On April 19, 1861, one of the first regiments to respond to Lincoln's call for troops arrived in Baltimore by train, en route to the capital. Because the rail line did not pass through the city, horse drawn cars had to take the Massachusetts infantrymen from one end of Baltimore to the other. An angry crowd of secessionists tried to keep the regiment from reaching Washington, blocking several of the transports, breaking windows, and, finally, forcing the soldiers to get out and march through the streets. The throng followed in close pursuit. What had now become a mob surrounded and jeered the regiment, then started throwing bricks and stones.
Panicking, several soldiers fired randomly into the crowd, and mayhem ensued as the regiment scrambled to the railroad station. The police managed to hold the crowd back at the terminal, allowing the infantrymen to board their train and escape, leaving behind much of their equipment as well as their marching band. Four soldiers and twelve civilians were killed, and scores were injured. Maryland officials demanded that no more Federal troops be sent through the state, while Baltimore's mayor and police chief authorized the destruction of key rail bridges to prevent Union troops from entering the city. Secessionist groups, meanwhile, tore down telegraph wires to Washington, temporarily cutting the capital off from the rest of the nation. The North was outraged; New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley even called for Baltimore to be burned to the ground.
Official Report Of Baltimore Police
OFFICE BOARD OF POLICE COMMISSIONERS,
Baltimore, May 3, 1861.
To the honorable the General Assembly of Maryland:
The board of police of the city of Baltimore, created and appointed by your honorable body by the provisions of the fourth article of the Code of Public Local Laws, section 806, &c., deem it their duty respectfully to report:
The board continued from the date of their above report to exercise their regular functions until Friday, the 19th April. On that day a large detachment of, it is understood, about 1,800 men of the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Militia arrived in the forenoon in the city via the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad. No member of the board of police had any information that these troops were expected on that day until from half an hour to one hour of the time at which they were to arrive. The marshal of police was immediately notified, and called out at once a large portion of his force to preserve order during their transit through the city. When they arrived, there were manifestations to interfere with their passage; and after some had been transported by cars through the streets to the Washington depot obstructions were placed on the track in the city which stopped the progress of the remainder. These alighted to march to the depot, and to prevent any difficulty the mayor placed himself at their head, and they thus proceeded on their route. Missiles were, notwithstanding, thrown at the troops, and some of them were injured. Their assailants were fired upon, and in some instances with fatal effect. An intense and irrepressible feeling appeared to be at once aroused, and repeated conflicts between parties of citizens and the Massachusetts troops took place, several being killed on both sides.
The marshal, who had been on active duty at the Camden-street depot, and did not know that these troops were on their route or expected, hearing of this, hastened to meet them with a force of the police, and under their escort they reached the Washington depot, and after some delay the train finally started for Washington. Attempts were made to hinder it by placing obstructions on the track of the railroad, but by the interference of the police these were soon removed.
The city authorities were meanwhile informed that there had been another arrival of military, who were then at the Philadelphia depot. The marshal of police hastened to that point, and as it was impossible for them at that time to be taken through the streets without a general and bloody conflict, he protected them with a party of his police until they were sent back by the railroad company in the cars to Havre de Grace.
During the afternoon and night a large number of stragglers from some of the above detachments of troops sought the aid and protection of the police; they were safely cared for at the several station-houses, and were sent off in security by the earliest opportunity to Havre de Grace or Philadelphia in the cars.
The same night the board had a meeting, when the opinion was unanimously expressed that it was utterly impossible from the state of the public mind that any more forces from other States could, by any probability, then pass through the city to Washington without a fierce and bloody conflict at every step of their progress, and that whatever might be the result, great loss of life and imminent danger to the safety of the city would necessarily ensue. The board were equally unanimous in their judgment that, as good citizens, it was their duty to the city, and to the State of Maryland, to adopt any measures whatsoever that might be necessary at such a juncture to prevent the immediate arrival in the city of further bodies of troops from the Eastern or Northern States, though the object of the latter might be solely to pass through the city. It was suggested that the most feasible, if not the most practicable, mode of thus stopping for a time the approach of such troops would be to obstruct the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore, and the Northern Central Railroads by disabling some of the bridges on both roads. His honor the mayor stated to the board that his excellency the governor, with whom he had a few minutes before been in consultation in the presence of several citizens, concurred in these views; they were likewise those of the board, and instructions were given for carrying them into effect. This was accordingly done. The injury thus done on the railroads amounted to but a few thousand dollars on each; subsequently, as has been stated, further and greater damage was done to other structures on the roads by parties in the country or others, but this was without the sanction or authority of the board, and they have no accurate information on the subject.
The absolute necessity of the measures thus determined upon by the governor, mayor, and police board is fully illustrated by the fact that early on Sunday morning reliable information reached the city of the presence of a large body of Pennsylvania troops, amounting to about twenty-four hundred men, [who] had reached Ashland, near Cockeysville, by the way of the Northern Central Railroad, and were stopped in their progress toward Baltimore by the partial destruction of the Ashland Bridge. Every intelligent citizen at all acquainted with the state of feeling then existing must be satisfied that if these troops had attempted to march through the city an immense loss of life would have ensued in the conflict which would necessarily have taken place. The bitter feelings already engendered would have been intensely increased by such a conflict; all attempts at conciliation would have been vain, and terrible destruction would have been the consequence, if, as is certain, other bodies of troops had insisted upon forcing their way through the city.
The tone of the whole of the Northern press and of the mass of the population was violent in the extreme. Incursions upon our city were daily threatened, not only by troops in the service of the Federal Government, but by the vilest and most reckless desperadoes, acting independently, and, as they threatened, in despite of the Government, backed by well-known, influential citizens, and sworn to the commission of all kinds of excesses. In short, every possible effort was made to alarm this community. In this condition of things the board felt it to be their solemn duty to continue the organization which had already been commenced for the purpose of assuring the people of Baltimore that no effort would be spared to protect all within its borders to the full extent of their ability. All the means employed were devoted to this end, and with no view of producing a collision with the General Government, which the board were particularly anxious to avoid, and an arrangement was happily effected by the mayor with the General Government that no troops should be passed through the city. As an evidence of the determination of the board to prevent such collision, a sufficient guard was sent in the neighborhood of Fort McHenry several nights to arrest all parties who might be engaged in a threatened attack upon it, and a steam-tug was employed, properly manned, to prevent any hostile demonstration upon the receiving ship Allegheny, lying at anchor in the harbor, of all which the United States officers in command were duly notified.
Property of various descriptions, belonging to the Government and individuals, was taken possession of by the police force with a view to its security. The best care has been taken of it. Every effort has been made to discover the rightful owners, and a portion of it has already been forwarded to order. Arrangements have been made with the Government agents satisfactory to them for the portion belonging to it, and the balance is held subject to the order of its owners.
Amidst all the excitement and confusion which has since prevailed, the board take great pleasure in stating that the good order and peace of the city have been preserved to an extraordinary degree. Indeed to judge from the accounts given by the press of other cities of what has been the state of things in their own communities, Baltimore, during the whole of the past week and up to this date, will compare favorably, as to the protection which persons and property have enjoyed, with any other large city in the United States.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
By order of the board:
Source: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion