April 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War, and as with the war itself, the commemorations and anniversaries will continue for the next four years.
Baltimore itself had only a small role in the beginnings of the Civil War, as the site of the War’s first actual combat fatalities when a mob in Baltimore attacked Union soldiers passing through the city and marching from one station to another on April 19, 1861. The so-called “Baltimore Riots” left four men in the 6th Massachusetts Infantry and some civilians dead and many injured. Both ends of that fateful march from station to station survive today. The western end, the former Baltimore & Ohio’s Camden Station, survives next to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, used as a commuter station and commercial museum space.
Baltimore Civil War Museum
601 South President Street
Baltimore, Md. 21202
(443) 220 0290
Hours: Tues-Sun 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
The eastern end of the march, the President Street Station, survives today as the Baltimore Civil War Museum. The former headhouse of the 1849-built train station, the oldest inner-city station in the nation, now houses a permanent exhibition focused on Baltimore during the Civil War and the role of the President Street Station in the era. It also features exhibits focused on Maryland’s railroad history and the building’s role in the transportation of slaves escaping to the North.
The non-profit Friends of President Street Station, formed in 1987, restored and reopened the building as a museum in 1997 and has provided occasional funding as well as staff, programming and promotion for the museum.
Budget cuts forced the closure of the museum a few years later, but in recognition of the pending Civil War anniversary, the Maryland Historical Society took over control of the Baltimore Civil War Museum and is now its new administrator. Ralph Vincent, the director of the Friends of President Street Station, said he was pleased with the new arrangement. “The Historical Society’s involvement will secure the Civil War Museum’s future and the Friends group looks forward to remaining involved – as volunteers and as advisors – under the new leadership,” Vincent said.
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum
901 West Pratt Street
Baltimore, Md. 21223
(410) 752 2490
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 a.m. -4 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The American Civil War was the first major conflict where railroads played a prominent role and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which began in Baltimore, was at the forefront. Now, the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore is commemorating the Civil War with a four-year series of exhibits named “The War Came By Train.”
The exhibits serve as the B&O Railroad Museum’s primary attraction for the five-year commemoration of the War’s sesquicentennial. The National Landmark Roundhouse will exhibit the largest assemblage of Civil War railroad equipment in the world featuring locomotives and rail cars that served during the war, significant military and personal artifacts that will change annually to portray each year of the war (some artifacts never before on public display), and a
narrated mile-long train ride to the original site of Camp Carroll, the largest Union encampment in Baltimore.
Antietam National Battlefield
5831 Dunker Church Road
Sharpsburg, Md. 21782
(301) 432 5124
Hours: Daily 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Three other significant attractions lie an hour or so away. To the west of Frederick lies the Antietam National Battlefield, preserved by the National Park Service to commemorate the bloodiest single-day battle in the war. On Sept. 17, 1862, 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat. The Battle of Antietam ended the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s first invasion into the North and led to Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. Various events are scheduled at the battlefield throughout the year, including “living history” battle re-enactments on Sept. 20-21, 2011.
National Museum of Civil War Medicine
48 East Patrick Street
Frederick, Md. 21705
(301) 695 1864
Hours: Mon-Sat 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. -5 p.m.
In a historic 1832 building in downtown Frederick, the National Museum of Civil War Medicine offers a unique look into an often-forgotten aspect of wartime, the care of the wounded and dead. The museum, founded in 1990 by a private group of Civil War and medical historians, has expanded over the years to also preserve a barn used as a field hospital at nearby Antietam.
Gettysburg National Military Park and Cemetery
1195 Baltimore Pike
Gettysburg, Pa. 17325
(717) 334 1124 ext 8023
Hours: Daily 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
And, of course, Gettysburg, Pa., the site of one of the most well-known battles of the Civil War, is an hour and a half northwest of Baltimore by automobile, and ever since the epic battle, Gettysburg has been a draw for historians and tourists. The Gettysburg National Military Park literally surrounds the town, and the National Cemetery, site of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, is in the southwest side of town.
The National Park Service has a website dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the many events planned for the occasion: http://www.nps.gov/civilwar150/
Alexander D. Mitchell IV is an author, photographer and writer living in Baltimore. He is also the Baltimore columnist for Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, and maintains the blog Beer in Baltimore.