Posts Tagged ‘Robert E. Lee’

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“Unwearied in Their Attentions”: Secessionist Women and the 1866 Southern Relief Fair

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2016 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , , , , , , , ,

Cover from Final Report of The Southern Relief Fair, 1866

Report… Ladies’ Southern Relief Association, 1866 (Rarebooks Collection, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries)

The Civil War deeply divided Baltimoreans along philosophical and sectional lines. The Secessionist women of Baltimore, those whose sympathies lay with the South, were often singled out for their devotion to the Confederacy. They supported their husbands and brothers in gray throughout the war, often risking arrest, imprisonment, or banishment. During the post-war era, the 1866 Southern Relief Fair provided the large-scale opportunity for them to demonstrate both their patriotic and benevolent dedication to the people of the South.

Fundraising fairs in Baltimore had been organized and held for decades previously. Most Baltimore fairs, but not all, appear to have been orchestrated by women to benefit their own church congregations. One of the earliest recorded, held in 1827, was to aid the needy children of Greece in the aftermath of the overthrow of their Turkish occupiers. The largest such effort came in 1864, with the Maryland State Fair for U.S. Soldier Relief or, as it is more commonly known, the Baltimore Sanitary Fair.

The prospect of holding a fair to raise funds for impoverished Southerners first arose in Baltimore during the fall of 1865. The sixty-six year old Jane Gilmore Howard, wife of General Benjamin Chew Howard, was elected to serve as the President of the Relief Fair. All six of Mrs. Howard’s sons had worn the Confederate gray. Annie Thomas, 46, a Virginian by birth, and Elizabeth Key Howard, 62, the daughter of Francis Scott Key, served as vice presidents. These latter two women were distinguished from the other Fair executive committee members in that their spouses had been arrested in 1861 and detained by US military authorities for disloyalty.

By early March 1866, 316 women had banded together to shape and promote the relief fair. A handful of well-to-do German immigrant women were also included. It does not appear that any woman officer connected with Baltimore’s 1864 US Sanitary Fair served as a manager in this endeavor. Speaking of the Relief Fair committee, the Baltimore American newspaper stated “[w]e do not find the name of a single loyal lady, nor among its gentleman managers and… we find… that the great mass… have been, and still are, active and persistent in the sentiment of disloyalty.”

In contrast to the 1864 Sanitary Fair, the April 2, 1866 opening day of the Relief Fair did not bring a holiday-like atmosphere throughout the city. No parades; businesses and schools remained open. Held at the Maryland Institute hall (when it was located near today’s Inner Harbor), the Relief Fair hosted no high ranking Washington officials on the opening night or any night. Also noticeably absent was any official delegation from Baltimore City or the Maryland State government.

The city newspapers reported immense crowds present throughout the entire length of the fair’s run. As the Baltimore Gazette reported, “[s]tretched across the centre of the hall is the star-spangled banner [a US flag], and at the end of the hall, the same emblems are [draped].” This overt nod to national patriotism and to a restored Union, however, was tempered by what no city newspaper described explicitly. Upon many of the 57 display tables, either for sale or for raffle, could be found portraits of the military heroes of the Confederacy. Paintings, prints and photographs of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Joseph E. Johnston, to name a few, could be found throughout the hall. No likenesses of Jefferson Davis appear to have been present. Less than one year before, Baltimore’s Secessionists could have been arrested by the US Provost Marshall for displaying or even possessing such images.

The Southern Relief Fair could be termed a great success when compared to similar efforts. The 1864 Sanitary Fair managers raised a final amount of just over $86,000. The Relief Fair women, in comparison, grossed approximately $160,000 for their efforts, about 2.3 million dollars in 2011 currency. The Baltimore Gazette opined “[the ladies] have been constant in their attendance and unwearied in their attentions…[t]he Fair women of Baltimore have crowned themselves with laurels, well deserved in many ways. The Fair also revealed that the split in Baltimore society still remained chasm-like within the breasts of many. The Baltimore American, a moderate Unionist paper during the conflict, simply refused to report on the Relief Fair. It gave the following reason:

“If there had been any attempt made, or any desire evinced, to secure the participation of the Union people of the city or State in this Fair, it would have been promptly responded to by them and heartily seconded by the American. On the contrary, there has been a persistent effort to make [the fair] a grand disloyal demonstration.”

In conclusion, the Southern Relief Fair gave Baltimore’s Secessionist women their most spectacular means to express their devotion to the people of the South. Channeling their energies, the women successfully mobilized thousands of fellow Marylanders, as well as sympathetic out-of-state parties, behind the cause of assisting the destitute citizens of the former Confederacy.

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“Monuments Of Their Patriotism”: Building Baltimore’s Civil War Defenses, Summer 1863 (Part 1)

In Special Collections on June 28, 2013 by rob schoeberlein Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Workman's pay slip, July 1863

Workman’s pay slip, July 1863, BRG41, S3, 1497a

In mid-June of 1863, great alarm gripped Baltimore. The Confederate Army under the able command of General Robert E. Lee had crossed into Maryland and might advance in an attempt to take the city. Meetings to organize citizen militias took place throughout the wards. White male citizens, members of the various Union League chapters and the Union Club, mustered into home defense units. If Baltimore fell, the surrender of Washington might be inevitable.

