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::The Revolutionary College Project

The Revoluntionary College Project

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ABOVE - Many Washington College students participated in paramilitary organizations during and before the Civil War. Here, members of Reed’s Rifles are training on a farm near Chestertown.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brandon Righi graduated from Washington College in 2007.  Dr. Ken Miller was the advisor for this paper, his senior honors thesis.


Red Swirl “A power unknown to our Laws”: A Study of the Effect of Federal Policies on Border State Unionism in Kent County, Maryland 1861-1865 

A Senior Honors Thesis by: Brandon P. Righi Dr. Ken Miller, Advisor

Table of Contents 


Chapter 1––1861…………………………………………13 

Chapter 2––1862…………………………………………29

Chapter 3––1863…………………………………………36 

Chapter 4––1864…………………………………………47 

Conclusion––1865 and After……………………………58 



Antagonisms regarding slavery’s expansion, and northern affronts to the honor of the southern states shaped the political discourse of the Antebellum years.  South Carolina had threatened to secede from the Union in 1833, and between that time and the outbreak of civil war north/south tension was a given in national-level politics.  The presidential elections of 1852 and 1856 saw both sections jockeying for political advantages, and searching for compromises that would see the Union preserved, if tenuously, for another four years.

But by 1860 the second-party system had proven incapable of containing the passions of sectional conflict, as the system of two opposing national parties broke down into open north/south competition for the White House.  With Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln the northern voters sought to limit slavery’s expansion into the new western territories, if not abolish the institution.  Northern commercial interests also found a home in the Republican Party’s platform of liberal internal improvements and protective tariffs.  The South, in turn, fell behind John Breckinridge of Kentucky, Vice-President of the United States and an outspoken supporter of slavery’s preservation and westward expansion.  Breckinridge, along with Stephen Douglass of Illinois, shattered the Democratic Party, with the latter carrying the support of the “regulars” or National Democrats, and Breckinridge courting purely Southern interests.  Rounding out the ticket was John Bell of Tennessee, whose short-lived Constitutional Unionist party preferred to take no stand at all on the most burning issue of the day, and campaigned on the platform of the “Constitution, the Union, and the Enforcement of the Laws.”[1]

     The 1860 election was revolutionary in that candidates and campaigners were not debating mere taxes, tariffs, and banks, but the very nature of the Union.  The gravity of the situation, and the sense that momentous events were on the horizon, were not lost on the citizens of Kent County, a sleepy enclave on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Situated in a border slave state of no predictable north/south allegiance, Kent, like Maryland as a whole, would feel the weight of both of the nation’s regions and experience the wrenching ideological conflict brought by the specter of civil war.

A sparsely populated agricultural community, Kent County in 1860 looked much as it does today.  Numerous farms around Chestertown, the county seat, produced their goods using the labor of African-American slaves, as had been the custom since colonial times.  Naturally the social structure and economic basis of the area, so little changed from the colonial era, disposed most Chestertownians to a conservative political outlook apologetic toward the institution of slavery.  A tendency to see themselves as “Southern” was the result of the politically electric atmosphere of 1860.[2]  In an essay dated February 24, 1860, Joseph Burchinal, a student at Chestertown’s Washington College, distressfully posed the question on local minds:  “[C]an we suppose that the North would send to the presidential chair and to Congress, men not to honor, who would take legally or illegally, every advantage [of] the South[?]”  Burchinal, like many local residents, was disturbed by the prospect.  “For if this be the case,” he continued, “every American south of Mason’s & Dixon’s Line should be loud in his acclamation for southern secession.”[3]

     Following Lincoln’s election in November of 1860, and in the spirit of the “secession winter” following shortly thereafter, many Eastern Shoremen did indeed acclaim for southern secession.  Yet a majority of Chestertownians sided, at least reluctantly, with the Union.  After considering the option of disunion, forced upon the South by Northern fanatics, Burchinal continued, “…I am persuaded that this would not be the case.  Millions of northern hearts beat warmly for the South….”  He then went on to consider, with optimism, the benefits of union.  As in Burchinal’s essay, secession was an idea only flirted with by most Chestertownians, an idea deemed unattractive following careful consideration of its consequences. 

Chestertown’s experience during the war years illuminates the unionism of slave holding states and the relationship between slavery, race, and unionism.  Kent County’s union predilections were sentimental and economic in nature, and when war broke out unionism prevailed for pragmatic reasons.  The previous eighty years of stability under the federal government seemed foolish to discard.  But the Civil War was the end of the pragmatic evolution of the slavery debate, and a revolution of the slave/master relationship was the last thing desired by most white Kent Countians.  When the war was being fought “to save the Union,” Kent was among the most patriotic areas in Maryland.  When the county realized that the war’s result could be a Union “as it ought to be,” at least in the eyes of the loathed Northern abolitionists, support for the federal government would take a drastic downturn.  Military interference in Maryland elections, emancipation of Southern slaves, and the eventual abolishment of slavery in the border states all contributed to the marked souring of Kent’s opinion of the government and the war, a sense of dissatisfaction that survived the silencing of the battlefields in the spring of 1865 and would shape the local political map for years to come.


      The dichotomous north/south nature of the Union in 1860 was evident in the Border States, Maryland in particular.  Indeed, the cliché of addressing pre-war Maryland as an “America in Miniature” is tempting.  The increasing ethnic diversity of the northern states as opposed to the continuing Anglo-Saxon homogeneity of the South’s white population, and the increasing industrial capacity and modernization of commerce in the North as opposed to the unchanging dominance of agriculture in the South, were phenomena that were played out in Maryland among her own diverse sections.

     The most industrialized part of the state, Baltimore and northern Maryland in general, had by 1860 a large immigrant, and predominantly German, population.  Of the 77,529 foreign born residents of Maryland in the year of Lincoln’s election, 52,497 resided in Baltimore, totaling nearly one quarter of the city’s population.  The large German community on the upper Western Shore formed a solid anti-slavery constituency––in fact the only openly abolitionist newspapers in the state were printed in German.  The cosmopolitanism of Baltimore was juxtaposed by southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, the large slave holding regions of the state.  In 1860 the Eastern Shore (excluding Cecil County), with a free population of 97,259, had a total of 641 foreign born residents.  The vast majority of the region’s whites consisted of descendants of the original English settlers.[4]

     Similar to the northern states outpacing the South in industrial capacity, northern Maryland and Baltimore in particular dwarfed the southern counties and the Eastern Shore in manufacturing capability.  Cecil County’s annual value of manufactured products, at $1.6 million in 1860, more than doubled the totals of all of the Eastern Shore counties combined.[5]  In the more industrialized states of the North, and in free northern states in general, the value of real estate far outpaced the value of personal property, while in slave states the reality was just the opposite, as the value of personal assets were buoyed by slave property which at the same time tended to devalue the land on which the plantation culture thrived.[6]  In Maryland this trend largely held at the county level:  in three of the largest slaveholding counties (Charles, St. Mary’s, and Calvert) personal estate out valued real estate by $3,475,952; $3,024,360; and $236,915, respectively.  In Dorchester and Prince George’s Counties, homes to sizeable slave populations (Prince George’s being the highest in Maryland), aggregate values of real and personal estate were nearly identical.[7]

     Relating to these demographic and economic statistics of the era, the Kent County of 1860 proves difficult to define as “northern” or “southern.”  It was surely rural and agricultural, had a fair number of slaves (well over twice the number of its northern neighbor, Cecil, which had only 950 in bondage), and overall had more in common with the counties of southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore than it did with Baltimore.  Yet considering only the counties of southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, Kent was among the most “northern.” It was one of only three of these counties that had a free black population exceeding the number of slaves, and the county had the most number of foreign born residents of any county on the Eastern Shore. 

In 1860 Kent County’s population consisted of 7,347 whites (251 of whom were foreign born), 3,411 free blacks, and 2,509 slaves, for a total of 13,267.  The population of Chestertown consisted of 882 whites, 417 free blacks, and 240 slaves, for an aggregate population of 1,539.  Kent County also had the most valuable manufacturing industry on the Eastern Shore, worth $194,300.  Kent’s farms were the most valuable on the Eastern Shore with a cash value of $6.8 million, and the value of real estate easily outweighed the sum of personal ($6.3 million compared to $2.8 million). Compared with figures from the more slave-based county economies in Maryland, it becomes clearer that Kent had less in common with the South than other sections of the state.  The three aforementioned counties whose personal assets out valued real estate (St. Mary’s, Charles, and Calvert) had relatively small white populations that owned large numbers of slaves:  St. Mary’s County had 6,798 whites and 6,540 slaves, with only 1,866 free blacks.  In Calvert and Charles, the slave populations alone actually exceeded the white populations, 4,609 to 3,997 and 9,653 to 5,796, respectively.  The free black populations in these counties were small, with 1,068 in Charles and 1,841 in Calvert.[8]  

     These figures, of course, do not confirm the unionism or secessionism of a particular area during the Civil War.  They are simply helpful for determining public opinion and political orientation in 1860.  The war was long, and public support of the Federal government in Kent declined after the excitement of the onset of hostilities, as the Northern army occupied parts of Maryland, inaugurated conscription, confiscated slaves for enlistment in the colored regiments, and forced abolition on the white population.  Kent County entered the war years as a determined supporter of Washington and eager suppressor of secession and revolution, but these trying events would strain the patriotism of the conservative element, as shown a county on the more economically progressive end of the border state spectrum.  The devolution of unionism in Kent, as seen in the public discourse of the press, the dropping numbers of military volunteers, the election of more southern-sympathizing politicians, and post-war racial developments is best understood by a chronological assessment of the era, beginning shortly after the conclusion of the 1860 general election.


     In the 140 years since the Civil War’s close numerous volumes on Maryland history have appeared, most of which at least in part cover the state’s role and experience during the years of conflict.  The approaches vary widely from pedestrian attempts at a balanced historical account, to deeply researched scholarly accounts.  All have proven valuable, with the more scholarly pieces providing the majority of my secondary source material, and the openly partisan giving insight into the staying power of Civil War memories.[9]

The most useful secondary sources all hail from the second half of the twentieth century (with the exception of George Radcliffe’s article on Thomas Hicks, which is still a respected biographical source on Hicks and his relationship with the “Secession Legislature” of 1861).  For the most part the authors proved to be adequately enough removed from the war era to write well balanced histories without noticeable emotional investment in the subject matter.  But such is not the case for a large part of the works written on the topic of Maryland in the Civil War, which often brings the researcher face-to-face with the hard feelings of those offended by federal actions in Maryland. 

Early compendium histories of Maryland often prove to be overtly political and acerbically anti-Lincoln when discussing the war, examples being J. Thomas Scharf’s History of Maryland of 1879, L. Magruder Passano’s History of Maryland of 1901, and Matthew Page Andrews’ 1929 book of the same title.  Time has not healed all animosities; strongly anti-Federal Civil War histories are published to this day, and in the realm of Maryland history, the most vicious are Harry Wright Newman’s Maryland and the Confederacy of 1976, and Bart Rhett Talbert’s Maryland: The South’s First Casualty of 1995.  As much explorations of the authors’ imaginations as they are of the Civil War in Maryland, works such as these are nonetheless valuable in assessing the conflict’s legacy in a border state, a topic that will be considered more fully in the concluding chapter.[10]

     Of course, the focus of this paper is Chestertown and Kent County during the war years, and secondary sources are sparse.[11]  Works discussed up to this point all offer some information on Kent, although they usually stick to the few wartime events of highest profile.  Despite this lack of coverage, Kent County serves as a fascinating and informative case study of the development and political impact of federal wartime policy in the Border States.  A chronological assessment is the best means to portray the evolution of wartime policy and its consequences, and so I have structured this essay in a year-by-year format. 

Chapter one, on 1861, describes the Kent and Maryland Unionist majority that emerged out of the chaotic Secession Winter, as most citizens of the geographically vulnerable border state fell in line with efforts to suppress the Confederacy; also covered are the characteristics of Maryland Unionism.  The second chapter covers the early stages of federal emancipation policy in 1862, and the negative political reactions in Kent and Maryland in general.  Also important for Kent in the second year of the war was the issue of federal military arrests, as a particularly high-profile case closely touched the upper echelons of local Unionist ranks.  Chapter three covers the crucial year of 1863, by all means the turning point of Unionism in Kent, as military interference with elections and local slaves disillusioned the conservative Unionist population.  Chapter four on 1864 analyzes the repercussions of the events of 1863, as Kent Countians took a reactionary turn at the ballot box, leading to the unprecedented wartime election of Democrats and the realignment of most conservative Unionists with the party of the South.  And finally, the concluding chapter will touch on 1865 and post-war legacies. 

The experience of Kent County shows that many in the more conservative areas of the country initially supported and fought in the Civil War to “save the Union,” naïvely hoping that the slavery question would not enter into the fore.  Of course it did, and the federal policies supporting emancipation in the South, along with the raising of colored regiments, rendered the war aims alien to this significant portion of the population.  The resulting “revolution” of the master/slave relationship polarized locales such as Kent the way the firing on Sumter did not, setting the stage for the unfortunate racial tensions that would mar the nation for at least another century. 

Chapter 1––1861

November of 1860 saw what was the United States’ most ominous federal election, the result of which was Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency with forty percent of the nation’s popular vote, a popular vote markedly biased to the northern states.  Lincoln’s electoral tally south of the Mason-Dixon was dismal.  Marylanders fell in with their fellow southerners, handing Lincoln a paltry 2,294 votes out of 92,441 cast, with the real contest for the Old Line State’s electoral votes coming between Bell and Breckinridge.  The final tally of Maryland’s votes was hardly a reliable weather vane of the state’s future course, as the Constitutional Unionist John Bell and the Southern Democrat John Breckinridge were nearly tied.  Breckinridge won Maryland’s eight electoral votes by a 720-vote margin.  Kent County was closely divided as well, with Bell beating Breckinridge 853 to 693.[12]

Kent had more votes for Lincoln than any county south of Cecil, with 42 tallies for the Republican.  Two counties, Worcester and Kent’s immediate southern neighbor, Queen Anne’s, gave Lincoln zero votes, and the slaveholding strongholds of Prince George’s, Calvert, and St. Mary’s Counties had one Republican vote each.[13]  Even in contrast with these more anti-Lincoln areas, of course, Kent’s critics of the Northern party still handily outnumbered its scattered supporters.  The more extreme of these critics lobbied for Maryland to follow the states of the Deep South into secession, attracting a group of hardliners that would be active throughout the war.  Nonetheless, the county maintained a Union majority, as seen in the elections of 1861.

This chapter explores the formative process of wartime political parties in the state, and the nature of Maryland border-state Unionism.  Kent’s Unionism can be attributed to the pragmatic desire to avoid bloodshed on Maryland soil, and the belief that secession and its tumultuous consequences would do more damage than good to the area’s interests.  From the outset of the crisis Kent County and Marylanders in general made clear their preference for the status quo by berating secession and abolition with equal vigor.  Recognizing that the state was too weak to drastically alter the course of events leading to civil war, Maryland’s leaders made the safe bet of Union.  Accompanying their allegiance, however, was ample evidence that unfavorable federal alterations of slavery could cause Marylanders to rethink their patriotism.

