Thursday, October 10, 2019

Justice Under Stress: Baltimore and the Federal Courts during the Civil War, 1861-1866

The Lincoln Pardon of Benjamin Brown, the case of John Merryman, and Federal Justice in the Midst of A Civil War

During the Civil War the Maryland Circuit Court consisted of two judges, Roger B. Taney who, as Chief Justice of the United States was serving as a trial judge on Circuit, and William F. Giles. There are contemporary photographs of both and the Masonic Hall in Baltimore that served as the Federal Court House.


February through May of 1861 was time of massive confusion and turmoil for the Nation.   In  many ways it was if a Katrina like hurricane had swept across the land leaving the existing structure of the Federal government in chaos, unable to function, not knowing what to do. By February 11, 1861, a Monday, there were two presidents claiming jurisdiction over all or parts of the Nation, both of whom set out on journeys that day to their respective capitals.  Abraham Lincoln, according to one historian seemed confused and rambled on in speeches at each of his stops along the way.  At one point in Cincinnati he told the crowd: "I hope that while these free institutions shall continue to be in the enjoyment of millions of free people of the United Staes , we will see repeated every four years what we now witness."  Did that mean he expected chaos every four years?  Joshua Wolf Shenk in LINCOLN's MELANCHOLY (Houghton Mifflin, 2005), argues that President Lincoln was suffering from acute genetically derived depression and that challenged his Presidency and fueled his Greatness.

In February and March of 1861, he had not reached his stride.  Indeed, convinced of a plot on his life,  he allowed himself to be secretly passed through Baltimore on his way to Washington, possibly in disguise, leaving a bewildered Mayor George William Brown to greet Mrs. Lincoln and the children who apparently were not considered to be in danger.

Arriving safe in Washington, Lincoln found himself confronted with hostility all around.  Desparate to build the defenses of Washington against a presumed attack by Confederate forces from Virginia, he called for support from loyal state militias and to facilitate keeping them out of harm's way on their journey to Washington,  suspended habeas corpus along the railroad routes in order to facilitate the capture and incarceration of any terrorists along the route who might be planning to disrupt the troop movements.

On April 19, 1861, the same day that in 1776 the first shots of the American Revolution were heard around the world, the first blood of the Civil War was shed on Baltimore streets as the mob attacked the Massachusetts troops trying to make their way across the harbor and to awaiting B&O trains that would continue them on their journey to the defense of Washington.  In those days there were no through trains through Baltimore because the haulers and carters  were a strong lobby in the city and wanted the business of moving goods and people among the three train stations in town.

Mayor George William Brown and Governor Hicks pleaded with President Lincoln not to send troops through the City, and in the midst of the violence of April 19, ordered the railroad bridges on the approach to the city to be obstructed.  For his efforts to prevent violence, he, much of the State Legislature and the City Council were thrown into jail without benefit of Habeas Corpus.  Brown would remain in Prison at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor until his term as Mayor ran out, never having a hearing or appearing before a Federal Judge.  After the war he would become the chief judge of the Baltimore Supreme Bench. The Administration's efforts to prosecute the war by throwing presumed dissidents and traitors into jail without benefit of the courts hit a major snag with the burning of the Baltimore Bridges.   As Judge Blake has pointed out in her essay on the Merryman case, drawing upon the original documents still in the possession of the Maryland District Court, when Federal Troops arrested John Merryman at 2 a.m. on May 25th and threw him into prison at Fort McHenry, the Federal Bench in the person of Chief Justice Taney acted decisively.   Much has been written about Ex Parte Merryman and more should be, in my opinion, especially in light of the Supreme Court's Guantanamo Bay opinions in which the Justices  ignored it altogether.

The English had an official observer at Taney's Court for the Merryman hearing.  He was the British Consul in Baltimore and recorded the proceedings in a letter that until not long ago lay undiscovered among the Consular papers of the British National Archives:


British Consulate for the State of Maryland

Baltimore, May 27, 1861

no. 24

My Lord,

I have just time to say that Chief Justice Taney issued a writ of Habeas Corpus this morning, directed to Genl. Cadwallader, calling on him to produce Mr. Merryman. The general replied that he had communicated with the President, who answered that he suspended the action of Habeas Corpus. The Chief Justice, remarking that he was bound to carry out the Constitution, & Laws, of the United States, has issued an attachment against General Cadwallader for contempt of the writ.

