Accessibility links

Breaking News

Virginia Leaves Union, Lincoln Puts Maryland Under Military Rule

Robert E. Lee seen here in April 1865. (Photo by Matthew Brady)
Robert E. Lee seen here in April 1865. (Photo by Matthew Brady)
Virginia Leaves Union; Lincoln Puts Maryland Under Military Rule
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:05:36 0:00
Direct link

From VOA Learning English, this is The Making of a Nation. I’m Kelly Jean Kelly.

And I’m Christopher Cruise.

In April 1861, years of disputes between North and South finally burst into civil war. Seven southern states had already left the Union. They set up a government they called the Confederate States of America.

Other southern states soon joined the Confederacy.

Virginia leaves the Union

Virginia was the first state to secede, or separate, from the Union after the Civil War started. Virginia was an important state because of its location: just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.

Virginia's decision to secede cost the Union a military commander of great ability. Robert E. Lee said he opposed secession and loved the Union. But Lee was a Virginian. He said he could not make war on his home state and resigned from the United States Army.

Lee did not really want to fight at all. But he agreed to command the Confederate forces of Virginia.

Maryland blocks Union soldiers

President Lincoln became increasingly worried about Virginia’s forces. He thought they might try to capture Washington, DC in the early days of the war. So he ordered thousands of Union soldiers to the capital.

To get to Washington, Union forces from the North had to pass through the state of Maryland. Many people there supported the Confederacy.

The first train of Union troops passed without incident. But a mob blocked the rail line and threw stones at the second train. Shots were fired. Four soldiers and twelve civilians were killed.

Maryland officials met to discuss the trouble. They believed there would be even more violence in the future. So they ordered railroad bridges outside the city of Baltimore destroyed. No more trains from the North could reach Washington. Soldiers would have to arrive in Maryland by boat and travel around Baltimore to reach the capital.

Still, with all these difficulties, 10,000 Union soldiers made it to Washington in the first few weeks of the Civil War. The city and government were safe.

Lincoln orders military rule

Lincoln with his generals in Maryland
Lincoln with his generals in Maryland

President Lincoln knew Confederate supporters in Maryland would continue to threaten Union troops and supplies. So he took an extremely unusual step for a U.S. president. He put much of Maryland under military rule. He gave military officers the power to arrest civilians believed to be hostile to the Union. And he gave the military the power to hold these suspects without trial.

This order suspended two of the basic rights under the Constitution. One was the right to go free until officially charged. And the other was the right to a speedy trial.

The chief justice of the United States wrote a letter to President Lincoln. He said the Constitution did not give the president the power to suspend the rights of citizens.

Lincoln disagreed. He felt the situation facing the Union permitted him to take such strong measures. If he did not act, he believed, Maryland would secede.

Maryland did not withdraw. But North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas did. There were now 11 states in the Confederacy.

I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.

And I'm Christopher Cruise.

This is The Making of a Nation from VOA Learning English.

Frank Beardsley and Kelly Jean Kelly wrote this report from Washington. Christopher Cruise and George Grow edited it.


Words in This Story

location - n. place or position

incident - n. an event or disagreement that is likely to cause serious problems

speedy - adv. happening quickly

suspend - v. to stop something for usually a short period of time