The Ordeal of the Border States

Engraving of Union troops firing on Baltimore citizens during Pratt Street Riot.

In the Border States, civilian loyalties were divided, with some favoring secession and others remaining loyal to the Union. These divided populations had a profound impact on Union and Confederate strategy, both political and military. Each side undertook measures, including brutal guerilla warfare, intended to persuade or sometimes conquer areas of divided loyalty. Each side suffered setbacks in the face of hostile moral and political views held by local civilians.

In the Border States, the war pitted neighbor against neighbor. The wrong word at the wrong time could land a civilian in jail. In some areas, bitter resentments and divisions remained long after the war was over.

Showing results 1-4 of 4

  • Print of African-Americans fleeing slavery in Maryland

    Lincoln's primary goal as President was to save the Union. He viewed the secession of states as unconstitutional and a terrible end to the experiment of American democracy. Critical to his war strategy and his success as President was preventing more states from seceding. Also with actions of men like John Brown, how was Lincoln going to keep the Union together? Read more

  • Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

    Slaves, Unionists, and Secessionists

    Print of General Nathaniel Lyon falling from horse after being shot during the Battle of  Wilson's Creek

    Local residents of the Wilson's Creek, Missouri area in 1861 were a microcosm of the divided nation, bringing with them different backgrounds and beliefs about slavery and Union. For example, John Ray and his wife, Roxanna, whose farm would be in the midst of the battle, were slave owning Southerners, though they supported the Union. Read more

  • Photo of Robert E. Lee

    The Battle of Shiloh is remembered as a decisive moment in the Civil War - a brutal 2-day engagement that shocked the nation into facing the horrors of war. But there's another story that's less often told, about the battle's terrible toll on the local community in Tennessee. Read more

  • Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

    The Pratt Street Riot

    Frank Leslie's Illustrated print of the Pratt Street Riot

    The April 19, 1861 riots in Baltimore showed the country how divided the border states were and strengthened Union resolve to save the capital from secessionists. Many prints and newspaper depictions of the event, varying greatly in accuracy, rolled off Northern printing presses. Read more