Deprecated: Methods with the same name as their class will not be constructors in a future version of PHP; Color has a deprecated constructor in /home/bcph911/public_html/Dec-2017/templates/dream/features/color.php on line 11
Marshal George P Kane

Pin It


Marshal George Proctor Kane

Police Department

Office of the Marshal

Baltimore, 27 Feb. 1861

Having been in Washington on Thursday last, on a business of purely a private nature, I called to pay a friendly visit to friends of the President-elect, with whom I had been for many years on the kind and intimate relations. In conversation the contemplated passage through our city of the public functionary referred to was incidentally mentioned, when I spoke of the rumors which had reached me of an intended republican display by certain parties here, Which, in my opinion, would be deemed

offensive to the masses of our people, and in the event of Mr. Lincoln associating himself with such a demonstration, or having it as an

appendage to his transit through Baltimore, would invite decided marks of disapprobation. I did not recommend that the President-elect should avoid passing openly through Baltimore, nor did I for a moment contemplate such a contingency. Indeed, I made no recommendation whatever in the premises, but confined my remarks to the expression of an opinion that such an escort or appendage as the one Which rumor had indicated, would, in my judgment, be ill-advised, and subject the appendage to an expression of public dissatisfaction, which might and doubtless would have been construed into a. premeditated discourtesy

by the people of Baltimore to the President-elect.

The Police Board had the whole subject of the expected visit of the President-elect under consideration, and all measures necessary for preserving order on the occasion were fully matured, and deemed by them amply sufficient.

The Board was also informed by me of the conversation referred to, held by me in Washington, and concurred in the opinions which I had expressed.

I make this explanation because erroneous constructions of my action in the matter have found their way to the public through a portion

of the press.

                                                                                                                       Geo. P. Kane, Marshall



George Proctor Kane (August 4, 1817 – June 23, 1878) was a Marshal in Baltimore City Police Department. He was best known for his role as Marshal of the Baltimore Police Department during the Pratt Street Riots in 1861. Some say this was the first bloodshed of the Civil war when an escaped slave by the name of Nicholas Biddle of Pottsville, PA. Due to his having survived a life of slavery very little is known of Mr. Biddle's life.  From what we have learned he was born into slavery having parents in Delaware circa 1796. At some point, he escaped slavery settling in Pennsylvania. It was common practice for escaped slaves to change their names to avoid capture, two stories are told of Mr. Biddle.  According to some Nicholas had fled to Philadelphia where he took on a job as a servant for Nicholas Biddle, the wealthy financier, and president of the Second Bank of the United States. In this story, the former slave and the financier traveled to Pottsville for a dinner meeting of entrepreneurs and industrialists at nearby Mount Carbon to celebrate the first successful operation of an anthracite-fueled blast furnace in America. The servant remained in Pottsville to live. Another account is that Biddle relocated from Delaware directly to Pottsville and became a servant at the hotel where the celebratory dinner was held, at which time he met an was impressed by the famous Biddle.

In any case, we know he took on the name of a prominent Philadelphian, and by 1840 Nicholas Biddle was residing in Pottsville Pennsylvania. He worked odd jobs to earn a living, including street vending, selling oysters in the winter and ice cream in the summer. The 1860 U.S. Census lists his occupation as a "porter."

Biddle befriended members of a local militia company; the Washington Artillerists and attended their drills and excursions for the next 20 years. The company members were fond of Mr. Biddle and treated him as if he were one of their own, and although African Americans were not permitted to serve in the militia, they gave him a uniform to wear.

At the outbreak of the Civil War and the fall of Fort Sumter on the 15th of April 1861, had President Lincoln issue a call for volunteers to serve a three-month tour in hopes to suppress the insurrection in the South.  Unlike other antebellum militia units, the Washington Artillery had maintained a state of readiness and was among the first companies to respond to Lincoln's call to arms.

Two days later, the Washington Artillerists departed Pottsville by train to enter the war. 65-year-old Nicholas Biddle joined the group of men who would serve as an aide to the company's commanding officer, Captain James Wren.

On 18 April 1861, five companies, numbering some 475 men, were sworn in at Harrisburg and mustered into the service of the United States. That is, all except for Nicholas Biddle, who as an African American was prohibited from serving in the U.S. Army.

On an emergency order to defend Washington, DC against a rumored Confederate attacks the soldiers left. But at the time, there were no continuous rail services that would take them straight through Baltimore, so when trainloads of soldiers offloaded from one train, in hopes of simply switching trains in Baltimore; which by the happens to be largest city in the slave state of Maryland, they encountered hostile mobs of pro-Southern sympathizers, and unlike their hopes of hopping off one train and quickly loading onto another were dashed.

The companies offloading at Pratt Street Station had to make their way to the Camden Yards Stations a little over one mile west of their location. As the groups began their march up Pratt from their President Streets location to meet the companies and board their trains from Camden Station to their target destination. However, this trip would not be an easy one, almost immediately they were met by various members of local mobs that began taunting them.

Before long they were ducking more than just the offensive names and slanderous comments; these American soldiers on American soil were working hard to evade bottles, and stones, thrown by small children, with larger rocks and full sized or broken up cobblestone bricks being lobbed at them by bigger kids and adults. These cobblestone bricks were being pried up and removed from the very street that was leading them from one station to the next where passenger and box cars were awaiting to assist them in their departure.   

