In Maryland, the Civil War exasperated regional tensions within a state economically, politically and socially at odds. By 1860, Maryland was almost evenly divided between a free and enslaved black population. In Baltimore city, the northern and the eastern shore counties the dependence on the production of a staple crop had waned by the war's commencement. However, tobacco production and institutionalized slavery still held sway in southern Maryland. The election of President Abraham Lincoln was the basis for the secession of the southern states as his victory was perceived as a threat to their institutions. Marylanders sought to engage in discourse to determine whether their allegiance was to the Union or the Confederacy. Some clearly sided with their sister states further south, traversing the Potomac River and participating in wartime activities with the Confederate Army. Lincoln attempted to quell the secessionist fervor in Maryland by sending in federal troops and effectively dissuading political meetings organized by state legislators.
On January 1, 1863, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which declared enslaved persons in states and territories still in rebellion free, went into effect. However, its edicts were not enforceable in Maryland as she had remained loyal to the Union. While weakened, the "peculiar institution" legally survived and the master/slave dichotomy remained in tact. Nevertheless, some enslaved Marylanders took advantage of the upheaval created by the war and fled to Union camps. The President, Congress and military officials vacillated on policy concerning fugitive slaves. But, those escaping from loyal owners in Border States such as Maryland, according to official policy, were to be returned. This proved an enormous feat for slave owners from Southern Maryland who encountered a myriad of problems upon reaching Union camps and demanding their "property." The Emancipation Proclamation had made possible the recruitment of "colored" troops, initially confining such activities in Maryland to free black men. However, as the war proceeded such recruitment extended to those enslaved, with monetary compensation for their loyal owners. Maryland organized six United States Colored Infantries (USCI). This project is the culmination of research on the 19th USCI, Companies A and B.
On December 15, 1863, the 19th Regiment was organized at Camp Stanton in Benedict, Maryland and primarily consisted of recruits from the southern counties as well as the eastern shore. On March 1, 1864, the troops carried out provost duty in Baltimore City. A regimental battalion advanced to Harper's Ferry, Virginia on March 22, 1864, and participated in combat, inflicting serious damage to an enemy cavalry near Berryville, Virginia. In April of 1864, the regiment marched to Manassas, Virginia and on May 6, 1864 "received their first baptism of fire" in the battle of the Wilderness. On May 13, 1864, while assigned to guard duty with the 9th army corps they again repulsed a confederate cavalry. The 19th regiment was eventually consolidated with the 25th army corps. They participated in activities associated with the Siege of Richmond as well as the Capture at Petersburg. On January 15, 1867, they were mustered out at Brownsville, Texas.
A National Park Service grant allowed for this project Hidden Identities: Southern Maryland Slaves & the United States Colored Troops at Camp Stanton, Maryland to come to fruition. It identified members of the 19th United States Colored Infantry that would have been enslaved prior to enlisting in the Union Army. These men from Southern Maryland used the opportunity to enlist, during the Civil War, as a means to escape slavery. The study focused on three counties in southern Maryland inclusive of St. Mary's, Charles and Calvert, which maintained a significant portion of the state's enslaved population. Several repositories were utilized in an effort to tell the stories of these brave men who fought to preserve a fractured Union and more importantly for the freedom of the more than 4 million African Americans still in bondage. This searchable website will present the viewer with research culled from national and state repositories inclusive of the National Archives and Records Administration, the Maryland State Archives and the College of Southern Maryland's Southern Maryland Studies Center. This information draws from Compiled Service Records, Freedmen's Bank and Savings Records, Adjunct General's Records, Veteran's Pension Files, Slave Commission Records, Manumission Records as well as Land Records.
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