By Ziv Carmi ’23

Historical Context

Maryland, like many other Border States, has a unique relationship with its past. Famously home to regions of strong Confederate sympathies, despite remaining with the Union, the state of Maryland was also involved in several major campaigns and battles during the Civil War, including Antietam, Monocacy and Jubal Early’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign, and Lee’s march north to Gettysburg. Given this complex mixture of Confederate sympathies, Unionist loyalties, and strategic importance, the memory of the Civil War remains contested and complex within the state.

Prior to its 1864 abolition, slavery in Maryland was an entrenched institution. Frederick Douglass’s writings describing the violence of his enslavement in the state demonstrate that, even though popular contemporary beliefs held that the institution was more benign than further south, those claims were false. While slavery was of a different nature in Maryland than in other Southern states, the use of “slave breakers” such as Edward Covey, who brutally beat the teenage Douglass, show that the institution relied just as heavily on violence in this Border State as it did at any cotton plantation in Virginia or the Deep South.

Due to the environment and agricultural conditions, however, Maryland focused on other crops rather than cotton or sugar. In Montgomery, Prince George’s, Charles, Calvert, and St. Mary’s Counties, tobacco remained a significant cash crop, while on the Eastern Shore, planters mostly grew wheat, corn, rye, and oats (Bell 2021). On the other hand, as Baltimore grew, so did the role of slavery within the city. While, by 1860, the enslaved population had shrunk to only 2,218 people (about 1% of the population), the institution was a central part of the economy (Bell 2021). For example, by the 1850s, Baltimore had become one of the major centers of the slave trade (Bell 2021). Beyond the purchase and sale of enslaved people, Baltimore’s shipyards contributed to the transportation of slaves across the South. Additionally, its cigar and cotton-finishing factories utilized the products of enslaved labor to profit, and its enslaved workers contributed significantly to the labor market (Bell 2021). In other words, the city of Baltimore, like many cities in the antebellum United States, was heavily intertwined with the system of slavery.

As a state directly below the Mason-Dixon Line, Maryland played a significant role in the escapes of enslaved people to the North. Not only did thousands of slaves seeking freedom from the Deep South often have to traverse the state en route to free soil, but in July of 1850, census takers recorded 279 slave escapes from Maryland itself over the previous year; interestingly, historians such as Barbara Fields believe that this statistic was significantly under-representative of the actual number of enslaved people who took their freedom (Bell 2021). Even after the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, escapes remained frequent in the state, costing slaveholders about $80,000 a year in lost assets (equal to millions of dollars when accounting for present-day inflation) (Bell 2021). These fiscal losses, of course, greatly angered slaveowners, who, both before and after 1850, sent slave catchers into Pennsylvania to find fugitive slaves who had escaped to the North. Such missions often resulted in violence, most famously in the September 1851 encounter in Christiana, Pennsylvania, where Edward Gorsuch, a Baltimore County slaveholder, pursued his escaped slaves into a fortified house occupied by his formerly enslaved people and several other armed Blacks, resulting in a firefight and their eventual escape to Canada (via Douglass’ house in Rochester, New York) (Bell 2021).

Escape was often facilitated by the freed Black community within Maryland, as well. For example, Samuel Green, a former slave who became a free minister, helped Harriet Tubman’s expeditions into Maryland to help escaped slaves flee, actions which resulted in a ten-year sentence to the Maryland state penitentiary (Bell 2021). Indeed, despite the state’s role in the peculiar institution, many within Baltimore’s large population of free Blacks (about 15% of the city’s entire population by 1850–the largest community of freed people of color in the antebellum U.S.) assisted in the escapes of slaves, as well.

While escapes remained prominent within the enslaved society of Maryland, the state also served as a central hub of the “Reverse Underground Railroad,” the abduction of free people into forced slavery. Since the early nineteenth century, kidnappers had taken advantage of the large Black population of Baltimore, sometimes even knocking people unconscious in broad daylight on the streets of the cities to enslave them (Bell 2021). These human traffickers would also extend their reach across the border and into Pennsylvania, kidnapping people from free soil and taking them to Baltimore, where they were sold by slave traders (Bell 2021). This practice only increased after the Fugitive Slave Act made it easier to snatch freed Blacks from Northern soil, resulting in the seizure of countless free people with impunity.

As the Civil War approached, the Supreme Court ruled on the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford case, an event quite literally written by a Marylander. Chief Justice Roger Taney had begun his practice in Frederick before serving as the Maryland Attorney General; indeed, his home was still in Baltimore, and he sat on the Circuit Court for Maryland (Jones 2021). Furthermore, Sanford was represented by a Baltimore Lawyer- Reverdy Johnson, who had previously served as the Senator for Maryland and Attorney General (Jones 2021). As such, Dred Scott was a source of local pride within the white society of Baltimore, as is evident in the city’s news daily, The Baltimore Sun (Jones 2021).

By 1860, divisions were evident within the state. Due to the strong slaveholding turnout in the south and east, Lincoln placed fourth in the statewide returns, losing to John Breckenridge by a margin of more than eighteen to one (Bell 2021). Lincoln’s strongest support was in the northern portion of the state, along the Mason-Dixon line; he won about 12% of the vote in Allegany and about 4% in Cecil County. On the other hand, Breckenridge won 67% of the vote in St. Mary’s County, 60% of the vote in Charles County, 55% in Worcester County, 53% in Prince George’s County, 50% in Talbot County, and (surprisingly) 49.6% in the city of Baltimore, demonstrating an immense support in the southern and even urban parts of the state. In other words, the closer to the North, the more the county generally swung towards Lincoln, while the closer to the South, the county generally swung towards Breckenridge.

Both maps courtesy of

However, Breckenridge only won a plurality of the state, meaning that the other three (Unionist) candidates had indeed captured the majority of votes (54.2%) to Breckenridge’s 46% (Mitchell 2021). It is interesting to examine the paradox of Maryland’s votes in 1860; while the Unionist John Bell won nearly 42,000 votes, suggesting a fairly robust pro-Union sentiment, Lincoln and his Republican principles were absolutely despised, with Beantown, Charles County, even passing a resolution demanding that Lincoln voters leave the county by the end of the year (Mitchell 2021). Indeed, Bell had lost the statewide plurality to Breckenridge by less than a thousand votes, showing how split the state was between Unionism and Southern interests. Due to these tensions, Governor Thomas Hicks, a Unionist belonging to the Know-Nothing (American) Party, refused to summon the legislature into special session, concerned that the planter aristocracy dominating the legislature would try to force the state into secession (Mitchell 2021).

