Category Archives: Maryland Homefront

1862: Archer Hays Jarrett to John E. Wool

This letter was written by Archer Hays Jarrett (1825-1869) of Bel Air Harford county, Maryland. He was married to Martha Frances Shepherd (1833-1915) of Norfolk, Virginia. In the 1860 US Census, Archer was enumerated as the head of a household that he shared with his 73 year-old mother in Bel Air with two black servants. He was married to Martha on 11 February 1861 in Norfolk.

An article appearing in the Baltimore Sun (July 8, 2006) describing “Harford History” claims that in mid July 1861, “300 Union troops from the 12th Pennsylvania marched from White Hall to Bel Air to arrest certain secessionist sympathizers and seize the weapons of local militia units. The soldiers announced that they were in Bel Air at the request of Unionists who feared violence from secessionists. Capt. Archer H. Jarrett, leader of the Harford Light Dragoons, was arrested [on a charge of treason]. Having failed to elicit from Jarrett the location of the militia weapons, the troops searched several public buildings and then private homes, to no avail. In the evening, the troops departed empty-handed of the weapons. But they took Jarrett, who was detained until Sept. 22 because of his refusal to take an oath of loyalty to the federal government.”

It should be noted that this region of Maryland was filled with southern sympathizers. Junius Booth, older brother of John Wilkes Booth, built his home just north of Bel Air in 1847. In the days leading up to the outbreak of hostilities in 1861, local militias were formed primarily for the purpose of patrolling the region to prevent the runaway of slaves which was anticipated. In the election of Jarrett to the Captain’s position of the Harford Light Dragoons, Bel Air felt they had secured “a fearless and independent gentleman and Southerner.” Those joining the dragoons pledged themselves “ready to take the field in the defense of Southern rights and the honor of old Maryland.”

According to the Baltimore Sun (July 9, 1869), Jarrett died a tragic death. It was claimed to have been the result of an accident, but sounds questionable to me. “Intelligence reached this city yesterday, by telegraph from Cumberland, that Mr. Archer Jarrett, of Harford county, accidentally fell from an upper window of the City Hotel, in Cumberland, Maryland, on Wednesday night, and was instantly killed. The deceased was a lawyer by profession, and was at one time State’s attorney for Harford county. He was a relative of A. Lingan Jarrett, Esq., and also of Lefevre Jarrett, Esq., president of the police board. The remains are expected to reach this city today on their way to Bel Air, where the interment will take place.”

This letter is a request by Jarrett to Maj. Gen. Wool for permission to allow his wife to pass over from Fortress Monroe to Norfolk, Virginia, where his wife’s widowed mother and presumably other relatives were living. Norfolk was evacuated by the Rebels on 10 May 1862—just two weeks before this request. Prior to that date, it had been in possession of the Rebels who seized Fort Norfolk and the ordnance stored there in April 1861.

[This letter was transcribed by Annaliese Vonheerigen/edited by Griff]


May 22d 1862

Major General John E. Wool, USA
Dear Sir,

I have just received permission from General Dix for my wife Martha F. Jarrett to pass to Fortress Monroe and he advises me that it will be necessary at that point to obtain a pass from you to visit her family in Norfolk. 

Will you oblige me by advising whether she can obtain your permission to pass over to Norfolk, without delay should she go down.

Very respectfully your obt. Servt., — A. H. Jarrett

Bel Air, Hartford Co., Md.

Docketed on the reverse: 

Belair Hartford Co. Md. 
May 22., ’62
A H Jarrett
In relation to pass to Norfolk for his wife 
Answered May 26th requesting Mrs. Jarrett to defer her visit for a few days.

1861: Mary E. King to Mary Denham

How Mary might have looked

This letter was penned in 1861 by a woman who signed her name, M. E. I. K.” and we quickly learn from the content of the letter that she was a teacher at the Baltimore Female College, the first institution of higher learning for women in Maryland, which operated out of a building on the lower part of St. Paul Street (No. 53) in Baltimore. The principal of the school was Nathan Covington Brooks (1809-1898).

I can’t be certain but I believe this letter may have been written by 18 year-old Mary E. King, a native Baltimorean who graduated from the college in 1859 and was probably hired on as a part-time instructor afterward.