     The Kent News staked out this tenuous position of the county’s conservative population early on.  A weekly newspaper with Whig origins,[14] the News set the tone for the rest of Kent’s experience during the war with an editorial that was passionately anti-secession:

The doctrine of peaceable secession, we repudiate, as inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Constitution, with the teachings of the Fathers of the Republic, and the genius of our Government….  The simple fact of an election, in opposition to our wishes and opinions, may be ground of regret and mortification, but none for resistance or dismemberment.


But it was also a position that set out to make clear that opposition to disunion did not equate to support for the party of the North:  “We are as friendly to the South, her rights and institutions, as South Carolinians––and we denounce as strongly the conduct of the North, in reference to our fugitives from service.”[15]

The Kent News was a moderate public voice on the Eastern Shore during the war, with one rival publication, the Chestertown Transcript,[16] solidly Democratic, and another, John Leeds Barroll’s Kent Conservator, as the voice of the county’s fire-eaters.  Yet, in that relative moderation, we see a stance towards the looming conflict that would only be sustainable in a border state such as Maryland.  A more hard-line column of the News, already wading into the volatile debate over whether or not the Governor should call for a State Convention, read, “…the time has come to vindicate the Constitution….  If the Northern States accede, it is well, but if they refuse, it will then be for Maryland to decide…upon her future course.”[17]  The secessionist Conservator surely published material with even less ambiguous exhortations for a Convention.[18]  The state benefited from the bonds of union, but it was clear that Kent was not yet ready to abandon the ways of the Old South.  


The rapidity of South Carolina’s secession following Lincoln’s election, and the prompt following in her footsteps by states of the Deep South, seemed to beg for decisive action by all of the slave states, either to make clear the unanimity of opinion in the South, or to arrest the move toward disunion and civil war.  Thus the localities of Maryland mobilized, with town hall meetings across the state contributing to the political dialogue.  After the presidential election, the primary issue at hand was the course of Maryland––specifically, what section the state would back in the looming conflict, if either.  Early disagreement in the state focused on whether or not to convene the heavily Democratic state legislature, which could only be called by the Governor.[19]

Thomas Holliday Hicks, born in the Eastern Shore county of Dorchester in 1798, was elected Governor of Maryland in 1857.  The state constitution at the time divided Maryland into three gubernatorial “sections,” which provided candidates for the state’s highest office in turn.  It is because of this peculiar system that the state was led in the early days of the national crisis by one of the most controversial figures in Maryland.  A man of fortitude perhaps unequal to the tensions of late 1860 and early 1861, Hicks rarely backed a particular faction or party with any consistency, be it during the Civil War or his long public career at large.  Originally a Democrat, Hicks was swept into the Governor’s office as an example of the short-lived nativist frenzy of the 1850’s characterized by the American (or “Know-Nothing”) Party.  Hicks was no friend of the fire-eaters of the late 1850s, and greatly distrusted the Democratic General Assembly of Maryland.  But he was also a slave owner and the member of a prosperous plantation family, and thus loathed the election of a Republican president.  Throughout the Secession Winter and during the following spring Hicks’ unionism wavered, with little public comment or action from him regarding future political alignment of the State notwithstanding loud demands to the contrary from the populace.[20]

Chestertownians were no exception to the pull for civic action.[21]  On Tuesday, January 8, 1861, residents of the town gathered at the Court House, “with a view to the expression of opinion on the part of Kent,” for what would be the first of numerous like gatherings throughout the war.  And it was here that the wartime divisions of the voters of Kent became apparent.  Several other counties in the state had already held similar town hall meetings that resulted in the endorsement of a call of the legislature, and this question would drive a wedge in Kent’s voting population, laying the groundwork for wartime political parties.[22]  The position taken by a majority of those present at the meeting, conservative as they might have been regarding slavery and other issues dear to Southern hearts, was one of moderation, a wait-and-see strategy indicative of their torn sympathies.  Not about to advocate the radical path of secession, the only sure consequence of which would have been invasion from the North, Chestertownians for the time being would cast their lot with Washington.

Several prominent men of the area were in attendance on January 8.  The Honorable Ezekiel Foreman Chambers, who served as President of the meeting, was a longtime judge at the local Chestertown Circuit Court, an important and wealthy landholder with long ties to Kent.  Born in Chestertown in 1788, he had fought the British at the Battle of Caulk’s Field in the war of 1812, and had served as a United States Senator for Maryland from 1826 to 1834.  Chambers graduated from Washington College at the age of seventeen and practiced law in the town, and also served as the college’s President of the Board of Visitors and Governors for twenty-four years.  Before his death in 1867 he would also participate in the Maryland Constitutional Convention of 1864, and in that same year he was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor.  Available statistics indicate that Chambers was also one of the largest slaveholders in Kent County.[23]

George Vickers, another prominent local figure, wealthy landowner, and slaveholder, also participated in the meeting.  Vickers was likewise a native of Chestertown where he practiced law, and his name is the most commonly encountered in newspapers of the era, for his main source of income seems to have been real estate; on a weekly basis Vickers had one or more farms and properties for sale.  He served as a Democratic presidential elector in the 1864, an advisor to Governor Augustus Bradford (who succeeded Hicks), and as a U.S. Senator from Maryland from 1868 to 1873.  Other names at the meeting, including Ricaud, Wickes, Comegys, Usilton, Hines, and Westcott, were likewise prosperous lawyers, planters, and merchants who would be closely involved in the coming events of the war.

This first Union Meeting was the only truly non-partisan political gathering in Chestertown for the duration of the war, for differences arose between two high-profile men, Chambers and Vickers, which would within a few short weeks be discernable as two party lines.  As at similar meetings around the country, the men of Chestertown assembled, elected officers of the session, and voted on resolutions delineating the positions of those present.  Chambers, acting as the meeting’s president, had several innocuous and patriotic resolutions passed unanimously.  “Full and very animated debate” followed, however, upon the sixth and seventh resolutions, which called for Governor Hicks to summon the Maryland General Assembly so that body could authorize a sovereign convention.  The reasoning behind the call for convention was, according to Chambers and other supporters of the resolutions, “necessary to perpetuate our glorious Union,” as Maryland would then clearly align with the Constitution and Union and stifle calls for secession.  Vickers, along with Governor Hicks and many other Marylanders, doubted the patriotism of the state’s legislature.  And thus upon the vote for the resolutions calling for a state convention he presented a substitute to the voters which applauded the course Hicks had taken, and included a vague reference to “the time shall arrive for Maryland to speak…”  Vickers’ resolution was adopted “by a large majority.”[24]  Chestertownians felt Hicks’ cautious strategy to be wisest, not trusting the motives of the Democratic MGA.


Kent County and the Eastern Shore did of course have those who preferred more drastic measures to protect Southern institutions.  Men who favored an expedient call for a convention quickly formed a notable political bloc in Kent.  This group, briefly known as “Convention Men” and after the outbreak of hostilities as the Peace Party,[25] was large enough to warrant constant attack by the News and other Union papers of the state, especially during elections.  Southern sympathizers working to frustrate federal war aims as well as outright secessionists proved to be grave concerns of Maryland Unionists during 1861 and after.  The Eastern Shore had no shortage of those hostile to the Lincoln administration and federal war efforts, and so a description of this important segment of the population is essential to understand the area’s political makeup and the strength of Kent Unionism in the early stages of the Civil War.

In Chestertown, one of the most aggressive representatives of the Peace men was John Leeds Barroll, voice of the weekly newspaper the Kent Conservator.  A local lawyer and member of one of the oldest Eastern Shore families, Barroll energetically attacked the indecisiveness of Governor Hicks, along with any other political development boding ill for Southern interests.[26]  For the Conservator, the result of the disagreement of the January 8 Union Meeting was one of “discord,” “animosity,” and “party feeling.”  Those in favor of a Convention thus called an exclusive meeting for February 9.  Disowning any support of secession, as was pinned on supporters of a convention by the News, the Conservator defended its political ally Chambers by getting to the heart of the matter, saying the Judge was only “anxious to protect [his] negroes…  He is not a man to give his negroes and his life to appease the offended, blood-thirsty Demons of Abolitionism.”[27]  Ironically for Kent, it was the extreme political poles that fully understood the ramifications of the crisis, as both secessionists and abolitionists focused on the issue of slavery.  For the time being, however, the Unionists of Maryland seemed determined to ignore that controversy.

The February 9 meeting of Convention Men elected delegates to send to the “Southern Rights Convention of Maryland,” a well-attended statewide gathering in Baltimore during February 18 and 19 that, among other things, resolved “that the secession of the seven slaveholding States…was induced by the aggression of the non-slaveholding States, in violation of the Constitution,” and that Maryland should not be “made a highway for federal troops” sent to coerce the Southern states.  Vigorously made was a call for a sovereign convention, and Judge Chambers, who served as the convention’s president, neatly summed up the platform of the Peace men in his keynote address:  “Yes, gentlemen, great and multiplied as are the blessings we have derived under the Constitution and Union, yet if they can only be enjoyed by the sacrifice of the honor and dignity of our nation and our State, we must refuse them all.”  Union was desirable as long as the tides of abolition could be controlled, and departure from the United States was to be seriously contemplated if “honor,” the lawful retention of property in slaves, could not be guaranteed.  The Southern Rights Convention ended with a promise to again meet if the legislature was not called, a promise it never fulfilled owing to the inauguration of war.[28]

     Political antagonisms that festered in Maryland in the winter and spring of 1861 took on new importance in the month of April, as the onset of hostilities[29] fanned the fires of Southern-sympathy in Maryland, and the suspension of habeas corpus along with martial law on the Western Shore attracted cutting criticism.[30]  Richard Bennett Carmichael of Centreville, in Queen Anne’s County, and a judge of the circuit court in Easton, typified high-profile political dissatisfaction with the course of events in 1861.  A close friend of George Vickers, friend of John Leeds Barroll and Judge Chambers, and an ally of James Alfred Pearce (a US Senator for Maryland and a Chestertown resident), Carmichael mounted an enthusiastic and organized campaign against military power in Maryland and the unfair cancellation of sacred political freedoms in the suspension of habeas corpus and subsequent military arrests of political dissenters.  Carmichael’s charge to the Grand Jury of Talbot County instructed jurors to acquit those victimized by “arbitrary, illegal, and false imprisonments,” and in his controversial petition to the Maryland General Assembly (to which Unionist newspapers such as the News were referring as the “Secession Legislature”)[31] he, along with forty-eight other citizens of Queen Anne’s County, pleaded that the body not adjourn as many had requested.  The petition labeled the legislature’s critics as “confederates of the Governor” and painting the military forces in Maryland as “out-laws,” “traitors,” and “usurpers.”[32]

     The highly visible actions of Peace men such as Chambers and Carmichael, while certainly considered a liability by the Lincoln administration and its backers, were only the political machinations of a movement that also had armed components.  The military presence in Maryland, started by Brigadier General Butler in late April and May of 1861, coincided with very real concerns regarding the strength of secessionist military companies in the state.  During the summer of 1861 Major General John A. Dix of the Commanding Department of Annapolis repeatedly asked for arms and troops to suppress secessionist military companies that were training in “Caroline, Queen Anne [sic], and Carroll Counties,”[33] and Kent citizens S.W. Spencer, Jesse K. Hines, and George Vickers expressed concern to Governor Hicks for a secessionist “outbreak” following the Confederate victory at the first battle of Bull Run (Manassas).[34] Governor Hicks made frequent pleas for federal troops to put down a Maryland rebellion he saw as imminent; a “desperate struggle” in the state seemed to linger on the horizon, especially early in the year.  Confederate smugglers from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Virginia were a concern throughout the war, with the Pocomoke and Annemessex rivers reported to be swarming with “armed pirates and blockade runners” as late as August 1864.[35]

     The perceived strength of Confederate sympathizers in the state of course contributed to the unease of Unionists at election time.  Still intimidated by the rebellious riot in Baltimore in April, Augustus Bradford (of Harford County and Union candidate for Governor in November 1861) requested that Maj. Gen. Dix require loyalty oaths of voters in the gubernatorial election.  Hicks also requested the administration of oaths at polling places, and expressed fear that the election of the Peace candidate for Governor, Benjamin Howard, seemed likely.  On the Eastern Shore George Vickers, an active agent of the Union candidacy, sent $82.80 worth of Unionist Kent News issues to Centreville, an act deemed necessary to help swing that town’s electorate in favor of Bradford.[36]


     Maryland’s active Peace Party and Confederate sympathizers in Maryland attracted much attention from Unionists and military authorities, but nonetheless the Union cause was victorious in state politics.  Kent Unionism had a strong foundation, with the county’s leading newspaper firmly behind the administration upon the firing of Fort Sumter, and Chestertown Union meetings well attended.  But it is the vote tallies from the year’s two elections that best tell of the strength of the local Union party.  On June 11 elections were held to fill seats in the House of Representatives, as Lincoln had called a special session of Congress to address the national crisis.  In the Second Congressional District, of which Kent was part in 1861, the Union candidate Edwin Webster ran unopposed, and the county’s tally for him was 993, 140 more than Kent voters had cast for the Constitutional Union presidential candidate John Bell in 1860.[37]  The November elections were even more decidedly in favor of the Unionists, with Augustus Bradford beating Howard 1095 to 663, “a majority larger than ever before given in any contested election in Kent County.”  Compared to Bell’s 1860 presidential tally, Bradford bested him by 242.  John A. Dix had declined Bradford and Hick’s requests that military authorities require loyalty oaths, reasoning that he lacked the authority to interfere in a state election.  Therefore, the November elections of 1861 are the most accurate gauge of Union sentiment in the early war period, as elections were free of military interference.[38]

     Unionism prevailed in Maryland in 1861, but it was of the typical, conservative border-state brand, and Kent County’s Union sentiment was no exception.  Kent Unionists offered strong opposition to secession, but it was made clear from the beginning that the purpose of the war was to re-form the Union “as it was,” and any abolitionist policy was vigorously opposed with near unanimity.  The resolutions adopted by Kent’s Union Party upon its formation in early 1861 offered just as strong a condemnation of “the multiplied instances of resistance to constitutional rights of slaveholders” as it did for the prospect of secession, as did the State Union Party when it chastised the “misconduct of a portion of the people of some of the Free States….”  The statewide party also openly stated that when it came to the slavery question, its opinions were “directly opposite to the view of [the] Executive.”  Chestertown’s leading figures of Unionism, many if not most of them slaveholders, were conservative on the slavery question without exception.  The News commonly railed on the abolitionist “Black Republicans,” and from Lincoln’s election until the end of the war made no secret of its partisanship.[39]

     Such opinions were in harmony with Maryland’s various elected representatives.  Maryland’s two US Senators, Anthony Kennedy and James Alfred Pearce, were elected as Democrats in the 1850s, and found exception with many Lincoln policies in 1861.  Pearce (who rarely left Chestertown after the first half of 1861 because of illness, and finally died there in December of 1862) proved particularly critical of Lincoln’s policies of military control on the Western Shore and the suspension of habeas corpus, complaining to his personal friend Representative John W. Crisfield,  “…tho [sic] they [the administration] profess as their creed, the union[,]the constitution & the enforcement of the laws[,] they are violating the one & setting the other at naught on the tyrants plea of necessity….”  Nonetheless Pearce was a consistent opponent of secession, a course of action that, as he put it, would be Maryland’s “ruin.” 

This touches on a key tenet of conservative Unionism.  One of the more popular reasonings against secession was rooted in the realization that Maryland, should it leave the Union, would be the northernmost seceded state, a guarantee that any civil war would be fought on its soil.  Crisfield summed up this reality, when he wrote to Pearce, “Disunion­­––at least disunion on the line of Mason & Dixon––is death to us.".  The Kent News also articulated this convincing argument against Maryland secession, reasoning that “Our geographical position would cause us to be the arena of strife and deadly conflict, between the legions of the North and the South, and as a small power between immense ones, we would be crushed between the ‘upper and the nether mill stone.’”  Even so, the slave-owning Pearce was truly torn, professing to Crisfield his conviction of the impossibility of a restoration of the Union.  Judge Richard B. Carmichael, who was a friend of Pearce’s, encouraged these doubts, writing, “For God’s sake, do without a moment’s delay, make your speech denouncing this unholy war, and the unconstitutional proceedings with which it has been gotten up, and conducted….”[40]

     John W. Crisfield, elected to Congress from Maryland’s First District in 1861, was of the same political mold as most other Maryland Unionists.  Born in Chestertown in 1806 and educated at Washington College, Crisfield in 1860 lamented Lincoln’s “inevitable” election as “a disgrace to our national character, to say nothing of the positive mischief to Southern interests.”  In letters from early 1861 to his friend Senator Pearce he proved to be critical of the Lincoln administration, calling the new President an “utter failure,” and “a well meaning, but a weak, man….”  Yet the start of civil war saw Crisfield support Lincoln’s call for troops, and he hoped that the assembling force would “prevent the flow of blood, by the exhibition of an overwhelming force….”[41] 

Like countless other Maryland politicians Crisfield regretted the Republican control of the White House, but the start of the Civil War saw a dissolution of party labels as slaveholders and defenders of slavery ran to the Union banner when war became inevitable.  Union sentiment in Chestertown and Kent County followed an identical evolution during the year 1861.  Despite the menace of secessionist militants, overt secessionists saw very little political success in Maryland, and the more moderate Peace Party managed little success at the ballot box.  The Unionists in Chestertown and the surrounding area, for the most part, managed to forget the differences most of them had with the platform of the Republican administration, and most early federal wartime actions met with approval.  Even the September arrests of members of the so-called “Secession Legislature” in Frederick by General Winfield Scott, certainly a prelude to the numerous military arrests that would become common in Maryland during the war, met with enthusiasm from the News, which reasoned that “Gen. Washington found it necessary to arrest domestic traitors, and Gen. Scott but follows his example.”[42]

But when specific political questions are considered, most obviously that of slavery and emancipation, Kent Unionists knew all too well of their incompatibility with Lincoln’s platform.  What sustained this precarious bond, then, was a certainty that the slavery question was not the pressing issue at the war’s outset.  Upon an objective consideration of the unfolding events, how could it have been?  Before secession, the Southern politicians wielded “complete power…over the present Administration, through their majorities in the Senate, and…the House of Representatives,” the Maryland State Union Party astutely observed in June.  “The question of slavery,” therefore, “we believe to be not seriously in the contest.” 

Highlighting the risk of secession, the News reported that mere weeks after secession daily life in South Carolina was altered dramatically:  “No vessels loading, no business doing, women weeping, and men overcome by sickness, and the city in the hands of a mob, is the bulletin travellers [sic] present of the condition of things…in Charleston.”  Secessionists had traded a robust slave economy and weighty political power in Washington for a chaotic existence and a “ruinous system of taxation,” where there was a new “State tax of Two Dollars in the $100, and $1.66 upon every negro.”[43]

Secession seemed the surest way to financial and physical ruin, and thus the quickest path for slavery’s demise.  Kent Unionists, despite being “Southerners in all our feelings and affections,” would stick with the tried-and-true Union, under which Southern institutions had always flourished.  In 1861 most Maryland Unionists, Governor-elect Augustus Bradford among them, hoped to avoid a rupture of the Union Party along the slavery question by ignoring the question altogether.  Bradford refused to debate or discuss slavery during his campaign, saying he “could not conceive how the discussion of it…can in any contingency contribute to strengthen the loyalty of Maryland at this crisis…”  Ignoring the era’s political white elephant, however, would prove to be an unrealistic proposition, and in the war’s coming years evolving federal slave policies would strain Kent Unionism.[44]

Chapter 2 ––1862

     In Chestertown the second year of the war started as the first had ended, with enthusiastic support of the federal military effort.  Local militiamen had been organizing throughout 1861, and in January of 1862 they numbered around 500 men at their base at “Camp Vickers,” just outside of town.[45]  In February the men started to leave for the Eastern Shore of Virginia to be mustered into the 2nd Eastern Shore Volunteer Infantry, commanded by Colonel Edward Wilkins of Kent County.  Their first assignment while in Accomack and Northampton counties was to prevent smuggling between Delmarva and mainland Virginia.  The departure was met with enthusiasm by the News, and the unit would keep consistent correspondence with the newspaper.  Military volunteerism remained strong into the summer in Chestertown, and by August 62 Chestertownians enlisted out of a voting population of less than two hundred.[46]

     By the summer Lincoln had issued calls for troops totaling 600,000 men, to be drawn from state militias, and all deficiencies were to be filled by means of a draft in the states that had not satisfied their quotas.  The inauguration of the draft was fully supported by the News, which reasoned, “if the war is to be vigorously and successfully prosecuted, it is…necessary that a large additional force should be called into the field.”  Kent Countians could afford such enthusiasm, as the county’s quota of 341 men had been easily surpassed, with 448 in service in October.  At the same time, the counties considered to be the stronghold of secessionism in the state, Calvert, St. Mary’s, Prince George’s, and Charles, had a total of seven men in service.  Queen Anne’s County fell 306 men behind its quota.[47]

     While the “men in the street” of Chestertown and Kent County were imbued with a patriotic martial spirit, the political elites increasingly found themselves at odds with federal policy.  In 1862 this emerging chasm between Kent and DC was apparent in two areas, federal arrests and negro policy, that in the war’s later years greatly soured the county’s Unionist enthusiasm.  In October of 1861 Secretary of State William Seward had recommended to John A. Dix, of the Annapolis Commanding Department, that Judge Richard B. Carmichael be arrested for disloyalty, and the next February Dix proposed the idea to Governor Bradford.  The General said that Carmichael “has for many months been one of the prime movers of disaffection and disloyalty on the Eastern Shore,” undoubtedly referring to his efforts to derail federal arrests of Southern sympathizers and his efforts to keep the “Secession Legislature” from adjourning, as discussed in the previous chapter.  But Dix revealed that he had “forborne to take any measure in regard to him by the advice of gentlemen on the Eastern Shore,” a bow to Carmichael’s numerous friends and acquaintances such as Vickers, Pearce, and Crisfield.  “[B]ut,” Dix pitched in early 1862, “I believe the feeling is now nearly unanimous that his disloyal and vindictive conduct has been endured too long.”  Bradford apparently refrained from comment on the matter, allowing Dix carte blanche to pursue the arrest.[48]

     Carmichael’s actual arrest in Easton on May 27th made for an exciting story, as he was apprehended in his courtroom with a trial in procession, and had to be beaten over the head with a revolver butt to overcome his violent resistance.[49]  While the news of Carmichael’s detainment in Fort McHenry hardly troubled the News, which regretted the violence of the arrest but reminded readers that the judge “had himself to blame” for the affair, the Carmichael saga saw notable Eastern Shore Union men, who were friends of Carmichael, horrified at the exercise of military power.  Senator Pearce, by this time quite ill, lobbied forcefully for Carmichael’s release, visiting Secretary of War Stanton and other officials on the judge’s behalf (Pearce’s agitation drew grumblings from General Wool, who criticized Stanton for even entertaining such a visit).  Pearce’s friend Representative John W. Crisfield was just as active in the matter, writing the President as well as personally contacting Secretary Seward.  George Vickers was likewise a lobbyist for the judge,[50] and “Prominent and Substantial Union men of Centreville” assembled a petition addressed to Lincoln calling for Carmichael’s release, their main fear being the effect of the violent arrest on the sympathies of “conservative union men” of the Eastern Shore.[51]

     By November even the News was loud for the judge’s release, for the “wants and necessities of the public” required that the courts be held.[52]  But late in the year the News’ columns espoused a marked level of bitterness in relation to the other sticking point for Kent Unionists in 1862:  the federal government’s increasingly liberal behavior in the realm of slavery.  In December 1861 a bill was introduced into Congress to emancipate the slaves in the District of Columbia, and by April 1862 it was law.  The newly free soil of DC attracted many runaways from adjacent counties in Maryland and infuriated their owners, who called the law “unwise, ill-timed, unconstitutional, and…the entering wedge of a general scheme of abolition.”   Maryland Unionists fought the proposal while in Congress, and once DC was emancipated lobbied for District officials’ full respect for the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.  Governor Bradford, who described the District’s emancipation as a “selfish and incendiary course of those who…have persisted in this wanton violence to the feelings of the border states,” did his best to see that Maryland slave owners would be able to enter DC and retrieve their runaway property.[53]

     This early squabble over slave policy, which would pale in comparison to what was to come, was already straining the Union Party in Maryland.  While organs of the party’s conservative wing adamantly opposed any entry of the emancipation debate into the public forum, and commonly tossed around rhetoric to the effect of, “abolitionists and the secessionists are equally detestable…and both seem bent on the destruction of the country,” the Unionists of Baltimore were holding meetings separate from the state party in which resolutions were passed endorsing Lincoln’s policy of gradual emancipation.[54]

     Yet the criticism of the state’s conservative Unionists reached new heights upon word of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, issued on September 22 and set to take effect on the first day of 1863.  The News was simply aghast at the idea of freeing all of the slaves in the South, and steamed that

The idea of a President, whose duties are prescribed in the Constitution…by a paper publication, changing the relation of master and slave, and emancipating four millions of human beings…without any provision for their colonization… excels in stupendous wonder and amazement anything that this or any former century has produced.


“No authority exists in him nor in the Government combined to interfere with the relation of slavery,” the News opined.  And further, the proclamation “closes the door to reconciliation––places the Confederates at defiance––embitters and aggravates the feelings of hostility between the sections….”  According to conservative Unionists such as the editors of the News, the President had at the same time alienated loyal slaveholders of the Border States, and reinvigorated the Confederates enthusiasm to fight, a seemingly disastrous situation.  And since the proclamation instituted “wholesale emancipation,” and no plan to deport the newly freed slaves, the News predicted that it “would be the most unwise and injurious act towards the negroes themselves that could possibly be committed,” as a new war “for the ejectment [sic] of the African race from the country” was surely on the horizon.[55]

     In general, the Emancipation Proclamation was met with a cold reception in Maryland.  The Baltimore American, among the most unconditional supporters of Lincoln’s wartime policy, doubted the constitutionality of freeing the slaves of the South as well as the proclamation’s military value.  Governor Bradford likewise missed any military or political expediency being served by sudden emancipation, and said that the proclamation would only give the rebels “a rallying cry against us.”  He refused to sign an address issued by representatives of sixteen states approving of the measure.  In Congress the Maryland delegation delivered nearly unanimous condemnation.  Representative Crisfield was particularly hostile to the proposal, quipping that it triggered “astonishment, terror, and indignation” in every loyal heart.  Keeping in line with his previous opinions of Lincoln articulated in letters to Senator Pearce, Crisfield lamented that conviction of the President’s “incapacity is every day becoming more universal.”[56]

     In May, before the proclamation of September 1862, Thomas Hicks, still an active Unionist despite no longer being governor, sent a letter to Lincoln he hoped would help stem the tide of emancipation.  “I beg you,” Hicks wrote, “Keep down as far as you can the ultra men of the North.”  The former Maryland Governor begged the President to put all effort behind beating the South militarily before attention was paid to freeing slaves, unnecessary meddling that he, like Bradford, considered damaging to the Union cause in the border states.  Representative John Crisfield, in correspondence with Senator Pearce (who was on his deathbed, and would die in December at age 57), took a less optimistic tone on the subject of slavery’s retention after the war than Hicks or the Kent News, which at the end of 1862 still held hope that the peculiar institution would survive.  “I am satisfied,” Crisfield said, “that so far as the administration and this Congress are concerned, slavery is doomed.”  Dramatically he continued, “Every day the conviction is more and more thorough that republican constitutional liberty is overthrown, and that we must soon have a master.”  During Congress’ 1862 session Crisfield engaged in cutthroat debates in the House defending slavery in Maryland, in particular with abolitionist Representative Owen Lovejoy, who deplored Crisfield’s defense of an institution “which is a stench in the nostrils of God.”  Crisfield took the traditional Southern patriarchical stance, claiming the choice before them was “between slavery on the one hand, and degradation, poverty, suffering, and ultimate extinction on the other.”[57] 

The unprecedented federal intervention into the institution of slavery, for the time being only in the seceded states, along with persistent and sometimes heavy-handed federal suppression of dissent in Maryland (typified by Carmichael’s arrest), certainly altered in 1862 the harmony of purpose that had been seen the previous year.  Military recruitment for the time being proceeded without much trouble, as only the state’s political elites seemed to realize slavery’s days were truly numbered.  Federal “negro policy” and military intervention into the political realm would continue in Maryland, and in the next year erupt in scandal.  This would cause many to question their loyalty, and the implosion of the state Union Party.

Chapter 3––1863

Conservative Unionists tried to ignore the “negro question” during the opening phase of the war, but in 1862, with the manumission of the District of Columbia’s slaves and the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation, the debate over proper policy regarding the African-American population became unavoidable.  The argument naturally spilled into 1863, as the first of the year marked the enacting of Lincoln’s policy of southern emancipation that was announced the previous September.  All of the slaves in the seceded states were, at least on paper, “free.”  The stakes were raised, as was the News’ hyperbole; revisiting the issue upon the inauguration of a new year, the editors lamented that Lincoln’s display of Executive power “can find no parallel or precedent in the history of the world, since Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden.”[58]  

     However, the slaves of Kent and Maryland were still legally in bondage, and defenders of the institution worked against any further agitation of the question, at least until the end of armed conflict.  The News was energetic in its condemnation of those whom it termed as sufferers of “nigger on the brain,” lumping abolitionist politicians and secessionists together as equally deplorable.  But emancipation was undeniably a fixture of state politics, and Maryland party developments in 1863 evolved solely along the issue.  By the end of the year conservative Unionists, easily a majority of Kent’s voting population, would be on the losing end of the emancipation debate.  Foiled at the ballot box by gross military interference, and humiliated by what they saw as inexcusable violations of property rights, Kent Unionists were left with only bitterness at year’s end, a feeling that would show in 1864’s important elections and referenda.[59]


     A unified State Union Party did not last long into 1863.  Early in the year Unionists held meetings at various locations calling for “more effectual” support of the Lincoln administration, and condemning those who were in opposition to tenets of the President’s platform.  The Grand League of Baltimore Unionists soon called for a convention to assemble on June 16,[60] inviting “all persons who support the whole policy of the Government….”  Conservatives, not inclined to support emancipation or other controversial federal policies such as the raising of regiments of black troops, quickly organized and scheduled their own convention for June 23rd, as the State Central Committee.  The former group was referred to as “League Men” or “Unconditional Unionists,” and the latter as “Conservatives.”[61]

     Adding to the confusion was the fact that both sects of Unionists claimed to be the legitimate Union Party of Maryland.  On June 23, when both conventions were meeting in Baltimore to articulate their platforms and nominate candidates for statewide offices, the Union League Convention communicated with the State Central Committee, or conservative, Convention, proposing that the two meetings disband and meet together on some future day.  James Ricaud of Kent County made particular noise against this proposal, rejecting the Union League’s ability to call a convention and refusing to allow “the subject of emancipation…[to] be settled by a party convention.”  The two conventions never united as planned.  Another peculiar situation arose in Kent when Unionists of the First District met in Cambridge, Maryland, to nominate a candidate for Congress.  Both Conservative and Unconditional Unionist sent delegates to the convention (Kent was the only county in the district to send two delegations), only to have the Unconditional Unionists turned away.  The Conservatives renominated John Crisfield, but Unconditional Unionists of the First District later met in Easton and nominated John A.J. Creswell for the seat.[62]

     The disarray of the state’s Unionists, and the reality that the Unconditional men were naturally to be favored by the federal government, did not initially drive the Conservatives into a state of pessimism.  On the Eastern Shore the Conservatives were a healthy majority, and so there was hope for frustrating the state’s abolition movement.  The News, as late as September 5, lashed out at papers endorsing emancipation, saying, “Every intelligent man knows that Congress never made any…decision [to support national emancipation]…and [a] recent letter of the President…is a flat contradiction of the assertion that the Administration has.”[63]  But such high spirits on the part of the conservatives were unrealistic, especially in light of federal efforts to enlist so-called Colored Regiments, which got underway in the spring of 1863.  The enlistment of African-Americans, one of the controversial issues that led to the splitting of the Union Party in Maryland, would first start with confiscated slaves of Confederates, then encompass the state’s free black population, and finally would be opened to those still held in slavery by loyal owners.  This progression would prove unpopular with Conservatives, and was of course loathed by slave owners in the affected areas.  Kent County would feel the weight of this federal desperation for troops, raising dissatisfaction with the federal government to new levels.

     In May 1863 the Bureau of Colored Troops was established by the War Department, and recruiting began in the summer.  Secretary of War Edwin Stanton chose William Birney, son of a noted abolitionist, to recruit in Baltimore.[64]  Colonel Birney started by enlisting former slaves of Confederates who were being imprisoned in city and county jails, along with free blacks, but in September the recruitment effort took the turn dreaded by Conservatives.  Judge Hugh Lennox Bond of the Baltimore Circuit Court sent a letter to Secretary Stanton lobbying for the soliciting of current slaves to join the colored regiments.[65]  Judge Bond’s proposal attracted an outpouring of opposition from Maryland Unionists, including Governor Bradford and Thomas Hicks.[66]  Influenced by Vickers, who said of Bond’s proposal that “no grosser violation of law, justice & Constitution, was ever contemplated,” Bradford publicly attacked slave recruitment in a letter published in the state’s newspapers.  The Governor fumed that the enlistment scheme “is calculated to inflict irreparable damage upon the Union cause, and is alarming, agitating, provoking, and disgusting our Union-loving and Government supporting citizens beyond any thing [sic] that has lately occurred in the State.”  Hicks also warned Lincoln of the resentment being aroused among once fully loyal Marylanders.[67]

     Appeals for relief from slave enlistments would eventually be successful, but not before large numbers were “abducted” from the counties of the Eastern Shore.  Almost immediately after Judge Bond’s letter to Stanton was made public in early September, officers under the ambitious Col. Birney steamed across the bay.  It is difficult to exaggerate the revulsion that Eastern Shoremen, Unionist or otherwise, expressed at what happened upon the ships’ arrival.  The News, upon hearing word that slaves were to be targeted for recruitment, wailed that “[Maryland] is now to have her slaves taken, her crops ungathered…her people brought to suffering for her patriotism and sacrifices in the cause of their country!”  During the second week of September, Birney landed at Queen Anne’s County, and according to John B. Ricaud, George B. Westcott, S.W. Spencer, and George Vickers in a letter of complaint to the Governor, “more than one hundred slaves” were confiscated.  The men complained “some sudden and unlooked for act of the military power [offends] our people and again casts a gloom and despondency over every loyal heart….  Great outrages are daily perpetrated….”  Despondency had obviously gripped the letter-writers, as they reasoned that “want and partial starvation must be the inevitable result” of the loss of slave labor.[68]

     On September 20 a steamer landed in Kent, “off Eastern Neck Island, in the lower part of this county,” and “carried off” an estimated 150 to 200 slaves, “including nearly every able bodied slave in Eastern Neck.”  The News again reported on October 3 that nearly three hundred slaves had been abducted from Chestertown on September 25.  “No discrimination was made between loyal and disloyal owners.”  The editors could not contain their disgust:  “Our vernacular is unable to express the feeling of indignation and of mortification that these proceedings have aroused among all classes of the community.”[69]  Vickers used similar language in a letter to Bradford when he protested “The Piratical Steamer from Baltimore,” after it landed and took slaves belonging to “Mr. Ricaud, & I suppose other loyal men….We are indignant without exception….”  Indeed, Vickers seems to have been particularly offended by the slave recruitments, as word of his vibrant countermeasures soon reached Washington.  According to Birney, Vickers, while formerly “a noisy Constitutional Union man,” had become a “virulent enemy of the Government and associate with known secessionists.”  Birney also reported that he had learned that Vickers

proposed to two secessionists to raise a mob at Chestertown and burn the small Government steamer employed for the transportation of recruits for the U.S. colored troops; and that he was busy and officious in advising masters of slaves to offer armed resistance to the recruiting officers.


Vickers’ friend Judge Richard B. Carmichael, back on the bench after being released from federal custody in late 1862, was also active against the recruitment of African-Americans, prompting Birney to label him a “vindictive and dangerous enemy to the Government.”[70]

     Lincoln, aware of Vickers’ position in the Bradford administration and perhaps receptive to the growing resentment of theretofore loyal Maryland slave owners, directed Secretary Stanton in early October to issue orders establishing strict guidelines for any further slave recruitment in Maryland, stipulating that only slaves of known disloyal citizens could be confiscated, and slaves of loyal owners were to enlist only with their owners’ consent.  Loyal slave owners were to be compensated not more than $300 per enlisted servant.  As for the inflammatory behavior of Vickers, Lincoln specifically ordered Birney not to arrest the Bradford aid.[71]


     Enthusiasm for the 1863 elections, which included the contest for the First Congressional District as well as several local offices, was high in Chestertown, given the gravity of national as well as state and local developments in the summer and fall.  The two wings of the former Maryland Union Party, fully split by November, offered sets of opposing candidates, and for the first time since 1860 there were Democrats running for office, in a bid to take advantage of the divided Union Party vote.  Yet despite the complexity of the tickets, statewide officials expected success of the conservative Unionists in the First District.[72]  What was not expected, however, was the brazen behavior of John Frazier, Jr., the Provost Marshal of the Eastern Shore and Unconditional Union candidate for Clerk of the Circuit Court in Kent County.  The disruptions undertaken at his orders, along with highly questionable polling practices elsewhere in the district and state, led to a resounding Unconditional Union victory, the aftermath of which would be Unionists in conservative areas such as Kent County leaving for political parties they had only shortly before considered “secessionist.”

     Interference in elections on the Eastern Shore, which had experienced comparatively few effects of the Western Shore’s military occupation, was precipitated by leaders in the Unconditional Unionist party, who contacted Lincoln about their concerns over possible disloyal voter participation in the upcoming election.  Unconditional Unionists in Chestertown and elsewhere called for the administration of test oaths for voters of “odious or objectionable character.”  Conservatives strongly resented such action.  Vickers warned Bradford of Chestertown Unionism’s growing frailty, and warned, “With all my love for the Union and the Constitution…I might shrink from an Oath required of me by a power unknown to our…Laws.”  Nonetheless, General Robert C. Schenck, military commander in Baltimore, issued orders requiring test oaths on the Eastern Shore despite Bradford’s proclamation to the contrary.[73]

     On the November 3 election day in Chestertown, however, Provost Marshal John Frazier dispensed with the use of the oath and had his Lieutenant Colonel, Charles C. Tevis, issue an order endorsing the Unconditional Union ticket as the only one “recognized by the Federal authorities as loyal or worthy of the support of any one who desires the peace and restoration of the Union.”  Frazier, apparently still not content with his chances of being elected, then had his conservative Unionist opponent for Clerk of the Circuit Court, Jesse K. Hines of Chestertown, arrested.  The steamer Nellie Pentz landed in Chestertown on Monday evening with the Third Maryland Calvary and a detachment of New York Infantry, and by Tuesday was sailing to Baltimore with Hines on board, along with several other prominent Union men (Cols. Edward Wilkins and S.W. Spencer, Charles Stanley, Thomas Baker, David Benjamin, George Perkins, John Dodd, and the editors of the Kent News, James H. Plummer and William B. Usilton[74]) whom Frazier had deemed worthy of arrest.  The Nellie Pentz sailed to Schenck’s headquarters in Baltimore, where the General, recognizing the illegality of Frazier and Tevis’ actions, immediately released the prisoners.[75]

     Provost Marshal Frazier’s strategy for being elected backfired miserably:  despite the arrests, Jesse Hines won the office of Clerk of the Circuit Court by a vote of 914 to 112, and Frazier and Tevis found themselves imprisoned by General Schenck for their interference in Kent’s elections.  Conservative Unionists Ricaud and Westcott won their elections for State Senate and House of Delegates, respectively, and overall the conservatives did well in the county.  Frazier may have failed to swing the vote to the Unconditional Unionists in Kent, but irregularities in the rest of the First Congressional District gave John A.J. Creswell a dubious victory over conservative incumbent John Crisfield.  In many districts on the Eastern Shore the Crisfield ticket was not allowed at all by military authorities:  in Crisfield’s town of residence, Princess Anne, only one citizen was allowed to vote before the election judges were arrested and polls closed.  Other abuses also marred the election, as Unconditional Unionists spent at least $2,400 in Caroline County alone for bribes, and countless ballots were tampered with throughout the district.[76]  The final count in the First District gave Creswell a 1,260-vote majority.[77]

     At first Eastern Shore conservatives expressed faith that the results of the Creswell election would be overturned once Bradford and the federal authorities knew of the myriad abuses, but they did not count on the crushing defeat dealt to conservative Unionists in the rest of the state.  The victory of Unconditional Unionists was most complete in Baltimore, without any notable military interference, and the final vote count for the Maryland General Assembly had 52 out of 74 Delegates and at least 12 out of 21 Senators committed to calling a Constitutional Convention for the State.[78]  Bradford was unwilling to renew the debate over emancipation by calling a new election, and felt browbeaten by the combined loss of his party at the polls and the exercise of power by military authorities in direct contradiction to his wishes.  While grumbling that the elections were a mere farce, on November 25 the Governor certified the results, including Creswell’s election to Congress.  Illustrating the level of interference, on the Eastern Shore the total votes cast for state comptroller totaled only 56.6% of the vote sum in the same election of 1859.[79]

     At the end of 1863, it was apparent to even the News that “Any argument on the slavery question is now futile.”  The new General Assembly of the state was guaranteed to propose a constitutional convention, and all conservative Unionists could hope for, according to the News, was that “our Legislature will meet the subject in a fair and proper spirit.”  1863 had seen drastic changes, from new levels of wartime casualties like those at Gettysburg in the summer, to notable political developments at the national and local levels, such as the gaining strength of the Democratic Party in conservative areas.  In Maryland a united Union Party failed to survive the slavery debate, and by year’s end the victorious radicals of the Unconditional Union Party quickly embarked on a crusade against involuntary servitude.  What would result in 1864 would mirror events elsewhere in the nation––former conservative Unionists would abandon that party, and a reinvigorated Democratic bloc would emerge.[80]

     Some in Chestertown and Kent County would be unable to get over the hard feelings after the tumultuous fall of ’63.  Vickers, who made it a personal mission to see that John Frazier was permanently removed from any position of authority (he would ultimately see this goal realized in early 1864[81]), still fumed about Negro enlistments in December.  He powerlessly complained to the Governor that “We have now here, a White Lieutenant, & 11 Negroes, in Uniform, with Arms, recruiting….  The whole proceeding is most revolting & humiliating to us.”  Vickers’ bitterness was clear, and speaking for his group of elite slaveholding Unionists, Bradford’s faithful weather vane of Maryland political sentiment gave a thankless grumble, “So much for our Loyalty & allegiance….”  These were the feelings leading into 1864, which was to bring two important referenda and a Presidential election to the sore opinions of the voters of Kent.  In 1864, the beginning of the Democratic political order that would rule the area for decades afterward was to come to the surface.[82]

Chapter 4—1864

     Maryland Unionism underwent great changes between the start of the war and 1864.  At the outset of the secession crisis, supporters of the Union formed a strong political front against secession in Maryland, united by the patriotism of the moment and fear of war on Maryland soil.  But in 1861 Unionism, embodied in the organized statewide party, was conservative and open as to its differences with the Republican administration regarding slavery.  By January 1864, however, radicals of the very Northern grain roundly despised by so many Marylanders were at the center of political power in the state, with no small thanks to string pulling in the District of Columbia and strong-arm tactics at the ballot box. 

The change of allegiance was most striking in Baltimore, a city that in 1860 had cast a majority of its presidential votes for Southern Democrat John Breckinridge, and in 1861 had brought Maryland to the doorstep of secession as it rioted upon the arrival of Northern troops.  By 1864 the city was Maryland’s bastion of emancipationist sentiment and the Unconditional Union Party.  Thousands of Baltimoreans with southern-sympathies had fled, and the impact of three years of occasionally heavy-handed military rule likely contributed much to the political about-face.  In the 1859 election for State Comptroller, Baltimore residents cast a total of 23,453 votes.  In the 1864 plebiscite for the Constitutional Convention, only 9,189 votes were cast.  The result was that the Old Line State was on the verge of being the first border state to free its slaves.[83]

     This reversal of fortunes for the conservative class of Unionists, who at one point seemed unquestionably in control of the statewide party, was embittering.  In Kent County the Unionists were more hopelessly estranged than in most counties, and members of the majority conservative wing would approach the last full year of the war with party flight to the Democratic side in mind.  It did not take long for the Unconditional Unionist General Assembly to get at the catalyst for such flight.  It voted in favor of various resolutions endorsing emancipation in January, and on February 9 passed a bill calling for a constitutional convention.  On April 6 Maryland voters would have the chance to accept or reject the convention, as well as vote for convention delegates.[84]

     Kent County’s Union factions proved unable to unite in the meantime, resulting in a divided front against Kent County’s first slate of Democrats since before the war.  The News stuck with the Union ticket in the spring, lobbying for the election of George B. Westcott, Caleb W. Spry, and John Gale as the county’s delegates to the convention.  The Unconditional men ran three candidates of their own, and the Democrats ran three familiar faces:  George S. Hollyday, David C. Blackiston (a former member of the Secession Legislature of 1861 and, according to the News, a “pure, unadulterated Secessionist”), and Judge Ezekiel F. Chambers (the former president of the Southern Rights Convention of 1861).  The News was quick to criticize the politics of these men, and the “Secession Democracy” in general, but to no avail.  On April 6 Kent Democrats scored a notable victory at the polls, with Hollyday, Blackiston, and Chambers being elected soundly.  The Democratic ticket beat even the combined vote of the Unconditional and conservative Unionists.[85]

     George Vickers was mollified at the election result, as the military abstained “from all improper interference.”  Importantly, he leveled the blame for the Unionist defeat squarely on Lincoln, as he explained to Governor Bradford:  “I suppose there were 350 voters who absented themselves from the Polls, [three-quarters] of whom were Union men, who doubtless were dissatisfied with the President’s negro policy…”[86]  Kent’s dissatisfaction with the approaching reality of emancipation, as well as the specter of a much more politically powerful city of Baltimore (to be achieved through a reapportionment of representatives in the new constitution) was clear in the county’s vote on whether or not to have the convention:  991 voted against having a convention, while  453 voted for it.[87]  Nonetheless, the statewide vote was decidedly in favor of holding the constitutional convention, and to this body Kent County was to send three archconservatives to do their best to preserve the old order.[88]

     The Democratic Kent County delegation, led by Judge Chambers, put up a strong defense of slavery at the convention that assembled in Annapolis on April 27.  Chambers was on the Committee of the Declaration of Rights, the section of the new constitution that would ban slavery, and upon the new Declaration’s completion authored the Committee’s minority protest against it.[89]  The new Declaration of Rights was introduced to the convention on May 12, and after vigorous but futile denunciation by the Democratic delegates, was passed on June 24.[90]  Kent’s delegates voted unanimously against it.  The Kent delegation also voted to form a state registry of former slaves, and to ban all future immigration of African-Americans into Maryland.  In an action that would remove any teeth from Article XXIII, the delegation also voted against an amendment that allowed the state to levy fines and imprisonment for owners who continued to enslave after emancipation went into effect.  Chambers, Hollyday, and Blackiston were on the losing side of all of these votes.[91]

     The convention finally approved the new constitution on September 6.[92]  The final step in the process was for the document to be submitted for approval by the state’s voters, and the convention scheduled the plebiscite for October 12-13.  The original Convention Bill that passed the legislature in February had given the convention the right to establish voter qualifications, and for the public vote on the new constitution strict rules were adopted.  Most controversial was the administration of loyalty oaths, an issue that caused open disagreement between Bradford and Vickers.  Vickers considered the oaths “inquisitorial, illegal & oppressive…in direct conflict with the Constitution of the [U.S.].”[93]  While Vickers was campaigning against the use of loyalty oaths by election judges, a campaign he would lose, conservatives around the state rallied against the final passage of the new constitution by the voters of Maryland.  The press in Chestertown published strong denunciations of the document, with the Transcript going as far as saying that radicals wanted the Negro and White races to intermarry, forming an indefinable race.  Such amalgamation would result in the extinction of humanity, the Transcript enlightened readers, as hybrid animals are often infertile.[94]

     Strong opposition from the conservative areas of the state resulted in a closely contested vote.  At first indication it seemed that the document had been defeated, with newspapers as late as October 20 celebrating the demise of the “Negro-Robbing Constitution,” and on October 22 the Baltimore Weekly Sun was still reporting a slight advantage for the opponents of adoption.  However once the soldier vote was fully tallied, the constitution was passed by a razor-thin majority of 263, out of 59,973 votes cast, with voters being disqualified by loyalty oaths undoubtedly making the difference.  The vote on the constitution followed along clear sectional lines within the state; only one county of Southern Maryland or the Eastern Shore, Caroline, approved the constitution, and that was by a tiny 48-vote margin.  Kent County, fitting with the pattern, delivered a decidedly anti-constitution vote, defeating the document 1,246 to 289.  Governor Bradford announced the official results on October 29, and the new state constitution went into effect November 1, 1864.[95]

     Kent’s vote on the new constitution came only weeks before the important general elections of November 1864, and in these contests the county’s vote would take on the same tone as the defeat of the new constitution.  Regarding the National Union Convention held in Baltimore on June 7, the News restrained any editorial opinions, a pattern it held throughout the fall.  Instead, lengthy letters written by anonymous readers, perhaps even the News editors themselves, provided plainly anti-Lincoln political commentary.  One such essay instructed the average Union voter of Kent County to “recall…the humiliations, indignities, injustice” of the Lincoln years, and “decide like an American freeman, for whom he will vote.”  In the summer the paper held out hope that a “sound, Constitutional Union candidate” would emerge for the presidential election, but if this did not happen, the tone of the paper clearly foretold its future alliance with the Democrats.[96] 

The Democratic Party held statewide conventions in Baltimore on June 15 and October 28, nominating Judge Ezekiel F. Chambers of Chestertown as their candidate for Governor, and sending three delegates to the national Democratic Convention, one of whom was Judge Richard B. Carmichael.  Hiram McCullough was to run against the unpopular John A.J. Creswell in the First District.  At the national convention in Chicago, Democrats chose General George B. McClellan as their presidential candidate, and upon this politically astute nomination the conservative Union Party of Maryland began to unravel.  George Vickers threw his hat into the McClellan ring, as did other notable conservatives in the state.  The News lauded McClellan’s credentials, saying he was “properly the nominee of the War Democrats and the Conservative Unionists” in view of his unpopularity among the Maryland “Peace Democrats” (who had branded him a “tyrant” because of  his arrest of the 1861 Secession Legislature).  The paper was enthusiastic about his chances, noting the “increasing dissatisfaction with the management of affairs and policy pursued by the present Administration…”  Signs pointed toward a rapid return to a two party political arena, as the Union Party became more exclusively the home of Republicans and conservatives flocked to the Democratic camp.[97]

The 76 year-old slaveholder (until the new state constitution went into effect) Judge Chambers served as a fitting symbol of the old order Maryland Democrats hoped to preserve.  Their conservatism predictably carried the 1864 elections in Kent County, as the charge that the Democratic Party harbored only secession had clearly lost its potency.  McClellan and Chambers captured majorities of 853 and 669, respectively, and despite Kent News’ complaints about alleged military intervention in Talbot and Caroline Counties, McCullough beat Creswell for a seat in Congress by a district-wide vote of 9,677 to 6,307.  The conservative sentiments of the Kent County voting population, aroused in 1863 and 1864 by gradually more liberal federal Negro policies (and their increasingly aggressive enforcement), fully emerged in the votes of 1864 as they did in conservative areas nationwide, clearly inaugurating the return of two-party politics.[98]

Besides election returns, there are other indicators of Chestertown and Kent’s changing Unionism.  The onset of draft fatigue and general war weariness late in the conflict, combined with increasing political dissatisfaction, fostered a notable decline in the martial spirit of the county’s population.  Early in the war Kent consistently exceeded its quotas for volunteers, but by 1864 it was a challenge getting draftees to show up for duty.  Also, Kent County’s response to the new status of the Negro, as well as efforts in the county to head off any possibility of “negro equality,” which took over “emancipation” as the new bogeyman of conservatives, helpfully exposes the reactionary mindset of a large portion of the population in the border state.

Confederate invasion of Maryland in 1863, as Lee moved North in what would culminate in the Battle of Gettysburg, certainly stimulated military volunteerism.  But the display of martial spirit in the summer of ’63 was an increasingly uncommon phenomenon in the later war years.  The new federal draft system, and the call for around four hundred thousand men, encountered opposition on the Eastern Shore, as Chestertown’s Provost Marshal Frazier complained of “daily” threats against enrolling officers in the First District.  In August of 1863 George Vickers began to protest loudly against the apportionment system of excess troops upon reading in the Baltimore Sun that excess troop numbers were to be credited to the quota of the state at large, as opposed to each county’s respective quota.  “In Kent County,” Vickers wrote Bradford, “much pains were taken by Union men & much money expended to procure Volunteers to relieve us from the Draft,” relief that was being robbed by erasing the county’s quota excess.[99]

  Relief from the draft became a primary concern in 1864, as in the summer of that year Lincoln issued a call for five-hundred thousand additional troops, and any deficiency not enlisted by September 5 were to be drafted.  The News knew full well that the quota for Kent would “fall heavily on the people,” and the paper lobbied for immediate action to raise money for bounties that would encourage volunteers.[100]  Kent failed to meet its quota, making necessary a draft held on September 19 despite Vickers’ pleading[101] that it be delayed; by November, for the first time during the war the First District’s Provost Marshal circulated a flyer calling for information leading to the arrests of “many persons,” thirty-five in Kent’s first district alone, who had been drafted but failed to report for duty.  By early 1865 Kent County was thoroughly taxed by the draft, and fresh federal calls for more troops exasperated the News, which pondered whether the county’s spring troop quota of 199 was the product of some confused bureaucrat.  The same newspaper that earlier in the war had enthusiastically endorsed conscription now applauded “Movements to escape the draft.”[102]

The insatiable need for more federal troops certainly worried the citizens of Kent, but political developments in 1864 caused just as much anxiety.  The era of the Old South was on its last legs by the year’s beginning, with national emancipation only a matter of time, and in Maryland slavery ended earlier than in any of the other border states.  Conservatives nationwide found the rapid escalation of the status of African-Americans unsettling, and in Kent County the paternalism inherited from centuries of slaveholding proved too ingrained to be shaken.  Conservative sentiment railed against any chance of dreaded “negro equality,” and the reaction of Chestertown’s leading conservative Unionist voice, the News, to the new freeman status of the county’s slaves provides a telling example of the white population’s desire to keep the races rigidly stratified.

Late 1863 saw the News finally admit to slavery’s rapidly approaching demise, and early 1864 inaugurated the paper’s campaign against designs to establish any political equality for the minority race.  Early in the year the News ran a venomous column against the US Senate, which considered a bill guaranteeing the equal rights of the District of Columbia’s black population to use Washington’s railcars.  When the state constitutional convention was under consideration the paper warned that “extreme ultra men” were plotting to accomplish “negro equality and negro voting” in Maryland.  Referring to the funeral of Representative Lovejoy of Illinois, where there had been “nine white and one negro bearers,” as an indication of the shocking mingling of races that the radicals had in mind, the News warned Kent Countians “to be on their guard, or they will have negro equality and negro voting before they are aware of it!!”[103]

      These scare tactics may have worked in Kent, where the referendum for the convention was defeated, but upon the validation of the new constitution by Governor Bradford and the document’s effective date of November 1, Maryland slaves were released from bondage.  After November 1, admirers of the old guard clung to the system of “apprenticeship,” wherein it was the duty

of the Orphans’ Court of the several counties and the city of Baltimore to bind out until they arrive at the age of twenty-one for males, and eighteen years for females, all negroes emancipated…who are minors and incapable of supporting themselves, and whose parents are unable to maintain them….[104]


Via this plan to deal with indigent black youths, many slaveholders maintained a form of involuntary servitude in spite of the new constitution, and members of the judiciary sympathetic toward the slaveholding interest hastened the process.  Supporters of the system, such as the News, defended apprenticeship of black minors in humanitarian terms, arguing that such youths should be “taught habits of industry and economy that would be of great benefit to them when they should come to provide for themselves.”[105]

The apprenticeship system had many detractors, who saw nothing humane in taking the children away from newly freed slaves.  The News seems to have had a tough time grasping this reality, as it reported quizzically, “There is evidently a disposition among negro parents to hold on to their children….”  In December opponents of apprenticeship distributed a circular, warning that such unfavorable treatment of the new free black population would result in their fleeing northward, further robbing the area of much-needed labor.  “All that is requisite in this matter for the benefit of all parties,” the circular read, “…is to let this people alone in the possession of that freedom which the law…provides for them and for their children, who are equally free.”  The News attacked the circular’s logic, reasoning that the black population was “the last of all people to remove from one place to another….”  The News contradicted any claim of prejudiced action against the newly freed blacks with the argument that “As long as [the freedmen] manifest habits of industry and a willingness to make themselves useful, they will be treated with proper consideration….”  Despite promises of proper consideration, the News also lobbied for regulation of the wages of free blacks in a bid to protect the wages of white laborers.  With wage ceilings and other prohibitory statutes in place, the newly freed slaves had little chance to exploit any “habits of industry or economy” they might have had.[106]


The last full year of the Civil War in Maryland saw military and political developments come to a head.  The once strongly Unionist enclave of Kent County suffered war weariness as the war dragged on and the casualties mounted, an expiration of martial spirit hastened by political precedents unsatisfactory to the area’s conservatives.  Emancipation came unexpectedly early, and the tumultuous ride toward a new state constitution saw a solidifying Democratic voting bloc in the state, with conservative Unionists joining in droves the political party that would dominate the south for a century longer.  The war was not over as the year came to a close, but Kent’s political makeup was already resembling a post-war spectrum.

Conclusion––1865 and After

     Lee’s surrender in the spring of 1865 brought relief, but nothing resembling a patriotic celebration––in Kent’s case such embellishments only inaugurated the war.  The changes spawned by the past four years of armed conflict prohibited a return to normality, as whites sought to adjust to the new status of their former servants, and the black population strove to better their lot.  For many, such as the numerous whites whose income did not rely directly upon slave labor or the free blacks who had already been working for wages before the war, adjustment to the post-war universe was not too traumatic, at least economically.  But as is apparent from the county’s press, acceptance of the new political order proved considerably more difficult.  “The Negro Question” would almost single-handedly shape the new party alignment of the post-war years, and Kent would prove just as hostile to new civil rights measures as any county in Maryland.

     Much as it had lamented the public debate over slavery, the News regretted that Washington politicians were contemplating granting blacks suffrage.  “The times are sadly out of joint,” remarked the editors, as former Conservative Unionists and Democrats joined forces in the latter half of 1865 to “stay the progress of radicalism” and the designs of the “negro jacobins.”  Indeed, the hard feelings former Unionists may have felt regarding secession seemed to melt away upon the question of Negro suffrage.  “Conservative men of all parties” met in a county convention on October 25 and agreed upon a Conservative ticket, the candidate for State Senator being George Vickers.  The meeting resolved that the people of Kent were “uncompromisingly opposed to negro suffrage,” and called for the repeal of the contentious Registry Law, a statute passed by the Maryland General Assembly that required citizens to pass a loyalty test in order to register to vote.  The News, which had more than once before blamed the war solely on disloyal Marylanders, now embraced those pushing to allow returning Confederates to participate in elections.  In fact, the paper fully abandoned the Conservative Unionist label––that party was still active in the 1865 election, but the News dismissed their ticket as a “movement…calculated to build up a strong Radical party in this county,” even though the Unionist platform was nearly identical to that of the Conservatives with whom the News now associated.[107]

     The elections of 1865 were close in Kent, but nonetheless resulted in the victory of the entire Conservative ticket––no Unionists carried the county.  This pattern only strengthened in coming years.  In 1866 the News joined the Transcript in endorsing the incumbent First District Congressman Hiram McCullough, a Democrat, and McCullough won Kent’s vote by the formidable margin of 1092 to 251.  And by 1868 the unity of old Conservative Unionists and Democrats was even more apparent, as the News endorsed Democratic Presidential candidate Horatio Seymour.  The catalyst for supporting the Democrats was still race.  The News warned its readers that “Universal and impartial negro suffrage, and the elevation of the negro to a position of…equality with the white men, is the cardinal dogma of the…Radical party….”  The race card proved to be the most persuasive argument for the county’s Democrats.

     The “Democracy’s” resurgence was not by any means limited to Kent County.  By the end of the 1860’s the state government of Maryland was firmly under the party’s control, and the only electoral hope the Republicans had was a voting black population.  In 1865 several prominent politicians deserted the state’s Unconditional Unionist Party, among them Montgomery Blair and Senator Reverdy Johnson.  The highly contentious Registry Law was a sticking point for many of the deserters, and in 1866 Unionist Governor Thomas Swann replaced the registry judges that had been appointed by Governor Augustus Bradford with more conservative men.  The result was an explosion in the numbers of registered voters, mostly to the benefit of Democrats.[108]  That same year Democrats and Conservatives took hold of the General Assembly, and little time passed before a new constitutional convention was approved, as conservatives sought to undo the wrongs they felt had been perpetrated by the 1864 Constitution.  The 1867 convention, presided over by the formerly imprisoned “secessionist” Richard Bennett Carmichael, reassured “rural supremacy” by again greatly limiting Baltimore’s representation in the General Assembly.  Also eliminated were loyalty test oaths, fully re-enfranchising former Confederates.  Maryland voters overwhelmingly approved the document, 47,152 to 23,036.[109]

     The Fifteenth Amendment, soundly defeated in the Maryland Legislature but still approved by the required number of states in 1870, formally gave black men the right to vote, and in that year Chestertown saw its first black voters since the early years of the century.[110]  The result was palpable; in the election of town commissioners on May 23 1870, the black vote was able to fill all seven seats with Republicans.  The Transcript vowed to fully mobilize the white Democrats for future elections, hoping that the “pride of race in the Caucasian element which even Mongrel influence cannot obliterate” would compel whites to “resume control of their own government.” 

The Eastern Shore in general proved quite hostile to the idea of black voting. Local elections on the Western Shore seemed to carry on smoothly with the newly enfranchised voters, but on the Eastern Shore several towns had no blacks cast ballots.  Salisbury town officials refused to allow blacks to vote in their April 4 election, and St. Michael’s April 5 election was “untrammelled [sic] by the fifteenth amendment––no negroes offered to vote.”  In Easton––then the Shore’s largest town with 2,110 people (43.2% of whom were black)––elections took place on May 2, after which the Easton Star was happy to report that “Africa did not make his appearance on the field of action.”  If it is indeed true that the blacks did not attempt to cast ballots, threats and intimidation from a portion of the white population likely played a role.[111] 

Before its town election in May, Chestertown aimed to make disenfranchisement official policy by attempting to incorporate as a town with only white-male suffrage (Governor Oden Bowie vetoed the incorporation bill once it passed the General Assembly).[112]  Free blacks not only had to deal with wage ceilings and disenfranchisement, but also racial terror in Kent.  By 1867 a dozen schools for free blacks, usually operated in Methodist Episcopal churches, had been arsoned in the state, with fully one half of these conflagrations taking place in Kent County alone.  The only other county with more than one such burning was Queen Anne’s, just across the Chester River.[113]


Abolition is the cause of secession and civil war; its origin is there.  If there had been no Abolition there never could have been Secession and its consequences….  [T]hat same spirit of encroachment, aggression and destruction…inherent properties in the doctrine of Abolition, now turns upon the white race and proposes to wage a war upon their habits, tastes, prejudices, and principles….


This June 1865 letter from “An Original Unionist” voiced the concerns of the conservatives in Kent, in Maryland, and indeed throughout the Union.  For men of such beliefs in Maryland, the war proved to be humiliating as well as tragic.  Armies marched across their soil and quickly occupied their cities.  The State Legislature had been arrested and cowed, and all elections seemed tainted by federal interference.  “In the long, bitter aftermath of war,” writes Maryland historian Robert Cottom, “Massachusetts would reconcile with South Carolina before Marylanders would forgive one another.”  Maryland rebounded with a marked Confederate nostalgia after the war.  The first Union memorial was not erected in Baltimore until 1909 (later to be removed for expressway construction), and the General Assembly officially accepted the potently anti-Lincoln tune “Maryland, My Maryland” as the official State Song in 1939.[114]

     Hard feelings haunted many white Marylanders for decades, even shaping their historical memory.  Histories of the Civil War Era written by Marylanders in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries tend to focus much attention on illegal federal arrests and other actions, even when written by Unionist opponents of slavery, such as former Baltimore Mayor George William Brown, whose book Baltimore and the Nineteenth of April provides the best first-hand account of the Pratt Street Riot.  Others are often merely exhibitions of general distaste for the North.  The oft-cited works of J. Thomas Scharf[115] and Matthew Page Andrews make parallel arguments defending Dred Scott, pinning the expansion of slavery on New England, exposing the general lawlessness of Northern states (i.e., their refusal in many instances to execute the Fugitive Slave Law), and bemoaning the “Russia-like proportions” of wartime “military tyranny.”  Histories of this stripe are still being written.  A stunning display of parochialism, Harry Wright Newman’s condescending Maryland and the Confederacy was penned in 1976, and Bart Rhett Talbert’s slightly more academic The South’s First Casualty, published in 1995, wallows in a romantic vision of the prewar Southern Gentleman and distaste for the North.[116]  The consequences of the war, so unexpected and undesirable to many Marylanders of the time, can inspire as much second-guessing and regret at they did upon the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.


     Unlike in years past, in 1865 there was no public Fourth of July celebration in Chestertown.[117]  Residing in an un-seceded state, Kent County was technically on the winning side of the Civil War, but politically and culturally most felt a loss.  As evidenced by the post-war election results, the mantra of the local press, and the virulent anti-black activities of many in the county (including the town of Chestertown), Kent County had swung from one of rural Maryland’s bastions of Unionism in 1861 and 1862, when the county far exceeded its Southern Maryland and Eastern Shore peers in Union military volunteerism, to an encampment of embittered conservatives nostalgic for the Old South and hostile toward the new political order.  This apparent shift of opinion was actually the result of evolving federal wartime policy:  began as a crusade against secession, the war ended in emancipation and looming political equality for blacks.  A helpless place between the “mill stones” of North and South, Kent hoped to avoid bloodshed and retain its way of life.  But the revolutionary outcome of the conflict ushered in a new political and racial order, one that many in the county would strive mightily to suppress for decades to come.  The Civil War had proven to be the time for great change, but few of the Kent Counties in the Union proved to be ready.


Primary Sources

“Address and Resolutions Adopted at the Meeting of the Southern Rights Convention of Maryland, Held in the Universalist Church, in the City of Baltimore, February 18th and 19th, 1861:  Together with the Address Delivered by the President, Hon. Ezekiel F. Chambers, on Taking His Seat.”  Baltimore:  J.B. Rose, 1861.

Andrews, Matthew Page.  History of Maryland: Province and State.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1929.


Bradford, Augutus W.  Papers.  Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

Brown, George William.  Baltimore and the Nineteenth of April, 1861: A Study of the War.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1887; 2001.

The Debates of the Constitutional Convention of the State of Maryland, Assembled at the City of Annapolis, Wednesday, April 27, 1864.  Vol I.  Annapolis: Richard P. Bayly, 1864.

Hicks, Thomas H.  Papers.  Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

Kent County Commissioner of Slave Statistics.  Slave Statistics 1867-1868.  Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, MD.

Kent News, 1856-1870.

Newman, Harry Wright.  Maryland and the Confederacy.  Annapolis: Harry Newman, 1976.

Pearce, James Alfred.  Uncatalogued Papers.  Washington College Archives, Chestertown, MD.

Pearce, James Alfred.  Papers.  Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

“Petition of Richard B. Carmichael and Others, Against the Adjournment of the Legislature Sine Die,” Maryland House of Delegates, 18 June 1861.

Proceedings of the State Convention of Maryland to Frame a New Constitution: Commenced at Annapolis, April 27, 1864.  Annapolis: Richard P. Bayly, 1864.

Scharf, J. Thomas.  History of Maryland From the Earliest Period to the Present Day.  1879; Hatboro, PA: Tradition, 1967.

“Secret Correspondence Illustrating the Condition of Affairs in Maryland.”  Baltimore: 1863.

Talbert, Bart Rhett.  Maryland: The South’s First Casualty.  Berryville, VA: Rockbridge, 1995.U.S. Census Bureau.  Agriculture of the United States in 1860.  Compiled from the Original Returns of the Eighth Census under the Direction of the Secretary of the Interior, by Joseph C.G. Kennedy, Superintendent of the Census.  Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1864.

U.S. Bureau of the Census.  Population of the United States in 1860.  Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1864.

U.S. Bureau of the Census.  Manufactures of the United States in 1860.  Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1865.

U.S. Bureau of the Census.  Statistics of the United States (Including Mortality, Property, &c.,) in 1860. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1866.

Usilton, William B. III.  History of Kent County Maryland: 1628-1980.  Chestertown: publisher and date unknown.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I-III.  Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1881; Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1971.

Secondary Sources

Andrews, Matthew Page.  History of Maryland: Province and State.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1929.

Andrews, Matthew Page.  “Passage of the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment through Baltimore, April 19, 1861.”  Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 14, 1919.

Brown, C. Christopher.  “Democracy’s Incursion into the Eastern Shore: The 1870 Election in Chestertown.”  Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 89, no. 3, Fall 1994.

Brugger, Robert J.  Maryland: A Middle Temperament, 1634-1980.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.

Clark, Charles Branch.  Politics in Maryland During the Civil War.  Chestertown, MD: 1952.

Cottom, Robert I., Jr., and Mary Ellen Hayward.  Maryland in the Civil War: A House Divided.  Baltimore: MD Historical Society, 1994.

Culver, Francis B.  “The War Romance of John Thomas Scharf.”  Maryland Historical Magazine.  Vol. 21, 1926.

Curry, Richard O., ed.  Radicalism, Racism, and Party Realignment: The Border States During Reconstruction.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969.

Denton, Lawrence M.  A Southern Star for Maryland: Maryland and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861.  Baltimore: Publishing Concepts, 1995.

Dumschott, Fred W.  Washington College.  Chestertown: Washington College, 1980.

Emory, Frederic.  Queen Anne’s County, Maryland: Its Early History and Development.  Baltimore: MD Historical Society, 1950; Queenstown, MD: Queen Anne Press, 1981.

Hemstock, Kevin.  “Newspapers Grew Up in the Civil War.”  Discover Kent County, MD.  Chestertown, MD: Kent County News, Spring/Summer 2003.

Kirby, Walter J.  Roll Call: The Civil War in Kent County, Maryland.  Silver Spring, MD: Family Line, 1985.

Landskroener, Marcia C., ed.  Washington: The College at Chester. Chestertown: Lit House Press, 2000.

Manakee, Harold R.   Maryland in the Civil War.  Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1961.

McPherson, James.  Battle Cry of Freedom:  The Civil War Era.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Passano, L. Magruder.  History of Maryland.  Baltimore: J.C. Dulany, 1901; 1904.

Radcliffe, George L. P.  “Governor Thomas H. Hicks of Maryland and the Civil War.”  Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, vol. XIX, nos. 11-13.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1902.

Steiner, Bernard C.  “James Alfred Pearce.”  Maryland Historical Magazine.  Vol. 19, 1924. 

Wagandt, Charles Lewis.  The Mighty Revolution: Negro Emancipation in Maryland, 1862-1864. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1964; MD Historical Society, 2004.

Wagandt, Charles Lewis.  “Election by Sword and Ballot: The Emancipationist Victory of 1863.” Maryland Historical Magazine.  Vol. 59, No. 2, Summer 1964.

Walsh, Richard and William Lloyd Fox, eds.  Maryland: A History.  Annapolis, MD: Hall of Records Commission, Department of General Services, 1983.

Wennersten, John R.  “John W. Crisfield and Civil War Politics on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, 1860-64.” Maryland Historical Magazine.  Vol. 99, No. 2, Spring 2004.



[1] James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom:  The Civil War Era (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988) 221.

[2] Harold R. Manakee, Maryland in the Civil War (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society 1961) 15-20.

[3] Joseph Burchinal, Essay on the 1860 Election, 24 February 1860, Washington College Archives.  I have found no evidence that Burchinal fought in the war.

[4] U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population of the United States in 1860, Compiled from the Original Returns of the Eighth Census under the Direction of the Secretary of the Interior, by Joseph C.G. Kennedy, Superintendent of the Census (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1864) 215; Charles Branch Clark, Politics in Maryland During the Civil War (Chestertown, MD: 1952) 4-5.

[5] There were no returns for Worcester County in the 1860 Census for this category.

[6] In Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, personal out valued real estate.  In the border slave states (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri), real estate was the most valuable, as it was in every northern state.

[7] U.S. Bureau of the Census, Manufactures of the United States in 1860 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1865) 228; Bureau of the Census, Statistics of the United States (Including Mortality, Property, &c.,) in 1860 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1866) 304.  Prince George’s figures are $10,710547 real and $9,513,621 personal, Dorchester’s are $4,662,977 and $4,652,716.

[8] Population of the United States in 1860, 214-215; Manufactures of the United States in 1860, 228; U.S. Census Bureau, Agriculture of the United States in 1860 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1864) 72; Statistics of the United States, 304.

[9] There are excellent primers on Maryland Civil War history available, the most notable being Harold R. Manakee’s Maryland in the Civil War (Baltimore: MD Historical Society, 1961), and Robert I. Cottom, Jr., and Mary Ellen Hayward’s short book Maryland in the Civil War: A House Divided (Baltimore: MD Historical Society, 1994).  Both paint a balanced portrait of the whole wartime theatre in Maryland, covering the political intrigue of the secession crisis as well as the military campaigns, the most famous of which being the Battle of Antietam.  However, for the researcher looking for information on the later years of the war and detailed political history, these works fall short.  The more specialized and thorough monographs are Charles Lewis Wagandt’s The Mighty Revolution: Negro Emancipation in Maryland, 1862-1864 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1964; MD Historical Society, 2004), which covers the political evolution of Maryland’s emancipation movement; George L. P. Radcliffe’s “Governor Thomas H. Hicks of Maryland and the Civil War,” Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, vol. XIX, nos. 11-13 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1902), an exhibition of the controversial Governor’s activities during the secession crisis of the spring of 1861; Lawrence M. Denton’s A Southern Star for Maryland: Maryland and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861 (Baltimore: Publishing Concepts, 1995), which sets out to define Maryland’s political sympathies during the early stages of the war; and Charles Branch Clark’s Politics in Maryland During the Civil War (Chestertown, MD: 1952), easily the best book on the subject, covering Maryland’s General Assembly, Congressional delegation, Union Party activities, and emancipation efforts during the war.

                The most variety of secondary sources, however, is found as sections embedded in larger Maryland histories, and many of these provide well-researched accounts of the period.  Richard R. Duncan’s “The Era of the Civil War” in Richard Walsh and William Lloyd Fox, eds., Maryland: A History (Annapolis, MD: Hall of Records Commission, Department of General Services, 1983) is a good start, devoting room to both political and military components of the war, as does Robert J. Brugger’s consideration of the war in Maryland: A Middle Temperament, 1634-1980 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988).  One of the best analyses of post-war and reconstruction history in Maryland is Wagandt’s essay “Redemption or Reaction?––Maryland in the Post-Civil War Years,” in Richard O. Curry, ed., Radicalism, Racism, and Party Realignment: The Border States During Reconstruction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969), a tome covering all of the border states during reconstruction.

[10] J. Thomas Scharf, History of Maryland From the Earliest Period to the Present Day (1879; Hatboro, PA: Tradition, 1967); L. Magruder Passano, History of Maryland (Baltimore: J.C. Dulany, 1901; 1904); Matthew Page Andrews, History of Maryland: Province and State (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1929); Harry Wright Newman, Maryland and the Confederacy (Annapolis: Harry Newman, 1976); Bart Rhett Talbert, Maryland: The South’s First Casualty (Berryville, VA: Rockbridge, 1995).

[11] The works specifically on Kent County are Roll Call: The Civil War in Kent County, Maryland by Walter J. Kirby (Silver Spring, MD: Family Line, 1985), basically a list of Kent servicemen with only a few pages on politics during the war, and C. Christopher Brown’s “Democracy’s Incursion into the Eastern Shore: The 1870 Election in Chestertown,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 89, no. 3, Fall 1994, an article that covers, as the title suggests, the post-war years. William B. Usilton III’s History of Kent County Maryland: 1628-1980 (Chestertown: publisher and date unknown) does not even attempt to cover the Civil War years, treating them as if they never existed.  Rounding out local history are books on Queen Anne’s County and Washington College, which have served as sources for certain parts of this essay.  Frederic Emory, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland: Its Early History and Development (Baltimore: MD Historical Society, 1950; Queenstown, MD: Queen Anne Press, 1981); Fred W. Dumschott, Washington College (Chestertown: Washington College, 1980); Marcia C. Landskroener, ed., Washington: The College at Chester (Chestertown: Lit House Press, 2000).

[12] Breckinridge polled 42,497 votes to Bell’s 41,777 statewide.; McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 232; Manakee, Maryland in the Civil War, 21; Cecil Democrat (Elkton, MD) 17 November 1860; Lawrence M. Denton, A Southern Star for Maryland: Maryland and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861 (Baltimore: Publishing Concepts, 1995) 30.  Denton lists the Kent vote as 852 for Bell and 694 for Breckinridge.

[13] Denton, A Southern Star for Maryland, 30.

[14] The News backed the Winfield Scott Whig ticket in 1852, but by 1856 had made the transition to the American, or Know-Nothing, camp, backing Millard Fillmore’s run for the presidency.  See Kent News (Chestertown, MD) 30 October 1852, 25 October 1856.

[15] Kent News, 24 November 1860.

[16] The Transcript would begin publication in 1862.

[17] Kent News, 24 November 1860.

[18] Naturally, newspapers have proven a substantial and important resource for this project’s research.  Microfilm Kent News is available from 24 November 1860 through the duration of the war.  Microfilm of the wartime issues of the News’ main competitor, the Chestertown Transcript, are not available, and no issues of the Kent Conservator are extant.

[19] As per the state constitution of 1851, the Maryland General Assembly met every other year.  1861 was an off year, and thus its convening at this time would have to be in response to the Governor’s call.

[20] George L. P. Radcliffe, “Governor Thomas H. Hicks of Maryland and the Civil War,” Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, vol. XIX, nos. 11-13 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1902) 14, 20.

[21] The focus of this paper will remain on political events, but the military mobilization of the area is worthy of note.  The anticipation of armed conflict spawned countless organized bands of volunteers throughout the country, and one of the earliest in Kent was the Reed Rifles.  The “Reeds” paraded through town with their “twenty-six muskets, of the Minnie patent” in the week of November 26-30 (Kent News, 1 December 1860).  Other volunteer groups, with varying political sympathies, were formed throughout the county and surrounding area.  In the years 1862-63, Washington College had a “Military Department,” and offered training and drill practices “to a limited extent to those who desire it.”  See Fred W. Dumschott, Washington College (Chestertown: Washington College, 1980). 

[22] Kent News, 5 January 1861.

[23] “Vickers, George, 1801-1879,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress,; Dumschott, Washington College, 85-87; Kent County Commissioner of Slave Statistics, Slave Statistics 1867-1868, Accession No. CR 77,850, Maryland State Archives, Annapolis, MD.

[24] Kent News, 12 January 1861.

[25] The moniker of “Peace” was because of this bloc’s disdain for the “coercion” of the seceded states, in favor of a policy of reconciliation.  Many called for peace and recognition of the Confederate States of America.

[26] That is, until his arrest for disloyal conduct by federal authorities in 1863.

[27] Kent News, 19 January 1861; Kent Conservator, 9 February 1861, in Walter J. Kirby, Roll Call:  The Civil War in Kent County, Maryland (Silver Spring, MD:  Family Line, 1985) 128.

[28] “Address and Resolutions Adopted at the Meeting of the Southern Rights Convention of Maryland, Held in the Universalist Church, in the City of Baltimore, February 18th and 19th, 1861:  Together with the Address Delivered by the President, Hon. Ezekiel F. Chambers, on Taking His Seat” (Baltimore:  J.B. Rose, 1861) 10, 6.

[29] On the twelfth Confederate guns opened fire on the small Federal garrison holding Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, prompting Lincoln to issue his call for 75,000 troops to protect the nation’s capital.  Northern soldiers coming south by rail to protect the District of Columbia had to pass through Baltimore, and on April 19 the first large unit to attempt this passage was the Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Militia.  The specifics are conflicting, but the well-known result of the nervous and armed New Englanders marching through a Southern city infamous for its riots was a wild melee on Pratt Street, and when the smoke cleared several militiamen were dead, along with about a dozen civilians.  Manakee, Maryland in the Civil War, 30-37; Robert I. Cottom, Jr. and Mary Ellen Hayward, Maryland in the Civil War: A House Divided (Baltimore:  Maryland Historical Society, 1994) 29-31.  Sources on the events of April 19 are numerous, with eyewitness accounts available from the city’s Mayor, George William Brown, and civilians.  George William Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth of April, 1861: A Study of the War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1887; 2001); “Some Recollections of April 19, 1861,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 27 (1932) 274-279; Matthew Page Andrews, “Passage of the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment through Baltimore, April 19, 1861,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 14 (1919), 60-76.  Baltimore was infamous for its political riots of the 1850s, which were especially violent during the heyday of the Know-Nothings.  The general election for federal offices in November 1856 saw many dead and perhaps hundreds wounded in street fighting between political gangs.  Partisans in some of the city’s wards employed cannon.  Among the best description of these prewar events are found in Matthew Page Andrews, History of Maryland:  Province and State (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1929) 473-484, 513-516.



[30] The “Pratt Street Riot” made the Lincoln administration acutely aware of the volatility of Baltimore, and the danger of passing large numbers of Northern troops over an unoccupied Maryland.  Therefore Brigadier General Benjamin F. Butler, with the blessing of Lincoln, suspended habeas corpus along the Maryland route to Washington DC, and on May 13th he marched into Baltimore, instituting military rule there that would last until the war’s end.  Manakee, Maryland in the Civil War, 47-51.

[31] Governor Hicks had finally called the legislature on April 22nd, following the drama of the 19th in Baltimore.  The body met in Frederick (as Hicks considered it a safer location), and its conduct confirmed the fears of many Unionists.  While the legislature denied it had the authority to decide the issue of secession, the resolutions it did pass included a strong denunciation of “coercion” of the Southern states, a formal recognition of the Confederacy’s independence, and a cordial relationship with Virginia was maintained.  See Radcliffe, Governor Thomas H. Hicks, 62-9, 80-3; Kent News 27 April 1861, 22 June 1861.  Carmichael’s friend George Vickers complained of the legislature’s actions to Hicks, and asked the Governor to confront that body.  See George Vickers to Governor Hicks, 3 May 1861, Hicks Manuscripts, Maryland Historical Society (MDHS), Baltimore, MD.

[32] “Judge Carmichael’s Charge to the Grand Jury of Talbot County,” 1861; “Petition of Richard B. Carmichael and Others, Against the Adjournment of the Legislature Sine Die,” Maryland House of Delegates, 18 June 1861; Kent News, 22 June 1861.

[33] John A. Dix to George B. McClellan, 23 August 1861, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 5, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1881; Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1971) 581, 604.

[34] S.W. Spencer to Governor Hicks, 24 August 1861, S.W. Spencer, Jesse K. Hines, and George Vickers to Governor Hicks, 24 August 1861, Official Records, Series III, Vol. 1 (1899; 1971) 463.

[35] John A. Dix to Governor Hicks, 20 August 1861, Governor Hicks to Winfield Scott, 18 March 1861 and 28 March 1861, Hicks Manuscripts, MDHS; G.W.P. Smith to Capt. George V. Massey, 13 August 1864, Official Records, Series I, Vol. 43 (1893; 1971) 785.

[36] Augustus Bradford to John A. Dix, 1 November 1861, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS; Clark, Politics in Maryland, 72-74; George Vickers to Augustus Bradford, 11 November 1861, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS; Hicks to Maj. Gen. N.P. Banks, 16 October 1861, in “Secret Correspondence Illustrating the Condition of Affairs in Maryland” (Baltimore: 1863) 30-31.

[37] In the First Congressional District, which included all of the Eastern Shore counties south of Kent in 1861 (Kent would be part of the First District after realignment in 1863), John W. Crisfield ran as the Union candidate against Daniel M. Henry.  Queen Anne’s County gave Henry a majority of 53, but Crisfield still won the election.  Crisfield wrote to Senator James Alfred Pearce on 7 May 1861 that in Somerset County and the lower Eastern Shore was “rapidly developing…in favor of the Union under all circumstances [emphasis in original].”  Crisfield to Pearce, Washington College Archives (WAC).  Bradford defeated Howard by nearly 2-to-1 in Somerset, which was “clearly the most pro-secessionist subdivision on the Eastern Shore.”  See John R. Wennersten, “John W. Crisfield and Civil War Politics on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, 1860-64,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 99, No. 2 (Spring 2004) 7.

[38] Kent News, 20 April 1861, 12 January 1861, 15 June 1861, 9 November 1861; Clark, Politics in Maryland, 26-30; John A. Dix to Augustus Bradford, 1 November 1861, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS.

[39] Kent News, 12 January 1861; “Union Address to the People of Maryland,” Kent News, 1 June 1861; Among the first actions of the Union Maryland General Assembly, following the November ’61 elections, included resolutions and bills supporting the protection of slavery.  See Clark, Politics in Maryland, 92.

[40] Clark, Politics in Maryland, 55-9; Pearce to Crisfield, 7 June 1861, WAC; Crisfield to Pearce, 7 May 1861, WAC; Kent News, 27 April 1861; See Bernard C. Steiner, “James Alfred Pearce,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 19 (1924) 13, 162 for more on Pearce’s leanings at the outbreak of the war.  Also Clark, Politics in Maryland, 55-6. 

[41] Crisfield to Pearce, 19 August 1860; 31 March 1861; 28 April 1861, WAC.

[42] For the communications leading up the arrests, see “Secret Correspondence,” 25-30; Kent News, 21 September 1861.

[43] Kent News, 1 June 1861, 9 February 1861, 12 January 1861.

[44] Kent News, 1 June 1861; Clark, Politics in Maryland, 70.

[45] Governor Hicks had formally commissioned George Vickers as a General of the Maryland militia in 1861, but he would see no real military duty.

[46] Kirby, Roll Call, 4-5; Kent News, 11 January 1862.

[47] Kent News, 9 August 1862, 18 October 1862.

[48] Seward to Dix, 2 October 1861, Dix to Bradford, 10 February 1862, Official Records, Series II, Vol. 2 (1897: 1971) 85, 213; Dix to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, 25 June 1862, Official Records, Series II, Vol. 4 (1899; 1971) 63-4.

[49] Exact details are conflicting.  For a good account of the Carmichael arrest, see Frederic Emory, Queen Anne’s County Maryland: Its Early History and Development (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 1950) 505-6.  Also Kent News, 7 June 1862.

[50] Vickers kept a low profile in 1862, most likely because of political pursuits in Annapolis, and familial tragedy.  His son Benjamin, a 26-year-old Confederate soldier and fiancé of the niece of General Sam Houston, died in Memphis on May 3rd after being seriously wounded at the battle of Shiloh.  In July George Vickers was awarded the rank of Lieutenant Colonel by Bradford, and officially made a gubernatorial Aid.  Kent News, 12 July 1862. 

[51] Kent News, 7 June 1862; Pearce to Lincoln, 8 August 1862, Abraham Lincoln Papers, online via Library of Congress <>; Maj. Gen. John E. Wool to Stanton, 30 June 1862, Official Records, Series II, Vol. 4 (1899; 1971) 104; Lincoln to Crisfield, 26 June 1862, Abraham Lincoln Papers; Crisfield to Pearce, 5 July 1862, WAC; Vickers to Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln Papers; Union men of Centreville to Lincoln, 9 June 1862, Abraham Lincoln Papers.

[52] Judge Carmichael was released on the 2nd of December.  Emory, Queen Anne’s County, 506; Kent News, 22 November 1862.