Despite these fears, Unionism remained strong through the winter of 1860 and spring of 1861. While Hicks, like some other Border State governors, attempted to keep his state neutral, other Marylanders were vocal in their support of the Union. In early January, a meeting of the Maryland counties resolved that “Maryland is this day, as she ever had been, true to the American Union; that she will exert all her influence for its peaceful preservation,” and shortly afterwards, Congressman James Morrison Harris of Maryland’s 3rd District (large parts of Baltimore County) called South Carolina an “extreme southern state” on the floor of the US House of Representatives (Mitchell 2021).

While there was a small but vocal Unionist contingent, Maryland remained in crisis over its fate as 1861 dawned. Southerners, including the editor of the influential Confederate newspaper, the Richmond Enquirer, encouraged Maryland to collaborate with Virginia to surround and capture Washington, and Baltimore remained a hotbed of secessionist sentiments (Mitchell 2021). These secessionist leanings fell into the national spotlight when it was revealed that Lincoln was the target of an assassination conspiracy in Baltimore, requiring him to change his itinerary as he traveled from Springfield to Washington. As the outbreak of war approached, many Marylanders sought to wait to see where Virginia would align itself before making a definitive decision, something that Unionists criticized as a lack of action. This perceived inaction continued through the early spring of 1861, when newspapers and Hicks continued to advocate for neutrality, arguing that Maryland would be either an arbiter between the two regional sections or would totally avoid the upcoming conflict by remaining impartial, similarly to Kentucky’s 1861 declaration of neutrality (Mitchell 2021).

Hicks would continue to profess this neutrality at a special legislative session called after the shelling of Fort Sumter. As he said, [Maryland has] done all we could to avert [the Civil War]. We have hoped that Maryland… might have acted as a mediator between the extremes of both sections and thus have prevented the terrible evils of a prolonged civil war” (Mitchell 2021). However, the populace would disagree with him. A resurgence of Unionist sentiments erupted in Baltimore after the Confederate attack on the Federal fort, which was met equally with Confederate sympathies (Mitchell 2021). Maryland’s population, particularly Baltimore, seemed to polarize evermore by the day.

Less than a week after Fort Sumter, violence broke out in the streets of the city. The day after Virginia seceded, secessionists threw rocks at a Pennsylvania volunteer militia marching through Baltimore to switch trains, although city police managed to preserve order (Towers 2021). This event, Less than a week after Fort Sumter, violence broke out in the streets of the city. The day after Virginia seceded, secessionists threw rocks at a Pennsylvania volunteer militia marching through Baltimore to switch trains, although city police managed to preserve order (Towers 2021). This event, however, was only a precursor of what was to come. On April 19, 1861, two days after Virginia’s secession, the Pratt Street Riot exploded in the streets of Baltimore. As about 2000 men of the Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Militia and Pennsylvania’s Washington Brigade marched through town, they were met by an angry crowd of secessionists cheering for Jefferson Davis and waving the South Carolina flag (Towers 2021). This crowd devolved into a riot, where the militiamen were attacked. While the police escorted the Massachusetts troops to the train heading towards Washington, the Pennsylvania volunteers were attacked for two hours before the police assisted them and helped them get on trains returning to Philadelphia (Towers 2021). In the chaos, some volunteers fled through the Maryland countryside, pursued by secessionist militia, while others were captured by the militia (Towers 2021). A total of nineteen people were killed, seven of whom were Union volunteers (Towers 2021).

Given Baltimore’s key position within the railroad and telegraph network, the federal government quickly realized the strategic importance of the city and sought to seize control of its affairs. These efforts resulted in a standoff between the federal government and Baltimore’s municipal government, which opposed Washington. Baltimore’s government acted against Lincoln under the guise of “armed neutrality,” which meant that they would oppose the federal government (to ensure their “neutrality” in the war) and use force to do so if necessary. In the days following the Pratt Street Riot, this ideology manifested quickly as municipal leaders ordered telegraph wires and railroad bridges to be destroyed, raised a militia, seized a federal arsenal in Baltimore County, and used the police to arrest Unionist paramilitaries while ignoring secessionist organizations (Towers 2021). On April 24, the “States and Southern Rights” party won the election to fill Baltimore’s seats in the House of Delegates, further amplifying the secessionist voices of the city. In an attempt to compromise, Lincoln agreed to keep troops out of Baltimore, although he continued to move troops through Maryland, seeing as it was the only safe passage from the rest of the country to Washington (Towers 2021). Shortly afterwards, Unionists defeated a secessionist bill drafted by Senator Coleman Yellott of Baltimore that would have created a “Committee of Public Safety.” This bill would have put the militia under the control of the committee, superseding the Governor, and presumably would raise forces for the Confederacy, despite Hicks’s insistence on neutrality (Towers 2021).

The Unionist resurgence would continue through May 1861. By May 1, the U.S. flag flew over the federal Customs House, a reversal of Mayor George William Brown’s earlier ban on flag displays. By May 9, Brown managed to convince Baltimoreans to once again allow soldiers to travel through Baltimore. On May 13, the Sixth Massachusetts returned to Baltimore along with the Boston Light Artillery. However, unlike the preceding month, they peacefully entered the city and set up cannons on Federal Hill above the downtown (Towers 2021). Nevertheless, Lincoln decided to take harsher measures to ensure that the secessionist threat would not rear its head. A series of high-profile arrests, including those of Brown, eight members of the States’ and Southern Rights delegation to the Maryland House, and Representative Henry May, occurred throughout September. By the fall, about 30 prominent Baltimoreans had been arrested on charges related to secessionist activity (Towers 2021).

