Maryland Legislators to the Secretary of War, Enclosing Affidavit of a Maryland Slaveholder

[Annapolis, Md.]  March 10, 1862–

Sir   The Legislature of Maryland in the early part of its Session appointed a committee to proceed to Washington & confer with Major Genl McClellan in reference to the escapes of fugitive slaves within the lines of the Army.  They presented for his consideration certain resolutions & in response, the Committee have been informed, they were transferred to the Secretary of War for his adjudication–  And not receiving any communication from that Department they felt prompted by the magnitude of the subject to depute Dr Bayne, one of the members of the committee to solicit an interview with yourself.  He has reported on his return, that the object of the resolutions meet with your concurrence–And we have entertained the belief that Military Orders would be enforced, which would not only prevent the further admission of negroes within the lines of the Army but would have resulted in the expulsion of those already there–  The Committee regret that the Proclamation which has been issued in the Military Department near the seat of Government has still continued to be inoperative–1  But they yet hope & believe that some plan will be adopted which will accomplish the object & vindicate the rights of the loyal ctizens of Maryland–

You advised the member of our Committee who had the honor of an interview with you, to consult with the other members on his return & ascertain, if some other suggestions could not be made additional to those contemplated in the resolutions–  In Military matters they defer to your superior judgement, & still believe the plan indicated would be the most successful & practicable one–  In addition they will take the liberty to suggest the organization of a Military Police consisting of a few men, whose specific duty it should be to explore the Camps of every regiment & expel therefrom every negro unless he could furnish indubitable evidence of his freedom–

Genl Halleck has enforced orders prohibiting the admission of fugitives within the lines of his Department–  Genl Foster has done the same most effectually at Annapolis–  Genl Dix has pursued the same course, & General Burnside has issued a similar proclamation in North Carolina & we believe will have it executed faithfully–  He has declared in the most emphatic terms, that it is not the policy of the Government in any way or manner to interfere with the laws of the State constitutionally established, or their property or institutions in any respect–  And as we believe Maryland by her loyalty & geographical position has contributed more to the preservation of the Capitol & therby preventing a dismemberment of the Union than other State–We therefore think we have a strong claim upon the Government for its protection of every right guarrantied to us under the Constitution–

The Committee take the liberty to transmit a few affadavits to prove that loyal citizens of Maryland have not only been treated with great indignities, but have been violently contravened in the legitimate pursuit of their property–  Hundreds of similar cases could be obtained if necessary–  We have the honor to be most respectfully yr obt. servts

Jno. H. Bayne E. hammend
John S Sellman Robert P. Dunlop
Washington Waters G W Duvall

 

[Enclosure]

State of Maryland  Chs County  1st Mach 1862

On or about the 14th of november last I proceeded to Camp Fenton near Port Tobacco to get three of my servants viz a man about Twenty four years of age a boy about seventeen years of age and a boy some 13 or 14 years of age who had left their home and taken up their abode with the soldiers at the above named camp   Col. Graham who was in command at the time gave me an order to the officer of the day to search the camp for my servants but at the same time intimated I might meet with some difficulty as a portion of his troops were abolitionist   I learned by some of the soldiers my servants were in Camp and soon as my mission become general known a large crowd collected and followed me crying shoot him, bayonet him, kill him, pitch him out, the nigger Stealer the nigger driver   at first their threats were accompanied with a few stones thrown at me which very soon became an allmost continued shower of stones a number of which struck me, but did me no serious damage.  Seeing the officer who accompanied me took no notice of what was going on and fearing that some of the soldiers would put their threats of shooting me into execution I informed him that I would not proceed any farther,  about this time Lieutenant Edmund Harrison came to my assistance and swore he would shoot the first man who threw a stone at me,  the soldiers hooted at him and continued throwing.  I returned to Col Grahams quarters but was not permitted to see him again.  I left the camp without getting my servants and have not been favored to get them yet

A. J. Smoot

Jno. H. Bayne et al. to Hon. E. M. Stanton, 10 Mar. 1862, enclosing affidavit of A. J. Smoot, 1 Mar. 1862, filed as M-387 1862, Letters Received, Secretary of War, Record Group 107, National Archives. A copy of the assistant secretary of war's reply is in the same file: “The Secretary of War directs me . . . to state that the alleged harboring of the Slaves of loyal citizens of Maryland within the camps of the Army, will receive his attention as soon as he is relieved from more important and pressing duties.” (P. H. Watson to John H. Bayne et al., 17 Mar. 1862.) On December 18, 1861, the Maryland legislature had passed a resolution boasting of the state's loyalty to the Union, asserting that the “present war is waged in no spirit of hostility to the institutions of any of the States,” and requesting that the federal government take “specific action ” to remedy the problem of slaves escaping “into the lines of the Federal army, thereby causing trouble, and occasionally loss to their owners.” A committee of the legislature had presented the resolution to General-in-Chief George B. McClellan, who forwarded it to the Secretary of War noting that these subjects were “political rather than military.” (Maj. Genl. Geo. B. McClellan to Hon. Edwin Stanton, 21 Jan. 1862, enclosing excerpt from Journal of Proceedings of the Maryland Senate, 18 Dec. 1861, filed as A-587 1862, Letters Received, series 12, Adjutant General's Office, Record Group 94, National Archives.)

1. General Joseph K. Mansfield, commander of the Department of Washington, had ordered on July 17, 1861: “Fugitive slaves will under no pretext whatever be permitted to reside or be in any way harbored in the quarters and camps of the troops serving in this department. Neither will such slaves be allowed to accompany troops on the march.” (The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. [Washington, 1880–1901], series 2, vol. 1, p. 760.)

Published in The Destruction of Slavery, pp. 360–63, and in Free at Last, pp. 31–34.