At some point, Mr. Biddle was knocked to the ground by one of the larger cobblestone bricks that had been thrown by one someone in the crowd. Up until this point, the soldiers were not fighting back, as much as they were dodging and avoiding the projectiles being thrown in their direction. But as they witnessed their friend, Nicholas Biddle laying there in the middle of a Baltimore Street, with the life bleeding out of their fellow soldier with a gash in his head so deep his skull was visible through the wound. The soldiers marching passed and over him were acquaintances that knew him well and had grown close to him over the years. With this, two things quickly began, first they rallied around Biddle to help get him out of there and to medical attention. The second thing that took place simultaneously to removing Biddle was that the soldiers began to defend against the attack. Initially, it was just pushing and shoving, but someone from the crowd fired on the troops, with that, the militia had no choice but to shoot back. Until Police arrival they were firing more of what we as police today would call "suppression fire." Basically, with the citizens making Nicholas Biddle the first to bleed from very serious life-threatening wound that was so severe his skull was exposed through the injury. It was reportedly the first and most severe injury suffered that day, while he would survive the injury, he would bare the scar from it for the rest of his life. This injury having been caused by hostile actions was the spark at the beginning of America’s Civil War that gave these men a right to defend themselves.  A relativity simple task with which the small children presents in the crowd was made difficult.

One of the questions about the history of Baltimore Police Department asks why the main body of police was at the end of the troops projected route, instead of at its beginning, it is and always will be a bit of a mystery. The record collection of the riots that was published 19 years after the events by George William Brown, who was Baltimore’s Mayor in 1861, lays part of the blame on the management of the P.W. & B. be railroad the company failure to answer Marshal Kane’s repeated telegrams that ask how many troops were in route to the President Street location and when they would arrive: so by 1030 on the morning of April 19, the police could do nothing better than send their main body – “a strong force” – the Camden Station.

Such action was proper, one infers from Mayor Brown’s account, even though a large crowd had assembled at both stations as early as 9 AM and even though the secessionist flag – a circle of white stars on a field of blue – was displayed by the throng and Pres. Street station. Passers to arrive from the North won the P.W. & B than customarily stayed one the cars and Pres. Street station if they were bound for Washington, and the cars were hauled one by one and by four force teams, to Camden station, where the passengers got off and boarded Baltimore and Ohio trains to continue to national capital. “As the change of cars occurred at this point,” a Police Department history published in 1888 remarks, “it was here that the attack was feared.”

But why at Camden station, to which the troops would have been pulled more than a mile through angry spectators who it already been hurrahing Jefferson Davis. President of the new Confederacy, and cheering president Lincoln for an hour and a half?

Only the day before, a lesser riot (resulting in any deaths) began near the Bolton station one another troop of Pennsylvania Militia (the first defenders) D trained in North Baltimore and was stoned by a mob as it marched south to board a train for Washington. The police applied more and less effective protection for the first defenders while they were of foot in Baltimore on April 18. Why then did marshal Kane apparently reverses strategy on April 19 and decide that the six Massachusetts et al would be safe while on the cars as they were pulled from Pres. Street station to Camden station?

Mayor Brown later decided (in his memoirs of the riot, published in 1887) to the six Massachusetts et al would have been more imposing, therefore safer, if they had marched as a body of 1700 man from one station to the other. Just such an order for marching through Baltimore was apparently prepared by the sixth Massachusetts commander, Col. Edward F Jones, but it was abandoned “someone had plundered” Mayor Brown concluded hinting strongly that some PW and be executives had.

 As for Kane and his subsequent imprisonment at Fort McHenry and Fort Warren. His position as Marshal of Police and his southern sympathies were two of many factors in the Abraham Lincoln's decision in February 1861 to pass through Baltimore surreptitiously on his way to Washington to be inaugurated, to avoid a possible assassination attempt. Despite his politics, this part is a bit odd to me, to throw off those plotting to assassinate the president, Abe Lincoln would head out ahead of schedule, but so as not to let on to the assassins that he was on to their plans, his wife and kids maintained the regular schedule. I am not sure how these plans went down 100%, but to me it seems as if he was putting his wife and kids at risk. Which says one of two things, a) he wasn't as in love with Mary Todd as we might have thought he was, or, as other stories of this plot suggest he didn't believe he was in danger. Something else that support his not believing there was a true plot was that he had Marshal Kane provide protection and escort for Mary Todd Lincoln upon her arrival to Baltimore in that February 1861 while she and her offspring were on their way to the inauguration of their husband and father, who had preceded them. There is some truth to the trips, and in fact to Kate Warnes having been involved. Records show that in 1856 Mrs. Warnes a widow at the time answered an ad to become a Pinkerton, so intrigued at the possibilities Allen Pinkerton hired her on the spot. Apparently during the Abe Lincoln protection detail Mrs. Warnes sparked an interest in good ole honest Abe, because her records show eras having worked for Pinkertons from that initial interview in 1856, until 1861 when she was pictured several tines wearing the uniform of Union soldier


George Proctor Kane (August 4, 1817 – June 23, 1878) was an American politician and policeman. He is best known for his role as Marshal of Police during the Baltimore Riot in 1861 and his subsequent imprisonment at Fort McHenry and Fort Warren. His position as Marshal of Police and his southern sympathies were two of many factors in the Abraham Lincoln's decision in February 1861 to pass through Baltimore surreptitiously on his way to Washington to be inaugurated, in order to avoid a possible assassination attempt. Despite his politics, This part is a it odd to me, in order to throw off those plotting to asisinate the president, Abe Lincoln would head out ahead of schedule, but so as not to let on to the assiasins that he was on to their plans, his wife and kids maintained the regular schedule. I am not sure how these plans went down 100%, but to me it seems as if hewas putting his wofe and kids at risk. Which says one of two things, a) he wasn't as in love with Mary Todd as we ight have thought he was, or, as other stories of this plot suggest he didn't believe he was in danger. Something else that support his not beleiving there was a true plot was that he had Marshal Kane provide protection and escort for Mary Todd Lincoln opin her arrival to Baltimore in that February 1861 while she and her offspring were on their way to the inauguration of their husband and father, who had preceded them. There is some truth to the trips, and in fact to Kate Warens having been involved. Recrds show that in 1856 Mrs. Warens a widow at the time answered an ad to become a Pinkerton, so intrigued at the possibilities Allen Pinkerton hired her on the spot. Apearnetly during the Abe Lincoln protection detail Mrs Warnen sparked an intrest in good ole honest Abe, because her records show eras having worked for Pinkertine from that initial interview in 1856, until 1861 when she ws pictured serveral tines wearing theuniform of  Union sodior 