[53] Clark, Politics in Maryland, 162-3, 166-7; Crisfield to Pearce, 18 April 1862, WAC; For an account of the efforts of Maryland planters to see full enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law in the District of Columbia, see Charles Lewis Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution: Negro Emancipation in Maryland, 1862-1864 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1964; Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, 2004) 116-120.

[54] Kent News, 15 March 1862, 17 May 1862; Baltimore Unionists were also dissatisfied with the scheme of representation in the General Assembly under the 1851 constitution, which gave one delegate to an average of 3,831 white persons in southern Maryland, but only one per 9,641 whites in the northern counties, with the state senate being even more skewed.  Baltimore City also lacked what the city convention considered adequate representation.  Clark, Politics in Maryland, 165; Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 229. 

[55] Kent News, 27 September 1862, 4 October 1862.

[56] Clark, Politics in Maryland, 171-73; Crisfield speech in House of Representatives, Crisfield to wife Mary, 22 January 1863, both in Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 75-77.

[57] Hicks to Lincoln, 26 May 1862, Hicks Manuscripts, MDHS; Kent News, 12 July 1862; Crisfield to Pearce, 12 July 1862, WAC; Wennersten, “John W. Crisfield,” 9-10.

[58] Kent News, 10 January 1863.

[59] Kent News, 11 April 1863, 23 May 1863.

[60] The Grand League would later reschedule and meet on the 23rd of June.

[61] Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 84-86; Clark, Politics in Maryland, 96-98; In Kent County the Unconditional Unionists met in Kennedyville on June 13 to nominate delegates for the Grand League Convention, and the Conservatives met in Chestertown on the 16th for the same purpose.  Kent News, 13 June 1863.

[62] Kent News, 27 June 1863; The nomination convention in Cambridge was held on August eleventh.  On the first Unconditional Unionists of Kent County held their convention to nominate delegates to attend at Cambridge, and the News was delighted to report that only twenty participants were present.  Kent News, 8 August 1863; Kent News, 15 August 1863, 5 September 1863.  For a detailed account of the rupture of the Union Party, and the ensuing nomination process, see Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 95-115.

[63] Kent News, 5 September 1863.

[64] As per the national draft introduced in 1863, Maryland was responsible for a quota of 13,320 troops.  The colored troops raised by Birney were to be credited to Maryland’s quota as would white soldiers.  Cottom and Hayward, Maryland in the Civil War, 83; Kent News, 18 July 1863.

[65] Bond reasoned that locations of large free black populations, like Baltimore, were losing their labor force while slave property, untapped by Birney, was increasing in value.

[66] Thomas Hicks was appointed to the US Senate to fill the vacancy opened by the death of James Alfred Pearce.

[67] Clark, Politics in Maryland, 179-183; Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 123-4; Kent News, 26 September 1863.

[68] Kent News, 19 September 1863; Ricaud, Westcott, Spencer, and Vickers to Governor Bradford, 16 September 1863, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS.

[69] Kent News, 26 September 1863; Kent News, 3 October 1863.

[70] Vickers to Bradford, 16 September 1863, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS; Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 128; Birney to “Adjutant-General U.S. Army,” 13 October 1863, Official Records, Series III, Vol. 3 (1898; 1971) 881-82.

[71] Clark, Politics in Maryland, 187-88; Lincoln to Birney, cited in Birney to “Adjutant-General,” 13 October 1863; Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 129; Congressman Crisfield also lost six slaves to recruiting in October.  Wennersten, “John W. Crisfield,” 12.

[72] Such was Hicks’ prediction, following the slave recruitment controversies.  Hicks to Bradford, 20 October 1863, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS.

[73] Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 157; A power struggle developed between Schenck and Bradford in the days before the election, with Bradford attempting to nullify the General’s call for test oaths, and Schenck subsequently banning the publication of Bradford’s orders in Maryland newspapers, particularly those of the Eastern Shore.  Wagandt, “Election by Sword and Ballot: The Emancipationist Victory of 1863,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 59, No. 2 (Summer 1964) 146-7.  Many military authorities in Maryland ignored Bradford’s protests against what he considered “intervention with the privileges of the Ballot Box and offensive discrimination against the rights of a loyal state”, although the confusion lent to the inconsistent use of test oaths on election day.  Clark, Politics in Maryland, 103-109; Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 158-163; Vickers to Bradford, 22 October 1863, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS.

[74] Plummer and Usilton were much more critical of this arrest than they were of the apprehension of John Leeds Barroll, the proprietor and editor of the Kent Conservator, who was arrested for publishing treasonable articles on April 17, and deported to Virginia shortly thereafter.  See Kent News, 18 April 1863, 25 April 1863.  A good history of the Barroll affair can also be found  in Kevin Hemstock, “Newspapers Grew Up in the Civil War,” in Discover Kent County, MD, promotional pamphlet (Chestertown, MD: Kent County News, Spring/Summer 2003) 57-89.

[75] Order of Lt. Col. Charles Carroll Tevis, Kent News, 7 November 1863; Kent News, 14 November 1863; Clark, Politics in Maryland, 110-111; Wagandt, “Election by Sword and Ballot,” 157-61.  Frazier’s behavior on election day was not without warning.  Starting in October, George Vickers repeatedly warned Governor Bradford of the Provost Marshal’s intentions, complaining that Frazier was “totally unprincipled & ought to be broken.”  John B. Ricaud even went to Baltimore, also in October, to deliver affidavits attesting to Frazier’s belligerency.  Vickers to Bradford, 22 October 1863, 30 October 1863, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS.

[76] Clark, Politics in Maryland, 111; Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 176; Wagandt, “Election by Sword and Ballot,” 151-56.

[77] Kent News, 7 November 1863; Clark, Politics in Maryland, 113.

[78] A Constitutional Convention was necessary to end slavery in Maryland, as the current 1851 Constitution forbade the Legislature from ever interfering with the institution.  See 1851 Maryland Constitution, Article III, Section 43.

[79] Clark, Politics in Maryland, 112-14; Wagandt, “Election by Sword and Ballot,” 163-4.

[80] Kent News, 5 December 1863.

[81] Lincoln, whom Vickers visited personally to discuss the 1863 election fiasco, at first seemed uninterested in the Frazier affair, prompting Vickers to fume of the President’s “artless simplicity, & frank & honest impulses.”  “If he had the moral firmness of a man,” Vickers complained, Frazier would be removed at once.  Vickers to Bradford, 15 December 1863, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS; Kent News, 27 February 1864.

[82] Vickers to Bradford, 15 December 1863, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS.

[83] Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 219.

[84] Kent News, 16 January 1864, 13 February 1864; Included in the legislation were safeguards against unwanted military inference in elections, allowing the Governor to call a new election in troubled districts.  Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 194-6.

[85] For example, Chambers landed 793 votes, as compared to Spry’s 451 and Unconditional Unionist Leary’s 241.  The tallies for the other men were similar; Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 200; Kent News, 26 March 1864, 9 April 1864.

[86] Vickers to Bradford, 8 April 1864, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS.

[87] Citizens voted for or against the convention, as well as for a delegation to send to the convention.  This was done in one election for the sake of efficiency, so if the convention was approved there would already be delegations elected.

[88] The statewide vote for the convention was 31,593 to 19,524.  All of Southern Maryland, along with most of the Eastern Shore counties, voted against the convention.  Northern Maryland voted unanimously for the convention; in Baltimore City only 87 votes were cast against it.  Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 218-19; Kent News, 9 April 1864.

[89] Article XXIII of the Declaration of Rights banned slavery, and the Committee’s minority denounced it as “a sudden, violent, and most mischievous destruction of the relation of master and slave,” that would instigate “very serious…injury and suffering” among both slaves and masters.  The Debates of the Constitutional Convention of the State of Maryland, Assembled at the City of Annapolis, Wednesday, April 27, 1864, Vol I (Annapolis: Richard P. Bayly, 1864) 81-82.

[90] The vote was 53 to 27.

[91] The votes were, respectively:  37 to 28, 50 to 25, and 42 to 13.  Proceedings of the State Convention of Maryland to Frame a New Constitution: Commenced at Annapolis, April 27, 1864 (Annapolis: Richard P. Bayly, 1864) 225, 337-38, 79, 606-7.  Chambers also seemed particularly offended by Article IV of the Declaration of Rights, which stipulated that Marylanders owed their supreme allegiance to the Constitution and laws of the United States.  Chambers offered an amendment to the Article, altering it to say that Marylanders owed allegiance to the laws of the U.S. “so far as such…ordinances shall be in conformity to the Constitution of the United States….”  The amendment was defeated, and the Kent delegation voted against final passage of the Article, which was approved 53 to 32.  Chambers also submitted a protest against banishment of “rebel sympathizers,” a punishment endorsed by a resolution passed by the convention.  Proceedings, 200-1, 204, 397.

[92] 53 to 26.

[93] Loyalty oaths consisted of several “test questions,” an example of which being, “When the Union and Rebel armies meet in battle, which side do you wish to see succeed?”  Clark, Politics in Maryland, 193.

[94] Chestertown Transcript, 25 April 1864, in Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 249.  Microfilm of the Kent News is unavailable for most of September and October of 1864.

[95] Maryland Union, 20 October 1864, in Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 260; Baltimore Weekly Sun, 22 October 1864; Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 262-3; Clark, Politics in Maryland, 192-3.

[96] For the Union voters of Kent County the political confusion was compounded by conflicting Union endorsements; local papers such as the News railed against any more Lincoln terms, but the statewide conservative Union Party formally endorsed Lincoln on October 18.  Clark, Politics in Maryland, 122-23; Kent News, 11 June 1864.

[97] Kent News, 18 June 1864, 3 September 1864; Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 244-5; Clark, Politics in Maryland, 122-3.

[98] Baltimore Weekly Sun, 11 November 1864; Clark, Politics in Maryland, 125; Kent News, 19 November 1864.

[99] Kent News, 27 June 1863; John Frazier, Jr., to James B. Fry, Provost-Marshal-General, Washington, D.C., 14 July 1863, in Official Records, Series III, Vol. 3 (1898; 1971) 492; Vickers to Bradford, 14 August 1863, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS.

[100] Petitions were circulated requesting the County Commissioners to apportion $20,000 to devote to enlistment bonuses.

[101] Vickers to Bradford, 14 June 1864, Bradford Manuscripts, MDHS.

[102] Kent News, 23 July 1864, 30 July 1864, 19 November 1864, 10 December 1864, 11 February 1865, 21 January 1865.

[103] Kent News, 13 February 1864, 2 April 1864.

[104] Resolution adopted by the State Constitutional Convention, in Kent News, 3 September 1864.

[105] Kent News, 11 February 1864; Clark, Politics in Maryland, 197-98.

[106] Kent News, 3 December 1864, 17 December 1864, 24 December 1864; “A Few Remarks Addressed to the Sober Consideration of Reflecting People in Kent County,” unknown author, in Kent News, 17 December 1864; The abuses of apprenticeship system were eventually ended, much to the efforts of Major-General Lewis Wallace, whose “General Orders No. 112” established a “Freedmen’s Bureau” and forbade the binding out of black youths.  The new state constitution of 1867 officially abolished the practice.  See Clark, Politics in Maryland, 197-98; Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, 264-65. 

[107] Kent News, 1 July 1865, 14 October 1865, 28 October 1865, 4 November 1865; For more on the Registry Law see Richard O. Curry, ed., Radicalism, Racism, and Party Realignment: The Border States during Reconstruction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1969)  162-63.

[108] Baltimore went from less than 11,000 voters to over 24,000 upon the change of registrars.

[109] Curry, Border States, 162-174; In March 1868 George Vickers was chosen by the General Assembly to represent Maryland in the United States Senate, where he would cast the deciding vote for acquittal in President Johnson’s impeachment trial.

[110] The 1776 Constitution of Maryland allowed free blacks to vote in elections for the lower house of the General Assembly, but this right was rescinded in 1810.  Clark, Politics in Maryland, 10.

[111] C. Christopher Brown, “Democracy’s Incursion into the Eastern Shore: The 1870 Election in Chestertown,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 89, no. 3 (Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society, Fall 1994) 339-340.

[112] That Chestertown election saw some newly enfranchised black voters display calculated political manipulation, hardly winning over skeptical whites.  Chestertown only allowed landowners to vote in municipal elections, inspiring African-American landowner Isaac Anderson to sell, for $15, forty-five inches of his property to forty-four black voters, thus giving all of them the ability to vote for town commissioners.  The story was reported across the country.  Brown, “Democracy’s Incursion,” 343; “The Amendment in Maryland––Forty-four Negroes Owners of Forty-five Inches of Ground,” New York Times, 15 May 1870, online via ProQuest <>. 

[113] Brown, “Democracy’s Incursion,” 343-44; Curry, Border States, 159.

[114] Kent News, 17 June 1865; Cottom, A House Divided, 119-125; Historians disagree over Maryland’s wartime sympathies.  Charles Lewis Wagandt tends to view the elections of abolitionist Unconditional Unionists in 1864, and the approval of the 1864 Constitution, as largely legitimate exercises, and is at times enthusiastic about the level of approval abolition had with the public.  Lawrence M. Denton conversely makes a strong case for Maryland’s Confederate impulses.  The state was forced to stay in the Union by military force alone, he contends, and post-war elections that saw overwhelming Democratic majorities make clear the state’s sentiments.  “[F]rom April 1861, to the very end of the war, Lincoln and his administration treated Maryland as if she had seceded,” and if the data which Denton presents is indeed reflective of Maryland’s sympathies, this was all Lincoln could do to keep Washington, D.C. from being surrounded by Confederate territory.  Wagandt, The Mighty Revolution, passim; Lawrence M. Denton, A Southern Star for Maryland: Maryland and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861 (Baltimore: Publishing Concepts, 1995) 195-210

[115] Scharf fought for the Confederacy in the First Maryland Artillery Company, and was wounded in three battles.  Later in the war he was sent on a secret mission to Canada by the Confederate government, but was arrested on his trek north in Port Tobacco, Maryland, and was held in federal prison until March 1865.  Francis B. Culver, “The War Romance of John Thomas Scharf,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 21 (1926) 295-302.

[116] George William Brown, Baltimore and the Nineteenth of April, 1861: A Study of the War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1887; 2001); J. Thomas Scharf, History of Maryland From the Earliest Period to the Present Day (1879; Hatboro, PA: Tradition, 1967) 289-701; Matthew Page Andrews, History of Maryland: Province and State (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1929) 473-566, 539; Harry Wright Newman, Maryland and the Confederacy (Annapolis: Harry Newman, 1976); Bart Rhett Talbert, Maryland: The South’s First Casualty (Berryville, VA: Rockbridge, 1995).

[117] Marcia C. Landskroener, ed., Washington: The College at Chester (Chestertown: Lit House Press, 2000) 43, 44.  Ex-Confederates had regained much of their public stature in Maryland by 1870.  In 1867 Washington College chose as its new President Robert Carter Berkeley, who had served with the Confederate Army and was wounded in the Battle of Seven Pines in 1862.




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