With the arrests of these prominent citizens, Lincoln also suspended habeas corpus in Maryland. Beginning on April 27th, Lincoln issued an order suspending the writ of habeas corpus along the rail lines, to ensure that Union troops would be able to move smoothly through the state (Williams 2021). However, this suspension was later expanded, as evidenced by the arrests within Baltimore. Despite Roger Taney’s ruling in the Ex Parte Merryman opinion, which argued that habeas corpus could only be suspended by Congress, Lincoln ignored the Supreme Court’s decision and expanded the authorization as far north as New York City by July (Williams 2021). While this authorization stretched up the mid-Atlantic, nearly 33% of the military arrests of civilians by February 1862 were of Marylanders (Williams 2021).

While Maryland’s allegiance was ensured early in the war through these arrests, it remained central to the war effort throughout the conflict. Most famous is the September 1862 invasion of Maryland by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia during the Antietam Campaign, culminating in the mass carnage at Sharpsburg. In Lee’s second invasion of the North, he used Maryland as a path into Pennsylvania while on the Gettysburg Campaign, which later also resulted in several smaller battles during his retreat in early July of 1863. Finally, Jubal Early’s Second Corps invaded Maryland to put pressure on Washington, culminating in the July 1864 Battle of Monocacy, which arguably saved the Federal Capitol from attack. Off of the battlefields, both Fort McHenry and Point Lookout served as Union prisons, confining both soldiers and civilians in infamously poor conditions (Williams 2021). After Lincoln’s assassination, the conspirators fled through Southern Maryland, ultimately falling captive to Union troops in the state.

Like other Border States, Marylanders served on both sides of the conflict. Approximately 63,000 Marylanders served the Union (about 50,300 white soldiers in the Army, about 8,700 Black soldiers in the Army, and about 3,900 serving in the Navy), and while the exact number is unknown, about 20,000 to 22,000 served for the Confederacy (Manakee 1961). Many of the most famous Maryland officers chose to fight for the Confederacy, including Brigadier General James Archer, who served under A.P. Hill for much of the early part of the war and was wounded at Gettysburg, Admiral Franklin Buchanan, the commander at Mobile Bay, Major General Isaac Trimble, who led Pender’s division during Pickett’s Charge, and Brigadier General John Henry Winder, famous for his oversight of Confederate prisons (Manakee 1961).

As a Border State, Maryland was exempt from the Emancipation Proclamation, therefore requiring freedom for the enslaved to be instated in another way. In the Spring of 1864, Marylanders chose delegates for a constitutional convention, aiming to abolish slavery, but ultimately adopting other key provisions as well. Most significant was the movement to allow Maryland’s soldiers to vote absentee on the referendum to ratify the new constitution, simultaneously disenfranchising secessionists and Confederate sympathizers (White 2021). This proposition caused significant controversy amongst Democrats, who argued that it was illegal for soldiers to vote on the constitution when the clause allowing them to vote by mail was one of the amendments being ratified (White 2021). The soldier vote, which was overwhelmingly for emancipation, resulted in a victory for the new constitution, which went into effect on November 1, 1864, abolishing slavery within the state.

A month after October’s constitutional referendum, on November 8, 1864, Lincoln won the state with 55% of the vote, a dramatic contrast to his 2.5% four years prior (White 2021). There are several possible explanations as to why Maryland became so much more Republican-leaning over the course of the war years; first and foremost, many Democrats were barred from voting due to their sympathies with the Confederacy under the new constitution. Secondly, Marylanders had firsthand seen the devastation of war; after Antietam, for example, 22 new hospitals were established for wounded soldiers in Frederick, and, only a few months before the election, that same city had seen a battle on its outskirts (McNish 2016). This likely shifted the opinions of residents directly affected by the war, and, indeed, Lincoln’s vote in Frederick increased from 103 in 1860 to 3,553 in 1864.

Photo courtesy of

The city of Baltimore was another location in which the vote for Lincoln increased dramatically from 1860. Whereas he only got 1,083 votes during his first election, less than 4% of the total, Lincoln won nearly 15,000 in his second, over 80%. It is possible that, seeing how secessionists had been treated in 1861, citizens of Baltimore threw their support behind Lincoln to avoid imprisonment or loss of their civil liberties. Conversely, perhaps many saw the writing on the wall that seemed to indicate an overall Union victory by late 1864, and war-weary Marylanders cast their votes for the leader whom they thought could bring the war to its end most quickly. However, it is interesting to note that, besides Baltimore and Talbot County (which gave almost 70% of its vote to Lincoln), the other counties that Breckenridge had handily won a majority of in 1860 (St. Mary’s County, Charles County, Worcester County, and Prince George’s County) all voted overwhelmingly for McClellan, although Lincoln’s total votes in those counties all increased from 1860. In Charles County, for example, Lincoln won 27 votes in 1864, compared to the 6 he had won in 1860. This low support in southern counties within the state demonstrated a resentment towards Lincoln and the war, showing that, despite a general increase in Republican sentiments in Maryland, the state remained extremely divided across its various regions.

As a state that remained loyal to the Union, Maryland did not have to go through the traditional “Reconstruction” enforced by military officers like ex-Confederate states. As such, Reconstruction was significantly different within Maryland than it was in other former slaveholding states. Even during the 1864 constitutional convention that emancipated the enslaved, there was little if any support for Black suffrage (Jacobs-Thompson 2021). Furthermore, shortly after the war, the Union Party that had controlled Maryland for much of the period split over the issue of whether former white secessionists needed to take an oath of loyalty before being allowed to vote. As Democrats and conservative Unionists made an alliance, many Republicans feared a return to the prewar political landscape. Despite the pleas of radicals for federal intervention, once the Democrats took control, they convened a constitutional assembly in 1867 (Jacobs-Thompson 2021). The document that the assembly produced was extremely reactionary, removing the requirement for loyalty oaths, rejecting the Fourteenth Amendment, affirming the supremacy of states’ rights, ensuring that Black men remained disenfranchised, and condemning the congressional plan to expand suffrage to Black men in “reconstructed” states further South (Jacobs-Thompson 2021). Despite condemnation and rejection of the Fifteenth Amendment by Maryland’s Democratic legislature, Black men indeed were enfranchised when the amendment was ratified, to great criticism from their white counterparts. However, despite this progress, like across the South, Black Marylanders were met with significant obstacles and racist policies ensuring that their de facto ability to participate in politics was as difficult as possible.

