Change the Maryland State Song

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by Thomas B. Allen and Roger MacBride Allen

The Civil War era song Maryland, My Maryland, written by a secessionist sympathizer, was officially named Maryland’s State Song in 1939. It was while we were in the course of researching our book, Mr. Lincoln’s High-Tech War. that we learned exactly what the words of that song meant, and why, in the 21st century, it shouldn’t be Maryland’s State Song.

On April 19, 1861, Federal troops in passenger trains were passing through Baltimore in order to take up defensive positions around Washington. Units of the Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Militia (also known as the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment) were cut off from the rest of the regiment and forced to march through the city, because pro-secessionist Baltimoreans had torn up the tracks to keep their soldiers’ rail cars from getting through town. As they marched, the soldiers were jeered by the crowd. Stones and bricks were thrown at them, and then they were fired upon. An apparent attempt to ambush the troops while they were crossing a bridge failed, but soon after, the rate of fire directed agains the regiment increased. Acting under orders, the soldiers returned fire and forced their way forward until they were able to rejoin the rest of the regiment. Four soldiers were killed, and thirty-two were wounded by gunshot. Accounts of the number of civilians killed vary from twenty to 100. There is no question but that the Union soldiers were attacked by the mob, and that mob fired first.

Among hearing the news that Federal troops had been attacked by a mob and had defended themselves, James Ryder Randall wrote a poem, later set to the same tune as “O Tannenbaum” (a tune also known as “Lauriger Horatius”). Randall took the side of the mob. The lyrics are an open call for Maryland to secede from the Union, and take up arms against the United States. The lyrics refer to Abraham Lincoln as a “despot,” a “tyrant” and a “vandal,” and call the Massachusetts Sixth Volunteer Militia, serving under lawful orders in the defense of the their country, viagra online canada mastercard, “Northern Scum.” The blood spilled by the rioters who attacked the soldiers is called “patriotic gore.”

Need to see for yourself? This link will open in a separate page and displays contemporary sheet music as a PDF. The images have been converted to black and white to improve legibility and reduce the size of the PDF. (Source: Duke University Digital Collecition.)

This link will open in a separate page, and presents the offiicial Maryland-approved lyrics -- complete with typographical error.

Even more astonishing is that a public school in majority-black Prince Georges County in Maryland is named for the author of the song, James Ryder Randall. As by all accounts, he never did much of anything else in his life besides the writing of this one bombastic poem, it must be presumed that James Ryder Randall Elementary School was so named in honor of Randall writing this song that explicitly insults Abraham Lincoln. As many of the children at the school are likely the descendents of slaves freed by Lincoln, these seems strangely inappropriate.It might be time to change that school's name -- perhaps in honor of our first president from Illinois -- or the newest one -- or maybe even both.

It strikes us as frankly incredible that, in the 200th anniversary year of Lincoln’s birth, and in the year when our first African-American president takes office, that a pro-secession, anti-Union, anti-Lincoln song is still Maryland’s official State Song. We call upon all Marylanders -- and all Massachusettsians -- to write to Maryland’s governor, Martin O’Malley, and to members of the state legislature, to withdraw official state recognition of Maryland, My Maryland.

If you can’t quite believe this is still the official song, or that there must be some mistake, or that maybe we have the lyrics wrong, visit and for more information.

For an 1886 account in the New York Times on the 25th anniversary of the event, visit this link.

See and the bottom of this page for accounts of how Clara Barton’s nursing career, leading to the founding of the American Red Cross, began with her caring for Union soldiers injured in the Baltimore riots.

Contact Maryland’s Elected Officials

Martin J. O’Malley, Governor
State House, 100 State Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401 - 1925
(410) 974-3901; 1-800-811-8336 (toll free, Maryland)
fax: (410) 974-3275; tdd: (410) 333-3098
To write an email message to Governor Martin O’Malley, write to: or go to this website: and write your email message there.

You can find the name and contact information of Maryland State Senators and members of the House of Delegates by starting from:

Visit for further contact information.

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