I have the honor to be
My Lord
Your Most obedient, humble, servant
Frederic Bernal

Right Honble
Ld John Russell MP


British Consulate for the State of Maryland
Baltimore, May 20th, 1861

no. 25

My Lord,

The continuation of my despatch , no. 24 of the 27th  instant, I have the honor to inform you, that I assisted the day before yesterday ceremony. I saw Chief Justice Taney- the head of the Supreme Court of the United States- a venerable old man of over 80 years of age- but still in full possession of all his intellect- a lawyer unsurpassed in all the world- whose boast it is that no decision given by him has ever been reversed- calmly, but boldly, in a crowded court, enunciate that great bulwark of Anglo Saxon liberty, the doctrine of Habeas Corpus. As your Lordship is is aware from my previous bespatch, an attachment was issued against General Cadwallader for contempt of a writ of Habeas Corpus issued
by the Chief Justice. The proceedings opened on the 28th by a return from the Marshall of the Court, stating he had been refused admittance into Ft. McHenry to serve the attachment. The Chief Justice then delivered his decision. "That the President cannot,  under the Laws,and Constitution of the United States, suspend the privilege of the writ of Habeas Corpus. That it is unconstitutional for the military authority to arrest anyone,
not subject to the articles of War, except in aid of the Judiciary Tower, & that even then the prisoner must be delivered over, immediately, to the Civil Authorities. That as it would be worse than -sele-s to summon a Posse Comitatus,(though such was the Law, ) and attempt to arrest Genl. Cadwallader in face of a superior force, he held the Marshall's Marshall's statement to be sufficient that he should reduce his decision to writing, & file it in the Clerk's Office, that all who wished might read it, and should call on the President to (using the very words of the Oath he had himself administered to him on his inauguration,) enforce the Laws, the Constitution, as he had sworn to do". I was introducted to the Chief Justice at the conclusion of the proceedings, & could not forbear telling him (privately,) how it had gratified me to hear him asserting principles so dear to all Englishmen. He made a very feeling reply, that he had been brought up to study, & revere, the English Common Law and that pained as he was to be so obliged, at such a moment, he would not shrink from asserting its glorious principles, which were likewise those of the Constitution of the United States. At any other time such a trampling on the Constitution on the part of the President would would have raised a tempest of  indignation throughout the land, but so demoralized is public sentiment, and so blinded by political passion are the masses, that he northern papers have either passed by this momentous question with a contemptuous silence, or have noticed it merely to load Chief Justice Taney, at other times an object to them of pride, and admiration, with every epithet of abuse, down to counselling (vide the New York Tribune) the President to arrest him. It was not so in other days- In 1807, at the time of Burr's Conspiracy, a Bill to enable the President to suspend the action of Habeas Corpus was introduced into the House of Representatives, and rejected, on the first reading, by a vote of 113, to 19-


President Lincoln was troubled by Taney's opinion.  He may have even agreed to an arrest warrant for the Chief Justice, confirming Bernal's rumor, but the authority for that statement, the Federal Marshall for Washington, D. C., Lincoln's bodyguard Ward Hill Lamon, who persuaded him to hide on his way through Baltimore to the inauguration, has not been corroberated.  But President Lincoln did what Taney told him he had to do:  seek Congress's permission for the suspension of Habeas Corpus, which Congress eventually granted.  On July 4, 1861 at a special session, the President sent a message to Congress defending himself with regard to the executive order suspending Habeas Corpus, arguing that under the Constitution he had the right to do so, but left it to Congress to decide whether legislative approval was necessary, which is what Taney told him he needed to do in the first place.

In the draft of his address to Congress Lincoln confronted the Chief Justice directly, but wiser heads prevailed in crafting the final version that took out all the "I's" and anything that might be interpreted as self-doubt on Lincoln's part.

This is what Lincoln actually wrote in his first draft, much of which was moderated and excised by the time it got to Congress.

