A Military Man's View Of 1864 Baltimore

BACK TRACKS ..

July 14, 1991|By Carleton Jones

Records and legends of the days from 1861 to 1865 abound and keep turning up. A recent find was the 1864 diary of Lawrence Pike Graham, an obscure but literate regular Army man. A native Virginian, Graham spent some time in Maryland during the Civil War. He was an able soldier but lacked the inner-circle leverage that a West Point diploma would have given him. After 20 years' service, he finally made major.

The Civil War brought Graham a brigade command, but sickness sidelined him in 1862. He did a variety of odd, administrative jobs as cavalry school director at Annapolis and served on military boards in that city and in St. Louis.

In January of 1864 we find him and wife Julia in Baltimore at Mrs. Walker's boardinghouse (40 Lexington St.). He has the unglamorous duty of serving on military retirement and promotion boards that meet regularly in Annapolis.

Son Duncan is at West Point. A younger son, Charley, is at a military school in Philadelphia and is a worry. "Charley has 19 demerits in January, making 44 for two months. What will become of the boy if he goes on so?" asks the distraught father.

The general's family and friends are in perpetual motion, visiting relatives in New Jersey, paying calls in Washington; Warrenton, Va.; Philadelphia; and New York. But Graham is not lonely.

He has made friends with some of the Baltimore elite, including the Bonaparte, Patterson, Turnbull and Latrobe families. He also has discovered "the club," where he plays billiards with friends, but he never once tells us its name or location.

His unvarying routine is to take "the cars" (railroad) to Annapolis for what would amount to about 130 board meetings during the year, and return, often by boat, to Baltimore harbor and the club.

He sells his horse, Flight, for $75, pays $1 to have his boots blacked and $5 for a red flannel shirt, and buys theater and opera tickets, on one occasion seeing the great Edwin Forrest in "King Lear." The family spends considerable money on photos at Bendann's studios, including views of son Duncan in uniform.

The general's income runs well over $400 a month, counting Army pay and an income from rental properties. He banks a large part of his money with a private city bank.

During his city stay he runs into many famous fixtures of the war period: Henry Winter Davis (congressman and leader of the radical Republicans), Gen. John Gibbon, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Louis Gottschalk (pianist and composer), Gen. Don Carlos Buell, Gen. Montgomery Meigs, Gen. Ambrose Burnside, etc. On most occasions he mentions these luminaries without commenting further on them. (The pages of his tiny diary -- about 2.5 inches by 4 inches -- don't allow for lots of comment.)

But he comments on and scorns some of the Union's military efforts, such as the Judson Kilpatrick raid on Virginia, which he successfully predicts will fail.

He writes hurriedly of Gen. Jubal Early's expected raid on this city in early July: "Great excitement in Baltimore. The rebels are expected to take possession of the city every hour. All federal funds and property sent." Three days later he calls off the alarm. "They have moved 'treasure' back to the Custom House." There's another scare in early August. "All the steamers in the harbor have been taken by the government," he writes.

Graham moves from one boardinghouse to another, and in September he halts briefly at Mrs. Gwinn's. It proves to be a rebel nest. "Mrs. Gwinn's house nearly full and all absolute secessionists. They look very coldly upon us and are instantly displeased that we have come to the house."

On Oct. 13, he celebrates his 27th year in U.S. military service. Lawrence Pike Graham will live on until 1905, burying two of his four sons, both soldiers and one a West Pointer. *

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