Kate Warne was the first female detective, in 1856, in the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the United States.
George Proctor Kane

George Proctor Kane (1820–1878) was mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, from November 5, 1877, to his death on June 23, 1878. He is best known for his role as Marshal of Police during the Baltimore riot of 1861 and his subsequent imprisonment at Fort McHenry and Fort Warren without the benefit of habeas corpus. His position as Marshal of Police and his southern sympathies were two of many factors in Abraham Lincoln's decision in February 1861 to pass through Baltimore surreptitiously on his way to Washington to be inaugurated, in order to avoid a possible assassination attempt. Despite his politics, Kane was instrumental in providing protection and an escort for Mary Todd Lincoln on her arrival in Baltimore in February 1861 on her way to the inauguration of her husband, who had preceded her.

Early Political Life

Kane was born in Baltimore in 1820 and at an early age entered the grain and grocery business. He was commissioned an ensign in the Independent Grays, a military organization, and afterward commanded the Eagle Artillery and the Montgomery Guards. He was later colonel of the First Maryland Regiment of Artillery.

Mrs. Kane was Miss Anna Griffith, daughter of Capt. John Griffith, of Dorchester County, Maryland.

Kane was (as a matter of course, since he had several political offices) much identified with the politics of the City of Baltimore. He was originally an adherent of the old Whig Party and an active and enthusiastic supporter of Henry Clay, as shown by the fact that he was Grand Marshal of the parade of the Whig Young Men's National Convention held at Baltimore May 1, 1844, which ratified the nomination of Mr. Clay for the Presidency of the United States. The future Mayor of Baltimore was then but twenty-four years old. In 1847, during the famine in Ireland, he was very active in relief work. At this period he was president of the Hibernian Society. With several others, Mr. Kane purchased the old 'H'-shaped, massive domed "Merchants' Exchange" (designed by famous architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, built 1816–1820, the largest building in America at the time, also known as the "Baltimore Exchange", later site of the present U.S. Customs House, built 1903-05) on South Gay Street between Water and East Lombard Streets and sold the property to the United States Government itself, which, upon remodeling the buildings, which had always housed Federal courts, customs, post office and a branch of the First Bank of the United States along with other city hall/municipal offices in one wing (until "Old City Hall" – the previous Peale Museum on Holliday Street was acquired in 1830 and occupied to 1875) and also included those of lawyers, brokers, shipping companies and other maritime businesses in another wing. They now continued to use them for years exclusively as the U.S. Customs House and Postoffice (until a new U.S. Courthouse was constructed at the northwestern corner of East Fayette Street and North Street (now Guilford Avenue) in 1859-60, dedicated by 15th President, James Buchanan. Later supplemented by a larger central Post Office/U.S. Courthouse of Italian Renaissance Revival architecture with eight small towers and large central clock tower) was constructed in 1889 on the east side of Battle Monument Square, facing North Calvert Street. He was also active in the old volunteer "Baltimore City Unified Fire Department" "confederation" system (organized in the 1830s to 1859) and president of the Old Independent Volunteer Fire Company. Historians credit Colonel Kane with suggesting and campaigning for a "paid", professional steam-powered fire department system which was later finally organized in the city in 1858-1859, as a definite expansion of municipal governmental functions with advanced improvements.

In 1849 he was appointed Collector of the Port of Baltimore.

In the 1850s, Baltimore was a city mired in political corruption and mob violence with occasional riots between rival gangs known as "Plug-Uglies" and others (similar in look and feel to the situation in Civil War-era New York City portrayed in director Martin Scorsese's 2005 film "Gangs of New York" based on the novels of Herbert Asbury). The new Baltimore City Police Department had just been organized a few years before in 1857 along with the Baltimore City Fire Department also just the year before in 1859 to eliminate some of the violent clashes between competing for rival volunteer fire companies which had served since the 1770s. As a result, the General Assembly of Maryland (state legislature) embarked upon a reform movement, which included finding a strong new "Marshal of Police" (chief). Kane filled the bill, becoming Marshal of Police in 1860, under newly elected reformist Mayor George William Brown. According to famous city historian J. Thomas Scharf, "It is impossible to overrate the change that the organization of an efficient police force wrought in the condition of the city." Mayor George William Brown later wrote that the entire police force "had been raised to a high degree of discipline and efficiency under the command of Marshal Kane.

 Kane and the Baltimore Plot

In February 1861, Detective Allan Pinkerton, (1819-1884), working on behalf of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, uncovered what he believed to be a plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln as he journeyed through Baltimore on his way to Washington to begin his first term. Pinkerton presented his findings to Lincoln, which included his belief that Kane, recently appointed Marshal of Police in Baltimore by newly elected reformist Mayor George William Brown, was a “rabid rebel” who could not be trusted to provide security to Mr. Lincoln while in Baltimore. Pinkerton believed that Kane could participate in the plot merely by under-performing in his duties, thereby giving others ample opportunity to carry out their plans, and claimed to have overheard a conversation in a Baltimore hotel in which Kane indicated that he had no intention of providing a police escort for Lincoln. Baltimore at this time was a hotbed of pro-Southern sympathies. Unlike other cities on the President-elect's itinerary, including New York, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg, Baltimore had planned no official welcome for Lincoln. Pinkerton’s information regarding Kane, along with other information discovered by him, his operatives and others, led to the President-elect's decision to follow the detective’s advice, changing his travel plans and passing through Baltimore surreptitiously nine hours ahead of his published schedule.