[ Page Originally Unnumbered; Subsequently Numbered 19:]10

Soon after the first call for militia, I felt it my duty to authorize the Commanding General, in proper cases, according to his discretion, to suspend the previlege of the writ of habeas corpus -- or, in other words, to arrest, and detain, without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law, such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public safety. At my verbal request, as well as by the Generals own inclination, this authority has been and propriety of what has been done under it, are questioned; and I have been reminded from a high quarter11 that one who is sworn to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" should not himself be one to violate them-- So I think. Of course I gave some consideration to the questions of power, and propriety, before I acted in this matter--

The whole of the laws which 

[ Page Originally Unnumbered; Subsequently Numbered 20:]

I was sworn to see take care that they should be faithfully executed, were being resisted, and failing of execution to be executed, in nearly one third of the states. Must I have allowed them to finally fail of execution, even had it been perfectly clear that by the use of the means necessary to their execution, some provision of one single law, made in such extreme tenderness of the citizens liberty, that more rogues than honest men practically more of the guilty than the innocent, find shelter under it, should, to a very limited extent, be violated?12 some single law, made in such extreme tenderness of the citizens liberty, that practically, it relieves more of the guilty, than the innocent, should, to a very limited extent, be violated? To state the question more directly, are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one law be violated? Even in such a case I should consider my official oath broken if I should allow the government to be overthrown, when I might think the disregarding the single law would tend to preserve it-- But, in this case I was not, in my own judgment, driven

[ Page Originally Unnumbered; Subsequently Numbered 21:]

to this ground-- In my opinion I violated no law-- The provision of the Constitution that "The previlege of the writ of habeas corpus, shall not be suspended unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it" is equivalent to a provision -- is a provision -- that such previlege may be suspended when, in cases of rebellion, or invasion, the public safety does require it. I decided that we have a case of rebellion,
and that the public safety does require the qualified suspension of the previlege of the writ of habeas corpus, which I authorized to be made. Now it is insisted that Congress, and not the executive, is vested with this power-- But the Constitution itself, is silent as to which, or who, is to exercise the power; and as the provision plainly was made for a dangerous emergency, I can not bring myself to believe that the

[ Page Originally Unnumbered; Subsequently Numbered 22:]

the framers of that instrument intended that in every case the danger should run it's course until Congress could be called together, the very assembling of which might be prevented, and in as was in-13 of which might be prevented, as was intended in this case, by the rebellion--

I enter upon no more extended argument; as an opinion, at some length, will be presented by the Attorney General-- Whether there shall be any legislation upon the subject, and if any, what, I submit entirely to the better judgment of Congress--

Clearly the opinion of the Chief Justice in ex parte merryman hit its mark and in the end Merryman was turned over to Civil Authorities and set free on bail with the promise he would not leave the State.  Two indictments for Treason were presented by Grand Juries, but Taney and Giles continued the cases on the docket until the war was over (Taney died in 1864 on the day that the Maryland Constitutional Convention abolished slavery), and was never tried.  He rose to be Treasurer of Maryland and his Hayfields farm became nationally known for his successful experiments in cattle breeding.

That is not to say that the suspension of Habeas Corpus did not continue to affect affect a considerable number of people.  Mark E. Neely's Pulitzer prize winning "The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties" documents the over 15,000 individuals incarcerated over the course of the war, unable to avail themselves of the great writ.  What Taney's opinion did do, apart from succeeding in getting Merryman transferred to Civil Authority and paving the way to his day in court, was to unleash a torrent of pamphlets and works on executive powers and habeas corpus that reaches down to the present day.  Few read Horace Binney and Anna Ella Carroll today, but their arguments and those of the other side are no less pertinent to today's tension among the President, Congress, and the Courts over the application of the Great Writ.

The stress that the Civil War placed upon the Federal Bench, let alone the State Courts, during the Civil War was intense and unremitting.  The Federal Court in Baltimore remained open throughout the war and persistently decided cases that went against the grain of policies promulgated by the Lincoln administration, especially in regard to State's and individual rights.  For example, in an officially unreported opinion not to be found in Westlaw or Lexis, Judge Giles, Justice Taney's partner on the Federal bench in Baltimore, forced the U. S. Treasury department to recind a tax on the movement of goods within the state of Maryland, even though they were probably intended to be contraband. Routine business of the Court as it affected the President directly continued as well and is illustrative of administrative burden the work of the courts placed upon the President of the United States.

