Friday, March 6, 2009

Rails into Annapolis

The Annapolis & Elk Ridge Railroad right of way is still clearly visible through Annapolis. To trace Lincoln's arrival in 1865 you might start by going to the Annapolis Mall parking garage next to the theaters and going to the top level. Go all the way to the west side. This photo (click it for a full size view) shows the view looking west over the top level of the parking garage between Macy's and Lord & Taylor. Notice the cut through the trees and the line of utility poles paralleling it into the distance. That is the old rail bed of the Annapolis & Elk Ridge Railroad. As you can see, the tracks ran right through the mall at this point.

Now turn around and go across to the opposite side of the parking structure. You are now looking east toward Annapolis, and again the large utility poles help trace the old rail bed. This line converges with West Street until they meet at about the intersection of West Street and Route 2. From there to about Gibralter Avenue the old rail bed very closely parallels West Street. After Gibralter Avenue the rail bed and West Street again diverge as the latter angles slightly to the south while the rail route continues straight toward the neighborhood of Homewood.

The rail bed is clearly visible through Homewood. This is a photo of the walking trail that sits on the rail bed, paralleling Poplar Avenue.

This is another look at the rail bed as it passes behind the Annapolis Police Department and crosses Taylor Avenue, disappearing in the distance behind the Loews Annapolis Hotel.

And finally, here is the commemorative plaque placed in February 2009 by the Annapolis Lincoln Bicentennial Commission at the corner of Calvert and West Streets. This is where the original depot of the Annapolis & Elk Ridge Railroad was located, and where Lincoln was met by Captain Blodgett on February 2, 1865.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why Such a Low Profile, Mr. Lincoln?

President Lincoln's passage through Annapolis en route to and from the Hampton Roads Conference in February of 1865 is a little known event. It is sometimes mentioned briefly in books on Lincoln or the Civil War. There are also sketchy details in contemporary newspaper accounts (though there are no surviving newspapers from Annapolis for the dates Lincoln was here).

There are probably a number of reasons so little is known about Lincoln's time in Annapolis. First, as noted, there are no Annapolis newspapers for that period. We do have "The Crutch," which was the weekly sheet published at U.S. General Hospital Division 1 on the grounds of the Naval Academy. This little paper gives a couple of sentences noting Lincoln's appearance at the wharf and that the hospital band serenaded him as he boarded the Thomas Collyer.

Second, Lincoln was not here very long. The contemporary newspaper accounts we do have generally agree that he arrived here at about 1:00PM on Thursday, February 2, and that he had departed on the steamer Thomas Collyer by about 1:45PM. When Lincoln returned on the 4th there was a special train waiting at the Naval Academy wharf to return the presidential party to Washington. So Lincoln's total time in Annapolis was probably less than an hour over two separate days.

Third, Lincoln had only decided to make the trip at 9:00AM that morning after reading Grant's telegram. Within 2 hours he was on the train for Annapolis with almost no one in his own cabinet--let alone the capital--even knowing he was gone. One of Lincoln's secretaries, Edward Duffield Neill, had this recollection: "On the morning of the 2d of February, 1865, between nine and ten o'clock, as I was ascending the stairs to the second story, to reach my room, I met Forbes, an intelligent servant, descending with a small valise in his hand, and I asked, 'Where are you going?' Looking up to see no one was near, he whispered, 'Fortress Monroe,' and hurried on. When I reached the upper hall I met the President with his overcoat, and going to my room, looked out of the window, and saw him quietly walking around the curved pavement which leads to Pennsylvania Avenue, while Forbes was following, at a distance of two or three hundred feet, as his valet. Waiting for some time, I then crossed the hall to the room of the principal secretary, Mr. John G. Nicolay, and quietly said: 'The President has left the city.' 'What do you mean?' he asked; and I replied: 'Just what I have said.' Rising quickly, he opened the door which communicated with the President's room, and was astonished to find the chair of Mr. Lincoln vacant." (Wilson, Ruffus Rockwell, "Intimate Memories of Lincoln," p. 601).