After the war, like most Southern states, many Marylanders attempted to embrace the Lost Cause narrative. Led by Bradley Tyler Johnson, a lawyer who had served as a brigadier general in the Army of Northern Virginia, “unreconstructed” Marylanders formed several organizations in the early 1870s to perpetuate the Confederate narratives of the war. Most significant were the Society of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States in the State of Maryland, and the Association of the Maryland Line, which promoted the myth that Confederates had fought, in Johnson’s words, for the “cause of civil liberty, under constitutional forms, on this continent” (Cook 2021). Johnson also successfully lobbied for the 2nd Maryland Confederate Infantry monument in Gettysburg, the first Confederate monument on the Battlefield (Graham 2018). As with Kentucky, a border state that became more sympathetic to the Confederacy after the war, Maryland began to adopt a false historical narrative that promoted and supported Confederate ideologies in the postbellum era. This was a reversal of the stronger Unionist sentiments near the end of the war, and likely came from the impassioned sentiments of Confederate sympathizers, who resented Lincoln’s heavy-handed treatment of them in 186; thus, once they returned to political power, they pushed their ideologies into the mainstream culture of historical memory. Finding common ground with white, former Unionist Marylanders who feared radical new policies to empower Blacks, both legally and politically, these Confederate sympathizers quickly gained allies across the political spectrum.

By the late nineteenth century, Maryland had begun to adopt Jim Crow legislation. The first major racist law emerged in 1884, when the Maryland Assembly barred interracial marriage between whites and “persons of negro descent to the third generation” (Graham 2018). In 1901, Democrat Arthur Pue Gorman, who had recently been restored to power as Maryland’s Senator, led a movement to amend the constitution and disenfranchise Black men (Cook 2021). With the assistance of John Prentiss Poe, the dean of the University of Maryland Law School and former Attorney General of Maryland, a constitutional amendment was written giving the vote to any adult male whose grandfather had voted before the Fifteenth Amendment and allowed registrars to refuse the vote to anyone who could not demonstrate a “reasonable” understanding of the Constitution (Cook 2021). While this amendment was rejected by the electorate, partially because Democrats feared it would also disenfranchise illiterate white voters, racial segregation continued within Maryland (Cook 2021). In 1904, Maryland segregated railroad coaches, and in 1908, the law was expanded to electric trolleys and steamboats (Baltimore Heritage). Interestingly, these laws exempted Baltimore after fierce opposition from within the city (Baltimore Heritage). However, as Thurgood Marshall said, “the only thing different between the South and Baltimore was trolley cars. They weren’t segregated. Everything else was segregated,” suggesting that this exemption was mostly done to appease certain politicians and meant little in practice (Baltimore Heritage). In 1908 and 1910, two more attempts at disenfranchising Black men failed (Baltimore Heritage). Despite these successes, in December 1910, Baltimore Mayor James Preston signed a law making it illegal to rent or sell to Black households in areas where white people lived, making it the first municipal law to segregate housing in the United States (Baltimore Heritage). Also in that year, the state began building separate hospitals and schools for Black citizens, further entrenching segregation (Graham 2018).

While Baltimore, as a center of Maryland’s Black population, was a flashpoint of racial segregation, racist policies persisted throughout the state. For example, in Ocean City, Black people were only allowed on the beach and boardwalk on “Colored Exclusion Days,” one day each for residents of Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware, after the summer tourist rush had concluded (Condon 2020). This segregation persisted through the early 1960s, when, along with the rest of Maryland, the city integrated. A 1955 survey conducted by George Grant of Morgan State College found that, prior to Brown v. Board, there were very few instances of desegregation on either the Eastern or Western Shore outside of Baltimore, barring one or two individual schools (Grant 1955). However, the Eastern Shore was typically viewed by Western Shore Marylanders as the backwards one, and, indeed, following the 1931 lynching of Matthew Williams, a black man living on the Eastern Shore who had shot his white employer over a wage dispute, Maryland newspapers including the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Post were quick to criticize the lynching and the Eastern Shore as a whole (Graham 2018). In response, Eastern Shore newspapers criticized these articles and images as misrepresentation of their region, demonstrating a split between the state’s racial attitudes, even though segregationist policies existed throughout all of Maryland (Graham 2018 These fiery debates also reflected the tensions between the Western Shore and Baltimore, which had industrialized, and the rural Eastern Shore, demonstrating significant complexities within early twentieth-century Maryland’s racial ideologies.

Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Black Marylanders fought against these segregationist policies. Most notable were the 1942 March on Annapolis, the 1947 protest of segregated seating of Ford’s Theatre on Fayette Street in Baltimore, and sit-ins protesting lunch counter segregation in Baltimore (Baltimore Heritage). In 1948, racial segregation in Baltimore’s parks was overturned, and in 1956, swimming pools were desegregated, both of which were due to the efforts of the Baltimore NAACP (Baltimore Heritage). After the 1954 Brown v. Board decision (which was argued by Thurgood Marshall, a Baltimorean), the dismantling of Jim Crow in the state accelerated. Through a series of nonviolent protests in the late 1950s and early 1960s, many of Baltimore’s restaurants desegregated, and the city continued to integrate.

It is worth mentioning that, in addition to nonviolent protests against racial policy, several bouts of inter-racial violence in Baltimore occurred as well. Unrest gripped the city after the murder of Martin Luther King in April 1968, when angry Black rioters burnt and looted buildings, and clashed with the police and National Guard for five days (Baltimore Heritage). More recently, after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, a young Black Baltimorean, civil unrest once again struck Baltimore, prompting comparisons to the 1968 riots.

With the complex history of slavery, the nature of the war in this Border State, the failure of Reconstruction, and a mostly peaceful Civil Rights movement punctuated by several violent incidents, the legacy and memory of the Civil War in Maryland remains contested. Two dominant narratives emerged throughout the early twentieth century: A reconciliationist argument that the Civil War was one of brother against brother, where Marylanders of both sides fought bravely for grand ideals, and the traditional Lost Cause narrative that gripped the South.

