Baltimore African Americans and the Civil War

In Uncategorized on February 11, 2013 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MSA SC 5980-1-8

Baltimore from Druid Hill Park, 1873

Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park formally opened to the public in 1860. During the Civil War, U.S. military encampments with temporary wooden barracks populated this park as well as several others around the city. Citizens still visited the parks and sometimes made flag presentations to the troops.

The Birney Barracks, occupied by African American troops, stood south of Druid Hill Park in the vicinity of Madison and North Avenues. The above post-war print depicts Druid Hill Park looking south to where the Birney Barracks were once located.

On two separate occasions in August 1863, the city’s African American community made flag presentations to the Fourth U.S. Colored Troops, a regiment composed of many Baltimoreans, at the Birney Barracks. Ceremonies were held each time on the parade ground. A magnificent silk regimental flag (costing $75 in 1863; the equivalent of $1,200 in 2013 currency) was given to the Fourth in a ceremony that included some 3,000 African-Americans joining their voices together in the song “Johns Brown’s Body.”  In late August, a group calling itself “The Colored Ladies of Baltimore” bestowed a silk national flag in a program that included Baltimore’s Bethel A.M.E. choir “sing[ing] some of their choicest pieces on the occasion.”

Who were “The Colored Ladies of Baltimore?”* Mary A. Prout, 64, appears to have headed the committee. The 1864 Baltimore City Directory lists her as a confectioner, but census sources describe her as a “preceptor” and a “doctoress,” both terms that seem to indicate a knowledge of medicine. She also taught at the Bethel Church Sunday school.

Prout, evidentially, was a skilled and dedicated fundraiser. “During the early days of Bethel [Church], when it was poor and in debt, she was constantly devising ways and means of relieving it; now leading off in a festival; now an excursion; and now [walking] the streets with a subscription book. At one fair… she led $800.00 was cleared; and at another, $500.”

The “Colored Ladies” flag has survived and is now housed at the Maryland Historical Society.  Follow this link for an image of the flag:

*Other women involved include Mary Jane Cephas, a porter’s wife, Mary Jane Hill, a dressmaker, Elizabeth Cox and Sarah Crane, whose husbands both worked as waiters.  Three, possibly four, of the women lived on Raborg Street, just west of the city center.

Digital image from the Maryland State Archives, MSA SC 5980-1-8.


One Response to “Baltimore African Americans and the Civil War”

  1. Reblogged this on Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives and commented:
    Another Civil War-related post from the City of Baltimore Archives

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