On April 13, 1861, Fort Sumter surrendered. On the same day, the Virginia legislature took up the matter of secession, which was duly enacted on April 17th. Armed secessionists took up positions directly across the Potomac River from Washington DC, including the Virginia end of the Long Bridge, the sole bridge from Washington spanning the Potomac. The City of Washington lay virtually undefended, ripe for Confederate takeover.
On April 19th, to defend Washington from Confederate attack, the soldiers of the Sixth Massachusetts boarded trains in New York City for Washington, D.C. In those days there was no direct train through Baltimore. Trains from New York and Philadelphia pulled into the President Street Station, now a Civil War museum, where the cars were decoupled from the engine and each other, to be pulled by horses along railroad tracks laid out on Pratt Street, then as today Baltimore’s major downtown street abutting the inner harbor. The horses would pull the rail cars along Pratt Street to the other end of the harbor, to the Camden Street station, now part of the Camden yards Oriole baseball stadium complex (the former station contains a small section open as a museum recalling the Pratt Street riots and its days as a railroad station — the sports museum that had occupied most of the building has been closed.) When the horses reached Camden Station, the cars would be reattached to train engines and sent on their way to Washington D.C.
Unfortunately, thanks to my fellow Baltimoreans, the passage of the 6th Massachusetts across Pratt Street turned into a nightmare — the nightmare became known as the Pratt Street riots. Despite his pro-Southern sympathies, Baltimore mayor George Kane pleaded with the mob to let the soldiers pass in peace, to no avail. Some of the pro-Confederate Baltimoreans — remember Maryland was a slave state — began throwing rocks, bricks, and paving stones, while others raced ahead of the horse drawn cars and dislodged the tracks from the street, forcing the soldiers to leave the cars and march. Then the mob started shooting into the marching soldiers, and the soldiers were forced to return fire. The exhausted soldiers were able to reach Camden Station, barely, after Baltimore police led by Mayor Kane succeeded in interposing themselves between the mob and the soldiers, but not until after four soldiers, and twelve “citizens”, were killed. 36 soldiers were wounded and had to be left in Baltimore, protected by the police. The train carrying the soldiers was barely able to leave Camden Station, as the mob again raced ahead to pry the tracks loose from the ground, but firing from the soldiers drove them off - otherwise, the “good citizens” of Baltimore might well have massacred over 400 of their countrymen.
One of the twelve “citizens” killed was Francis Ward, a friend of James Ryder Randall, a fellow Marylander who was then teaching at a college in Louisiana. Ironically, Randallstown is named for Randall — Randallstown, once Randall’s home, is now a predominantly AA suburb of Baltimore, and has the second highest median income of any predominantly AA community in the country (besides being my home from 1988 to 2004), with Prince Georges County, Maryland, coming in first. Anyway, James Randall was so outraged at what he saw as an invasion of his home town by “northern scum”, and by the death of his friend, and so wishing his home state would join the Confederacy, that he immediately penned the lines to "Maryland My Maryland:"
The despot's heel is on thy shore, Maryland my Maryland!
His torch is at thy temple door, Maryland my Maryland!
Avenge the patriot gore, that flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland My Maryland!
Hark to an exiled son's appeal, Maryland my Maryland!
My mother State! To thee I kneel, Maryland my Maryland!
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, Maryland my Maryland!
Thy beaming sword shall never rust, Maryland my Maryland!
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, Maryland my Maryland!
Come with thy panoplied array, Maryland my Maryland!
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, Maryland my Maryland!
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong, Maryland my Maryland!
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, Maryland My Maryland
Virginia should not call in vain, Maryland my Maryland!
She meets her sisters on the plain- “Sic semper!” 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain, Maryland my Maryland!
I see the blush upon thy cheek, Maryland my Maryland!
For thou wast ever bravely meek, Maryland my Maryland!
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, Maryland my Maryland!
Thou wilt not crook to his control, Maryland my Maryland!
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, Maryland my Maryland!
The Old Line’s bugle, fife, and drum, Maryland my Maryland!
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!
The song was immediately set to music to the tune of O Tannenbaum — O Christmas Tree:
The song, sung to this tune, soon became one of the anthems of the Confederacy. In early September 1862, tens of thousands of men of the Army of Northern Virginia sang “Maryland my Maryland” as they waded across the Potomac River at White's Ferry — thousands would meet their deaths less than two weeks later on the banks of Antietam Creek.
However, the Maryland legislature did not adopt Maryland My Maryland as the state song until 1939!
I don’t know for certain why the legislature acted when it did, but my educated guess is that this enactment was a reaction to the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, as exemplified by the "Buy Where You Can Work" campaign of 1933-34, where mostly young blacks picketed stores along Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue, then the heart of Baltimore’s AA neighborhoods, and the AA shopping and nightclub district (and in 2015 the epicenter of the Freddie Gray riots). These stores were all owned by whites and none of the store owners would employ blacks. But young people, under the leadership of the NAACP, picketed all the businesses, one after the other, until every store owner agreed to employ blacks.
The second early achievement for Civil Rights in Maryland occurred in 1936, when the Maryland Court of Appeals in Murray v. Pearson, ordered the University of Maryland law school to admit Donald Murray, whom University of Maryland president Raymond Pearson admitted was amply qualified to be admitted to the law school but was rejected solely because of his race. Maryland’s law school had rejected Thurgood Marshall just a few years earlier for the same reason — Marshall would graduate from Howard Law School in Washington DC, and sue the University of Maryland in his very first case, and this very first victory for school integration would culminate in the 1954 decision of Brown v. Board of Education.
So, just a guess, but I guess that those uppity blacks such as Thurgood Marshall and Donald Murray and Lillie Mae Jackson, who had led the successful “Buy Where You Can Work” campaign, may have had something to do with a Confederate anthem becoming our state song.
Well, today, March 17, 2016, the Maryland State Senate voted 38-8 to change the state song. The bill retains some of Randalls’ lyrics (probably the ones I learned in sixth grade at my Baltimore City public school — stanza III, the first half of IX, and the second half of V) but replaces the offensive lyrics denouncing “northern scum” and calling for Maryland to join the Confederacy, with lyrics penned by John White of Middletown, just west of Frederick, in 1894. Senate Republican Robert Cassilly of Harford County, a wealthy Baltimore exurb, was the only senator to speak against the bill. All eight senators opposed to the change were Republicans.