Maryland has a history of having a very indecisive personality(and no, I’m not talking about her climate). Various changes in ideals towards the period of the Civil War began to divide and ultimately shape Maryland into what it is today. Starting in the 19th century and as the years lead up to the bloodiest war in American history, our nation’s ideals began to divide. These divisions in the standards and social accept-abilities of the time would begin to take their toll on Maryland as well. My love of history first began when I saw a historical documentary on the Civil War when I was younger. Today, I will discuss the Civil War’s impact on Maryland as it affected her agriculture, politics, and society.
First, I will talk about Maryland’s agriculture and its effect on the state’s political position as well as its stance on the institution of slavery prior to the Civil War. According to the book, “Maryland in the Civil War: A House Divided”, during the 1800s, Marylanders detested abolitionists. For roughly 2 centuries, Maryland had been a slave state. There were few Marylanders at the time who opposed slavery, but most turned a blind eye upon the issue. Public opinion had frequently forced the beating of slaves from view. However, Marylanders were not oblivious, and were well-aware that it occurred. The decades before 1860 saw changes in agriculture which steadily altered the nature of slavery in Maryland. Tobacco was still a significant cash crop in the southern counties. Crops like fruits, vegetables, hogs, cattle, wheat, and corn required less labor and so farmers who had an excess of slaves would sell them to dealers in the southern parts of the state. “Maryland lies at the center of the Eastern seaboard”, as stated in an article on the History Channel’s website. Because of this, Maryland’s landscape is very diverse. Due to this diversity in landscape, each part of Maryland had, and still has, its own way of sustaining itself. The eastern shore for example, was more secessionist since slaves were seen as more of a necessity due to farming and tobacco plantations being abundant.
Next, I would like to discuss how Maryland as a whole began to divide on issues as the war began. As stated in the book, “The Civil War in Maryland, by 1860”, “Maryland’s economical, geographical and political positions at this time can best be summarized by the state’s present day tourism slogan, ‘America in Miniature’.” America at the time was divided into two main issues, these issues being, the struggle between the North and South for power in Congress, and the expansion of slavery. This immense struggle would soon after turn into war as the North formed the Union in order to combat the growing secessionism as the South formed their Confederate States of America. Since Maryland was split between political factions as well, she was, in a sense, a near perfect representation of America at the time.
Lastly, I am going to tell you about Maryland’s complete and overall change through the war, and as it came to a close. According to “the Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History”, during the Civil War, Maryland was a very disorderly place due to her divided ties between Northern and Southern ideologies. “Secessionist sentiment was strongest on the eastern shore, along the western shore on the Chesapeake Bay south of the Susquehanna River, and along the Potomac border with Virginia. Unionism was strongest in northern, central, and western Maryland.” The Civil War began in the year 1861. That same year, the Baltimore Riot erupted On April 19th. During this riot, civilians attacked Union troops who were moving through the city. Three days later, Union troops secured the state’s capital of Annapolis. During 1863, as Maryland was drawn more closely towards the Union cause. Most Marylanders became supporters of the Union in 1863 due to heavy government regulations. These regulations included: the control of public behavior through the military, loyalty oaths, the mandatory flying of the Union-American flag were required, and any expression that favored the Confederacy was prohibited. Many of these regulations violated the Constitution and thus infringed upon the basic human rights of the citizens. The Union’s occupation began to convert Maryland into a more Northern-sided state. However, Maryland still fostered citizens whom of which supported the Southern cause, which kept Maryland from being completely loyal to one side or the other. By November 1, 1864, Once again according to the book, The Civil War in Maryland, “slavery ceased to exist in the state of Maryland”.
In conclusion, the Civil War impacted America in a very significant way. Not only did it affect America, but Maryland individually. It had lasting effects on her political ties, her loyalties, her societal standpoints, and the livelihood of her people. And so, the next time you explore Maryland’s landscape, think of how history has shaped her into what she is today.
Cottom, Robert I., and Mary Ellen. Hayward. Maryland in the Civil War: a house divided. Maryland Historical Society, 1996.
Floyd, Claudia. Union-Occupied Maryland: a Civil War chronicle of civilians and soldiers. The History Press, 2014.
Heidler, David S., et al. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War. A political, social, and military history. ABC-CLIO, 2000.
History.com Staff. “Maryland.” A&E Television Networks, 2009, History.com. 02 Feb 2018, www.history.com/topics/us-states/maryland.
Toomey, Daniel Carroll. The Civil War in Maryland. Toomey Press, 2004.