As a border state with a sizeable pro-Southern constituency, Maryland was a crucial lynchpin for both the preservation
of the Union as well as the Southern strategy for independence. The significance of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area began long before the war broke out. Issues of slavery and states rights had strong ties to the nearby Mason-Dixon Line, the 1857 Dred Scott decision, John Brown’s ill-fated insurrection plot at Harpers Ferry, and the hotly contested Presidential election of 1860. Marylanders faced the choice of remaining with the Union or seceding with the South. The state was predominantly pro-Union, but, to ensure the state’s loyalty Abraham Lincoln advised Maryland Governor Thomas Hicks to convene the 1861 General Assembly in Frederick, where Union sentiment was stronger than in Annapolis. The General Assembly met in Frederick’s Kemp Hall in the spring and summer of 1861 but sputtered to a halt in September after Federal soldiers arrested many pro-Southern legislators to ensure Maryland’s loyalty. With these delegates arrested prior to reaching Frederick, a quorum could not be reached and a vote on secession could not be taken.

Note: the images in this timeline are from the Crossroads of War website.

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October 16, 1859

John Brown’s Raid

Harpers Ferry, Virginia (Now WV)

On October 16, 17, and 18, 1859, John Brown and his "Provisional Army of the United States" took possession of the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Brown had come to arm an uprising of slaves. Instead, the raid drew militia companies and federal troops from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. On the morning of October 18, a storming party of 12 Marines broke down the door of the Armory's fire engine house, taking Brown and the remaining raiders captive. Source: NPS.

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April 12, 1861

First shots of Civil War fired

Fort Sumter, South Carolina

Confederate forces fired the first shots of the Civil War upon Federal troops at Fort Sumter at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861. The roots of that conflict are buried deep within the stories of the development of the United States. Fort Sumter would continue to serve as the focal point in Charleston throughout the Civil War. Source: NPS.

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September 4, 1862

Beginning of Maryland Campaign

White's Ford, Maryland

General Robert E. Lee's Confederate troops crossed the Potomac River, starting the Maryland Campaign in fall 1862. The Union army under General George McClellan arrived on the scene and pursued the Rebels toward the west. McClellan was aided by the amazing discovery of Special Orders No. 191, which outlined Lee’s campaign strategy.

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September 14, 1862

Battle of South Mountain

The first major Civil War battle to take place in Maryland, the Battle of South Mountain took place on three gaps. The battle forced Lee to abandon his invasion plans and go on the defensive. However, the Union’s failure to muster a full-scale attack in the morning allowed the Confederates to bring up reinforcements. The defenders bought time for Lee to reassemble his dispersed army, setting the stage for the Battle of Antietam, fought three days later.

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September 17, 1862

Battle of Antietam 

The bloodiest one-day battle in American history. 23,000 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing after twelve hours of savage combat on September 17, 1862. 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. Source: NPS.

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September 22, 1862

Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Issued

The Union's victory at Antietam offered President Lincoln the opportunity to take a new stance on slavery. He proclaimed that starting the following year, slaves in states "in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free." (Image: National Archives and Records Administration)

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June 15, 1863

Beginning of Gettysburg Campaign

More than 50,000 Confederates crossed the Potomac at Williamsport in June 1863. Confederate wounded from the battle began arriving here July 5 and piled up for more than a week due to flooding in the Potomac. The small town became a hospital for thousands.

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June 29, 1863

Corbit's Charge

Westminster, Maryland

A small but extremely important cavalry skirmish took place in Westminster on June 29, 1863. The clash on the edge of town between General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry and a small unit of the Delaware cavalry was a significant factor in slowing down the General’s march. Instead of proceeding into Pennsylvania to inform General Robert E. Lee about the major Union troop movements, Stuart’s cavalry was delayed long enough to make it advisable to spend the night in the Westminster area.

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July 1, 1863 — July 3, 1863

Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War, the Union victory that ended General Robert E. Lee's second and most ambitious invasion of the North. Often referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion", Gettysburg was the Civil War's bloodiest battle and was also the inspiration for President Abraham Lincoln's immortal "Gettysburg Address". Source: NPS.

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July 6, 1863

Battle of Williamsport

At the Battle of Williamsport, Confederate forces holding the town held off a Union cavalry attack, which kept open General Lee’s line of retreat from Gettysburg. They burned the Conococheague Aqueduct as they retreated towards the Potomac.

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July 5, 1864

Early's Invasion Begins

By the summer of 1864, the Confederate Army was paralyzed at Petersburg, Virginia. A Union defeat at Lynchburg, however, left the Shenandoah Valley and the path to Washington, D.C. virtually undefended. Seizing this opportunity, Confederate General Robert E. Lee devised a plan to alleviate the pressure by threatening the Union capital. In mid-June, he dispatched Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal Early with a corps of roughly 15,000 men north; by July 8 they had reached the outskirts of Frederick. Source: NPS.

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July 5, 1864

Ransom of Hagerstown

As Confederate Brigadier General John McCausland marched towards Hagerstown, merchants fled from the town with what supplies they could carry and the Market House became the Confederate headquarters. McCausland then demanded a ransom from the town. In addition to $20,000, the Confederates required all government stores from the town and a specific selection of clothing. Source: WHILBR.

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July 8, 1864

Ransom of Middletown

Middletown, Maryland

Confederate troops under General Jubal Early demanded a $5,000 ransom from Middletown. Town officials paid $1,500 on July 9 and didn't have to pay the remaining $3,500 after the Battle of Monocacy.

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July 9, 1864

Battle of Monocacy

After marching through the Shenandoah Valley, Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early crossed the Potomac River into Maryland. On July 9, 1864, a makeshift Union force under Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace attempted to arrest Early’s invading Confederate divisions along the Monocacy River, just southeast of Frederick. Wallace’s Federal troops were outflanked by Rebel forces and defeated, but hearing of Early’s incursion, Gen. Grant sent troops northward from Petersburg. Wallace’s defeat bought time for these troops to bolster the defenses of Washington. Source: NPS.

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July 11, 1864

Confederate attack repelled

Fort Stevens, Washington, DC

Although Wallace's troops did not succeed at the Battle of Monocacy, they were successful in buying time for additional Union reinforcements to protect the nation's capitol. Grant called upon the 25th New York Cavalry, the 1st and 2nd Divisions of the 6th Corps, and the 19th Corps to protect Washington. Source: NPS.

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November 1, 1864

Slavery Abolished in Maryland

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed thousands of Americans enslaved in the states that had seceded from the Union. However, enslaved Marylanders did not experience freedom until a new state constitution abolishing slavery went into effect on this date.

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April 9, 1865

Lee Surrenders

Appomattox Court House, Virginia

On Palm Sunday 1865, Lee's surrender signaled the end of the Southern States attempt to create a separate nation. It set the stage for the emergence of an expanded and more powerful Federal government. In a sense the struggle over how much power the central government would hold had finally been settled. Source: NPS.

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