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Maryland, my Maryland! Remembering the Pratt Street Riot

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The following is a guest post from Head of Acquisitions & Processing Dr. Denise Gallo.

Maryland! My Maryland., arr. by C.E. and published by Miller & Beacham in 1861. Music Division, Library of Congress.

Although the Mason-Dixon Line originated in the 1760s to resolve a border conflict between the colonies of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware, the role it assumed in the Civil War was deeply cultural and philosophical. To its north lay the states that clearly sided with the Union. When crossing to its south, at least in 1861, one journeyed into territory that struggled ideologically with the notion of secession. Not far south of the line was the city of Baltimore, and it was there that some of the war’s first blood was shed in an encounter between an angry crowd of southern sympathizers and troops from Massachusetts on their way to board a train to Washington. Known as the Pratt Street Riot, the incident occurred on April 19, just one week after Fort Sumter, wounding and taking the lives of both civilians and soldiers.

Because of Baltimore’s importance as a transit point, Union troops were posted in the city and, on May 13, martial law was declared. Both sides boldly told their stories in song. “The Martyrs of Baltimore,” published in Boston, remembered the “Soldiers Who Fell.” Meanwhile, a native Baltimorean who had moved to Louisiana aimed to “avenge the patriotic gore/ That fleck’d the streets of Baltimore” in “Maryland, my Maryland,” the tune that in time would become that state’s song. Even though the state had voted against secession, for the remainder of the war, Maryland remained an uneasy mix of North and South.

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