Skip to main content

Baltimore Riot

May 2024
2min read

After Fort Sumter fell, a secessionist mob in Baltimore rioted and blocked the passage of Federal troops to Washington, D.C

starOfficial Report

President Abraham Lincoln

The first blood spilled in anger during the Civil War came a week after Sumter’s fall, when a secessionist mob in Baltimore blocked the passage of the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment on their way to Washington, D.C. A dozen civilians and four soldiers died in the confrontation. “Avenge the patriotic gore / That flecked the streets of Baltimore,” one Marylander wrote in a poem that later would be set to music and become the state song. Col. Edward F. Jones submitted the following official report three days after the riot.

After leaving Philadelphia, I received intimation that our passage through the city of Baltimore would be resisted. I caused ammunition to be distributed, and arms loaded...

Reaching Baltimore, horses were attached the instant that the locomotive was detached, and the cars were driven at a rapid pace across the city. After the cars containing several companies had reached the Washington depot, the track behind them was barricaded, and the cars containing the band and the following companies, viz.: company C, of Lowell, Capt. Follansbee; company D, of Lowell, Capt. Hart; company I, of Lawrence, Capt. Pickering; and company L, of Stoneham, Capt. Dike, were vacated; and they proceeded to march in accordance with orders, and had proceeded but a short distance before they were furiously attacked by a shower of missiles, which came faster as they advanced. They increased their step to double-quick, which seemed to infuriate the mob, as it evidently impressed them with the idea that the soldiers dared not fire, or had no ammunition; and pistol-shots were numerously fired into the ranks, and one soldier fell dead. The order, “Fire!” was given, and it was executed; in consequence, several of the mob fell, and the soldiers again advanced hastily. The Mayor of Baltimore placed himself at the head of the column, beside Capt. Follansbee, and proceeded with them a short distance, assuring him that he would protect them, and begging him not to let the men fire; but the mayor’s patience was soon exhausted, and he seized a musket from the hands of one of the men, and killed a man therewith; and a policeman, who was in advance of the column, also shot a man with a revolver.

They, at last, reached the cars, and they started immediately for Washington. On going through the train, I found there were about one hundred and thirty missing, including the band and field music. Our baggage was seized, and we have not as yet been able to recover any of it. I have found it very difficult to get reliable information in regard to the killed and wounded.

Edward F. Jones, Col. Sixth Regt.,
M. V. M., in service of U.S.

From Historical Sketch of the Old Sixth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers during THree Campaigns in 1861, 1862, 1863, and 1864 by John W. Hanson (Lee and Shepard, 1866).

starBaltimore Sun

Rushing to Arms

April 20, 1861—When it became evident that the Northern troops were firing with ball cartridge upon the citizens, there was an instant resort to firearms, and people rushed frantically to their homes and the gun shops. The gun store of Mr. J. C. J. Meyer, 11 West Pratt st., near Mill, was broken into by an excited, unarmed crowed, who armed themselves, assuring the proprietor that his guns would be returned to him, or full compensation made. Mr. Meyer, with tears in his eyes, said he was a poor man, but a Southerner. A crowd rushed into the gunsmith establishment of Alexander McComas, No. 51 South Calvert street, and armed themselves with a number of the weapons in the store. At the first collision with the troops the citizens were mostly unarmed.

From "Journal of a Secesh Lady": The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston, 1860–1866, ed. Beth G. Crabtree and James W. Patton (North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this magazine of trusted historical writing, now in its 75th year, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.