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A Baltimore ruse

During the early days of the rebellion, the border state of Maryland was divided in loyalty, with almost as many Southern sympathizers as Unionists in places. The Federal government moved quickly to maintain control, arresting large numbers of openly secessionist leaders. Smuggling became an avid vocation, as clandestine Rebel sympathizers developed clever ways of moving war materials, weapons, ammunition, and goods into Virginia for distribution to the Confederate armies.

A funeral procession had started in Baltimore and had after some time reached the heavily guarded Long Bridge at Washington leading to Virginia. Everything seemed normal to the sentries – the black hearse carrying the deceased in a sealed coffin, followed by a series of carriages with curtains closely drawn to shield the mourners, the drivers “looking solemn as owls.” The guard at the Washington end readily waved the procession onto the bridge, although it did flash across his mind that perhaps this was another Rebel scheme. The next guard was much more suspicious and called out, “Halt!” Instantly the look on the hearse driver’s face alerted him that something was wrong. “Open the hearse!” the soldier ordered, his weapon leveled. By now, the rest of the funeral party realized that their chicanery was about to be discovered, and, abandoning their carriages, scrambled back into the city as fast as their legs could take them. Summoning other guards, the Union soldier opened the coffin to find it was packed full of shiny new muskets, a commodity of extreme use to the gathering Confederate army.