The Civil War in Baltimore

Visit these top sites of historical significance in and around Baltimore to see how the story of the Civil War unfolded in the city, and to feel its lingering aftermath.

Baltimore Civil War Museum at President Street Station

Built in 1850, President Street Station was the southern terminus of the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad. Prior to the war, fugitive slaves occasionally escaped on northbound trains.

Follow Lincoln's Footsteps Through Baltimore

While making his way from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, Lincoln was informed of a plot to assassinate him in Baltimore. He was scheduled to arrive at the Calvert Street Station, where, in the station's narrow vestibule, a Baltimore barber named Cypriano Ferrandini and his associates intended to murder him. On the advice of Allan Pinkerton, a detective working for the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, Lincoln left his family and secretly took a special train into Baltimore, arriving at President Street at 3:30 a.m. on the morning of February 23, 1861. Wearing a soft felt hat and with a long overcoat draped over his shoulders to deceive would-be assassins, he made his way across town without incident.

Pratt Street

On April 19, 1861, the 700 men of the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry arrived at the PW&B's President Street Station, together with 1,200 unarmed Pennsylvanians. Because a city ordinance passed years before prohibited locomotives passing through the city, the cars carrying the troops had to be drawn by teams of horses westward on rails laid along Pratt Street to Camden Station, a distance of about a mile. A crowd gathered to protest their presence and grew as the first cars started out. The first six companies arrived at Camden Station without serious incident, but then the mob blocked the tracks with an anchor and a cartload of sand, forcing the remaining companies to return to President Street and begin again on foot. 

As the column crossed the Jones Falls bridge and began the long march down narrow, crowded Pratt Street (following the Baltimore Fire of 1904, it was widened into the boulevard of today), a few shots were fired, probably by the mob discharging pistols into the air. Some of the crowd lunged at the ranks in an attempt to seize flags and weapons. From the street and from the upper stories of shops and sailors' boarding houses, men (and probably women) hurled brickbats and other heavy objects that struck the troops in their tight formation. A number of soldiers fell, four of them mortally wounded, before they opened fire, killing a dozen rioters and wounding many more before the mayor and police marshal arrived to restore order. 

The Pratt Street Riot, or, as it was known in the North, "The Lexington of 1861" (ironically, the Sixth hailed from Lexington and Concord), defined Baltimore's fate for the rest of the war. Civic authorities ordered bridges north of the city to be burned to prevent more troops from entering and causing further bloodshed, but Massachusetts General Benjamin F. Butler, at the head of another regiment, sailed down the Chesapeake, seized Annapolis and the Naval Academy, and moved west to the vital B&O station at Relay Junction.

A week later, on May 13, General Butler marched into Baltimore under cover of a thunderstorm and occupied the heights of Federal Hill, overlooking the harbor and the heart of the city. The Federal garrison at Fort McHenry received reinforcements. Baltimore was suddenly under military control and would remain so for the next four years.

Camden Station

Now the site of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Camden Station was the Baltimore terminus of the B&O Railroad. It was from here that the battered 6th Massachusetts entrained for Washington. A large slave jail was located just north of the yards, where the military provost marshal detained suspects. Lincoln arrived here on his way to deliver the Gettysburg Address, and in 1865 his funeral train brought his body here on the long procession back to Springfield, Ill.

Federal Hill

A short walk from Baltimore's Inner Harbor, Federal Hill, originally called Signal Hill for its role in signaling merchants of incoming ship traffic, was renamed in 1789 when it served as the end point of a parade celebrating ratification of the new federal Constitution. In 1861 General Benjamin F. Butler's Massachusetts troops built a fort on its heights that was soon garrisoned by artillery units whose heavy guns could easily reach any part of the city (similar guns are visible today at Fort McHenry). The entire hill was covered with walls, gun emplacements, and barracks. Regiments posted there included the 5th New York Artillery, and the 8th New York Heavy Artillery.