In 1868, in response to stories then circulating in the press about the Baltimore plot, Kane wrote a lengthy account of his view of the events of Feb. 21–23, 1861. He believed the President and his family would arrive in Baltimore as planned on the Northern Central Railroad at its Calvert Street Station (later after 1950, the site of the Baltimore Sun's offices and printing plant, by Bath Street and the overhead Orleans Street Viaduct) at 12:30 pm on February 23, and depart on a 3 pm train from the Camden Street Station on the southwest side of town. That left two and a half hours to fill in a City in which the President got only about 1000 votes, and most of those, according to Kane, from “the very scum of the city.” In other words, there were no sizable numbers of upper-crust Lincoln supporters who might be counted on to rally around the President in a public display, and entertain him, as had continually happened on the President’s previous stops coming East in New York, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia on his triumphal parade through the North from his home in Springfield, Illinois. Kane came up with a plan, which he implemented, in which John S. Gittings, who owned the Northern Central Railroad, would travel to the village of Maryland Line (on the Mason–Dixon line, a border between Maryland and Pennsylvania), get on the President’s train, and accompany him to Baltimore. Once in Baltimore, the train would make an unscheduled stop at North Charles and Bolton Streets, where Kane would meet it with carriages that would carry the new President and his family to Gittings’ mansion on Mt. Vernon Place. There a sumptuous meal would be served. This plan avoided the Calvert Street Station altogether and kept the President-elect largely out of view of possible "rabble rousers". According to his own account, Kane carried out his plan exactly, with the only exception being that the new President was not aboard the train. In actuality, President-elect Lincoln having possibly already anticipated the possible plot through the information secured by and presented to him by the noted new detective Allan Pinkerton, (1819-1884), and Samuel Morse Felton, Sr., (1809-1889), President of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, and confirmed by some other sources. So after leaving his party in Harrisburg, Lincoln boarded a night express back to Philadelphia with Ward Hill Lamon, (1828-1893), his trusted aide, and traveled that evening back east and had his car attached to the end of the last evening P.W. & B. train running southwest to Baltimore arriving at the east-side President Street Station at 3 a.m. With his lonely night car pulled slightly west along Pratt Street to the Camden Station|Camden Street Station, where it was held for a short while then placed at the end of a Baltimore & Ohio Railroad train to Washington where the sleepy President-elect and his bodyguard (and possibly another armed man arrived at the B. & O. Station in the Nation's Capital at 6 a.m. taking up residence in the noted Willard's Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue three blocks from the White House of out-going 15th President James Buchanan. Newspaper accounts variously described Mrs. Lincoln and the boys being met by an unruly crowd in the Calvert Street Station disappointed in not seeing the new President were reported in various ways. They later also followed on the B. & O. later that day. Kane, in his memoirs of the Plot and 1861, claimed this was erroneous and that Mrs. Lincoln was not jostled by the crowd, but that she had already alighted and left the station before they assembled.

 Devider. black

 Baltimore Riot of 1861 - Part 1

Pratt & President Street Riots

The Civil War’s First Bloodshed

Main article: Baltimore Riot of 1861

On April 18, 1861, two companies of US Artillery and four companies of militia arrived from Harrisburg at the Bolton Station, in the northern part of Baltimore. A large crowd assembled at the station, subjecting the militia to abuse and threats. According to the mayor at the time, “An attack would certainly have been made but for the vigilance and determination of the police, under the command of Marshal Kane.”

Kane and others in Baltimore, knowing the fever pitch of the city, sought to learn about plans for other troops to pass through town, but their telegrams north asking for information were largely ignored, probably at least partly because of Kane's well-known Southern sympathies. So it was on the next day, April 19, that Baltimore authorities had no warning that troops were arriving from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The first of the troops had arrived at the President Street Station, on the east side of town, and had successfully traveled the one-mile distance along East Pratt Street via horse-drawn rail cars, to the Camden Street Station (now near modern "Camden Yards"/Oriole Park baseball stadium) the west side, to continue to Washington. There a disturbance ensued that soon brought the attention of Marshal Kane. His police, (according to Mayor Brown's later memoirs), prevented a large and angry crowd “from committing any serious breach of the peace.” Upon hearing reports that the mobs would attempt to tear up the rails leading toward Washington, Kane dispatched some of his men to protect the tracks.

Meanwhile, the balance of northern troops encountered greater difficulty traversing Pratt Street. Obstructions were placed on the tracks by the crowd and some cars were forced back toward the President Street station. The soldiers attempted to march the distance along Pratt Street, and according to Mayor Brown were met with “shouts and stones, and I think an occasional pistol shot.”

The soldiers fired back, and the scene was one of general mayhem. Marshall Kane soon appeared with a group of policemen from the direction of the Camden Street Station, “and throwing themselves in the rear of the troops, they formed a line in front of the mob, and with drawn revolvers kept it back. … Marshal Kane’s voice shouted, “Keep back, men, or I shoot!” This movement, which I saw myself, was gallantly executed and was perfectly successful. The mob recoiled like water from a rock.” By the time it was over, four soldiers and twelve civilians were dead. These were the first casualties of the American Civil War.

Even though Kane appears to have executed his duties faithfully during these events, and wrote an official account defending his actions (Public record defense by Marshall George P. Kane of his actions on April 19, 1861, in dealing with the riot in Baltimore that "shed the first blood of the Civil War"), there is no question that he was very pronounced in his Southern sympathies. After the riot, Marshal Kane telegraphed to Bradley T. Johnson in Frederick, Md. as follows:

"Streets red with Maryland blood; send expresses over the mountains of Maryland and Virginia for the riflemen to come without delay. Fresh hordes will be down on us tomorrow. We will fight them and whip them, or die."

