Camp Cadwalader: Locust Point During the Civil War

“I did not come here to intimidate Baltimore. I will not plant batteries of cannon pointed at happy homes and peaceful firesides.”
– Major General George Cadwalader, May 1861

During the turbulent weeks following Baltimore’s civilian clash with federal troops along Pratt Street on April 19, 1861, that resulted in the first casualties of the Civil War, Locust Point became host to “Camp Cadwalader,” the first Union encampment in Maryland and the nation. Underlying this mile-long peninsula where today a historic community of 19th century row-houses, churches, industries, and family corner stores lies, is a Civil War story.

Troop Movements

In April 1861, the War Department extended the Washington Military District to include Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania to protect the important telegraph-rail lines between Philadelphia and Washington. On May 15th, Major General George Cadwalader, a Mexican War veteran, assumed command of the Department of Annapolis, with headquarters at Baltimore, and lost no time leaving Philadelphia bound for Locust Point.

On May 16th, General Cadwalader’s three Pennsylvania regiments totaling 2500 troops became the First Division of Pennsylvania U.S. Volunteers. By mid-afternoon, the regiment, with drums beating and color-standards flying, moved out from the Hull Street docks and established camp extending along the Fort Road between Hull Street and Fort McHenry. A newspaper correspondent, asked General Cadwalader’s intentions. His response was:

“Sir, I did not come here to intimidate Baltimore. I will not plant batteries of cannon pointed at happy homes and peaceful firesides. I am here, and my soldiers are here; not as enemies, but as friends and brothers. As such you have received us; as such we feel ourselves to be; and as for my self, I feel as much home in your streets as I do those in Philadelphia. “

The officers took up residence in a brick mansion, “The Vineyard” at Fort and Andre Street, with Cadwalader’s headquarters set up at Fort McHenry. The camp attracted thousands of visitors who came via horse-drawn omnibuses, while others paid a three-cent fare for passage on the Locust Point Steam Ferry from Fells Point. Beer and oyster dealers set up their wagons while citizens supplied cakes, pies, and confections to the regimental visitors. The New York Tribune reported: “This encampment may be very appropriately called Camp Cadwalader … There are sixty rows of tents in the encampment, numbering some 500 in all.” The camp streets, were named for each company captain: Gosline Street, Fritz Street, Miller Street, and so on, with names for their respective tents: The Ranch, Excelsior, Continental Hotel, American Hotel, La Pierre House.

The [Baltimore] Sun of June 3, 1861 noted:

“There is always a cool breeze, which sweeps across the point, keeping the air dry and pure, although the ground is low; then the advantage for bathing is great, and are constantly made use of. Passing through the shady grove attached to Vineyard Hotel, there is a fine road leading to the beach….affording a splendid bathing ground.”

On the Fort Road was St. Lawrence O’Toole’s Catholic Chapel (site of Our Lady of Good Counsel), a one-story brick chapel built in 1859, converted into the regimental guardhouse. Earlier on April 20, the chapel was the subject of communication between Captain John C. Robinson, the Fort’s commander, and City Police Commissioner, John W. Davis who offered the protection of the Maryland Guard, a company of suspected southern sympathizers, to assist in protecting the fort. Captain Robinson replied that if any of them came this side of the chapel (a half mile from the Fort), he would order the fort to open fire. An officer, lacking diplomacy in a time of crisis, threatened to fire upon the Mount Vernon district, a hotbed of southern sympathizers. Davis replied: “If you do that, and a woman or child is killed, there will be nothing left of you but your brass buttons to tell who you were.” Such were the circumstances that prevailed following the Pratt Street Riot of April 19, 1861. In May, Captain Robinson was relieved by Brigadier General William W. Morris, Company I, Second U.S. Artillery, who commanded the Fort for the remainder of the war.

Changing Disposition

In late May, the Pennsylvania troops broke camp and moved to Federal Hill and Patterson Park, one of many public parks and estates that became camps as federal occupation steadily increased. For the remainder of the war, Locust Point continued to be a major Union supply operations depot where military goods of ordnance, commissary goods, cattle, etc., were conveyed aboard ships for the various theatres of war. After the war, the numerous ponds and marshes were filled by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad to permit extension of their rail lines to meet expanding industry and for the construction of houses for it’s immigrant employees.

– By Scott Sheads, Historian Fort McHenry National Monument

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