Civil War Wiki
File:Baltimore Riot 1861.jpg

Massachusetts Militia Passing Through Baltimore, an 1861 engraving of the Baltimore riot

The Baltimore riot of 1861 (also called the Pratt Street Riot and the Pratt Street Massacre) was an incident that took place on April 19, 1861, in Baltimore, Maryland between Confederate sympathizers and members of the Massachusetts militia en route to Washington for Federal service. It is regarded by historians as the first bloodshed of the American Civil War.[1]

Causes of the riot[]

On April 12, one week prior to the riot, the battle of Fort Sumter started, signaling the beginning of the American Civil War. At the time, the slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas had not yet seceded from the U.S.. In addition, it was not yet known whether four other slave states, (Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky) (later known as "border states"), would remain in the Union. When Fort Sumter fell on April 13 without a single man lost, the Virginia legislature took up a measure on secession. After little debate, the measure passed on April 17. The other southern states watched with interest to see what would happen, as the secession of Virginia was important because of the state's industrial value. Influential Marylanders, who had been supportive of secession ever since John C. Calhoun spoke of "nullification", agitated to join Virginia in leaving the Union. Their discontent increased in the days afterward while Lincoln put out a call for volunteers to serve 90 days and end the insurrection; newly formed units were starting to transport themselves south. Baltimore was a particularly secession-sympathetic city; Abraham Lincoln received only 1,100 of more than 30,000 votes cast for president in 1860.[2] 460 newly called up Pennsylvania volunteers passed through Baltimore on April 18;[3] however, anti-Union forces were too disorganized and surprised to do anything about it. When the next regiment came on April 19, however, they were ready.

April 19, 1861[]

On April 19, the Union's Sixth Massachusetts Regiment[4] was traveling south to Washington, D.C. through Baltimore. At that time, there was no direct rail connection between the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad's President Street Station and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Camden Station (ten blocks to the west) due to ordinances prohibiting the use of steam locomotives in the inner city and the lack of union stations at the time. Rail cars that transferred between the two stations had to be pulled by horses along Pratt Street.

As the regiment transferred between stations, a mob of secessionists and Southern sympathizers attacked the train cars and blocked the route. When it became apparent that they could travel by horse no further, the troops got out of the cars and marched in formation through the city. However, the mob followed the soldiers, breaking store windows and causing damage until they finally blocked the soldiers. The mob attacked the rear companies of the regiment with "bricks, paving stones, and pistols."[5] In response, several soldiers fired into the mob, and chaos immediately ensued as a giant brawl began between the soldiers, the violent mob, and the Baltimore police. In the end, the soldiers got to the Camden Station, and the police were able to block the crowd from them. The regiment had left behind much of their equipment, including their marching band's instruments.

Four soldiers (Corporal Sumner Needham of Co I and Privates[6] Luther C. Ladd, Charles Taylor,[7] and Addison Whitney of Company D and twelve civilians were killed in the riot. About 36 of the regiment were also wounded and left behind. It is unknown how many additional civilians were injured.[8] Sumner Henry Needham is sometimes considered to be the first Union casualty of the war, though technically he was killed by civilians in a Union state. Needham is buried in Lawrence, Massachusetts.[9] Ladd and Whitney are buried in Lowell, Massachusetts.[10] Taylor was buried in Baltimore; though his grave was lost, his name appears on the Lowell Monument.[11]

The same day, after the attack on the soldiers, the office of the Baltimore Wecker, a German-language newspaper, was completely wrecked and the building seriously damaged by the same mob. The publisher, William Schnauffer, and the editor, Wilhelm Rapp, whose lives were threatened, were compelled to leave town. The publisher later returned and resumed publication of the Wecker which continued throughout the war a firm supporter of the Union cause.[12] The editor moved to another paper in Illinois.[13]

As a result of the riot in Baltimore and pro-Southern sympathies of much of the city's populace, the Baltimore Steam Packet Company also declined the same day a Federal government request to transport Union forces to relieve the beleaguered Union naval yard facility at Portsmouth, Virginia.[14]


After the April 19 riot, some small skirmishes occurred throughout Baltimore between citizens and police for the next month, but a sense of normalcy returned as the city was cleaned up. Mayor Brown and Maryland Governor Hicks implored President Lincoln to send no further troops through Maryland to avoid further confrontations. However, as Lincoln remarked, Union soldiers were neither birds to fly over Maryland, nor moles to burrow under it.[citation needed] On the evening of April 20 Hicks also authorized Brown to dispatch the Maryland state militia for the purpose of disabling the railroad bridges into the city - an act he would later deny. One of the militia captains was John Merryman, who was arrested one month later, and held in defiance of a writ of habeas corpus, which led to the case of Ex parte Merryman.