This startling telegram produced immediate results. Mr. Johnson, afterward served as a general in the Confederate States Army, commanding the Maryland regiments came with volunteers from Frederick by a special train that night and other county military organizations began to arrive. Virginians were reported hastening to Baltimore.

Devider. black

  Baltimore Riot of 1861 - Part 2
Pratt & President Street Riots
The Civil War’s First Dead

Baltimore Sun 16 April 1961

There Were the 12 Baltimoreans Killed in the Bloodied Pratt Street Riots

paratt st riot april 19 1861 3

The most significant Civil War action in Baltimore was the Pratt Street Riots of Friday, 19 April 1861, which directly caused 17 known deaths, at least 50 injuries and 7 recorded the arrest.

Most of the fighting took place along President Street, from near the harbor north to Pratt Street, and along Pratt St., west to Light Street. The violent action would last from approximately 11 AM to 12:45 PM and most involved 220 New England Militiamen, some of whom carried and fired muskets, and a mob of Baltimore civilians including a few Maryland Militiamen that were out of uniform and were reported to number anywhere from the 250that initially arrived to as many as 10,000 and who had fired a few pistols but fought mainly by grappling with passing Militiamen or by hurling paving stones.

Of the 600 or so officers and men of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, Volunteer Militia, who passed from the President Street Station 1.1 miles west to the Camden Station, in route to Washington, four were killed and about 35 wounded. The dead soldiers, all of which were enlisted rank, were Addison O. Whitney, Luther C. Ladd, Charles A. Taylor and Summer A. Needham. The last named died with “little resistance” in a Baltimore hospital about a week after the riots and during the 19th-century style operations on his fractured skull.

Of the 1000 unarmed Pennsylvania Militiamen and about 100 additional members of the 6th Massachusetts, including the Regimental Band, who arrived at the same time, none made it through the mob around President Street Station on their journey, and only one died of injuries sustained. His name was George Leisenring, and he succumbed to his injuries about a week later after he returned to Philadelphia.

Many Baltimoreans were wounded, and 12 were killed – James Clark, William R. Clark, Robert W. Davis, Sebastian Gill, Patrick Griffith, John McCann, John McMahon, Francis Maloney, William Maloney, Philip S. Miles, Michael Murphy and William Reid.

At the time, and off and on ever since, many Baltimoreans were most outraged by the death of Mr. Robert Davis, a 36-year-old drygoods merchant & innocent bystander that may have cheered for the Confederacy, but did not join in the fighting. Mr. Davis was shot by someone on the 6th  Massachusetts train shortly after it pulled out of Camden Station. Upon being hit by the round he was heard to cry out, “I am killed!” as he fell, and the next day a Baltimore Coroner's jury decided that he had been “ruthlessly murdered, by one of the military.”  Mr. Davis’s funeral was elaborate, but his murderer was never named, charged, or prosecuted.

Two of the dead civilians, Patrick Griffith and William Reid, both young black men that had been employed in the area. Patrick Griffith was employed on one of the oyster slopes that was tied up on the docks near Pratt and Light Streets.  William Reid was employed by a Pratt Street establishment described only as the “Greenhouse” and was “shot through the bowels while looking from a doorway on Pratt Street.”

The ages, addresses, occupations, specific circumstances of death and last rites of the other Baltimore casualties have apparently never been recorded, although those who fell in the Pratt Street Riots turned out to be the first fatality victims of a hostile action in the Civil War (no one was killed during the action which it ended four days earlier at Fort Sumter. South Carolina.)

The most thorough contemporary accounts of the Riots, and Baltimore newspapers, state that the police arrested “great numbers” afterward. Only seven were apparently ever named anywhere – Those were, Mark Kagan and Andrew Eisenbrecht, charged with “assaulting an officer with a brick,” Richard Brown and Patrick Collins, “throwing bricks, creating or contributing to a riot” William Reid, “severely injuring a man with a brick” J. Friedenwald, “assaulting an unknown man,” and Lawrence T. Erwin, “throwing a brick on Pratt Street.”

These Seven Constitute Another Civil War “First.”

The Troops for Massachusetts and Pennsylvania responding to Abraham Lincoln’s 15 April 1861 call for volunteers, and many Baltimoreans in slaveholding Maryland interpreted that to be an effort to recruit an army to invade such seceding “sister states” as Virginia. A Confederate Army recruiting office flourished at Marsh Market: a process session mob of about 800 had roamed Charles Street on the night before [18 April] and more than one African American had been flogged for cheering the Republican President in public.

So the Baltimoreans in the Pratt Street Riots were as much Pro-Southern as they were simply Pro-Maryland or simply outraged by the alleged violation of state sovereignty by another state's militia (an idea suggested in “Maryland! My Maryland! The official state song that was inspired by and written shortly after the Riots by Ryder Randel, a native Baltimore English teacher who at the time was living in New Orleans).

And so the seven Baltimoreans arrested turned out to be the first Civil War partisans of either side who suffered official legal action for their pains. Of them, only one, Lawrence T. Erwin was convicted and “held for a sentence” so far as contemporary accounts, historians and memoirs reveal. His sentence, if any, was unrecorded.

