Loyalty on the line: Civil War Maryland in American memory

David Kenton Graham, Purdue University


During the American Civil War, Maryland did not join the Confederacy but nonetheless possessed divided loyalties and sentiments. Although Maryland's government remained loyal to the Union during war, many regions and cities in the state harbored strong Confederate sympathies. In particular, Baltimore was a stronghold for Confederate sympathizers and became a central setting for contention between those supporting the Union and those in favor of secession and the secessionist cause. More than 46,000 Maryland soldiers fought for the Union while perhaps 25,000 soldiers from the state joined the Confederate Army. As a slaveholding state that did not secede, Maryland, along with Missouri and Kentucky, occupied a unique position in terms of its governmental policies on race and race relations. These divisions came to a head in the years following the war. This dissertation argues that Maryland did not adopt a clear postbellum Civil War identity. Maryland's postwar legacy and memory was divided between those emphasizing the state's Unionist efforts and those underscoring Maryland's connections to the Confederacy and its defeated cause. Depictions of Civil War Maryland both inside and outside the state hinged on interpretations of the state's loyalty. Unlike Kentucky and Missouri, Maryland did not assume a clear, dominant postbellum Civil War identity. Additionally, Unionists and Confederates in Maryland were still waging the war through memory-making well after the war concluded while in Kentucky and Missouri, diehard Unionists were the only ones still waging the war against the tide of a subsuming Confederate identity. This led to a postwar society in Maryland that was more fractured than its fellow Border States. From 1861 to the Civil War centennial during the 1960s and beyond competing memories of Maryland and its loyalty clashed. The contested Civil War memories of Maryland not only mirrored a much larger national struggle and debate, they also reveal a clashing of memories that is more intense and vitriolic than the larger national narrative. The close proximity of conflicted Civil War memories within the state contributed to a perpetual contestation. Marylanders waged their fight for the Border State's postwar identity with unrivaled determination because they feared if they did not, their memory of the war and their state would fade from Maryland and the nation's consciousness. Those outside the state also vigorously argued over the place of Maryland in Civil War memory in order to establish its place in the divisive legacy of the war. By using Maryland as a lens to Civil War memory, we can see how truly divisive the war remained and the centrality of its memory to the United States well into the twentieth-century




Janney, Purdue University.

Subject Area

American history|Military history

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