On Saturday, the 20th of June, Mayor Chapman called a special session of City Council to consider the erection of additional defensive fortifications around the city.  In all, “twenty-two works of defen[s]e, of various size and strength… which, in case of attack… would be very difficult to break” were envisioned.  Supported in the endeavor by General Robert Schenck, the regional military administrator, with his offer of supplies and tools to assist in the task, the Council approved $100,000 to build earthen bulwarks to secure the city from Rebel attackers. The U.S. Army ultimately decided on the final location and the types of fortifications to be built.

Baltimore agreed to supply the manpower. General Schenck, however, required the immediate service of 1,000 men by 4PM on the very same day. Could such laborers materialize seemingly from the air? Schenck offered some additional assistance in the form of martial persuasion: “If you have any difficulty in furnishing the labor… I will furnish you the military power to enforce… impressment.”[1] Impressment meant that any person could be seized, without notice, and forced to work, on the fortifications.

The Baltimore City Police, supported by the military, immediately set about gathering all able-bodied men. They, however, singled out only African American males. The hapless men were simply arrested and forcibly marched out to the outskirts of the city under armed guard. It is doubtful that the men had any opportunity to even leave word with family or friends about their fate. A few apparently resisted though not without consequence.  An African American “servant,” a local euphemism for the word “slave,” of one Mrs. Fenby was shot in the foot as he tried to escape from his impressment.[2]

Reverend Alexander Wayman

Reverend Alexander Wayman

The heavy-handed actions of the authorities were unwarranted and an insult to the patriotism of the men. Reverend Alexander Wayman (1821-1895), Pastor of the Bethel A.M.E.Church and a leader in the African-American community, inquired about his son at a local police station and narrowly escaped being sent to work. Before leaving the station, he voiced, “Gentlemen, there is no need of the police officers running after us… this way. All that was necessary was to let us know that we were wanted, and you could have five thousand of us before sun-down.”[3]

Work on the fortifications took place around the clock. Wayman went out again to visit the workmen on early Sunday before his church service, and, once more, was almost made to shoulder a spade. Wayman advised the workman to “be brave” and assured them that “it will come out all right.”[4] The City did eventually come around as Wayman predicted. The City Fathers decided to pay each worker one dollar per day plus rations. Yet, it was a hard-earned dollar, an especially tough, back-breaking labor made worse by the clay-like soil that characterizes most of the region.  The fortifications put up varied in size but they all required the same mounding up and compression of soil. Armed with only pick, shovel and spade, and a large measure of determination on the part of the men, the earthworks did rise.

Heavy labor and hot sun made the work tough but overt racism while on their marches to and from their worksite made things even more onerous. Some white men and boys hurled stones or else insulted them along the way. The African American workmen devised the means to end these incidents. They took up a collection from among themselves and purchased a US flag which would, henceforth, lead them forward on their marches.  From that moment forward, any attack upon them was seen as an attack upon the flag so that the city police, prompted by the Provost-Marshall, provided them with additional protection. In an ironic turn of events, three white men who interfered with the workmen “were taken before the military authorities, who ordered them to labor four weeks on the fortifications with the negroes, without pay and [at] half-rations.[5]

Reverend William Whittingham

Reverend William Whittingham

Not all whites, however, held a low opinion of the men. Many appreciated what they were doing to benefit all Baltimoreans. The mere sight and sound of the marching men greatly impressed one resident of Madison Street, a major east-west artery. The Reverend William Whittingham (1805-1879), Protestant Episcopal Bishop and a staunch Union sympathizer, viewed many columns of men passing by his home on the morning of July 4th, a day typically set aside for rest and celebration. These times, however, were very different and the Confederate Army, though bloodied from the Gettysburg battlefield, would soon be on the march again. Bishop Whittingham recounted:

Daily, now, morning and evening we have long processions of hundreds (sometimes, as [in] last night, thousands) of blacks returning from work on the outer fortifications.  They work by relays, night and day, and are working all day today, holiday or not. They march two by two or four by four, with flags, sometimes singing – with much pride in their employment and evident content[ment] – altho’ they tell funny stories about the way in which they in which some… were run down and forced into service.[6]

To be continued…


[1] U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: Series 1, Vol. XXVII, Part III (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1889), p. 235.

[2] Sun, June 22, 1863.

[3] A. W. Wayman, My Recollections of African M. E. Ministers, or Forty Years’ Experience in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. (Philadelphia: A. M. E. Book Rooms, 1881), p. 86.

[4] My Recollections, p. 88.

[5] Sun, July 3, 1863.

[6] Rev. William T. Whittingham to “Dear Children”, July 4, 1863 William Whittingham Papers (uncataloged series), F. Garner Ranney Archives, Maryland Episcopal Diocese.