Fourth, Lincoln may have been trying to avoid distracting the Maryland Legislature from its consideration of the 13th Amendment to the U. S. Consitution. Secretary of State William Seward, also on his way to the peace conference in Virginia, had passed through Annapolis on February 1st--the day before Lincoln--and had brought with him and hand-delivered to Maryland Governor Augustus Bradford the amendment abolishing slavery which Congress had finally passed on January 31st. Seward had urged Bradford to convene the legislature and have them ratify the amendment, apparently hoping to have it done before he continued on to Virginia. The House of Delegates did promptly ratify it but the Senate referred the amendment to its committee on Federal Relations. Thus it was still under consideration on February 2nd when Lincoln walked within sight of the State House dome. He certainly would have known that Seward had carried the amendment to Annapolis the day before and, assuming he believed it to be then under discussion, Lincoln would not have wanted to disrupt those proceedings.

Fifth, Lincoln was never one to draw attention to himself anyway, and in passing through Annapolis he was intent on getting to Ft. Monroe as quickly as possible. Still, it must have been hard for him to literally walk through a military hospital and not stop to say something to the soldiers recovering there.

It has been suggested by some that probably Lincoln hurried through Annapolis because it was filled with Southern sentiment and in walking through town he was exposing himself to great danger. This is simply not something I can believe. Annapolis, by 1865, was a major Union hospital, supply depot, and transportation hub. The army was everywhere. This theory is further refuted by Lincoln's own well known disregard for his personal safety (a trait which would finally catch up to him 10 weeks later). When President-elect Lincoln was on his way to Washington in 1861, advisers convinced him to sneak through Baltimore because of threats of assassination. The threats were credible but Lincoln was criticized and mocked quite severely in the press. It probably saved his life but he regretted ever after this stealthy passage through Baltimore. There is no way he would have repeated that, at least for safety reasons, in Annapolis in 1865.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mrs. Hayden's Wharf

It is apparent from reading any previous posts here that I have become obsessed with finding the route through Annapolis of what I've come to call Butler's rail extension. It was the mile or two of railroad track laid down after Gen. Benjamin Butler's arrival here in April 1861, to extend the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad line to the Severn River. Though it provided a vital link between Washington and the North in the tense weeks after the Baltimore riots--some even claiming that it prevented the fall of that capital--its route through Annapolis has been forgotten. This became readily apparent earlier this year when members of the Annapolis Lincoln Bicentennial Commission tried to locate the route on the theory that Lincoln may have walked that way in 1865.

Anyway, Mary Hayden was one of the people mentioned in the 1868 report (see previous blog post) of Allen and Salter to Bvt. Brig. General McFerran. That report concerned claims by Annapolis citizens against the U.S. Government for damages to their property from Butler's rail extension. Most of the claimants in the report were recommended to receive specific amounts of compensation for rent of their land and the replacement of destroyed fences and outhouses.

Mrs. Hayden's situation was a little different, however. Her claim was for "wharfage"--fees collected for freight loaded, unloaded, or stored on a wharf she owned. Mrs. Hayden claimed that the U.S. Government had used her wharf but not paid her these fees for two years, from May of 1861 to May of 1863 when the wharf "passed out of her possession."

The interesting thing here is that while the report to Gen. McFerran doesn't say that Mrs. Hayden's claim is specifically related to the railroad extension, all the other claims in this report do arise from operation of Butler's rail extension, and it is therefore tempting to connect Mrs. Hayden's wharf with the rail extension as well. It would then seem that if we locate Mary Hayden's wharf we will have located the end of the railroad extension.

Locating Mary Hayden's wharf is easily done thanks to the excellent land records at the Maryland State Archives. It fronted on the NW side of Tabernacle Street (now College Avenue) with 203 feet of frontage on Severn River according to an 1863 survey of the lands of George Hayden (deceased). This parcel bears the label "wharf."

So was this the location at which Gen. Butler chose to connect the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad to waterfront? Was the water too shallow here to accommodate large steamers? Maybe, yet Mrs. Hayden claimed the U.S. Government used it for landing military supplies for two years. Mrs. Hayden's wharf can be seen in the Magnus print (a portion of this print decorates the top of this page), but so can the two other wharves on the grounds of the Naval Academy and, on close inspection, railroad tracks running between them.