Fort McHenry

In the days after the skirmish on Pratt Street, a junior officer threatened to train his guns on the Washington Monument. A city representative angrily replied that if he did, "there will be nothing left of you but your brass buttons to tell who you were." Reinforcements soon arrived, and Fort McHenry was basically a prison for much of the war. Prisoners included Mayor George William Brown, Marshal George P. Kane of the Baltimore police, and prominent attorney Severn Teackle Wallis. Held there, too, was John Merryman, whose case came before Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and resulted in the landmark opinion, ex parte Merryman, in which Taney rebuked Lincoln for permitting the military to arrest citizens when the civil courts were in operation.

Normally, the fort held 250-300 prisoners, though after the battle of Gettysburg nearly 7,000 Confederates were kept here briefly before being distributed among other prisoner-of-war camps.

Fells Point

Located east of the Inner Harbor, Fells Point in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was a shipbuilding center, home to Baltimore clippers and privateers in the War of 1812, and the place where a young slave named Frederick Bailey worked as a ship caulker before escaping slavery on the Eastern Shore, changing his name to Frederick Douglass, and becoming a renowned abolitionist. A plaque at Aliceanna and Durham streets marks where Douglass lived, and the references to Baltimore in his autobiographies pertain to this section of the city.

USS Constellation

Controversy remains over the date of this ship's construction, but in the 1850s it patrolled the West African Coast to interdict the slave trade and sailed the Mediterranean during the Civil War.

Patterson Park

The site of one of the largest of 42 military installations that eventually arose around Baltimore, Patterson Park was then on the outskirts of the city, and selected to be an army camp for its height above sea level. Its hospital barracks could accommodate 1,200 beds.

Mount Vernon Place

Lined with magnificent 19th-century townhouses, the park contains statues of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney and Severn Teackle Wallis. Its 1829 Washington Monument was designed by Robert Mills, who designed the Washington Monument in the nation's capital. The neighborhood was strongly pro-Southern and the site of numerous political rallies.

Maryland Historical Society

The Maryland Historical Society has a large Civil War collection. Since many of its 19th-century members had fought for the Confederacy or sympathized with the South, its library contains numerous early publications pertaining to the war.

B&O Railroad Museum

Site of the original Mt. Clare yards, the B&O Railroad Museum houses a magnificent selection of historic locomotives and railroad cars. The grounds of nearby Mt. Clare Mansion, the 18th-century home of Charles Carroll, Barrister, were used for Camp Carroll, an army encampment, during the war.


Loudon Park Cemetery, near Catonsville, holds the graves of many Civil War veterans. A number of noted Maryland Confederates are interred on Confederate Hill, presided over by a statue of Stonewall Jackson. Greenmount Cemetery (1501 Greenmount Avenue) contains the graves of many prominent Marylanders, including railroad builder and ardent secessionist Ross Winans, and Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth.


Confederate Monument (Old Mount Royal Avenue and Mosher Street): Commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and entitled "Gloria Victis," this statue of a winged figure holding aloft a laurel wreath while supporting a wounded Confederate soldier symbolizes glory bestowed upon the vanquished. A huge crowd attended its dedication in 1903.
  • Union Soldiers and Sailors Monument (29th and Charles Street, at the southern end of Wyman Park): Dedicated in 1909, it depicts two angels, "War" and "Victory," pushing a farmer from his plow as he dons a uniform and sword belt. Originally at the entrance to Druid Hill Park, the monument was moved to its current site to accommodate an expressway ramp.
  • Monument to Confederate Women (Charles Street and University Parkway, near the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Campus.): Sponsored by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and dedicated in 1918, it depicts one woman looking off into the distance while a mother holds her dying son. The inscription reads, "In difficulty and in danger, regardless of self, they fed the hungry, clothed the needy, nursed the wounded, and comforted the dying."
  • Lee and Jackson Monument (Art Museum Drive, north end of Wyman Park dell.): This equestrian statue depicting Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson's historic meeting before the stunning Confederate victory at Chancellorsville has been the site of reenactment ceremonies each January to commemorate the generals' birthdays. It was celebrated as the world's first double equestrian statue cast all in one piece.

Civil War Sites Near Baltimore

Gettysburg (90 minutes)

  • Antietam Battlefield (75 minutes)

  • Tudor Hall-home of John Wilkes Booth (50 minutes)
Hampton Mansion-nineteenth-century plantation (20 minutes)

The Civil War in Baltimore Places to Visit