This binary is illustrated in the postwar organizations within Maryland. In addition to the Confederate organizations created by Johnson, there were several prominent Unionist groups, most notably the GAR. By 1900, there were over 2,600 members in 56 posts of the Maryland GAR (Graham 2018). Most significantly, of these posts, 23 of them were African-American, demonstrating a large pride within the Black community for their service in the war (Graham 2018). However, even amongst these veterans, there was a distinct split over how they wished to remember the Civil War in Maryland. Some of them chose to highlight the loyalism of the state, focusing on the fact that Maryland stayed with the Union. On the other hand, they wished to condemn Marylander rebels, painting them as an insignificant minority compared to themselves and their comrades, who “redeemed” the state from secessionists. Historian David Graham wrote that, for many veterans, they held dual identities of both Marylanders and Unionists, and thus, felt like they needed to not just remember the sacrifices of their comrades but also paint themselves and their state as loyal in the eyes of other veterans, many of whom viewed Maryland as disloyal (Graham 2018). All of these various, competing interpretations likely led to a weaker collective Unionist memory of the war, resulting in the dominant interpretation of the war in Maryland that touts a reconciliationist narrative.

These less-than-holistic interpretations and somewhat surface-level public engagements with the state’s complex Civil War history are evident in the Maryland’s policies and views regarding Civil War memory through the bulk of the twentieth century, particularly the Civil War Centennial. For example, in 1939, the song “Maryland, my Maryland,” a vehemently secessionist poem-turned-song written as a rebuke of Unionists in the Civil War, was made the state song. Several decades later, to commemorate the 1962 centennial of Antietam, the state’s Civil War Centennial Commission did little but encourage “honest research” into the Civil War to “heal old wounds” and give a “better understanding of the causes that led to conflict,” unveiling a plaque in Annapolis in 1964 describing the war as a “great struggle between the citizens of the temporarily divided nation” fought by soldiers who “[did] their duty as they saw it” (Cook 2021).

This attempt to embrace both a pro-Unionist and a pro-Confederate identity resulted in a split legacy endorsed by the state during the Centennial, best illustrated by the Civil War Centennial Committee’s statements that “Marylanders supported whichever side their consciences dictated,” proudly declaring that the Maryland Monument at Antietam was the “only one dedicated to the memory of the fallen sons of both the North and the South” (Graham 2018). This attempt at a reconciliationist celebration occurred as Maryland also was forced to address the divided racial environment and competing interpretations of Civil War memory. It was met with controversy from all sides, including from Lost Cause sympathizers (namely Ruby Duval, former Maryland UDC President) who disputed the wording of the Annapolis plaque, citizens of Hagerstown who objected to a proposition to erect a statue to native Abram Ryan, “the Poet-Priest of the South,” and segregationists who objected to Kennedy’s forced desegregation of Centennial events (Graham 2018). Indeed, in attempting to reconcile all of the disparate interpretations and memories of the Civil War, the Maryland Centennial Committee seemed to have angered all stakeholders, who criticized it for attempting to appeal to the other various, and contesting, groups.

Even as late as the 1990s, this reconciliationist narrative dominated Maryland’s view of the Civil War. No better example demonstrates this narrative than the 1994 Maryland monument at Gettysburg, located just over the border of Maryland, in Pennsylvania. This monument, which features two wounded Marylanders, one Union and one Confederate, helping each other stand up, emphasized that they “served on both sides of the conflict” at Gettysburg, “on all parts of the battlefield.” Furthermore, it explicitly repeats the “brother against brother” trope, implying that, above all, tragic fraternal conflict—not a bitter division over deeply held socio-political ideals–would be Marylanders’ enduring Civil War legacy, referring particularly to fighting such as that on the slopes of Culp’s Hill where Marylanders faced off in brutal combat. The monument’s inscription concludes that all of these men are now “brothers again, Marylanders all,” and that the state “proudly honors its sons who fought at Gettysburg in defense of the causes they held so dear.” The monument, which is almost thirty years old, clearly showcases the enormous staying power of the reconciliationist narrative in Maryland, even as the state entered the new millennium.

In the twenty-first century, the general consensus of Marylanders seems to have finally shifted away from the binary of reconciliationist and Lost Cause narratives, but the tension surrounding the Civil War’s memory remains fraught. While the state itself did not have an official sesquicentennial commission, mirroring the federal government, many local organizations took an approach that was far less biased towards either line of interpretation, hoping to avoid controversial subjects. For example, the Maryland Historical Society published a collection of Maryland Civil War era photographs, to little controversy (Graham 2018). While the NPS commemorated Antietam and Monocacy’s 150th anniversaries, the state itself chose to avoid the controversy that it had found itself in during the 1960s (Graham 2018).

It is interesting that, generally speaking, the state of Maryland has chosen not to remember Antietam as a turning point for the liberation of slaves, ignoring that the events occurring on their soil were pivotal in ensuring the Emancipation Proclamation; indeed, in his speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, less than two weeks before the sesquicentennial of Antietam, then-Governor Martin O’Malley discussed the heroism of Marylanders during the Revolution, remarked on his father’s heroism during World War II, but omitted any mention of the Civil War, let alone Antietam. Official Press Office photographs of Governor O’Malley’s tenure indicate that his only visit as governor to Antietam occurred in 2008, once again suggesting a relative silence of the state during the Civil War sesquicentennial. This suggests that, due to the tensions within the state towards the memory of the Civil War, O’Malley and his administration wished to remain neutral and not create a controversy amongst either those who embraced the reconciliationist narrative or those who took a more Unionist approach.

In the wake of recent events such as the Charleston Church shooting, Charlottesville, and the racial unrest of 2020, however, the memory of the Civil War has been re-examined and a more negative view of the Confederacy and Maryland’s Confederate ties seems to have emerged as more dominant amongst many Marylanders, as demonstrated by the removal of Confederate monuments in the late 2010s and early 2020s.

Given Maryland’s complex relationship with its Confederate- and racial- past, the state poses many questions about the nature of Confederate monumentation therein. Those advocating for the removal of Confederate monuments argue two main points: First, that these monuments were erected strictly or predominantly to protect white supremacy and the Lost Cause, as well as to legitimize Jim Crow laws in the face of calls for racial equality and the long Civil Rights movement; and secondly, that they honor men who committed treason against the United States, such as Robert E. Lee or Jefferson Davis. Those who are in support of retaining Confederate monuments often do so for a variety of reasons, ranging from familial or martial pride and heritage, to outright celebration of the Confederacy and its political and racial principles, to a genuine desire for a more complex and educational commemorative landscape that informs us about the good, bad, and ugly of the American past and its legacies, warts and all.

