On the 27th of April I met a friend who was on his way to Annapolis for the purpose of visiting his son, then a cadet in the Naval Academy. I was easily persuaded to accompany him, and at an early hour we took the steamer for that place.
As we passed Fort McHenry the national flag was displayed from the boat in response to that which floated over the fort, while three cheers were given and returned with unction. The emotion excited by this incident awakened historic memories. It was the sight of the flag floating over the ramparts of Fort McHenry during its bombardment by the British that suggested to Frank key the verses that have since become our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Arrived at Annapolis, we found that city occupied by the national forces under the command of Major-General Butler. The Navy School had been shipped bodily to Newport, Rhode Island, while its premises were used as barracks and drill grounds for the volunteers arriving daily by ship loads. My companion, on ascertaining that the motive of his visit was removed, returned immediately to Baltimore. Finding in the quaint antiquity of the city, and in the military activity of the rendezvous, an attractive field of observation I determined to remain for several days.
Through the politeness of Captain Rodgers, of the navy, I obtained a permit from General Butler to visit the academy grounds at pleasure. Here the work of the organizing and equipping the troops hastening to the defense of the national capital was going on with all the promptness and efficiency that the occasion demanded. Vessels were continually arriving with supplies, arms, and recruits in the raw. These recruits generally had to be renovated from the epidermis outward, and then drilled into soldiers all in a few days. So far as external appearance went this was satisfactorily accomplished. Outside the military inclosure the city of Annapolis was as quiet as a New England village on a Sabbath morning. A few officers and curious country gentlemen hung about the hotels. A few meek-mannered volunteers (fellows who had never borne arms) dawdled about on their good behavior, trafficking at stores and candy-shops, and slyly sounding for forbidden stimulants. Few citizens were seen on the streets, and a number of the best residences were closed, the inmates having abandoned the town in terror or disgust. While strolling about the streets of rural aspect I frequently fell into conversation with citizens of the plainer class, and found them generally in sympathy with the rebellion, and stuffed with underground rumors of the most marvelous character. One man told me that since the advent of the Yankee troops several of his acquaintances had disappeared mysteriously, and he had satisfactory information that they had been kidnapped and hung by Butler in the academy grounds. For himself, he averred that he never went to bed at night with any certainty as to where he would find himself hanging in the morning.
From conversations here with officers of the army and navy I became satisfied that the National Government fully intended to assert and maintain its supremacy by arms, and for the first time since the commencement of our troubles I felt elated with a hope for the future of the country.
Next entry, April 30.