Take for example, the need for a Presidential Pardon of Benajmin Brown. A few years ago, at the instigation of Judge Gauvey and at the invitation of Judge Motz, I was asked to offer some suggestions on how the Federal Courts in Baltimore  might develop an exhibit and interpretation center at the courthouse that would help the public better understand their rich and varied history. In the course of conversation, Judge Motz mentioned that while most of the historical records of his court had been transferred to the National Archives, a few treasures remained which the court was loath to give up because of their historical significance and the part they might play in an historical exhibit. This of course peaked my curiosity and he agreed that the Court Clerk, Felicia Cannon, could show me one treasure in particular, the Lincoln Pardon.

With the assistance of the Court Administrator, we found the pardon well cared for in a secure storage area.  Time had not treated the pardon well, however, and it was in need of conservation. I offered to have the document repaired at cost by our Document Preservation department and to investigate its history. To my delight I found that Judge James Schneider had written an unpublished essay on the pardon already, to which I added some new sources and the results of further research in order to provide a window into how the Federal system of justice actually worked in the midst of the Civil War with regard to life of one civilian prisoner, Benjamin Brown.

Thursday, June 18, 1863 was a routine day for President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of a far from ordinary war.  General Grant was before Vicksburg, having just relieved Major General John A. McClernand from command for being insubordinate, self-seeking, and incompetent.   General Lee was well on his march northward and in two weeks would be engaged in battle at Gettysburg where his reputation as a general would also suffer, although not to the degree of McClernand's.

In Washington, the President rose about 6 a.m. to begin a work day that would last well into the evening.  Between 6 and 7 a.m. he was at his desk in the White House reading correspondence and dispatches, occasionally sipping a cup of coffee sent by his wife.  Journalist Noah Brooks recalls how methodical President Lincoln was in his habits:  "he was scrupulously exact in all the details of his office, and his care for written documents was sometimes carried to an extreme;  he appeared to have the Chinese reverence for written paper."  Later scholars would discover just how scrupulous he was about the business of government.  Six letters he wrote that day have survived, ranging from mitigating a sentence of a garrulous physician, who in treating a family close to the confederate lines happened to say too much about Federal troop movements, to declining with thanks the offer of assistance from  an over zealous General of Canadian volunteers who by encoded telegram had written to offer his men in defense of Washington.   In addition to the general correspondence, sometime in the course of the day, the President's secretaries, John Nicholay and John Hay, presented him with a stack of military and civil pardons to sign.  How many we are not yet certain, but an article in the Washington Post a few years ago announced the discovery of 1,120 Abraham Lincoln signatures on military pardons alone over the four years of the war. 

Among the pending requests that day was also one for a civilian, Benjamin Brown.  Just how much the President may have known about the circumstances surrounding the request for a Pardon for Benjamin Brown is not known, although his attention to detail was such that it is likely he read the accompanying papers delivered to the Executive Mansion from the Attorney General's office by the Pardon Clerk. They included a letter signed by Brown and recommendations for approval by the U.S. District Attorney for Maryland and the U.S. District Judge for Maryland, William F. Giles, who presided over Brown's trial.  Brown had served his three year sentence for manslaughter, but could not pay the fines imposed and was thus effectively imprisoned for life.

As C. Dodd McFarland, his attorney, explained in the appeal to the President,  "the practice of the courts heretofore in similar cases has been to make application for the remission of the fine and costs which application is usually granted by the President."

In a letter to the President, Brown explained his view of the circumstances surrounding his conviction.   He told the President that he had been a cabin boy  on board the Barque George & Henry,

and one day whilst the Captain of the Barque was absent ...was playing with a gun in the cabin of the ... Barque, and whilst so playing with the ...  gun, the gun went off and killed  ... Thomas [George] Crozier.  At the trial of the case your petitioner admmitted the killing, but pleaded that it was purely accidentall.  Your Petitioner states that he has suffered, and satisfied, the judgement as far as it is in [his] power, that the terms of his imprisonment expires on the 23rd day of April 1863, and he further states that he is a poor colloured boy, and, is unable to pay said fine & cost, ...
The President heeded Brown's plea, and  signed the pardon, releasing him from having to pay the $666 in costs that had accumulated over the three years that he was confined to the Baltimore City jail. Two days later, on June 20, 1863, Benjamin Brown was free at last.

