This August 1945 Proceedings article was published by P. H. Magruder, former Secretary of the Naval Academy as “The U.S. Naval Academy and Annapolis During the Civil War 1861-1865: An outline of the conspicuous part displayed by the locality during those tragic days”.
There may be relatively few of this generation who realize what a very interesting and important part Annapolis and the Naval Academy played in the Civil War, particularly in its early stages. Annapolis, on account of its close proximity to Washington, naturally became an important strategic position for the defense of the Capital, especially as the geographic position of Annapolis on the Chesapeake, with a steam railroad direct to Washington, made it an important focal point in the early stages of that defense. The fact that Maryland was directly adjacent to the Mason and Dixon line caused her population to be very evenly divided in their sympathies between the Union and the Confederacy.
In April of 1861 the secessionist elements of Maryland were rapidly organizing in their strenuous efforts to have Maryland secede, and the situation appeared grave, as it was almost inevitable that the National Government would employ a large force to defeat such a move. Attempts had been made by Southern sympathizers to burn the bridges, over the rivers between Baltimore and the Susquehanna River, of the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad, along which line dangerous rioting was in progress to prevent the passage of troops from the North for the defense of Washington. To lessen this hazard, the Federal troops were diverted to water transport at Perryville, on the north bank of the Susquehanna, and brought down the Chesapeake to Annapolis and Baltimore in large numbers to disembark and continue by train for Washington. This soon got the situation in better control. The Naval Academy and Annapolis became the pivotal point of operation for the disembarkation of troops, and vast numbers of transports filled the wharves and harbor, presenting a scene of great activity. This condition not only existed in the early stages of the war, but continued throughout. Large expeditions for the South were fitted out in Annapolis to join other units then organizing. An unusual number of Army transports filled the inner harbor at the time General Burnside’s large expedition was forming. It has been estimated there were between 35,000 and 40,000 troops in this vicinity at that time, and more than 70,000 troops were in Annapolis at different times during the period of the war. These troops were quartered within the Naval Academy reservation, which afterwards became an Army post, St. John’s College grounds, and later at Camp Parole and Camp Richmond adjoining, together with other camps on towards South River.
Passing back to the problems confronting this locality, the Federal Government’s attention was kept closely fixed on this area, and considerable concern was felt about the events that were occurring here, as will be shown by the following letter of President Lincoln to General Scott, under date of April 25, 1861: