A Tale of Two Keys

Everybody knows that “The Star-Spangled Banner” was written by Francis Scott Key as he watched the British attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor during the War of 1812.  But in 1861 Francis Key Howard wrote about his grandfather, “The flag which he then so proudly hailed, I saw waving at the same place over the victims of as vulgar and brutal despotism as modern times have witnessed.”

In 1861 Howard, also the grandson of Maryland’s foremost soldier of the War of Independence, John Eager Howard, was a prisoner in Fort McHenry, along with the mayor and sheriff of Baltimore, a congressman, and other public officials.  The despotism he refers to is that of Abraham Lincoln.  The arrest of these men, and the U.S. Army’s breakup of the Maryland legislature, were a result of Lincoln’s determination never to allow the people of Maryland to vote on secession.  In 1860 he had received only 2,296 votes in Maryland among 92,649 cast, and the state had been carried by the Southern candidate, John C. Breckinridge.  Maryland was also the heart of American Catholicism and was not popular with Lincoln’s New England WASP core of supporters.

Maryland was founded as a tobacco plantation colony like Virginia, and its way of life did not differ greatly from Virginia’s.  Marylanders in the Confederate army were free volunteers, while those in the Northern...

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