Happy Maryland Day! Today is the day we celebrate Maryland, which was founded on March 25, exactly 388 years ago. In honor of the special role it’s played in our nation’s history, we wanted to throw some light on the astounding history of this great state.
It’s Named After an English Queen
Henrietta Maria was Queen of England from 1625 until her husband Charles I was executed for high treason in 1649. Baron Baltimore, who secured Maryland’s original charter, wanted to name the colony “Crescentia” (the land of growth or increase) but was thankfully overruled.
Ironically, the Queen disliked the name “Mary” and signed her letters “Henrietta R.” The “R” stood for “Regina,” Latin for “Queen.”
It Fought Its Own Civil War
In 1644, a group of Puritans seized control of the colony. The English Civil War was raging overseas and the religious tensions that fueled it spilled over into America. Puritans attacked anyone who wouldn’t swear loyalty to the Protestant English Parliament.
When Maryland’s Catholics resisted, their churches were burned and several Jesuit priests were arrested. Known as “The Plundering Time,” the conflict lasted until 1646, when the governor led an army north from Virginia and took back control of the state.
It Also Went to War With Pennsylvania
In 1730, a surveying error sparked a border war between Maryland and Pennsylvania. Militias conducted raids along the Susquehanna River. Several people were killed and numerous farms destroyed before King George II intervened. The new border, which was surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, became known as the Mason-Dixon Line.
It Held Two Tea Parties
After the Boston Tea Party, angry patriots in Chesterton, Maryland stormed the cargo ship Geddes and dumped its tea into the Chester River. Later the same year, Annapolis patriots burned the H.M.S. Peggy Stewart, in order to protest taxes imposed by the Tea Act of 1773.
It Inspired the Star Spangled Banner
During the war of 1812, the British launched a major attack on Baltimore. The city was defended by Fort McHenry, which withstood a 24-hour bombardment by the British fleet. Francis Scott Key immortalized the heroic defense in his poem “The Defense on Fort McHenry.” The poem was set to music in 1814 and renamed “The Star Spangled Banner.”
It’s Home to the America’s Oldest Railroad
The B&O Railroad opened in 1830, connecting Baltimore to Sandy Hook. Over the next 24 years, it expanded west across the Appalachians until it reached the Ohio River in 1852. It helped spur Maryland’s economic growth, which had stagnated after the construction of the Erie Canal began siphoning trade to New York City.
It Saw the Bloodiest Day in American History
In 1862, following his victory at 2nd Bull Run, Robert E. Lee invaded Maryland with the Army of Northern Virginia. His goal was to cut the rail lines supplying Washington D.C. and plunder Union territory for food.
General McClellan, leader of the Army of the Potomac, pursued him and after a series of skirmishes, cornered Lee at Antietam Creek. Even though McClellan outnumbered Lee, his attacks were uncoordinated and repulsed with heavy casualties.
However, Lee’s army was hard pressed on all points and only survived by rapidly shifting forces to counter each assault. Over 22,000 Americans died or were wounded during the battle ‒ the bloodiest of the Civil War and American history.
It’s Biggest City Almost Burned to the Ground
The Great Baltimore Fire lasted from February 7-8, 1904. Over 1,500 buildings were destroyed. Most of central Baltimore went up in smoke. It took over 1,200 firefighters to put out the inferno. Volunteers rushed in from out of state to help. Surprisingly, no one died and within two years, the city had been almost completely rebuilt.
It’s Black Population Successfully Defended Their Voting Rights
Maryland freed nearly half its Black population before the Civil War. Afterwards, Blacks made up around twenty percent of registered voters. Despite pressure from segregationists, Maryland’s Blacks allied themselves with the state’s immigrant communities and, with their help, defeated disenfranchisement bills in 1905, 1907, and 1911.
It Never Enforced Prohibition
Even though Maryland ratified the 18th Amendment, which banned alcohol, the state never enforced it. Beer, wine, and liquor was widely available throughout the state during Prohibition. Speakeasies and backyard distilleries operated freely. Because of its lax stance, the Baltimore Sun dubbed Maryland the “Free State.”