I'm not sure whether Butler's rail extension ended at Mrs. Hayden's wharf or not but I suspect that it did. The extension was put down in haste and probably took the most direct route to navigable water. It is doubtful that Butler laid the railroad tracks seen connecting the two wharves on the Magnus print of 1864. More likely they became necessary later as the site evolved into a major supply depot and hospital. It was neither of these things in April of 1861.

There is further evidence that this wharf was of interest as a rail connection to the water. When Mrs. Hayden was compelled to sell this lot in 1863 to settle a legal claim the land records reveal that the buyer was Joshua Brown. Mr. Brown was superintendent of the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad and the records show that he immediately assigned his "right title and interest" in the land to the railroad. The A&E Railroad had always been intended to connect with tidewater but had never quite made it beyond the depot at Calvert and West Streets. I believe Brown saw an opportunity when Mrs. Hayden had to sell the wharf. Did he plan to somehow get control of Butler's rail extension on behalf of the A&E once the war was over?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Property Seized for Gen. Butler's Extension of the A&E Railroad

Here is another interesting document from the records of the Quartermaster Corps at the National Archives. It is an 1868 letter to deputy Quartermaster General John C. McFerran from an agent and a clerk of his department regarding claims by Annapolis residents for property taken when General Butler extended the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad line through town to the waterfront in 1861. Using the names of the property owners herein it is possible to recreate at least part of the route of Butler's railroad extension. The letter reads as follows:
January 25, 1868

Bvt. Brig. Genl. J. C. McFerran
Deputy Quartermaster General
Depot Quartermaster
Washington, D.C.


In obedience to your orders of 23d inst, we have the honor to submit the following report upon the claims of Catherine Miller, Mary Jane Cain, David S. Caldwell, E. W. Duvall, Wm. Brice and Mary Hayden for injury sustained in the removal of fences &c at Annapolis, Maryland.

In the latter part of April or May 1861, the United States through their its proper offices extended the track of the Annapolis and Elkridge railroad from the depot of said road in Annapolis to the Naval Academy in that city, and in so doing, occupied the property of the individual claimants, as shown on the plat furnished by them: which track was not removed until some time in May 1865.

After due examination we offer the following awards - to Catherine Miller-for rent of ground $3600 or $900 per year and for fencing, privy, &c $5000      to Mary Jane Cain-for rent of ground $600 or $150 per year and for fence & privy $2200      to William Brice-for rent of ground $600 or $150 per year and for fence & privy $2200      to Edwin W Duval, or the owner of the lot shown on the plat as belonging to him-for rent of ground $300 or 75/100 per year and for fence $1200. We learn tht this lot was sold in 1863 or 1864-- and to David S Caldwell-for rent of ground $19200 or $4800 per year and for fence $15100.

These awards for payment for fences and privies are recommended because the property was enclosed at the time the track was laid, and the owners had to restore their fences & privies when the track was removed.

We understand that the United States held possession of the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad for about thirty days when it was restored to the company, but that the extension to the Naval Academy, passing over the property of the claimants, was used exclusively for the benefit of the United States until its removal, and not for the benefit of the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad Co.

In making these awards, we have not taken into consideration any damages the claimants may have sustained by loss of the control of their property for the period specified - further than to allow a rent for the ground actually occupied, and payment for replacing fences and privies removed by the United States.

We feel unable to report what compensation Mary Hayden is entitled to for wharfage. She informed us that the wharf passed out of her possession in 1863, (her attorney states in May it was sold in May of that year) and that during her ownership it was used by the Govt for landing and shipping public property, and that from May 1861 to the period when the property passed out of her possession, she collected the customary wharfage for property passing over her wharf that belonged to individuals, but has not received compensation for the use made of it by the United States.

