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Baltimore occupied by Federal Troops


A May 13, 1861 dispatch from Washington read:

“There are now in this City or within sight of the Capital, about thirty-one thousand men—more than enough to withstand any forces that can be combined against the City.

“Gen. BUTLER and his Staff dined in Baltimore to-day. He told me this morning of his intention to do so when he left Annapolis, and he kept his word. No attempts were made to annoy him, and every courtesy was extended both to himself and his Staff…

“Baltimore will hereafter be held under military occupation. If resistance is made, the most extreme measures will be resorted to in order to enforce respect to the Government. It is probable that martial law will be proclaimed there, in order to arrest and punish as traitors Marshal KANE and ROSS WINANS—the one for inciting the attacks upon the Government troops and resistance to its officers, and the other for aiding and abetting the enemies of the United States.”

~From the New York Times, 5/14/1861

In response to the Baltimore Riot of April 19, 1861, President Lincoln, at first, complied with Baltimore authorities, who requested rerouting troops to Annapolis. However, Brigadier General Benjamin F. Butler took Union troops from Relay Station into Baltimore and took Bunker Hill. Some of these troops were from the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment, who’d been attacked by Baltimore civilians during the riot.

The general declared martial law. His move met approval in the North and ended most of the pro-Confederate activities in the city.

Pro-South city leaders, including the mayor, city council and the police commissioner were unable to maintain order and were arrested for alleged participation in the riot. They were held at Fort McHenry. Francis Scott Key’s grandson was among a number of suspected secessionists, who were held without formal charges.

Butler found arms, supplies and munitions, he claimed, had been meant for the “rebels”.

Once the city was occupied by Federal troops, the entire state was garrisoned. Maryland legislature members were arrested, with the state placed under direct Federal administration.

When North Carolina approved secession on May 21, Union troops occupied Delaware to prevent a repeat of what happened in Maryland. Union forces occupied Baltimore for the remainder of the war.



  1. Caroline Clemmons says:

    That seems a large number of troops for one city, doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Caroline. I think Lincoln was determined not to lose access routes between Washington and the northern states.

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