But who was this Benjamin Brown, what can we learn about the circumstances of the crime he committed, and how did he come to owe so much in the course of serving a three year sentence for manslaughter?

There is little that can be found about the personal life of Benjamin Brown.  Judge Schneider identified him in the 1860 census, the first year he was in the City Jail, which describes him as a black male, seaman, aged 19, born in Maryland. He was free, not a slave, and on the 14th of January, 1859 signed up with a fellow seaman, George Crozier, to serve aboard the Barque George & Henry on a voyage to Peru for a cargo of hides and nitrate of soda.  As the steward, or cabin boy as he refers to himself, Brown would not have earned more than the $8 a month owed George Crozier, which makes Brown's lost wages while imprisoned not more than $298, less than half of what he owed the Federal Government at the end of his prison term.

To unravel the mystery of what appears to be a rather excessive tab of fines and court costs, we need to return to the scene of the crime, to trace the story that emerges from a review of the surviving evidence, including the consequences of Federal sentencing practices one hundred and forty years ago.  To do so we rely heavily on  the newspapers of the day,  the consular reports from the port town of Arica, then in Peru, but now in Chile, and the Baltimore City jail records, for the court records themselves encompass only docket entries, brief minutes, and the final judgment.

About 9 a.m on the bright sunny morning of October 21, 1859 the Barque George & Henry was moored in the harbor of Arica, Peru, about ready with its cargo to depart for Baltimore.  Captain Travers was ashore.  Three of the ships company were in a boat at the stern.  While Henry Willis, the Ship's Carpenter, replaced a piece of moulding, Benjamin Fales and George Crozier were holding the boat steady, possibly standing at about eye level with the window of the Captain's cabin when a shot was fired from within.   The bullet, an ounce slug, pierced Crozier skull over his left eye.  He would die on deck a few minutes later. When  Benjamin Brown appeared on deck he saw Crozier's body and cried out "My God, I did not go to do it; they'll hang me, and I hope they will."

Brown was then taken before the American Consul in Arica, John Lansing, who took depositions, now lost, inventoried the deceased estate, and consigned the prisoner to Captain Travers who gave a $1,000 bond that he would deliver up Brown to arraignment in Baltimore on the ship's return.   Poor Crozier had been worth a total of $73.60, all in wages due, out of which advances from wages, his ship's jacket, the cost of a knife, postage for the letter home, and two pounds of tobacco were deducted, leaving  a balance due the deceased of $43.85.  The consul cabled his report to the State Department which arrived two months before the George & Henry and returned to business.

The George & Henry arrived in Baltimore on January 26, 1860, after a voyage of three months in which she encountered heavy northerly gales rounding cape horn, with a full cargo consigned to Fitzgerald, Booth and Company of 56 South Gay Street, and the prisoner contrite, but intact.  The U. S. District Attorney reported to the Solicitor of the Treasury Department that he had examined Brown concluding that "the evidence seems to establish no higher offence than that of a killing by gross & most culpable carelessness. After very careful examination of the witnesses before the U. S. Commissioner & also in person I was unable to detect the slightest evidence of malice in the prisoner  The Prisoner is evidently a very bad youth: in addition to the punishment which I hope to be able to have inflicted upon him for this offence-- the punishment appropriate to manslaughter, the crime of which I think he will be convicted.--I think there is evidence enough to convict him also of larceny." The larceny charge, based upon the Captain's assertion that Brown stole wine on the voyage, was never brought, and while the Government tried to prove murder in the first degree, the final verdict was manslaughter three months later when the case finally came to trial.  Because there are no transcripts of the trial, what the witnesses said after waiting three months in jail with the prisoner to  be heard, is not readily discernible, although the two quite different accounts in the Baltimore American and the Sun together, provide a substantive outline of the facts.  Unfortunately the depositions taken at the time by the Consul in Arica have been lost, but the court determined at the trial that they did not vary in substance from the testimony already presented and did not permit the defense to read them. At the close of the trial the court costs amounted to $40.75, including $20 each for the prosecution and defense lawyers.  How then did the bill mount to $666 over the next three years, the equivalent of approximately 7 years of wages for the average seaman?  The answer probably lies among the records of the Baltimore City Jail, among which only a very few accounting records survive.  In 1860 there were no Federal Prisons (a situation soon to be remedied by the Civil War) and Federal prisoners had to be housed in state or local facilities.  The docket record of Brown's confinement suggests that the Federal government had to pay for his care and did so on a quarterly basis of about $30, or $10 a month, two dollars a month more than he might have earned as a seaman. But even that exhorbitant rate does not account for the full bill, unless, of course, he was responsible for all charges with interest.

