song is set to the tune of "Lauriger Horatius" and the lyrics are from a nine-stanza poem written by James Ryder Randall...

" for the Southern cause in response to the riots. The poem was later set to music popular in the South, and referred to the riots with lines such as "Avenge the patriotic gore / That flecked the streets of Baltimore." It was not until seventy-eight years later that it became Maryland's state song; there have been efforts to remove it since.

Delaware was occupied by Union troops due to its proximity to (and to prevent a repeat of the events that took place in) Maryland. Kentucky declared its neutrality
Neutral country
A neutral power in a particular war is a sovereign state which declares itself to be neutral towards the belligerents. A non-belligerent state does not need to be neutral. The rights and duties of a neutral power are defined in Sections 5 and 13 of the Hague Convention of 1907...

 (although it would eventually join the Union's side), and although Missouri was on the Union side, a Confederate government-in-exile existed in Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

 and Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...


External links

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