We respectfully suggest, that if the officers of the Quartermasters Department stationed at Annapolis, did use this wharf to any extent as claimed by Mrs. Hayden, that $15000 is a reasonable compensation therefor: and if the damages sustained by C Miller, MJ Cain, Wm Brice, EW Duvall and DS Caldwell by reason of the railroad passing so near their improvements, consisting of dwellings, outhouses &c and interfering with their occupancy, be taken into account, the amounts claimed by each respectively are in our opinion no more than an equitable compensation.

Very respectfully
Your obt servts

E. S. Allen
Wm. H. Salter


There are some interesting clues in this report aside from the obvious names of property owners who were affected by the rail extension. It mentions that the track was taken back up in May of 1865. Unfortunately there are no surviving local newspapers for that period other than The Crutch for the first two weeks of May. The Crutch - the weekly paper published at the hospital on the Naval Academy grounds - doesn't mention taking up the railroad tracks.

The report by Allen and Salter also states that the awards they recommend are for rent of the ground actually occupied by the tracks. From this we can infer that the larger awards were granted to property owners with the most track passing directly over their land rather than, say, those who suffered loss of business or other kinds of losses. In other words the awards are directly tied to the actual geography of General Butler's rail extension and can therefore tell us about the relative amounts that crossed each of these owners' property. This helps when considering the angles and approaches by which the rail extension may have traversed a given lot of land.

And then there is the intriguing case of Mary Hayden, who at the start of the Civil War owned the wharf on the Severn River at the end of Tabernacle Street (now College Avenue). More about her and what her wharf reveals about the A&E Railroad in the next blog post.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Benjamin Butler's Recollection

There is in the records of the National Archives the following letter, sent from Benjamin Butler to Montgomery C. Meigs, then still the Quartermaster General of the United States. It is Butler's recollection, some six years on, of the circumstances surrounding his acquisition of land for the extension of the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad line through Annapolis to the Naval Academy wharf in April of 1861. It is an interesting piece of the story. The letter reads:
Washington, July 20, 1867

To the
Quartermaster General

When in command of the Department of Annapolis in April and May 1861 it became necessary to connect the Elkton [sic] and Annapolis Railroad by a temporary track with tide water at Severn river.

You will remember that at this time this was the only Railroad Communication with Washington - the bridges at Gunpowder creek, between Baltimore and Havre de Grace having been burned.

I ordered it to be done. That action was approved by the Secretary of War, and Thomas Scott Esq, then in charge of Military Railroads and afterwards assistant Secretary of War, was sent down to superintend the construction.

For the purpose of the road it was necessary to take the land of private parties.

I see no reason why they should not be compensated for the use of their land upon proof of their loyalty.

I have the honor to be
Very respectfully
Your obedt. Servt.

Benj. F. Butler

Friday, August 29, 2008

Where was Butler's rail extension?

Thinking about the possible routes Lincoln may have taken through Annapolis, guided by Captain Blodgett, it has been suggested that perhaps they followed the route of the railroad extension laid down by General Benjamin Butler in 1861. Butler arrived in Annapolis on the heels of the Baltimore riot and was keen to establish a better connection between Washington and points north. In 1861 the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad terminated in Annapolis at the corner of Calvert and West Streets. Butler seized control of the railroad and laid an extension from the depot at Calvert and West to the waterfront on the Naval Academy grounds.

When I began to look into this it quickly became apparent that no one was really sure what route Butler's rail extension took. One of the first documents to shed light on this was a claim from the city of Annapolis for damages to streets caused by Butler's rail extension. This document is in the National Archives and is transcribed here:
City of Annapolis, claim against U.S. for damage to streets from Gen Butler’s railroad extension, 1861 (NARA, RG92, Consolidated Correspondence File, “Annapolis”)

The United States [Dv?]
1861 [Lo?] Corporation of Annapolis

For Damages to Public Streets by the Military Railroad laid down therein.
For obstructions in Calvert Street $500.00
“ do in North West do “300.00
“ Taking out pump and closing well in North West St “150.00
“ Obstructions in Carroll and Bladen Streets “300.00
“ do in Tabernacle do “500.00
The above estimate is based upon the supposition that the use of these streets by the RailRoad will be temporary and includes amount necessary to put them in the condition they were before their occupation if it is to be permanent the Corporation reserves to itself the right to claim damages therefor.