More Massachusetts troops under General Benjamin Butler arrived by ship at Annapolis on April 20. Hicks protested, but Butler (a clever politician) bullied him into allowing troops to land at Annapolis and proceed to Washington by rail via Annapolis Junction (halfway between Baltimore and Washington).[citation needed] Butler was then ordered to take command of this route.[clarification needed]

The first troops to reach Washington by this route were the 7th New York, on April 25.

There were calls for Maryland to declare secession in the wake of the riot. Governor Hicks called a special session of the state legislature to consider the situation. Since Annapolis, the capital, was occupied by Federal troops, and Baltimore was dominated by pro-Confederate mobs, Hicks directed the legislature to meet in Frederick, in the predominantly Unionist western part of the state. The legislature met on April 26; on April 29, it voted 53-13 against secession.

Many more Union troops arrived. On May 13, Butler sent Union troops into Baltimore and declared martial law. The mayor, city council, and police commissioner, who were pro-South and seemingly unable to maintain order,[citation needed] were arrested and imprisoned at Fort McHenry. Over the next several weeks, Union troops were deployed throughout the state.[citation needed]

The legislature's special session at Frederick continued for several weeks. Secession resolutions were submitted, but rejected in part because it was believed that the legislature did not have the power to declare secession.[citation needed] Only a specially elected convention could do that,[citation needed] and the legislature refused to call such a convention. The legislature adjourned on August 7, planning to reconvene on September 17. However, on that day several pro-secession members were arrested, and the session was canceled. Maryland remained under Federal military control till the end of the war.[15]

Some Southerners reacted with passion to the incident. James Ryder Randall, a teacher in Louisiana but a native Marylander who had lost a friend in the riots, wrote "Maryland, My Maryland" for the Southern cause in response to the riots.[16] The poem was later set to music popular in the South, and referred to the riots with lines such as "Avenge the patriotic gore / That flecked the streets of Baltimore." It was not until seventy-eight years later that it became Maryland's state song; there have been efforts to remove it since.

Delaware was occupied by Union troops due to its proximity to (and to prevent a repeat of the events that took place in) Maryland.[citation needed] Kentucky declared its neutrality (although it would eventually join the Union's side), and although Missouri was on the Union side, a Confederate government-in-exile existed in Arkansas and Texas.

See also[]

  • Baltimore Plot
  • Henry Stump


  1. Vogler, Mark E. (April 18, 2009). "Civil War Guard on duty in Baltimore to save President Street Station". Eagle Tribune. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  2. "Baltimore: A House Divided & War on the Chesapeake Bay". 2008. 2008-01-13. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  3. Catton, Bruce. The Coming Fury. (1961) pp. 340-341
  4. "Welcome G. A. R. (From the Washington Evening Star)". Theodore W. Noyes, The national capital. Newspaper articles and speeches concerning the city of Washington. September 19, 1892. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  5. James M. MacPherson, Battle Cry of the Republic: The Civil War Era (Oxford University Press, 1988), Amazon Kindle Page Location 6126-40.
  6. "Luther C. Ladd". Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  7. [1]
  8. .P.19
  9. Find A grave
  10. "Results for April 19, 1861". Find a Grave. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  11. Find A Grave
  12. J. Thomas Scharf, The chronicles of Baltimore, 1874, p. 104.
  13. Albert B. Faust (1963). "Rapp, Wilhelm". Dictionary of American Biography. VIII, Part 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 384–385. 
  14. Alexander Crosby Brown (1961). Steam Packets on the Chesapeake. Cambridge, Maryland: Cornell Maritime Press. pp. 48–50. LCCN 61-012580. 
  15. "Teaching American History in Maryland - Documents for the Classroom: Arrest of the Maryland Legislature, 1861". Maryland State Archives. 2005. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  16. Phair, Monty. "A Brief History of Randallstown". Baltimore County Public Libraries. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 

External links[]

fr:Émeute de Baltimore zh:1861年巴爾的摩暴動