Harford History

July 09, 2006

1861: Suppressing secessionists in Bel Air

On July 13, 1861, about 300 Union troops from the 12th Pennsylvania marched from White Hall to Bel Air to arrest certain secessionist sympathizers and seize the weapons of local militia units.

The soldiers announced that they were in Bel Air at the request of Unionists who feared violence from secessionists. Capt. Archer H. Jarrett, leader of the Harford Light Dragoons, was arrested. Having failed to elicit from Jarrett the location of the militia weapons, the troops searched several public buildings and then private homes, to no avail.

In the evening, the troops departed empty-handed of the weapons. But they took Jarrett, who was detained until Sept. 22 because of his refusal to take an oath of loyalty to the federal government.

The raid was part of Lincoln's campaign of suppression of the rebellion and prevention of further secession. The campaign included the military occupation of Maryland, and it remains a matter of debate whether, had it not been for the occupation, Maryland would have taken a different path in the war.

[Harford Historical Bulletin, No. 84, Spring 2000. Research by Harford County Public Library.]

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