Annapolis June 11th 1861
The undersigned appointed by the Corporation of Annapolis to estimate the damages to the streets by the RailRoad laid therein by the United States Government certify that they consider the above a fair and just estimate of said damages.

John R. Magruder
James Munroe
Joshua Brown
Solomon Phillips

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"Induced by a dispatch from General Grant, I join you at Fort Monroe as soon as I can come. "

Abraham Lincoln was in Annapolis, Maryland in early February, 1865 as he traveled to and from Ft. Monroe, Virginia. There he met informally with three members of the Confederate government on February 3 to discuss a negotiated end to the Civil War. This conference is generally known as the Hampton Roads Conference.

Lincoln had sent Secretary of State William Seward to meet with the Confederates and had no intention of going himself until he read a telegram from General Grant to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton at 9:00 AM on the 2nd. Grant, who was at City Point and apparently did not know when he sent the telegram that Seward was en route to Ft. Monroe, expressed regret that no one in authority in the U.S. government was on hand to meet with the Confederate peace commissioners. Lincoln apparently decided on the spot to go to Ft. Monroe and sent Seward the following message to alert him: "Induced by a dispatch from General Grant, I join you at Fort[ress] Monroe as soon as I can come."

By 11:00 AM Lincoln was on a train headed to Annapolis where he could catch a steamer, the Chesapeake Bay being navigable while the Potomac River was blocked by ice. According to contemporary newspaper accounts he was accompanied only by his personal valet, Charles Forbes and possibly a presidential guard named Alexander Smith.

Lincoln arrived in Annapolis at about 1:15 PM at the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad depot at the corner of Calvert and West Streets. He was met at the depot by the quartermaster of the Department of Annapolis, Captain Gardner S. Blodgett. According to the New York Herald Captain Blodgett, Lincoln, Forbes, and Smith then walked from the train station to the wharf at the Naval Academy where the fast steamer Thomas Collyer was ready and waiting. According to the newspaper "The Crutch," published at the hospital then occupying the Naval Academy, the hospital band played patriotic airs as Lincoln stepped from the wharf to the boat. By about 1:40 PM the Thomas Collyer was under way, reaching Hampton Roads by about 10:00 PM. Lincoln was pleased to have made the trip in just 11 hours since leaving the White House.

The peace conference was held aboard General Grant's boat, the River Queen on February 3. It was, of course, unsuccessful. Lincoln, Seward, and their attendants departed Hampton Roads aboard the River Queen late on the afternoon of the 3rd, headed back up the Chesapeake to Annapolis. Members of Grant's staff left later on the Thomas Collyer and overtook the River Queen. Both boats arrived at Annapolis at around 7:00 AM on the 4th. This time a private train from the Annapolis & Elkridge Railroad was waiting at the wharf, and the president and party were back in Washington by 9:00 AM.

Lincoln's passage through Annapolis raises some interesting questions and characters about the town during the Civil War. For example:
  • By what route did Capt. Blodgett guide Lincoln to the wharf, and did anyone see them?
  • Why did Lincoln walk through town rather than simply continuing by train to the Naval Academy wharf on the track extension laid down in 1861 by General Butler?
  • What was the route of Butler's extension?
  • And for that matter, where was the A&E depot in 1865?
  • What can we learn about Captain Blodgett?
  • And then there is the 13th Amendment. Seward had stopped in Annapolis on February 1st and given Governor Bradford notice of the passage in Congress of the amendment to abolish slavery. Bradford immediately convened the Maryland legislature and urged them to ratify it, which they were deliberating the next day when Lincoln walked within sight of the State House. What did Lincoln think about this?
  • What about the hospitals then on the grounds of St. John's College and the Naval Academy. How did Lincoln manage to walk past wounded soldiers without stopping to speak to them?
  • Are there any collections of personal papers or letters from people who saw Lincoln in Annapolis?
  • What can we learn about the steamer Thomas Collyer?
I hope to find answers to these questions and also to many of the additional ones that will be raised researching these. This blog will be a place to talk about it.