What happened to Benjamin Brown after his release is not known. That fall recruitment  into the United States Colored Troops would begin in earnest.  Perhaps he became a soldier, although with his background he would have been more likely to have gone into the Navy. We probably will never know, but at least for one brief moment, as one of many papers passing over the desk of Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Brown had his moment of recognition and release from a system of justice that tried him fairly but might have trapped him unmercifully in a bureaucratic wrangle over who should pay for his confinement.

I would be remiss in writing this blog essay if I did not acknowledge my indebtedness to Judge  Fred Motz, Judge Susan Gauvey, and Felicia Cannon, who introduced me to the Lincoln Pardon and the original documents relating to Ex Parte Merryman still in the possession of the Court, to Judge Jim Schneider whose pioneering work on the history of the Maryland District Court and its judges, and his own notes on the history of the Lincoln Pardon which he shared with me, were indispensable to my own journey in search of the saga of Benjamin Brown, and to Judge Catherine Blake, whose sparkling essay on the Merryman case, I have drawn upon here.

Monday, September 2, 2019

September 2, 1945, a day and a photographer to remember

Remembering Harold Ignatius “Buster” Campbell (1922-1966) and September 2, 1945

On September 2, 1945, aboard the Battleship Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay, the Japanese surrendered ending the War in the Pacific and bringing to an end World War II.

The ship was crowded with official visitors and resident seamen. Following the ceremonies a photographer captured Admiral Halsey and Vice Admiral McCain (Senator John McCain’s father) in conversation. In the background in the open door of a turret can be seen an official Navy Photographer who is thought to be Harold Ignatius “Buster” Campbell (1922-1966).

From that vantage point a number of photographs of the official signing were taken including of General Yoshijiro Umezu, chief of the Japanese Army General Staff, with General McArthur looking on.

Buster Campbell was only a Baker’s Assistant aboard the Missouri, spending most of his working hours preparing donuts and other baked goods for consumption by the 2700 men on board. In his off hours he learned to be a photographer and became so proficient that on September 2 he was given the prestigious assignment of being one of the official photographers of the ceremonies. As he explained to his wife in a letter dated 1930 hours, Sunday September 2, in Tokyo Bay:

“ will no doubt be the greatest in my naval career. ...I was a ship’s photographer for the surrender ceremony and what a time I had. Took 63 shots from beginning to end. gee I was lucky. Pat developed half my stuff and he said they were very good. I sure hope so.

Here’s what happened Got up at 0530 and was at the photo lab at 0600. 0630 I was up in Turret #2…”[1]

Because the photographs taken by the official photographers at the time were not credited to individuals, it is not certain which ones were taken by Buster, but it is most likely to have included the view of General Umezu and several others of the signing taken from the perspective of turret #2.

