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Dr. William Wroten

Delmarva Heritage Series

* Freedom And Justice Defended

Salisbury Times - March 26, 1958

Except for the Baltimore Affair of 1861, Maryland from the beginning of the Civil War until the Confederate invasion by Lee in September, 1862 was undisturbed. Maryland had offered little resistance to the Federal power, she had been treated somewhat as a conquered province. Her legislature and municipal authorities of Baltimore had been more or less confined, and their

offices taken over by troops personnel. There was little necessity for such proceedings; on the contrary, the "loyalty" of her people had been praised in reports and in proclamation by the President, and the protection of her Constitution promised as the reward of Maryland's fidelity.

YET, IN THE face of all this the people of the Free State were nonetheless subject to oppression and outrage. According to one of Maryland's most famous historians, arrests were made, imprisonments prolonged, right of trial denied, property confiscated and slaves carried off. Freedom of speech and the press were restricted. Houses were invaded and ransacked, private papers seized, and men and even women were seized for imprisonment or exile. A minister of the Gospel was arrested and imprisoned for refusing to allow a flag to be displayed from his church. It was reported that even babies were arrested for wearing red ribbon, which the "loyalists" regarded as a disloyal color. This historian, writing in 1879, said "Nor can we enter into details of the insults, wrongs and outrages that were daily and hourly committed upon the people of this State, for the remembrance still rouses indignation too hot for calmness of impartial history."

An incident, which occurred in Easton, serves to illustrate the bitterness that prevailed at this time. An honored and venerable judge was beaten and dragged bleeding from the bench for upholding the Constitution, which he had sworn to maintain. This judge was Richard Bennett Carmichael of the circuit comprising the counties of Kent, Queen Anne's, Caroline, and Talbot.

DURING THE campaigning for the fall elections of 1861, soldiers were sent to this section of the Eastern Shore to intimidate the voters. In Queen Anne's and Talbot Counties numerous arrests were made of persons suspected of disloyalty or known to oppose the administration's candidates; the clerk of the Queen Anne's County Court was arrested and imprisoned.

When the fall term of court opened Judge Carmichael, in his charge to the grand jury, referred to these arrests, reminding the people that every arrest without warrant of law was a violence of American principles of liberty. The grand jury brought in bills of presentment against the guilty parties who had made the arrests, but before the guilty soldiers could be brought before the court, camp had been broken and the troops transferred. Similar arrests with similar results also occurred in Talbot County. In Kent County, Judge Carmichael charged the grand jury that such acts were unlawful and it was their duty to take cognizance of them. The grand jury in this case, however, did not act.

LATER, ON MAY 25, 1862, James L. McPhail, provost marshal of Baltimore, under orders from Major General Dix, commanding officer of Baltimore, went to Easton to arrest Judge Carmichael and Isaac Powell, the prosecuting attorney. McPhail left with a lieutenant colonel, a captain, and two privates of the 2nd Delaware Regiment who had made the unlawful arrests and had been summoned to appear before the court then in session. However, upon reaching Easton, McPhail feared resistance and telegraphed Gen. Dix for more soldiers. One hundred and twenty-five arrived on the next day.

On Monday, May 28th, McPhail and a detail of soldiers entered the courtroom where Judge Carmichael was trying a case. McPhail informed the judge that he was under arrest, whereupon Judge Carmichael demanded to know upon what authority such action was being taken: he was told "the authority of the United States Government." At the same moment one of the special officers detailed to serve under McPhail mounted the platform, seized the judge by his beard, and shouted, "Come out o' here'." In defense Judge Carmichael struck his assailant, whereupon several of the soldiers fell upon the judge striking him upon the head with the butts of their pistols, until he fell senseless and bleeding to the floor. It was not until the jury and spectators had been cleared from the court and the Prosecuting Attorney Powell and two other citizens arrested that a doctor was permitted to attend to the judge's wounds.

WITHOUT even allowing Judge Carmichael to change his bloody clothing the party returned to Baltimore where the prisoner was confined for about six weeks at Fort McHenry. Later he was transferred to Fort Lafayette in New York harbor and finally to Fort Delaware. He was unconditionally released on December 4, 1862 with no trial having been granted him nor any notice taken of his repeated requests that the President or other authorities make known the charge against him. As a result of the confinement in damp quarters he was permanently lamed by rheumatism. Upon his release, Judge Carmichael returned to his bench and while sitting in Kent County for the Spring term of 1863, he renewed his previous charge to the grand jury concerning the lawless acts of the military. The jury, however, refused to take action and Judge Carmichael resigned and retired to his farm.


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