Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Civil War: 150 Years Ago –Lincoln and Maryland

Special Note
Before I go on with today's blog, I want to take a moment to note that today is the 10th anniversary of the dastardly attack on the World Trade Center in New York by Al Qaeda. I have chosen not to blog on it because it seems like every one else and his mother is doing that already. The important thing is for each of us to take a moment and reflect on how the lives of so many people in the world have been effected by those events and to make a personal moment to hope and pray that no such attack will ever be allowed again. We should renew our resolve that all of the people who participated in the attack, and all those who continue to try and carry out such attacks, are either killed or brought to justice.

To say that Abraham Lincoln was an interesting and controversial figure would be an understatement. He is revered today as a great leader and a man of exemplary honesty and integrity. During the Civil War, however, he was constantly at the center of controversy. Many of his actions brought charges of dishonesty and even treason. The fact is that he was an astute politician with a definite Machiavellian slant. He manipulated people and circumstances to achieve his goals –and he was very, very good at it. Fortunately for history, his goals were not for personal gain. They were emancipation and the preservation of the Union.

One little known series of incidents involving the President and his willingness to take whatever actions needed came to a head 150 years ago, on September 11, 1861, when he directed his Secretary of War, Simon Cameron, to arrest the entire State Legislature of Maryland.

The State of Maryland was deeply divided on the issue of slavery and of succession. Baltimore was a hotbed of pro-slavery radicals who had already taken violent actions to impede the Union cause. They had cut the telegraph wires going North and had burned bridges to isolate Baltimore and make it difficult to move Union forces south to defend Washington DC. They had even attacked Union troops passing through the city. Lincoln knew these radicals only represented minority of the overall state population, but they were both well organized and well supported. They also held a substantial number of seats on the State Legislature. President Lincoln made several attempts to placate the pro-slavery faction, even agreeing to not move troops through the City of Baltimore unless it was absolutely necessary. Nothing seemed to work and since Washington DC is literally in Maryland, Lincoln could not afford to have it become a Confederate State.

To prevent the state from seceding from the Union and joining the Confederacy, Lincoln decided to arrest and detain the entire State Legislature and prevent them from voting on the question of succession. He had them taken to Fort McHenry and held there until Union troops could be brought into the state and defenses were built up. By this time the pro-union groups in Maryland had been able to organize and neutralize the threat of a vote to secede. Recruits in the Maryland Regiments choose staying in the Union Army over going with the Confederate Army by a margin of 2 to 1. President Lincoln then had the detained officials quietly released and the entire crisis faded into history.

Live Long and Prosper....

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