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Attack on Sixth Massachusetts Regiment by angry Baltimore mob!

The Baltimore, or Pratt Street Riot, occurred on April 19, 1861, as the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment made their way from Boston to the nation’s capital to defend Washington, D. C.

Mayor George Brown, of Baltimore, provided 50 police officers to escort the troops through the city. The regiment had traveled through New York and Philadelphia, arriving in Baltimore on the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad at the Prescott Street Station. There, they awaited horses to be hooked to the cars.

Train cars, at that time, had to be pulled along tracks through the city to connect to B & O engines, in order to proceed south. Although seven companies of men made it through, mobs started to gather and build blockades between the stations.

To quote from the official report of Colonel Edward F. Jones, Sixth Massachusetts Militia:

“The regiment will march through Baltimore in column of sections, arms at will. You will undoubtedly be insulted, abused, and, perhaps, assaulted, to which you must pay no attention whatever, but march with your faces square to the front, and pay no attention to the mob, even if they throw stones, bricks, or other missiles; but if you are fired upon and any one of you is hit, your officers will order you to fire…”

Maryland’s Southern sympathizers, encouraged by Virginia’s recent secession, had grown more active in the state. The Sixth Massachusetts had the unlucky fortune to be passing through in this angry atmosphere. The mob threw stones and bricks at the soldiers and individuals also fired guns at the troops resulting in one soldier shot dead. The troops were finally ordered to fire into the mob. As a result, four soldiers and twelve civilians were killed and many more injured.

The soldiers did make it to the train to take them to Washington, but the citizens of Baltimore—learning more troops from the North were on the way—rioted into the night, forcing the mayor and police commissioner to order the railroad bridges north of the city to be burned.

In the aftermath, President Lincoln was forced to take measures to keep Maryland loyal to the Union. Martial law was declared by the end of May 1861, with Federal troops garrisoned in the state.

For more info: http://www.mdoe.org/riots_balt_1861.html
http://civilwarhome.com/jones.htm
http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=26

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6 Comments

  1. Denise Eagan says:

    It wasn’t until the last few years that I realized how precarious the situation with Maryland was for the Federals, expecially D.C.

    Coincidentally, Massachusetts celebrates Patriot’s Day every year on the 3rd Monday of April, commemorating the first shots fired in the Revolutionary War. Quite often it falls on April 19th. . .like it did this year.

  2. How interesting. Can you imagine how the news reporters with TV cameras could have told this to the TV audience? Thanks for another great post, Susan.

  3. Makes me wonder why they went through the middle of a city that was then mostly on the side of the southern states. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to go around the city and avoid having the troops pelted with rocks and bricks and shot? As a result, future Union soldiers would not be able to pass through on the railroad after the bridges were burned.

  4. Thanks, everyone! It really was an intersting situation. Baltimore wasn’t really all for the north or south like the other states, but had a lot of differing views among it’s citizens. And it was the most direct route between Washington, D. C. and the northern states, so Lincoln had to handle the situation to allow needed transporation back and forth for his soldiers.

  5. Susan, your knowledge of the Civil War astounds me. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks, Caroline! It’s such an interesting story and I’m following up in my next post–three weeks from now–with the declaration of martial law in Baltimore on May 13th.

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