This was not the first time that Baker’s Assistant Campbell impressed the photographic staff with his ability to use a camera. His best known photograph was the of the Kamikaze attack on the Missouri at the battle of Okinawa, although he did not get official credit for it until long after his death in 1966.[2]

When Buster’s son learned that another photographer had been given credit for the Kamikaze photograph, he corrected the record by sending of Buster’s diary documenting how he came to take the photograph along with other of his father’s memorabilia relating to his service. Included was an unmarked up copy of this photograph taken of Buster with his official Navy Graflex Camera.[3] When the Sun papers received this official photograph from the Navy, they cropped it and prepared it for publication in the Evening Sun of October 4, 1945, noting on the back “Sept 2nd 1945 Just after the surrender was signed.”[4]

Buster Campbell from the Baltimore Sun’s photo archive, private collection

Buster grew up at 1720 West Lombard Street in the parish of 14 Holy Martyrs. The church, which is still standing, is said to have been designed by George A. Friederick and built after 1870.[5] By 1964 its parishioners had moved away and the church was closed, reflecting the white flight to the suburbs and the racial strife confronting the city.

1720 West Lombard Street, (middle house, author’s image, 2016).

The John J. and Nora Campbell’s family acquired the house in 1925[6]

which was less than a block away from their church

and the parish school their children attended.

formerly Fourteen Holy Martyrs Roman Catholic Church,

now Praise Cathedral, South Mount and Lombard Streets


Buster was one of seven World War II servicemen who grew up at 1720 West Lombard, and are seen here celebrating Christmas in February 1946 when all were at last safe at home from the war:

From the Baltimore Sun, Tuesday, February 26, 1946[7]

When Buster entered the Navy he had been working as a sign painter, having graduated from the Maryland Institute night school class in lettering in 1940.[8] On his return Buster went to work for the Air Engineering firm and by 1959 was employed by the United Glazed Products of Baltimore whose headquarters were in Lansing Michigan. Buster died suddenly of an apparent heart attack in 1966 at the age of 43, just before boarding a plane in Lansing to fly to Baltimore to visit his family. In December 1965, he had been named general manager of the tile products company and was contemplating moving his wife and son to Lansing.[9]

Today Harold I. “Buster” Campbell and his wife Thelma, rest in Baltimore National Cemetery along with many of Baltimore’s veterans and their wives, including James and Hattie Carroll. If Buster represents how one high school graduate from Baltimore was able to make the most of his Naval service and then, after the war joined the white flight from the City to the suburbs and beyond,, along with the congregation in which he grew up, veteran James Carroll’s wife, through a ballad written by Bob Dylan, became the symbol of white oppression in a segregated city that Buster left behind. Today all four lie quietly in graves not far from each other.

Baltimore National Cemetery,

the graves of Harold and Thelma Campbell, and of James and Hattie Carroll

images from Findagrave

Much more could and should be written about Buster Campbell, his family, and his parish as well as the family and neighborhood of Hattie Carroll.

Buster’s is the story of an industrious German Catholic family in a long lost and forgotten neighborhood of Baltimore, whose life stories are not unlike a Barry Levinson film[10], while Hattie and her family’s equally important story is largely unknown, and even the memory of Bob Dylan’s ballad is fast fading from the public consciousness.

Today, however, we return to one of the most significant days in World History to celebrate the event Buster documented, and to mark his achievements as a skilled photographer who left behind an archive of visual images of a day we ought not to forget, September 2, 1945.

[1] on display on the Battleship Missouri as of 2019/08.

[2] an article in the February 25, 1945 edition of the Baltimore Sun noted “All the Campbell servicemen were in the Army except harold, 24, who was in the navy, assigned to the Missouri at the time of the surrender. His chief job was baking, but when called to his battle station, harold would hurry from his cakes and pies and take up a camera, ready for his other job-- assistant photographer of the ship. One of his shots, a view of aq kamikaze attack on the Missouri recently was shown in New York in an exhibit of “the 100 most famous pictures of the war.”

[3] according to Bruce Thomas, an authority on Graflex cameras (see:, Buste’s “camera would be a 4x5 Graflex RB (Revolving Back) Series D, equipped with a Bag Magazine on the rear for 12 exposures without reloading. It also appears to be a brand new 1945 model”.

[4] the cropped image does not appear in the online images of the Sun or the Evening Sun of October4, 1945 which are on although it may of appeared in a late edition of either paper which has not been preserved.