What is significant about this letter is perhaps less who authored it as the evidence it offers of the excitement and division caused by the Baltimore citizens’ attack of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment as they attempted to pass through the city on 19 April 1861. Pummeled with bricks and clubs by pro-southern rowdies, the regiment had no alternative than to fire into the mob. The event apparently compelled many Northerners living in the city—especially women—to feel unsafe and they fled to their Northern homes. In this letter, the author tries to convince her friend in Philadelphia that the majority of Baltimoreans are Unionists despite their strong ties to the South.

Rowdy Baltimoreans attack the 6th Massachusetts Troops as they attempt to pass through the city on 19 April 1861


Addressed to Miss Mary Denham, Philadelphia, Penna.

Baltimore [Maryland]
May 14, 1861

My Dear Miss Denham,

Long and anxiously I awaited the coming of your letter thinking sometimes that you had determined to strike all southern names from your list of friends. I presume I was rather impatient. but I very much desired to know of your whereabouts. You do not tell me how long you are to tarry in the Quaker City or how I shall address you; however, I suppose if the envelope has merely the word “Denham,” it will be sure to find an owner in yourself.

Nearly all the girls left the same week of your departure, most of them receiving the intelligence in the morning & departing in the afternoon. The Berry’s left on Monday of this week, leaving Miss Phillips solitary & alone. She will remain until the close of the session. On the morning of your departure, after the opening of the school, Mr. [Nathan Covington] Brooks divided the remaining scholars into three classes, taking the Seniors & Juniors himself, giving Miss Owens the classes from Sophomore, B. Downs and myself the Sophister & Sophomore A. There were no regular lessons during the remainder of the week as the scholars were too much excited to study & on Friday Mr. Brooks told me that he should not be able to pay me any more salary but offered me the hospitalities of his house as long as I chose to stay.

After balancing our account, it was evident that he owed me $64 but he kindly informed me it was impossible for him to pay me more than $5!!!!! Munificent. He gave me a due bill and an order on Mr. & Mrs. [M. A.] Hamilton [milliner] who, it appears to his account owes him $80. I immediately started out on a round of visits to my friends intending to recommend Mrs. Hamilton to them & hoping to get some money in that way but they had already made their purchases. I do not see that there is any possible means of getting money & I happen to need that more than bonnets & bon-bons which will not pay debts. If Mr. Brooks had given us the information sooner, you & Miss Lummis might have obtained your bonnets from Mrs. Hamilton & I might have had some money.

Miss Owens still continues to teach (the average attendance is about 20) & I visit a great deal, coming to the college about once a week. I had nearly forgotten to tell you that Emma Day took a bonnet from Mrs. Hamilton. Misses [Ellen C.] Gobright, Brookings, L. Lebore & Mr. [Jean] Schaeffer no longer visit us. All have departed but Miss Owens.

Mr. Brooks received a letter for you & I think two for Miss [Sarah E.] Lummis which I suppose he has forwarded as I heard him say he had a letter for Miss Lummis. I am sorry that Miss Lummis & you think that the rowdyism of the mob on that eventful Friday was an indication of he sentiment & manners of the Baltimoreans. You are aware that this city is famed for its rowdies & at times they delight in excitement of a disturbance, but do not take them as a sample of the citizens. Baltimore is decidedly for the Union. Almost everyone that I know is for the Union. I am for the Union and I know you are. Thus far we agree. If Union is impossible, I am for the South, and there, I suppose, we disagree. I do not think, however, that our politics will affect our friendship. I was very much surprised to receive a letter from Miss [Nancy Williams] Wright who, at the time of writing, was seated at her mother’s table in Gouverneur [New York]. She had gone home by the way of Hagerstown, taking a private conveyance to that place from Washington—a rather expensive journey. I envy you the sight of that whale very much as I have never seen one.

Mrs. Plowman, Miss Owen desires to be remembered to you both. I hope i shall hear from you very soon. Hoping you may have a pleasant visit, I remain your sincere friend, — M. E. I. K.

You remember I borrowed a stamp from you which I now repay.