One History of the Baltimore Police Department 

Baltimore Civil War Riot 1861

One history of the Baltimore Police Department explains that “It was useless to arrest men when not one officer could be spared to put them in jail.” It seems, too, that although the department had been reorganized about a year earlier under Marshal George P. Kane to rid it of corrupt “Know Nothing” political elements, it had no patrol wagons in 1861. Patrol wagon wouldn't come to Baltimore until 1885] And since the main body of the police detailed to maintain order during the malicious passage was about a mile away at Camden Station, or in route to the scene of the fighting during most of the rioting, it is perhaps remarkable that as many as seven arrests could be made.

Why the main body of police was at the end of the troop's projected route, instead of at its beginning, is still something of a mystery. The recollection of the riots that were published nearly 20 years after the event by George William Brown; [Mr. Brown was the Mayor of Baltimore during the riots in 1861] He lays part of the blame on the management of the P. W. & B. Railroad. The company failed to answer Marshall Kane’s repeated telegrams that asked how many troops were in route to the President Street Station and when they would be expected to arrive. So, by 10:30 AM on the morning of 19 April 1861, the police could do nothing better than send their main body – “a strong force” – to Camden Station. Such action was proper, explained the former Mayor, even though large crowds had assembled at both stations as early as 9 AM and even though the Secessionist Flag – [a circle of eight white stars on a field of blue] – was displayed by the throng at President Street station. Secessionist Flag a circle of eight white stars on a field of bluePassengers who arrived from the north on the PW & B. Then customarily stayed on the cars at President Street if they were bound for Washington, and the cars were hauled one by one, by horse teams of four, to Camden Station, where the passengers got off the PW & B cars and boarded the B&O railroad cars before continuing on to the National Capital. “As the change of cars occurred at this point,” a Police Department history published in 1888 remarked, “It was here that the greatest risk of attack was feared.”

But why at Camden Station, to which the troops would have been pulled more than a mile through angry spectators who had already been hurrahing Jefferson Davis, President of the New Confederacy, and jeering President Abraham Lincoln for an hour and a half?

Only the day before, a lesser Riot resulting in no deaths, began near the Bolton Station when another troop of Pennsylvania Militia (the 1st Defenders) de-trained in North Baltimore and was stoned by a mob as it marched south to board a train for Washington. The police supplied more or less effective protection for the 1st Defenders while they were afoot in Baltimore on that day [18 April 1861]. Why then did Marshall Kane apparently reversed his strategy on 19 April 1861 when he decided that the 6th  Massachusetts et al, would be safe while on the cars as they were pulled from the President Street Station to Camden Station.

Mayor Brown later decided (in his memoirs of the riot, published in 1887) that the 6th Massachusetts et al would have been more imposing, therefore safer, if they had marched as a body of 1700 men from one station to the other. Just such an order for marching through Baltimore was apparently prepared by the 6th Massachusetts Commander, Colonel Edward F. Jones, but it was abandoned, “Someone had blundered,” Mayor Brown concluded, hinting strongly that someone was a PW & B executive.

The logic of hindsight suggests that the main – body of police should have met the train at President Street Station and that adequate details of officers should’ve escorted each of the horse-drawn cars of soldiers to the Camden Station. As it happened, the first nine cars of the 35 car troop train hauled Colonel. Jones and seven of his 11 Massachusetts companies of President Street, across Pratt Street and down Howard Street to Camden Station with little, if any, police escort – and still, they made the trip without any serious mishaps. The crowds hissed a little but were only able to throw stones at the last car, and Mayor Brown, who by this time had arrived at Camden Station from his law office, thought that maybe the nine cars were the all there would be.

The tenth car was halted at the Pratt Street bridge over Jones Falls by a wagon load of sand that the mob dumped in its path, some anchors (perhaps eight) that were dragged from nearby ships across the tracks by several African Amercian seamen, and a motley barricade of lumber and paving stones that were handy because the streets by happenstance were under repair at that point.

The tenth car then turned around retreating toward the President Street Station, where the mob had swelled to roughly 2000 and where some police had arrived (from outlying districts, apparently: not from the main body of police at Camden Station) as the 220 or so soldiers de-trained and lined up in single file. There effort to march to Camden Station became unlikely as formation were blocked by a lot of men flying the secession flag; so they reformed into double file, did an about face and marched in the opposite direction, conceivably inspired to dive into the harbor and swim west toward Light Street.

The mob, having savagely choked a Union Sympathizer who had tried to tear down the Secession Flag, circled the soldiers and halted the de facto retreat. The troopers then fell in by platoons, four abreast, and, with police help, wedged a path north on President Street. The gang with the Secession Flag marched ahead of them and savagely beat two more union sympathizers who tried to tear down the banner, then ran among using militia ranks. Part of the crowd behind the 6th Massachusetts column then began to throw stones, one of which felled a trooper named William Patch, who was then beaten with his own musket.

The four companies – C, D, I. and L. – Then began either “to run” or march “at the double quick,” presumably on orders from one or all of their Captains, who were named Follansbee, Hart, Pickering and Dike. Two more soldiers were knocked down at President and Stiles Streets – possibly by a iron or one of the “queer missiles” (a term used at the time to describe chamber pots) that were thrown by Baltimore women in the mob, according to the 1936 reminiscence of Aaron J. Fletcher, the last survivor of the Civil War 6th Massachusetts.

Mr. Fletcher’s is the only direct account that even suggest women were involved in the riots. (A romantic story, written in 1865, alleges that a Baltimore prostitute named, Ann Manley saved the 6th Massachusetts regimental band by guiding them away from the President Street Station by back alleys – but most accounts state that the police protected the musicians.)

At about the time the troops turned the corner into Pratt Street, at any rate, someone fired the first shot. 

E. W. Beatty, of Baltimore, fired that shot from the crowd, according to opinion that seems to be based on the opinions of Confederate Officers with whom he later served before he was killed in action. One of the 6th Massachusetts soldiers fired the first shot, according to contemporary newspapers accounts that attributed the information to a policeman identified only as “number 71.” By that time Mayor Brown had heard that a mob had torn up President Street using the cobblestone/brick as missiles and had quickly advanced to the bridge where he met the New Englanders and joined them in their March at the head of the column as far back toward Camden’s Station as Light Street.

