Tuesday, August 11, 2020

To Spurn the Southern Scum? Union Soldier Motivation to Liberate Maryland in September 1862

Maryland's state flag at the time of the Civil War
Accounts abound of Union officers exhorting their men during the Battle of Gettysburg to fight ferociously as if the safety of their loved ones and their homes depended on it. On July 1, 1863, retreating Union cavalrymen passed through the ranks of the 97th New York Infantry and yelled, "There are no troops behind you! You stand alone, between the Rebel Army and your homes! Fight like hell!" Generals Abner Doubleday and Thomas Rowley reminded the men of the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry "that they were upon their own soil, that the eye of the commonwealth was upon them, and that there was every reason to believe they would do their duty to the uttermost in defence of their State." The common soldier of the Army of the Potomac likely did not need these reminders of what was at stake fighting on Pennsylvania--and thus, Northern--soil, but officers attempted to squeeze every bit of motivation they could out of their men for the fight around Gettysburg.

Though it had its share of war detractors, Pennsylvania solidly remained a supporter of the Federal war effort. Its neighbor to the south, Maryland, however, repeatedly had (and still has) its loyalty to the United States during the Civil War questioned. While Union officers rallied their men to fight defiantly at Gettysburg because of Confederate troops in Pennsylvania, it appears that little of this occurred in September 1862 when Confederate forces marched on Maryland's soil. Perhaps this was because of Maryland's lukewarm allegiance to the United States. At least, such was the initial perception in the Federal ranks.