Was Maryland in a state of rebellion in 1861?

Students will examine primary source documents to determine whether or not Maryland was in a state of rebellion, which would justify Lincoln to suspend the writ of habeas corpus in Maryland at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861.

Historical Background

On April 11, 1861, the Civil War began when Confederate soldiers fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina. States in the North quickly assembled troops to defend the North and its capital of Washington, D.C., while some states in the South quickly allied themselves with the Confederacy. The question of what Maryland would do was on the minds of many politicians, including Abraham Lincoln. The Pratt Street Riots broke out in Baltimore on April 19, 1861, as the Sixth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers travelled through Baltimore on their way to Washington, D.C. Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in Maryland after this fighting broke out in Baltimore. Since Maryland had many Confederate sympathizers, Lincoln feared that Maryland might choose to secede from the Union. If this happened, Washington, D.C. would be surrounded by the Confederacy. That would create a very dangerous and difficult situation for Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States.

By suspending the writ of habeas corpus, along with other punitive measures, Maryland did not leave the Union. Even through Maryland did not leave the Union, there was great fear that the many Confederate sympathizers who lived in Maryland, could undermine the efforts of the Union to fight the Confederacy.

Lesson Objective

Evaluate whether or not Maryland was in a state of rebellion in April 1861 by writing a Brief Constructed Response.



  1. Warm Up: Students will view Print #138, entitled “The Baltimore Riot” and answer the following questions in their Journal: What is happening in this picture? Can you tell how this event started from this picture?
  2. Students will examine primary sources in groups. Each group will examine a source.
  3. They will complete a capture sheet, identifying sourcing information and summarizing the purpose of the document.
  4. Then each group will share out their findings.
  5. After a discussion of the findings, students will be asked to write a brief constructed response.


Complete Brief Constructed Response, if not completed in class.


Students will write a brief constructed response to answer the question: Was Maryland in a state of rebellion in 1861 to justify the writ of habeas corpus being suspended or did the Union soldiers overreact to a few protestors?


Students will use Natural Reader to read primary sources and Write-on-line for sentence starters for students who have difficulty writing. Natural Reader is a computer program that will read a passage to students orally. This is helpful for students who are reading below grade level. Write-on-line is a computer program that will allow students to type their response and it has a word predict feature so that students with processing difficulties get assistance with beginning the task of writing.


“A Female Rebel in Baltimore, An Everyday Scene.” Image. New York: Harper & Brothers, September 7, 1861. Maryland Historical Society, Special Collections Department. Magazine Cover, http://www.mdhs.org/digitalimage/female-rebel-baltimore-everyday-scene-cover-harpers-weekly-volume-v-number-245 (November 19, 2011).

“Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.” Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field(DOCID+@lit(d1044600)) (November 19, 2011).

“Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.” Library of Congress. http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?ammem/mal:@field(DOCID+@lit(d0940900))
(November 19, 2011).

“American Civil War Society. U.K.” http://www.acws.co.uk/songs/marylandus.htm
(November 19, 2011).

Cator Print 138: Sixth Regiment Massachusetts Troops, Cator Collection of Baltimore Views, Enoch Pratt Free Library, http://epfl.mdch.org.

Constitution. “Article I, Section 9, Clause 2.” House of Representatives. http://www.house.gov/house/Constitution/Constitution.html (November 19, 2011).

“Maryland at a Glance.” Maryland State Archives. http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/html/symbols/lyricsco.html (November 19, 2011).

“National Jukebox.” Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/jukebox/recordings/detail/id/5091/ (November 19, 2011).

“The Century Atlas of the World.” Benjamin E. Smith. http://www.culturalresources.com/MP_Century32.html (February 21, 2012).

“The Lexington of 1861.” Image. Currier & Ives, ca 1861. Maryland Historical Society, Hambleton Print Collection, Special Collections Department. Lithograph, http://www.mdhs.org/digitalimage/lexington-1861 (November 19, 2011).

“Untitled 1862 Photo.” Image. Maryland Historical Society. http://www.mdhs.org/maryland%E2%80%99s-largest-civil-war-exhibit-opens-april-16th (November 19, 2011).

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