The objective of this report is to examine the basis for these arguments within the state of Maryland using maps and historical sources. The aim is not to unequivocally answer these controversial questions or make any argument in support or against the monuments, but rather to provide concrete data and historical context to the debate. The first goal of this report is to map when, where, and by whom Confederate monuments were erected in Maryland, from the Reconstruction era to the present (Spring, 2023). The second goal of this study is to help provide historical context and possible reasons behind some of the Confederate monumentation trends in Maryland since the end of the war. This study focuses solely on monuments, memorials, and statuary, and omits buildings, roads, or natural features named after Confederate soldiers or statesmen. It is important to note that the Southern Poverty Law Center’s data used to create these maps was generated through crowdsourced map points, and the exact locations cannot be immediately verified. Additionally, some monuments might not be included due to the crowdsourced nature of the SPLC dataset.

Overview of Results

Map 1: Specific Honorees vs. Non-Specific Honorees
Map 2: Maryland Confederate Monuments, 1903-1948

There are only six Confederate statues in the Maryland SPLC dataset, which is remarkably few compared to the other states studied thus far. Of these six, three are located in Baltimore, one in Talbot County, one in Howard County, and one in Montgomery County, spanning the central, west-central, and south-central portions of the state. Chronologically speaking, however, this state is less anomalous. Like most other states studied in this project, there was a surge of monumentation in the early 20th century, in the years surrounding the semi-centennial of the war and prior to America’s entry into WWI in 1917, with four of the six being erected between 1903 and 1917–three of which were erected in the 1910s. Two monuments stand out, the Jackson and Lee Monument (the only statue with specific honorees) and the Ellicott City Confederate Memorial, both of which were erected in 1948. According to the SPLC Dataset, no monuments have been built since.

These monuments came from a variety of sponsors, although, like in many former Confederate states, the United Daughters of the Confederacy is largely responsible for them. In Maryland, the UDC either fully or co-sponsored three of the six monuments, two of which were in Baltimore. (Not included in this study, but equally notable is the monument to Southern soldiers at the Monocacy batttlefield, sponsored by the UDC chapter in Frederick). The other monument which the UDC sponsored was the Confederate Monument in Rockville. The United Confederate Veterans fully or co-sponsored two of the six, one of which was in Baltimore and the other in Talbot County. Smaller and more local sponsors included Howard County’s Confederate Monument Association, who financed their county’s monument, and J. Henry Ferguson, a private donor, who sponsored the Lee-Jackson Monument in Baltimore. Most notably, however, is the Confederate Women’s Memorial, which was co-sponsored by the State of Maryland itself, the UDC, and the UCV.

Confederate Women Monument, Baltimore (Wikimedia Commons)

Interestingly, every Confederate monument in Maryland outside of battlefield land has been removed. Five of the six were removed in the wake of the Charlottesville protest, in 2017, while the last, the Talbot Boys Monument, was removed in 2022.

Map 3: Maryland Confederate Monument Removals, 2017-2022

Despite being a border state, there are remarkably few Union monuments in Maryland off of the battlefields. Six years after the unveiling of the Baltimore Confederate Monument, in 1909, the city finally erected a Union monument to coincide with a reunion of Union veterans. While this monument, to Union Soldiers and Sailors, was sponsored and erected by the State of Maryland, the city of Baltimore did not display great care to it; it would be moved in 1959 to facilitate construction of an expressway (Maryland Historical Society, 1994). This monument was the only one dedicated to the Union in Baltimore, further demonstrating the predominance of Confederate memory within the city in the early twentieth century.

Union Soldiers and Sailors Monument, Baltimore (Wikimedia Commons)

In 2012, a monument was dedicated to USCT soldiers in St. Mary’s County, honoring the 700 Black men hailing from the county who served. The monument gives special tribute to Pvt. William Barnes and Sgt. James Harris, who both won the Medal of Honor for their actions at New Market Heights, outside Richmond, Virginia, in September of 1864. The recent dedication of the monument represents the shift away from the reconciliationist narrative dominant through much of the twentieth century, and also demonstrates the newly placed emphasis on Black soldiers, whose memory and sacrifices remained largely overlooked throughout the twentieth century. This is especially significant in St. Mary’s County, which voted overwhelmingly for Breckinridge in 1860 and was a large slaveholding county prior to the Civil War, suggesting that, in recent years, the county has begun to confront the warts of its past.

USCT Monument, Lexington Park, St. Mary’s County (Wikimedia Commons)

Similarly, in 2015, the University of Maryland unveiled a statue of Frederick Douglass on their College Park campus. While this, of course, was not a monument honoring those who fought in the Civil War, Douglass was one of the most influential figures of the Civil War era, and it is worth mentioning to once again reflect the renewed emphasis on Black figures in the twenty-first century.

Analysis of Results

The small number of monuments to either side in Maryland reflects the fraught nature of the memory of the Civil War. It is fascinating that, besides the 1909 monument in Baltimore, the only other monument honoring Union soldiers off of a battlefield or outside of a national cemetery was dedicated in the past fifteen years, demonstrating the unique nature of Civil War memory in the state. While more research is needed to definitively determine why so few Union monuments were erected, this analysis aims to contextualize this infrequent monumentation and offer informed speculation as to why so few total Civil War monuments were erected within the state, and why the small handful of monuments were erected where and when they were.

There are many factors behind the chronology of monumentation in Maryland. While the statues to the Confederacy in the early twentieth century are, of course, partially related to the resurgence of white supremacist policies that occurred during the era, there are likely other factors as well. There is no one explanation for why statues were erected; reading the full dedication speeches of each monument is key to understanding the motivations behind them. Furthermore, the 1910s marked the fiftieth anniversary of the war, and Marylanders likely wished to assert their loyalty to their respective sides, grappling with their split identity as a border state. Veterans also wanted to honor their fallen comrades, and, as a generation that was aging and starting to pass into history, they wanted to establish a lasting memory of the sacrifices made by Marylanders during the Civil War. Finally, as was true of other states’ monumentation patterns, the American entry into World War I in 1917 and World War II in 1941 also likely stoked desires for additional monumentation. As Americans looked to their martial past for combat inspiration during their involvement in the World Wars, in turn, that involvement renewed interest and patriotic pride in commemorating previous martial service, both national and regional, throughout history.

While many of Maryland’s monuments are on the battlefields, several are worth exploring to possibly explain why so few Civil War monuments were erected away from military sites. Monuments to Marylanders at Antietam and, interestingly, at Gettysburg are especially informative when examining the memory of the Civil War in Maryland. Until the mid-1880s, Gettysburg was Northern battlefield with only Northern monuments on it. However, this changed when, led by Bradley Johnson, Confederate veterans petitioned to have a monument of their own on the Gettysburg Battlefield (which ultimately became the Second Maryland Confederate Infantry Monument). In a November, 1886 address delivered shortly before the monument’s dedication, Johnson said that in Maryland, “the Confederate soldier has not always been recognized as he should be,” praising their continued loyalty towards the defeated Confederacy (Graham 2018). Later in his speech, Johnson claimed that monuments existed to keep the “heartfelt sympathy” which Maryland felt so deeply for secessionists; Johnson’s words, when juxtaposed with the subsequent dedication monuments to Maryland’s Union soldiers at Gettysburg, highlight the struggle between Union and Confederate veterans over the legacy of the war in their state. The placement of the Second Maryland Confederate Infantry Monument in Gettysburg was a significant event in that struggle, showing the efforts that Maryland’s Confederate sympathizers took as early as twenty years after the war in ensuring that their interpretation of the conflict endured. In 1889, Pennsylvania Governor James Beaver and the GAR petitioned to remove the monument from Gettysburg, and, while it was ultimately kept, the controversy was fierce. Shortly afterwards, Union veterans gathered to dedicate their own monuments to Maryland regiments on the Gettysburg battlefield, emphasizing the loyalty of Marylanders and establishing a counternarrative to that endorsed by Johnson and Southerners. Indeed, not a single dedicatory address of any of the Union monuments to Marylanders even mentioned the Confederate monument nor the controversy around it, demonstrating that, at Gettysburg, Maryland’s Union veterans chose to hold only one view of their state’s contribution to the largest battle of the war (Graham 2018). Ten years later at Antietam, an entirely different narrative emerged. In 1900, the Maryland State Monument was dedicated on the battlefield, the only one that honored soldiers of both sides. This monument was built and dedicated after the Spanish-American War, which many historians attribute to promoting reconciliationist sentiments, as it was the first American conflict since the Civil War to feature Northerners and Southerners fighting on the same side (Graham 2018). Each side of the octagonal monument honors a different Maryland unit that participated in the Battle of Antietam. Antietam veteran, President William McKinley was one of the keynote dedication speakers for the monument; during his speech, McKinley promoted reconciliationist sentiments rather than, as many other Union veterans did, emphasizing the Unionist interpretation of Civil War memory. Indeed, the Unionist interpretation was notably absent from the dedication ceremony of the Maryland monument. The GAR had refused to attend the Memorial Day dedication since many veterans believed it would be disloyal to their country and their fallen comrades’ memories to participate in the dedication of a monument that also honored Confederate veterans (Graham 2018). In other words, while reconciliationism remained prominent within the larger public memory of the war at this time, many Maryland veterans refused to embrace that interpretation. This reconciliationst projection would continue to emerge even in the 1994 dedication of the Maryland State Monument at the Gettysburg battlefield.

The fierce debates over battlefield monumentation are, in many ways, microcosms of the larger struggles and controversies of Maryland’s Civil War legacy throughout the early twentieth century. Should the state embrace a reconciliationist narrative? Should it explicitly honor either its sons who fell for the Union or the Confederacy? Such were the difficult questions that Marylanders of all stripes faced when contemplating Civil War monumentation. Their alternatingly fraught and ambivalent attitudes toward the state’s Civil War memory might explain why, ultimately, so few monuments to either side were erected.

Baltimore seems a logical place as a central location for both the state’s Union and Confederate monuments, given its large population and significant role in the Civil War. Despite seemingly supporting Lincoln in 1864, it is evident through its postwar actions that the city ultimately harbored strong sympathies for the defeated South, hence the concentration of Confederate monuments in the city. Furthermore, since Baltimoreans might have felt resentful towards Lincoln for his treatment of the city in 1861, after the war, many of them (and their descendants) likely remembered the war significantly differently from Marylanders in other, less strategically significant areas which were not met with as harsh a response to secessionism. Furthermore, as a large city, Baltimore and its citizens likely would have had a far greater financial capacity to finance monuments, and the urban nature of the city was likely an attractive place for newly re-enfranchised former Confederates to promote their political influence.

Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, 1910, Baltimore (Wikimedia Commons)

Unlike many of the other states studied thus far, whose percentage of total monuments dedicated to specific individuals averages out to approximately 20%, only one of Maryland’s six statues (about 16.67%) honors specific people– Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. This monument, located in Baltimore, was erected in 1948, just as the Civil Rights movement began to take hold in the city, and was likely erected as a backlash to the Black citizens fighting for equal rights. The monument, financed by J. Henry Ferguson, was intended to idolize Ferguson’s childhood heroes and “serve as a reminder to the people of Maryland of their Christian character,” according to historian David Graham (2018). The monument depicts Lee and Jackson’s final farewell on May 1, 1863, just before the battle of Chancellorsville—the moment of Jackson’s perceived “martyrdom.” This famous moment in time clearly has little to do with Baltimore itself, a city that neither general marched through during the war, but rather seeks to yoke the city—and state–to the larger ideals and legacies of the Confederacy as a whole. Given Maryland’s role as a border state, it is highly likely that this celebration of Confederate generals was a reminder to other states that, indeed, while it remained loyal to the Union, at its core, Maryland has held Southern sympathies. Although, given the late-war actions of many Marylanders, it might appear that Southern-sympathizing sentiments were stamped out by Lincoln early on in the war and that most Marylanders publicly supported the Union for fear of imprisonment, perhaps secretly, the loyalties of many always remained true to the Confederacy.

