A unique and noteworthy glimpse of a state divided by Civil War 'A HOUSE DIVIDED'

Jacques Kelly

March 13, 1992|By Jacques Kelly

Thanks to some Civil War veterans who lived in Pikesville, it's possible to tell precisely what an enlisted man wore in the Confederate Army.

A new Maryland Historical Society exhibit, "A House Divided: Maryland in the Civil War," displays scores of artifacts that played roles in the state's most tormented period.

The single room, painted in tones of blue and gray, resembles a cluttered attic filled with old photos, song sheets, weapons, clothing and furniture. You don't always know what to look at first, but wherever the eye rests, it's richly rewarded. And you don't have to be a Civil War buff to appreciate this collection.

The state inadvertently set things in motion in 1888 when the General Assembly transferred ownership of a federal arsenal at Pikesville in order for it to become a home for destitute and homeless Confederate veterans.

Many of these veterans brought their old uniforms with them when they moved into the home. Their uniforms remained

there after they passed on and were turned over to the Maryland Historical Society 70 years ago. Today, these gray woolen pants and tunics are one of the finest collections of their type in the country.

The small waists on the Civil War uniform pants give an idea of how much smaller people were 130 years ago. The uniform size also says how young the war's participants were. One Southern enlisted man's tunic was woven in Limerick, Ireland, and made it past the Union blockade of Confederate ports. Another fancy Zouave outfit was custom-made by New York's Brooks Brothers.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," said curator Mary Ellen Hayward, as she pointed to cases around the room. "The society has hundreds of Civil War books, letters and other items that can all be used and studied."

This is a show of remarkable artifacts. By count, the historical society has more Confederate objects in its entire collection than it does Union-related pieces. That gives some idea of Maryland's divided loyalties.

A battered folding chair -- it looks like an antique director's chair -- belonged to Robert E. Lee at the second battle of Manassas, Va.

Baltimore architect Richard Snowden Andrews was badly wounded at Cedar Mountain, Va., in August 1862. He survived, went on the lecture circuit and held high his ripped, battle-scarred jacket as proof. That garment is in the show.

So too are drums, recorders and coronets, pieces of artillery shells, political badges and pieces of popular sheet music. The presses of Baltimore music publishers clanked overtime printing songs like "God Save the South" until federal authorities cracked down on this seditious activity.

So too the local photography firm of Bendann Brothers, who took pictures of many Southerners. Both Bendanns were arrested and forced to take an oath of loyalty to the Union.

There are rare Union and Confederate States of America (CSA) secret service badges. A bayonet found in the debris from the Pratt Street Riot of 1861 is in the show. There's also a long pike made by Baltimore industrialist Ross Winans, who wanted to arm the Baltimore citizenry against federal occupying troops. Winans wound up in jail for his actions.

There are also photos of Maryland units of the U.S. Colored Troops.

The show reveals, in telling and small ways, just how divided and tormented the state was. In the early days of the war, as tension mounted, Baltimoreans often went to their stationery shops and bought envelopes imprinted with pro-Union or pro-Confederate sentiments. One such example had an engraving of George Washington and the words, "One of the Rebels, George Washington, The Southern Gentleman and Slaveholder, C.S.A."

The show is on permanent display at the Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument St. A family-day program, with Civil War re-enactors, is planned for March 21 from 1-4 p.m. Lectures are slated for April 7, 14 and 23 at 8 p.m.

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