A City Divided: Cosmo Mackenzie and Baltimore on the Eve of Civil War

By Zachary Wesley ’20

Baltimore was a city of 215,000 inhabitants on the eve of the Civil War: 215,000 souls who would soon be torn by conflicting loyalties. One of these individuals, Cosmo Mackenzie, sat down on the evening of April 12, 1861, to write a letter to his brother, Collin. Despite the rainfall all day in Baltimore, Cosmo proclaimed “the war has opened at last and all is excitement here.” Throughout the city, Baltimoreans found themselves choosing between their identities as citizens of the Union and supporters of a Southern, slave-based society.

Not only Baltimore, but the entirety of Maryland found itself divided between Northern and Southern sympathies. George William Brown, the Mayor of Baltimore at the time stated that “Her [Maryland’s] loyalties were divided between the North and the South, with a decided preponderance on the Southern side.” But in which category did Cosmo belong? The fervently pro-Secessionist letterhead atop the paper seems to indicate the latter. The wording of the letter itself, however, may suggest otherwise. “I send you on this a sample of the ‘Secession Flag’ – you will see it looks a little like our Star Spangled Banner”.  An ardent secessionist would not include the possessive “our” in mentioning the American flag. However, when one looks a little further into the letter, we see that Cosmo Mackenzie seemed angered by the fact that the bombardment of Fort Sumter happened at all. “Had Lincoln taken the advice of General Scott all this would have been prevented,” Mackenzie declares in reference to the advice offered that the installation be left to Confederate forces. Cosmo’s misgivings towards Lincoln were far from unique in Maryland: 2,294 out of 92,502 total votes – just shy of 2.5% — were cast for Lincoln in the state. Continue reading “A City Divided: Cosmo Mackenzie and Baltimore on the Eve of Civil War”

Baltimore on the Border: The Occupation

By Kevin Lavery ’16

Why is “Maryland” like a blind bird – because she can’t ‘See-Seed’ (Secede)
-Joke told by Samuel Epes Turner, Jr. to his father

Though Baltimore and Maryland were preserved for the Union, it was a victory won at gunpoint. Historian Harry Ezratty describes one occasion when Governor Dix, Butler’s successor in the Middle Department, demonstrated “a genuine display of gentlemanly tactfulness” and Victorian cunning when he invited overly influential local ladies to discuss matters of the occupation. According to his memoirs, he then pointed to a gun stationed at Fort McHenry and diplomatically asked his guests where it was directed. They observed that it was pointed to Battle Monument Square: a site of local importance commemorating the War of 1812. He promised them that if they stopped sowing the seeds of insurrection, there would be no more trouble. Otherwise, “that gun is the first that I shall fire.”

Tuner 2.1

Continue reading “Baltimore on the Border: The Occupation”

Baltimore on the Border: First Blood

By Kevin Lavery ’16

Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore…
-Maryland, My Maryland

In the study of the Civil War, the violence between brothers, neighbors, and countrymen is most frequently explored through the eyes of great armies clashing on the field of battle. But in the American Civil War, as in any modern conflict and especially those dividing a people amongst themselves, a citizen did not have to wear blue or grey to feel passionately about the war. In Baltimore, Mayor George William Brown and paper merchant Samuel Epes Turner, took strikingly different stances on the war despite their geographical proximity to the fighting. Fort Sumter may have seen the first shots of the war, but the infamy of first blood belongs to the civilians of Baltimore and the Union soldiers they confronted.

As a border state that was considered by Brown to be “neither dead nor asleep on the subject of slavery,” Maryland found itself sharply divided in loyalty. Brown, a Confederate sympathizer, reasoned that “the house of every man is his castle, and he may defend it to the death against all aggressors.” Epes, meanwhile, was “almost ashamed . . . that in this age of the world, enough men could be found to break up such a government as ours.” He was not representative of most Baltimoreans. In general, Maryland – especially in its most eastern reaches – was initially inclined toward ambivalence or the South.


Continue reading “Baltimore on the Border: First Blood”