Talbot Boys

The Talbot Boys statue continues to dominate the debate and discourse in Talbot County.

Taking the opportunity to review the “documents” and “research” on the Preserve Talbot History web site, it wasn’t very surprising to see that the misinformation and misinterpretation of those items is the historical equivalent of junk bonds.

The “documents” that allegedly support the argument that Lincoln’s abuses of the Constitution caused the Talbot Boys to support the Confederacy belie the Confederate position. For example, the Maryland State Legislature was not forced to remain in the Union. It chose not to secede, believing it did not have the authority to call for secession. It becomes clear from reading the documents that a minority of wealthy, influential legislators, who happened to be secessionists, continued to work to undermine the large majority of Marylanders’ efforts to support the Union. In Talbot County, despite the heavy-handed removal of Judge Carmichael, only a trickle of men joined the Confederacy. Yet the “Preserve Talbot History” web site claims a 450% increase in Confederate enlistments after Carmichael’s removal. When 450% equates to about 35-40 men, 450% is just another deception.

Of course, when compared to the 500-plus white Talbot men who joined the Union Army and the 450 African-Americans who joined the U.S. Colored Troops from Talbot County, it demonstrates the reality that the Talbot Boys Confederates were in a very small minority and that the claim of Lincoln’s suppression of the Constitutional rights of Marylanders was largely attributable to those secessionists who did not have the courage of their convictions to join the Confederate Army.

There was much money to be made during the war growing and selling crops, fishing, manufacturing, shipbuilding and repair and thus, supporting the Union effort through government contracts. Its also important to demonstrate how Maryland’s wealthy secessionists also profited financially from government contracts and feeding the city of Baltimore while it the city worked so arduously to support and defend the Union. Wealthy secessionists in Talbot County were not made destitute like many of their seceded peers in the Confederate states, who were crushed by inflation and baseless Confederate currency, had their farms desolated by Confederate Tax-in-kind raids by Confederate army units and had their state’s economies and infrastructure ruined by war. During the war, bank deposits of local residents quadrupled from the profits raked in by Unionists and secessionists alike. Yet the secessionists cried all the way to the bank, even as their descendants still whine even today about the heavy hand of the Lincoln administration.

That part of Talbot history doesn’t appear on the Preserve Talbot History web site. It is almost mindless to ignore the massive economic and social contributions made by Maryland’s Unionists to the effort to save the Union. It is ignominiously false to claim the secessionists were oppressed by Lincoln, even as they dishonorably sought to undermine the large majority of Marylanders’ aims.

The numbers belie the claims of “Preserve Talbot History” group. Further, there is no presentation of the evidence that purports to claim specific information on Talbot Boys enlistment dates, and certainly nothing presented on discharge dates. The graph isn’t evidence. It is a claim.

There are no Confederate records extant that can confirm enlistments or discharges. There is even a question whether Tench Francis Tilghman ever actually joined the Confederate military and the Battle of Gettysburg was the only battle in the entire war in which the Talbot Boys actually participated. The question of Franklin Buchanan attempting to rescind his resignation from the US Navy and having his request for reinstatement denied is ignored. Unlike General Tilghman, Franklin Buchanan attempted to rescind his resignation from the US Navy when Maryland didn’t secede from the Union, clearly suggesting he understood the dishonor of that act.

Members of the “Preserve” group have criticized Dickson Preston for not having published General Tilghman’s full order to his militia organization, yet they haven’t published the order on their web site. Perhaps that is because it so blatantly shows his treasonous motive in promoting military action against the United States, as if Talbot County was already Confederate territory. Preston’s “History of Talbot County” describes in detail the effort by secessionists to declare Talbot County for the Confederacy at nearly the same time General Tilghman was ordering his militia members to resist U.S. Army personnel, as if he was a Confederate officer. The issue with the “Preserve Talbot History” campaign is that there is no serious historical narrative that even begins to support the treasonous behavior of the Talbot Boys. Thus, they have thrown together anything resembling support and posted it on a web page to see what might stick while working to undermine the excellent work of Preston who wrote a fair and balanced narrative that addressed the war in Talbot County candidly and clearly with much indisputable information and fact.

For example, the web page articles on the Gettysburg reunions describe the comraderie of the 50th Reunion of that battle. Yet, the reality is that the local Talbot committee (from wealthy secessionist families) that acted on the statue made no effort to create one memorial that honored men on both sides as was done in Kent County.

On the suggestion that moving the statue from the Courthouse grounds is an attempt to “erase” history, let’s remind everyone that there are no statues of Adolf Hitler in Germany and he practically has his own Network on Cable TV 76 years after his death. The claim of defending the Confederate flag solely as a symbol of Confederate soldiers’ bravery cannot be taken seriously. That train left the station nearly a century ago when that flag became the symbol of the Ku Klux Klan. Those who sought to honor their ancestors stood by and failed to protest that campaign. The Confederate flag, the Confederate cause and the KKK are in the same white supremacist bag. If the “Preserve Talbot History” web site can demonstrate information to the contrary, that would be good.

Frankly, the “Preserve Talbot History” web page is shystering at its worst. They cannot and do not attempt to challenge any specifics of Preston’s book, largely because his references and presentation are above reproach. Either Ms. Mielke and/or Paul Callahan accused me of not being aware that “half of Talbot’s black citizens were already free blacks before the war began…” As usual, in lieu of the facts and the truth, these two falsely represented me, because they don’t know any better and must resort to prevarication. On the front page of the October 30-31, 2015 issue of the Star Democrat, the article reported on my forum presentation (with Harriette Lowery) that “In 1860 there were 8,000 whites in Talbot County, 3,700 slaves and 3,000 free blacks, Terrone said of the county’s 1860 Census”. I had also taught the statewide, county by county figures in my Civil War course at Anne Arundel Community College as well as repeating it numerous times in between.

But worse yet for these desperately uninformed people, they either don’t understand or are ignorant of the depravity of how slavery and white supremacy worked. “Free” blacks remained under the onerous daily threats of re-enslavement, arrest, and/or physical brutality at the slightest perceived “offense” by a white person. John Wennersten, in his book “Maryland’s Eastern Shore”, wrote “Free blacks constituted the largest single threat of free people to the highly autocratic and paternalistic politics of the Eastern Shore.” “Many state delegates favored the reenslavement of free blacks.” “If free negroes ‘got out of their place’, they could be and were publicly whipped.

Free blacks who were found guilty of minor crimes were banished from the Eastern Shore upon pain of enslavement.” Poor whites feared abolition because as white supremacists, they felt entitled to a higher place in society just because they were white. Blacks allegedly could not live in society without the daily control of white masters. In Maryland, which contained more free blacks than the original seven Confederate states combined, was this country’s greatest example of the Big Lie that was slavery.

Maryland’s black families of that age, who endured unthinkable cruelties and suffering, deserve the greatest credit for maintaining their faith in the U.S. Constitution, in the promise of America, in Divine Providence and in each other. Their story is nowhere to be found in the “Preserve Talbot History” web page. Their story must be told publicly to the children of Talbot County and their parents.

This “Preserve Talbot History” campaign is a sham. The empty claims of outrage against the Lincoln Administration are purely false trash. Prior to the war, Talbot County held a referendum on February 4, 1861 to determine if Maryland should join the Confederacy.

The vote was 847-666 against secession and joining the Confederacy. Yet 666 voted to join the Confederacy. So, if everyone was so upset because of Lincoln’s outrages against the Constitution, how come only a total of 80 or so actually did anything about it? The “Preserve Talbot History” assertions are overhyped hot air. Five times as many whites fought for the Union. They didn’t join the Confederacy. And neither did any but a handful of Marylanders join Lee’s army when he crossed into Maryland in 1862 with the expectation of recruiting thousands of Marylanders.

The “outrage” against Lincoln mattered primarily to frustrated secessionists and these days, to their descendants. The numbers tell an entirely different story.

Mickey Terrone lives in Oxford.

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