Lee-Jackson Monument, Baltimore (Wikimedia Commons)
The empty pedestal following the monument’s removal, 2017 (Courtesy of NPR)

On the steps of the monument’s base are the words, “They were great generals and Christian soldiers and waged war like gentlemen,” and on the base of the sculpture are the quotes, “So great is my confidence in General Lee that I am willing to follow him blindfolded” and “Straight as the needle to the pole Jackson advanced to the execution of my purpose.” These quotes are attributed, respectively, to the featured generals. Both of these inscriptions reflect a strongly Lost Cause interpretation of the war, celebrating a war waged by honorable Southern Christian gentlemen, loyal to each other and to their country until the last. Furthermore, the emphasis on the generals’ Christianity highlights their virtue and moral values, perpetuating the stereotype that men such as Lee and Jackson were fighting for the “just and righteous cause.” Indeed, the implication that Lee and Jackson “waged war like gentlemen” alone suggests that, perhaps, they lost the war because they fought too honorably (against the implied, dishonorable Yankees of overwhelming number), attributing the Confederacy’s loss to their leaders’ nobility rather than to a military defeat. Furthermore, the use of Lee and Jackson’s last meeting, as well as the quotes glorifying their relationship, helps deify the two as the mythological Confederate “dream team” that worked perfectly together, perpetuating the myth that had Jackson survived, the South could have won the war–a counterfactual Lost Cause legend that further sought to direct blame away from Lee and towards circumstances beyond Confederate control. In addition, the monument serves as a perpetual reminder of Jackson’s martyred death at Chancellorsville, once again perpetuating a Confederate myth that sainted the fallen General and elevated him to a deified status.

When the monument was dedicated, three thousand people were present, including the governors of Virginia and Maryland, the mayor of Baltimore, cadets from the Virginia Military Institute, and Douglas Southall Freeman, prominent Lee biographer and the keynote speaker. Fredericksburg, Virginia’s Free Lance-Star reported on the dedication with an article entitled “Baltimore Wants Confederate Flags,” indicating that the city wanted to decorate the city in Confederate iconography.  This was a provocative statement in favor of segregation, directly responding to the Black Baltimoreans protesting for Civil Rights during that time (Graham 2018).

Black citizens began to voice their frustration with the monument shortly after its dedication, writing an article in the local Black newspaper, the Baltimore Afro-American, “Why Not Benedict Arnold?” Black Baltimoreans criticized the speeches of Maryland Governor William Preston Lane, who said that the “scars of the Civil War have long since been healed” and Baltimore Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro, who praised the two Confederate Generals as people who reminded “us to be resolute and determined in preserving our sacred institutions” (Graham 2018). Indeed, the Black author of the piece accurately reminded readers that the “sacred institution” that Lee and Jackson “sought to preserve was slavery” (Graham 2018). Despite the controversy, however, this statue remained intact until the city of Baltimore voted to remove it in 2017.

The Lee-Jackson monument was not the only Confederate monument removed in 2017. With the exception of the Talbot Boys statue, which was removed in 2022, every other Confederate statue was removed following the events of Charlottesville in 2017. Given Maryland’s reckoning with its divided past and seeming embrace of a Unionist narrative, as well as vocal and decades-long opposition from the Black community, especially in Baltimore, it seems clear why these removals occurred as the nation confronted the legacy of Confederate monuments in the wake of the tragedy in Virginia. Also removed in 2017, across Maryland, were statues of Chief Justice Roger Taney. In both Baltimore and Annapolis, duplicate statues of Taney were taken down, mostly due to his controversial ruling in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sanford case.

Similarly, the Talbot Boys statue was removed in 2022 after nearly a decade of controversy. This monument, the last publicly owned Confederate monument, was at the Talbot County Courthouse right next to a monument to Frederick Douglass (who was enslaved in Talbot County about twelve miles away), showing, once again, the divided loyalties of Marylanders, even into the twenty-first century. Following failed votes in 2015, 2016, and 2020, the County Council finally authorized its removal in the Fall of 2021; the removal came in the wake of significant advocacy efforts and fund-raising to support the removal and relocation of the monument by the Move the Monument Coalition, a local group established after the 2020 death of George Floyd. Given the large number of people who had been enslaved in Talbot County, and thus, their many descendants who currently live there, it is evident that the removal of the Talbot Boys monument, like that of the monuments in Baltimore, occurred due to the advocacy of Black citizens, once again, demonstrating the dramatic shift in cultural and demographic representation that reframed Maryland’s Civil War memory in the twenty-first century.



Civil War monumentation in the state of Maryland provides an enlightening lens into the deeply divided nature of the memory of the conflict in this border state. Several competing narratives clashed for a century, with one dominant interpretation arising only in the last twenty years. While it seems like Maryland has, finally, embraced the Unionist interpretation of the war, the memory of the Civil War remains extremely fraught. As in many places across America, the legacy of the war remains controversial, as does the fate of Confederate monuments. This study aims to contextualize the difficult memory of the war in Maryland, and, hopefully, allow for people on both sides of the debate to understand the complexities surrounding the Civil War in Maryland.

This research, of course, has its limitations. It does not map schools, buildings, towns, counties, roads, or natural features named after Confederates, all of which are prevalent throughout Maryland. Additionally, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s data used to create these maps was generated through crowdsourced map points, and the exact locations cannot be immediately verified. Furthermore, several monuments do not have dates of dedication or erection, which limits a complete and thorough analysis of the data. Without a thorough examination of the full historical context of each and every monument’s story, such as dedication speeches and events, monument inscriptions, and symbology, final conclusions about the exact historical nature of Civil War monumentation in Maryland leave many intriguing questions still unanswered. However, these maps and this report seeks to draw attention to the intricacies of monumentation patterns in Maryland as well as highlight the importance of further research into some of these currently unanswerable questions.

Table 1: Data Sources

NameCreatorDate Valid For DescriptionHyperlink
Maryland Counties Data.gov2019Shapefile representing Maryland’s counties. Link
Whose Heritage Master SheetSouthern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)2021Google Sheets dataset containing name, location, date of dedication, and other available information of all Confederate monuments across the United States. Link