Civil War Wiki
File:Maryland my maryland.jpg

The original sheet music of Maryland, My Maryland

"Maryland, My Maryland" is the official state song of Maryland. The song is set to the tune of "Lauriger Horatius"[1] (better known as the tune of "O Tannenbaum") and the lyrics are from a nine-stanza poem written by James Ryder Randall. While the words were penned in 1861, it was not until April 29, 1939, that the state's general assembly adopted "Maryland, My Maryland" as the state song.[2]

Written originally as a poem, the song refers to Maryland's history and geography and specifically mentions several historical figures of importance to the state. The song calls for Maryland to fight the Union and was used across the South during the Civil War as a battle hymn.[3] It has been called America's "most martial poem."[4]

Occasional attempts have been made to replace it as Maryland's state song due to its origin in support for the Confederacy and lyrics that refer to President Lincoln as a "tyrant," "despot," and "Vandal," and to the Union as "Northern scum."[5]


The poem was a result of events at the beginning of the American Civil War. During the secession crisis, President Abraham Lincoln (referred to in the poem as "the despot" and "the tyrant") ordered federal troops to be brought to Washington, D.C. to protect the capital. Many of these troops were brought through Baltimore City, a major transportation hub. There was considerable Confederate sympathy in Maryland at the time, and Baltimore was especially pro-Confederate. Riots ensued as Federal troops came through Baltimore on their way south in April 1861 and were attacked by mobs. A number of Union troops and Baltimore residents were killed in the Baltimore riots, including a friend of James Ryder Randall. Randall, a native Marylander, was teaching at Poydras College in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, at the time and, moved by the news of his friend's death, wrote the nine-stanza poem, "Maryland, My Maryland". The poem was a plea to his home state of Maryland to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. The poem contains many references to the Mexican-American War and Maryland figures in that war (many of whom have fallen into obscurity). It was first published in the New Orleans Sunday Delta on 26 April 1861.

The poem was quickly turned into a song, by putting it to the tune "Lauriger Horatius", by Miss Jennie Carrie, sister of Hetty Cary.[6] It became instantly popular in Maryland and throughout the South. It was sometimes called "the Marseillaise of the South." Confederate States Army bands played the song after they crossed into Maryland territory during the Maryland Campaign in 1862.[7] According to some accounts, General Robert E. Lee ordered his troops to sing "Maryland, My Maryland," as they entered the town of Frederick, Maryland, but his troops received a cold response, as Frederick was located in unionist Western Maryland. [8] At least one Confederate regimental band also played the song as Lee's troops retreated back across the Potomac after the bloody battle of Antietam, and after being met by "hisse[s] and groan[s]" by the retreating Confederates, switched to the song "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny."[9]


The melody was arranged as a march, with a second strain that is a variation on the "Lauriger Horatius" theme, which is played after the original theme, then the two themes are played together to produce counterpoint. The march remains a popular instrumental standard with New Orleans traditional brass bands and traditional jazz bands. Many who know the tune in these contexts are unfamiliar with the lyrics.



The despot's heel is on thy shore,
His torch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Come with thy panoplied array,
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Virginia should not call in vain,
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain,
Arise in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!


I see the blush upon thy cheek,
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Better the fire upon thee roll,
Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!


I hear the distant thunder-hum,
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

* Although the words as written, and as adopted by statute, contain only one instance of "Maryland" in the second and fourth line of each stanza, common practice is to sing "Maryland, my Maryland" each time to keep with the meter of the tune.

2009 Maryland House Bill 1241 if passed would change the lyrics of the state song to those of a poem of the same name by John T. White, describing Maryland's geography and liberty; the refrain, and the melody, would stay the same.[10]

Later influence[]

"Florida, My Florida" and "Michigan, My Michigan" are set to the same tune. Both of them were written after "Maryland, My Maryland".

In 1962 Edmund Wilson used the phrase "patriotic gore" from the song as the title of his book on the literature of the American Civil War.[11]

The third verse of this song is sung annually at the Preakness Stakes by the United States Naval Academy men's glee club.


  1. Code of Maryland, State Government, Title 13, § 13-307.
  2. Maryland State Archives (2004). Maryland State Song - "Maryland, My Maryland". Retrieved 27 Dec. 2004.
  3. Catton, Bruce. The Coming Fury [1961]. p. 352.
  4. Randall, James Ryder. 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 639.
  5. Another Try for Maryland's State Song?, The Washington Post, April 6, 2000.
  6. Template:Cite Book
  7. Scharf, J. Thomas (1967 (reissue of 1879 ed.)). History of Maryland From the Earliest Period to the Present Day. 3. Hatboro, PA: Tradition Press. pp. 494 
  8. See Robert M. MacPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford University Press, 1988), Amazon Kindle Location 11129-45).
  9. MacPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, Amazon Kindle Location 11311-18.
  10. See also Capital News Service "[Md. lawmakers stung by state song]", February 19, 2009, accessed June 29, 2009.
  11. Wilson, Edmund. (1962). Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War. New York: Farrar Strauss & Giroux. Republished in 1994 by W. W. Norton. ISBN 0393312569 / ISBN 978-0393312560 .

de:Maryland, My Maryland fr:Maryland, My Maryland