Baltimore Riot

Grey military uniform adorned with golden buttons and golden shoulder pads with frills.
1861 uniform of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment

Massachusetts National Guard Photo / David Wilkinson

This uniform coat was worn by a member of Company G of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment on April 19, 1861. On that day, the 86th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts 6th Regiment was on its way from Boston to Washington DC to defend the Capitol in response to the Confederates firing on Fort Sumter. When they reached Baltimore that morning, the troops had to get across the city from the Pennsylvania Railroad Station to the Baltimore and Ohio station. This was done by hitching horses to the passenger cars and pulling them on the streetcar lines. The officers of the 6th Massachusetts had been warned that an attack on the troops was planned by Confederate sympathizers in Baltimore, so they tried to move as quickly as possible as a mob armed with stones, bricks, and guns gathered on Pratt Street.

The soldier wearing this coat was one of the lucky ones; the Worcester company was in one of the cars that got through, although in the words of one officer, “the stones flew thick and fast into the train.” The Worcester soldiers would have watched in frustration as the mob pulled up the rails, and then attacked the soldiers from the Lowell, Lawrence, and Stoneham companies as they got out of their train cars to march the rest of the way. Gunfire was exchanged between the Confederate sympathizers and the soldiers and their Baltimore police escorts as they fought their way to the station. Four members of the Massachusetts Militia and 12 civilians were killed that day, and 36 soldiers were injured.

The Baltimore riot of April 19, 1861 was the first bloodshed of the American Civil War. By that evening, this Worcester soldier was at the US Capitol Building, quartered in the Senate Chamber.

Part of a series of articles titled Citizen Soldiers.

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Last updated: June 28, 2022