Railroad War in Maryland

This article from the July 21, 1877 edition of the Baltimore American gives an account of the militia and National Guard being called to suppress the riot, the bloodshed in Baltimore, the depot on fire, and the general excitment surrounding the confrontation on July 20, 1877.





A Number of People Killed and Wounded—The Troops Cooped Up on the Suburbs — The Depot on Fire—Intense Excitement, &c.

The excitement of the past week, growing out of troubles on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, culminated yesterday in serious rioting and bloodshed in the streets of Baltimore, the killing of nine citizens and wounding of sixteen, two of the latter at Camden depot. It had been decided early in the afternoon that the gravity of the situation in Cumberland, where a threatening mob had gathered, rendered it necessary to send State forces to the scene for the preservation of order. Governor Carroll had been telegraphed by Mr. John W. Garrett, president of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and he came in at 9:15 A. M. from his country place in Howard county and met the president and first vice-president of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad at Camden Station. The railroad officers represented to the Governor the very serious situation of affairs on the line of the road in this State. The Governor subsequently went to Barnum's Hotel, where he established his headquarters. A number of gentlemen were sent for and the situation was freely canvassed.


Gov. Carroll says after he reached Baltimore he took every means of ascertaining what the condition of affairs was in Maryland. A full examination was made of all dispatches from Cumberland and other points in connection with the events of the day, and he came to the conclusion that a very serious state of things existed in Cumberland, and he did not believe that the local authorities could preserve order. He therefore made up his mind, in order to preserve the peace of the State, that the arm of authority of the State must be exercised there in a way to leave no doubt in the minds of all persons disposed to make a riot that the preservation of order and law would be maintained at every cost. Acting under that impression he gave orders that the Fifth Regiment proceed to Cumberland under the command of James R. Herbert, and the Sixth Regiment, Col. Clarence Peters, to be held in readiness.

The Governor said we do not know if a city like Cumberland should be under control of a lawless mob by what means any private property would be made safe. He therefore considered that to send troops to protect the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company in their legitimate business would be the best means of saving property of private citizens. With the policy of the railroad company in their present action he had nothing to do, but his first duty was to preserve order, and that he would do at any cost. The Governor said he expected Hon. Charles J. M. Gwinn, attorney general of Maryland, in Baltimore to-day, Mr. Gwinn having only the day before left Baltimore for Watkins' Glen. Previous to his departure the attorney general had been consulted in regard to the contingency that had arisen, and advised Gov. Carroll as to the step which he felt bound to take. Gov. Carroll in conclusion said that it is of the last importance that public and private property in the State should be protected, and authority will be exercised if necessary to that end. Gov. Carroll telegraphed to the Governor of West Virginia for permission, if necessary, to pass troops through that State, and immediate response was telegraphed granting the desired privilege. At about two o'clock in the afternoon Gov. Carroll issued the following:

Proclamation by the Governor.

Whereas it has come to the knowledge of the executive that combinations of men have been formed at various points along the line of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad in this State, and that a conspiracy exists, the object of which is to impede the traffic and interfere with the legitimate business of the said railroad company; and whereas various acts of lawlessness and intimidation to effect this purpose have been perpetrated in this State by bodies of men with whom the local authorities are, in some instances , incompetent to deal; and whereas it is the first importance that good order should everywhere prevail; and that citizens of every class should be protected.

Therefore I, John Lee Carroll, Governor of Maryland, by virtue of the authority vested in me, do hereby issue this, my proclamation, calling upon all citizens of this State to abstain from acts of lawlessness and to aid the lawful authorities in the maintenance of peace and order. Given under my hand and the great seal of the State of Maryland, at the city of Baltimore, this 20th day of July, 1877.


By the Governor. R. C. Holyday, Secretary of State.

To Brigadier General Jas. R. Herbert, Commander First Brigade M.N.G.—Sir; you will proceed at once with the Fifth Regiment, of you command, to the city of Cumberland, to aid in the suppression of riot and lawlessness along the line of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, in this State, and there await further orders.

JOHN LEE CARROLL. Governor and Commander in Chief.


It was first believed that an alert, well-handled regiment, such as the Fifth Maryland, would suffice for all purposes needed at Cumberland, but it was subsequently determined to call out both the city regiments, and leave it with Gen. Herbert's discretion what number of men to order on the march. Gen. Herbert received the Governor's orders at 4 P. M., and immediately issued his orders through his staff to the senior captain, Zollinger, commanding the Fifth Regiment, and to Col. Clarence Peters, commanding the Sixth, to get their regiments together, armed and equipped, at their respective armories for marching at an instant's notice. The railroad company had prepared a special train for the troops, which was in readiness by five o'clock.


Gen. Herbert, at his headquarters in the city hall, attended by Capt. G. W. Wood, one of his aids, issued orders and received reports of the members assembling and the forwardness of the preparations at each armory. At a little after 6 P. M. Capt. Edward Johnson, one of the Fifth, reported 150 men ready for duty and 100 more expected, but that if the military call was sounded by the fire bells the general would have more men than he wanted. Gen. Herbert had proposed this method of calling out the military at first, but the Governor vetoed it then, fearing it might produce exaggerated alarm among the citizens. After Capt. Johnson's report Gen. Herbert again sought the Governor at his headquarters, at Barnum's Hotel, and obtained his acquiescence to the sounding of the military call, Gen. Herbert taking the responsibility and deciding on its necessity.

The alarm, 151, known as the military call, intended to be used in emergencies, riots and public disturbances of unusual gravity and moment, was sounded for the first time in Baltimore at precisely 6:35 P. M. Just afterwards Adjutant Bishop, of the Sixth, reported 150 men ready for duty. Gen. Herbert ordered that Col. Peters send 150 men, in three companies, under his most trusted captains, to Camden depot at 8 P. M., the colonel to await further orders with the residue, about 100 men, at the armory. Gen. Herbert ordered 250 men from the Fifth to the point of debarkation at the same time, and at about 7:30 P. M. Gen. Herbert and his staff drove to the depot and back.

About this Document

  • Source: Baltimore Sun
  • Date: July 21, 1877