The Baltimore Riot of 1861
The Baltimore riot of 1861 (also called the Pratt Street Riot and the Pratt Street Massacre) was an incident that took place on April 19, 1861, in Baltimore, Maryland between Confederate sympathizers and infantrymen of the United States Army.
It is regarded by historians as the first bloodshed of the American Civil War.
Causes of the riot
On April 12, one week prior to the riot, the battle of Fort Sumter started, signaling the beginning of the American Civil War. At the time, the slave states of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas had not yet seceded from the U.S.. In addition, it was not yet known whether four other slave states, (Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky) (later known as "border states"), would remain in the Union. When Fort Sumter fell on April 13 without a single man lost, the Virginia legislature took up a measure on secession. After little debate, the measure passed on April 17. The other southern states watched with interest to see what would happen, as the secession of Virginia was important because of the state's industrial value. Influential Marylanders who had been supportive of secession ever since John C. Calhoun spoke of "nullification" and agitated to join Virginia in leaving the Union. Their discontent increased in the days afterward while Lincoln put out a call for volunteers to serve 90 days and end the insurrection; newly formed units were starting to transport themselves south. Baltimore was a particularly secession-sympathetic city; Abraham Lincoln received only 1,100 of more than 30,000 votes cast for president in 1860. One regiment of newly called up Union troops came through Baltimore; however, anti-Union forces were too disorganized and surprised to do anything about it. When the next regiment came on April 19, however, they were ready.
April 19, 1861
On April 19, the Union's Sixth Massachusetts Regiment was traveling south to Washington, D.C. through Baltimore. At that time, there was no direct rail connection between the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad's President Street Station and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Camden Station (ten blocks to the west) due to ordinances prohibiting the use of steam locomotives in the inner city and the lack of union stations at the time. Rail cars that transferred between the two stations had to be pulled by horses along Pratt Street.
As the regiment transferred between stations, a mob of secessionists and Southern sympathizers attacked the train cars and blocked the route. When it became apparent that they could travel by horse no further, the troops got out of the cars and marched in formation through the city. However, the mob followed the soldiers, breaking store windows and causing damage until they finally blocked the soldiers. The mob began throwing paving stones and bricks at the troops. Panicked by the situation, several soldiers fired into the mob, and chaos immediately ensued as a giant brawl began between the soldiers, the violent mob, and the Baltimore police. In the end, the soldiers got to the Camden Station, and the police were able to block the crowd from them. The regiment had left behind much of their equipment, including their marching band's instruments.
Four soldiers (Corporal Sumner Needham of Co I and Privates Luther C. Ladd, Charles Taylor, and Addison Whitney of Co D) and twelve civilians were killed in the riot. Sumner Henry Needham is sometimes considered to be the first Union casualty of the war, though technically he was killed by civilians in a Union state. Needham is buried in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Ladd; Taylor and Whitney are buried in Lowell, Massachusetts.
As a result of the riot in Baltimore and pro-Southern sympathies of much of the city's populace, the Baltimore Steam Packet Company also declined the same day a Federal government request to transport Union forces to relieve the beleaguered Union naval yard facility at Portsmouth, Virginia.
A clash between pro-South civilians and Union troops in Maryland's largest city resulted in what is commonly accepted to be the first bloodshed of the Civil War. Secessionist sympathy was strong in Baltimore, a border state metropolis.
Before his inauguration, rumors in the city of an assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln, who was on his way to Washington, D.C., forced the president-elect to sneak through Baltimore in the middle of the night. Anti-Union sentiments there only increased once the hostilities commenced at Fort Sumter on April 12. A week later, one of the first regiments to respond to Lincoln's call for troops arrived in Baltimore by train, en route to the capital. Because the rail line did not pass through the city, horse drawn cars had to take the Massachusetts infantrymen from one end of Baltimore to the other. An angry crowd of secessionists tried to keep the regiment from reaching Washington, blocking several of the transports, breaking windows, and, finally, forcing the soldiers to get out and march through the streets. The throng followed in close pursuit. What had now become a mob surrounded and jeered the regiment, then started throwing bricks and stones.