Mayor Brown’s account states that he slowed the soldiers pace (they also had to pick their way through the haphazard barricade at the bridge), that Captain Follansbee said: “We have been attacked without provocation,” and that he, Mayor Brown, replied: “You must defend yourselves.”

The troopers, of whom about 60 carried muskets, then began to fire in earnest – in volleys, according to the newspapers; over their shoulders and helter-skelter, according to Mayor Brown: definitely not in volleys, according to Aaron Fletcher’s recollection (although he was in Company E, which passed safely through in one of the nine cars).

The First Baltimorean Hit (in the groin) was Supposedly Francis X. Ward.

A Unionist newspaper in Washington quoted Colonel Jones the next day as saying that Mayor Brown had seized a musket and shot a man during the March. Mr. Brown later wrote that a boy he had handed him a smoking musket which a soldier had dropped and that he immediately handed it to a policeman.

The mayor must’ve found the Pratt Street riots quite embarrassing. Then 48 years old, he had been elected in October, 1860, on a reform ticket dedicated to absolving Baltimore of its nickname, “Mobtown,” and had helped put down the Bank of Maryland riots in 1835. He believed in freeing the slaves gradually, but felt that slavery was allowed by the Constitution and that the south should be allowed to secede in peace.

He was summarily arrested by the Federal Military in September – 1861, and imprisoned until November – 1862. From 1872 until the year before his death in 1890 he served as Chief Judge of the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City. He was defeated in a campaign for Mayor in 1885.

When Mayor Brown left the Massachusetts infantrymen, near Pratt and Light Streets, most of the casualties had fallen, the fighting having been heaviest near South Street. The Baltimore dead and wounded were mostly bystanders, according to most Baltimore accounts, because the running soldiers allegedly fired to the front and sides and not at the hostile mobs behind, which may have been as small as 250 men, according to the “ Tercentenary History of Maryland.”

A historian who took notable exception to the bystander only version was J. Thomas Scharf, author of the “Chronicles of Baltimore,” which describes an “immense concourse of people,” that to a man threw paving stones at the troopers from in front of them.

Before the column Reached Charles St. Marshall Kane and about 40 of his police had finally arrived from Camden Station and threw a cordon around the soldiers. “Halt, men, or I’ll shoot!” The Marshal is supposed to have cried as he and his men brandished their revolvers. The mob headed to the Marshal's warnings and halted their actions.

That evening Marshall Kane telegraphed friends to recruit Virginia rifleman to defend Baltimore from further invasion by Union Militia. In June, after Gen. Benjamin Butler “occupied” Baltimore with other Massachusetts troops, the police Marshall was also arrested and imprisoned. He was released in 1862, and “went to Richmond,” apparently by an informal agreement, and apparently served the Confederacy during the war. He died at the age of 58 in 1878, just seven months after he was elected Baltimore's 26th Mayor.

The 6th Massachusetts had left Baltimore by 1 PM on that 19th day of April 1861 – short of its dead and some of it's wounded, who were cared for in Baltimore hospitals or temporarily buried at Green Mount Cemetery, and it’s regimental bands men, who along with the 1000 unarmed Pennsylvania volunteers, were more effectively protected by the police from the two attacks at President Street Station by mobs which may have increased to as many as 10,000 persons from the initial 250, according to Mr. Scharf’s chronicle.

The Pratt Street Riots of 1861 occurred on the Anniversary of the Revolutionary War - Battle of Lexington, a coincidence which both Northern and Southern propagandist made a lot of, notably the former. The civic leaders of Baltimore called halfheartedly for a Law and Order in speeches in Monument Square on the same afternoon, ordered Railroad Bridges burned north of the city and persuaded President Lincoln to route further Washington defenders through Annapolis.

Much as the city might protest that its sovereignty had been violated, the rights appeared to the North to be a pro-Confederate outrage, and it is not difficult to understand why the Federal Government soon decided to clamp down on the city.

The 6th Massachusetts was in Baltimore three more times during the war it Survivors were honored here on several occasions afterward. It’s reception on April 19, 1861, caused far-reaching repercussions, though including the ironic turnabout in Baltimore which saw Unionist mobs roughing up succession us on the streets as soon after the riots as may, 1861

Devider. black

For information on the Fort Sumter Bombardment which took place on 12 April 1861 thru 13 April 1861 click Here


Devider chrome

Kane Canon

 Kane's Arrest

However, after days of excitement and suspense, the upheaval subsided, and soon General Benjamin Butler, commander of the Massachusetts state militia, with a strong Federal force of the 6th Massachusetts and several other regiments from other states, took possession of Baltimore’s Federal Hill by night during a driving rainstorm, May 10, 1861, where he erected extensive fortifications. For the rest of the period of the war, Baltimore was closely guarded by Northern troops. Within the year, the city was surrounded by a dozen or more heavily fortified earthen embankment forts making the city, the second-most heavily fortified city in the world at that time, next to Washington, D.C., the Nation's Capital.

