Sunday afternoons with “The Porte”, Part VIII

Posted on October 17, 2010 by


Continuing from Strother’s last

On Monday, 22d of April, the excitement still continued, the mobs occasionally breaking into shops in search of arms.

The battle of Cockeysville did not take place as was expected. The Pennsylvanians, who were for the most part unarmed and altogether unprepared for a warlike encounter, had received warning of the proceedings in Baltimore, and prudently halted. The Baltimore-ians suspended their attack until the result of certain negotiations with the authorities at Washington should be known. It was finally conceded that these troops should turn back and reach the Federal city by another route. The immediate cause of the popular outburst having been removed by this acquiescence, the excitement began visibly to subside; and although the revolutionary faction had still absolute control of the city, symptoms of a sweeping reaction had begin to manifest themselves. Nevertheless, during the week that followed, the national flag was nowhere displayed, and on the street every body talked secession if they expressed any opinion at all. Around Barnum’s were congregated a number of sinister-looking fellows, who publicly boasted of the part they had taken in the affair of the nineteenth. Among these I recognized several border ruffians of Kansas notoriety. Volunteer companies still paraded the streets under the State flag of Maryland, yet it was evident that more discreet and methodical heads were directing affairs. Disorder and violence were repressed. The wild volunteers were organized and shit up in barracks where they could do no immediate mischief, and where their superfluous enthusiasm might be cooled off by hard drilling, guard-duty, and uncomfortable beds. For this judicious management of these dangerous elements I believe Maryland was somewhat indebted to Colonel Huger of South Carolina, then of the United States army.

Meanwhile the under current of loyal feeling was becoming every day more decided. The best men in Maryland were known to be unswerving in their determination to support the nationality, while hundreds, who, under the sudden excitement and confusion of ideas incident to the times, had seemed to acquiesce or had actually joined in the late movement, believing they were called upon to defend the city from attach, now, upon reflection, perceived the ruin to which they were inadvertently hastening, and turned their backs on it. The leaders of the movement began to be alarmed at this aspect of affairs. One of them, a local politician, meeting an acquaintance from Virginia on the street expressed himself thus despairingly, “Damn it, the excitement is going down, they are all caving in; if something is not done to keep it up we are all ruined. Can’t you tell me some exciting news? Something that I may publish to keep the people moving? I don’t care a damn whether it is true or not – if it is only sufficiently stimulating.”

It was this easy to perceive that Baltimore was in the hands of the same sort of people who had played so successfully and so fatal a game in Virginia and other Southern States; and notwithstanding these indications of a popular reaction, it was evident that the Maryland conspirators did not intend to relinquish their grasp upon the authority which they had seized by surprise and violence, or slacken in their efforts to drag their State into the vortex of secession. Shortly after the affair of the 21st a quantity of small-arms were forwarded to the city from Harper’s Ferry. The revolutionary forces were strengthened by volunteer companies from the rural districts, and imposing reviews were held daily; while the most absurd and incredible reports of the conduct of the national troops moving through Maryland via Annapolis were industriously circulated to keep up the irritation of the popular mind.

Part IX to follow next week.

[Text transcribed from scans of original document made available through Cornell University Library’s Making of America Digital Collection.]