Tearing Down The Telegraph

This article from the July 21, 1877 issue of the Baltimore American recounts the mob's destruction of railroad property, including tearing down the telegraph office, ripping up the railroad tracks, smashing locomotives, and burning depots.


The regular telegraph office, used for despatching [sic] trains and other private business of the Company was demolished, and the wood and furniture piled up to burn the dept with. The wires were cut and rolled up into [lumbs], which were thrown into the depot. The regular telegraph arrangements of the Company were thoroughly destroyed. The Atlantic and Pacific lines remain, however.


The last train that left Camden Station was at (unlear) P. M., and none arrived after that hour, except the coaches of the through trains from New York and Philadelphia, which were drawn by horse up Pratt street and stopped outside the depot yard. They arrived almost in the heat of the excitement when pistol shots were firing at the lower end of the dept and all the alarming evidences of a riot were to be seen at a glance about the front of the buildings on Camden street. The United States mail, which was to have left at 8:15 P. M., did not go out, and remains at the dept yet. All trains bound for Baltimore were ordered to stop at the Relay House, as they could not reach Baltimore. No trains of any description went away from Camden Station after 7 o'clock P. M.


No one could be found to venture any distance down the track, but information was received by telegraph from Locust Point that the tracks below Ohio avenue, and to Camden Junction and to Locust Point had been torn up. The tongues had also been torn from some of the switching and most of the important switch-bars turned wrong.


A crowd of men were at work for over an hour unscrewing bolts and in other ways weakening the supports of what is known as the Blue Bridge, about a mile out form the city. The Company officials were satisfied that it would not be safe for any train to pass over the bridge at present. It was impossible for the officials to tell what other bridges had been interfered with.


While the riot was at its height men mounted locomotives along the track between Camden Station and Locust Point, and, after fixing the switches and tearing the tracks, put on a full head of steam and [?] locomotives run until they overturned. In failing [?] made a crash, and as a general thing the wood [?] was burned. Several engines were rendered useless for the present in this manner, and one of them, at least, is wrecked on the main track. They [?] mainly regulating engines and others that had come in and had their fires up and the steam [?].


The mass of wood and other inflammable [sic] material was fired by opening barrels of coal oil and letting it run over it. There was a great light for about an hour, and at one time all the depot buildings seemed in danger of destruction. Several cars were burned. One section each of the passenger and freight depots were destroyed by fire. A large quantity of freight including the contents of an Adams Express car, was destroyed.


Nearly all the employes who have stuck by the Company were assaulted when they showed themselves. Mr. Fairbanks, the General Agent was struck on the head with a brick. Several police officers of the Southern District were injured. During the shooting at the lower end of the depot Conductor J. W. Barong and William Surdsburg, both empolyes of the Company, were badly shot by the rioters. Robert Ryan was also badly injured.


The police in every instance awed the mob, while the military incensed them. One policeman was equal to a dozen soldiers. These men were evidently afraid of the police. The squad of fifty officers under Captain Lepson was especially efficient, and presented a formidable front. Until long after midnight the police protected the military and guarded all the dept buildings. Captain Delanty and his men were subjected to the greatest kind of danger, but performed their duty unflinchingly and in a manner that showed they knew how to master the situation. Among the late arrests in the South Baltimore were the following all for rioting: Thos. Nolan, Barton Vandrekei, Nicholas Slucker, Joseph Manning, James Fitzgerald, W. Beckmyer, B. C. Cook, George Leitz, John Sauer and John Brest.


The bells rang for a second fire just as one at Camden Station was subdued, and it was discovered that some cars and a switch house at Bayley's round house, South Baltimore, was on fire. The department was sent down, and after some trouble and resistance, put out the flames. Some shots were fired, and several were wounded.

The following persons were wounded at the riot at Camden Station and Bayley's, and were taken to the Washington University Hospital at a late hour last night: Robert Ryan, employe at Camden Station, seriously in the head with a brick; William Sudberry, No. 50 William street, severely; J. W. Burton, employe at Camden Station, No. 49 Hanover street.

Thomas Nolen, Burton Vanderkel and Nick Slucker were arrested for rioting on Lee Street.


A lull was reported at 2:30 A. M. Sergeant Hause and a squad of men had gone out to the Riverside round house. The military were guarding Camden Station, but extra preparations were in progress to prevent a possible repetition of the disorder.

Late advices from Washington set forth that it was currently reported in Washington on the streets to night that the United States Marines, stationed in that city, had been ordered to Baltimore, but inquiry at the proper department failed to confirm this report.

About this Document

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