Marshal Kane remained in office as head of the Baltimore City police until June 27, 1861, when he was arrested in the dead of night at his house on St. Paul Street by a detachment of Federal soldiers and taken to Fort McHenry. From there he was sent to Fort Lafayette in New York. From there he wrote a letter to President Lincoln in September 1861, describing the fever from malaria he contracted at Ft. McHenry and the inhumane conditions at Fort Lafayette. "Whilst suffering great agony from the promptings of nature and effects of my debility I am frequently kept for a long time at the door of my cell waiting for permission to go to the water-closet owing to the utter indifference of some of my keepers to the ordinary demands of humanity." Later he was moved to Fort Warren in Boston. In all, he was confined for 14 months. He was released in 1862 and went to Montreal.

canon ball

Kane in the Civil War

As the Civil War was beginning, Kane was moved from Fort McHenry to Fort Lafayette, and then to Fort Columbus, New York. From there he wrote to U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward in October 1861 asking for a speedy trial and complaining that the conditions at Lafayette had been so bad that he required medical care for "an affection of the heart which I attribute to the nature of my confinement at Lafayette." This heart condition may have precluded his service later on the field of battle for the Confederacy. Eventually, Kane was released and went to Montreal in Quebec, Canada.

According to a very erroneous (unusual) "The New York Times" obituary of him on June 23, 1878, (then edited by founder Henry Raymond]]), Kane received a commission from General Robert E. Lee’s staff and was with Lee at Gettysburg. This seems unlikely (according to modern research and scholarship); as a letter he supposedly wrote to Jefferson Davis, (1808-1889), President of the Confederate States was on July 17, 1863, just two weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, and is from Canada, where Kane supposedly offers his services in organizing an expedition against Chicago, Milwaukee, and Detroit. His plan was to destroy all shipping, thus "paralyzing the lake commerce." By November, he writes Davis again from Montreal to report on the failure of a plan to rescue Confederate prisoners at Sandusky Bay in Ohio. In Canada in 1864, Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth, (1838-1865), presented to Confederate officials – including Kane – his plan to kidnap President Lincoln.

In February 1864, Kane ran the Federal blockade and was soon in Richmond. In 1864, he published a broadside in which he exhorted Marylanders in the Confederate States Army to form their own Maryland militias, rather than serve under the flags of other states. On July 20, 1864, he is reported by the "Charleston Mercury" to be “about to cooperate with our forces then near Baltimore, with 15,000 Maryland recruits." On October 8, 1864, he writes again to Davis, offering to recruit Marylanders to form a corps of heavy artillery, a suggestion that was politely declined. In March 1865, he is reported to have been instrumental in acquiring fresh uniforms for Marylanders in the Confederate Army. In the closing days of the war, he is still writing to Jefferson Davis to report on the movement of troops around Danville, Virginia.

After the Civil War

Kane entered the tobacco manufacturing business at Danville, Va. in late 1865. Returning to Baltimore he was appointed to the "Jones Falls Commission" and was elected Sheriff of Baltimore City by the state Democratic Party in the 1873 election.

On October 27, 1877, Kane was elected Mayor of the City of Baltimore having won the Democratic nomination over Ferdinand C. Latrobe, (1833-1911), (grandson of famed architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, (1764-1820), son of civic activist, lawyer-artist, and author John H. B. Latrobe, and nephew of Benjamin Henry Latrobe II, (1806-1878), noted chief engineer and architect, with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad).

George P. Kane was Mayor of Baltimore City but a short time (his then two-year term would have ended November 3, 1879). City Council ordinances receiving his signed approval were not numerous. One appropriated money for repairs to the former Old City Hall on Holliday Street near East Saratoga street, used 1830-1875, (former Peale Museum built and operated 1813-1830 by the famed Rembrandt Peale, [1778-1860]), and transferred this historic building to the City's Board of School Commissioners for the Baltimore City Public Schools system to be used for school purposes. It soon became the site of Baltimore's first African-American (then referred to as "Colored"/"Negro") in the new racially segregated "Colored Schools" established a few years before to the BCPS in 1865. Another Kane-signed ordinance was to give "Authority to condemn and open Wolfe Street from East Monument Street to North Avenue and Patterson Park Avenue from Oliver Street to North Avenue" and was granted. A Council resolution to appoint a committee to visit and urge upon the United States Congress the necessity of constructing a new post-office was approved by Mayor Kane and also an ordinance to accept Homewood Park (a part of the present site of Johns Hopkins University - near Homewood Mansion, a Georgian/Federal style of architecture, constructed 1801-1808, formerly of the Carroll family and later William Wyman's "Wyman Villa" estates) which was signed April 8, 1878. This ordinance, however, was not carried into effect at that time, as JHU did not move from its newly established "temporary" downtown campus on North Howard Street near Little Ross, West Centre and West Monument Streets until after the turn of the century.

Colonel George Proctor Kane died, while serving as the Mayor of his home city, June 23, 1878, a veteran of some of the most tumultuous events and times in the history of the City of Baltimore. His former opponent, Ferdinand C. Latrobe was elected to serve his unexpired term (and began his own long and honored public service career, being elected to seven terms of office, dominating the political life of "The Monumental City" for a quarter-century.



Please contact Det. Ret. Kenny Driscoll if you have any pictures of you or your family members and wish them remembered here on this tribute site to Honor the fine men and women who have served with Honor and Distinction at the Baltimore Police Department.

Anyone with information, photographs, memorabilia, or other "Baltimore City Police" items can contact Ret. Det. Kenny Driscoll at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. follow us on Twitter @BaltoPoliceHist or like us on Facebook or contact us for a mailing address

 Pratt Street Riots Part 2   Baltimore Riot of 1861 - Part 1

Copyright © 2002 Baltimore City Police History - Ret Det Kenny Driscoll

Pin It


Copies of: Your Baltimore Police Department Class Photo, Pictures of our Officers, Vehicles, Equipment, Newspaper Articles relating to our department and or officers, Old Departmental Newsletters, Lookouts, Wanted Posters, and or Brochures. Information on Retired or Deceased Officers and anything that may help us to Preserve the History and Proud Traditions of this agency.
Fields marked with * are required
Upload file... Number of files left: 3


    User Login Form