[5] The church was established in 1869 by the rector of St. Alphonsus Church. His goal was a new German Catholic Church to service the German Catholics in the west Baltimore area. The building was erected at the corner of Mount and Fulton Streets. In 1870 the upper part served as the church while the lower part served as the school. The corner stone was laid on July 10, 1870. The church was served by the Redemptorist fathers of St. Alphonsus for a short time, but in the spring of 1871 a secular priest took charge of the church. On the first of April, 1874, Rev. Meinard Jeggle of the Benedictine order was appointed pastor. A cornerstone is dated 1902. Fortunately the records of the Church and its parish have survived. They are available from the Maryland State Archives on microfilm (MSA SC 1190, SCM 2650-SCM 2651. Source:, text based on History of Baltimore City & County; John Thomas Scharf, 1881, J.B. Lippencott & Company, publishers, Philadelphia PA.

[6] BALTIMORE CITY SUPERIOR COURT (Land Records) 1925-1925 SCL 4507, pp. 0540-0543 [4 images] MSA CE 168-4515, from

[7] In an accompanying article about the family, Mrs. Campbell is quoted as resisting the desire of a younger brother, Jerome, to enlist, telling the reporter that “bringing up 14 children and seeing half of them successfully through the war is enough excitement for one family.”

[8] “213 receive Diplomas,” Baltimore Sun, January 2, 1940, courtesy of

[9] The Evening Sun Baltimore, Maryland, Friday, March 11, 1966 - Page 39, and The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, Saturday, March 12, 1966 - Page 13, courtesy of

[10] Diner was the first of four films set in the Baltimore of Levinson's youth. The other three were Tin Men (1987), a story of aluminum-siding salesmen in the 1960s starring Richard Dreyfuss and Danny DeVito; the immigrant family saga Avalon (1990) featuring Elijah Wood in one of his earliest screen appearances, and Liberty Heights (1999). See:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

What to do with Family Archives: The family life of a forgotten ward boss, and public servant from Baltimore, Wesley Sanders Hanna (1865-1945)

The family life of a forgotten ward politician,

and public servant from Baltimore:

Wesley Sanders Hanna (1865/10/6-1945/05/4).

When Judge James F. Schneider and Susan M. Marzetta bought their house at 4510 Roland Avenue, it had been in the Hanna family since 1926. The previous owners had left a considerable amount of effects behind, some of which were sitting in the trash including a pile of water soaked negatives, some in their original paper envelopes from a drugstore at 223 Park Avenue.

From the envelopes and a search through city directories, genealogical databases online, and an online atlas of maps relating to the city, it was easily determined that they were produced by someone in the Wesley S. Hanna family (probably the son Charles and the father Wesley) sometime between 1907 and 1913.

Wesley Sanders Hanna, Helen Turner (Raborg) Hanna, Charles F. Hanna, Virginia T. Hanna, and Helen W. Hanna, on the white marble steps of their new home at 212 East 20th Street, Ward 12, Baltimore, Maryland, probably sometime in August, 1910.

The photographs salvaged by Judge Schneider are best dated mostly to the years 1906 to 1913 and are centered mostly on the third child, Helen W. Hanna who was three years old when the family moved to East 20th Street. The settings are the street of their 2201 North Charles address where they lived from at least 1900 with his mother-in-law’s family the Raborgs, until 1910, followed by street scenes of their new home at East 20th Street, vacations at Atlantic City, visits to the Druid Hill Park Zoo, and an outing to a related family estate/farm in Howard County owned by the Macy family, once part of a large slave plantation (Bushy Park) owned by the Hammond Family.

There is one damaged negative of what may be the interior of 2201 North Charles taken before their third child, Helen Wesley Hanna was born (1907) which probably dates from about 1906:

2201 Charles Street Parlor, ca. 1906?

In 1926 the Hanna family moved into a large Roland Park mansion at 4510 Roland Avenue, built in 1907 by the LeViness family, said to be a duplicate of a house in Salisbury Maryland. There the Wesley Sanders Hanna family remained until 1988 when the house was sold to the Schneiders. Wesley Sanders Hanna died at 4510 Roland Avenue in 1945, and it is from his obituary in the Baltimore Sun that we learn of his public career as a ward heeler in the 12th Ward for the Republican Party, Deputy Comptroller of the City of Baltimore, and State Insurance Commissioner under Governor Harry Whinna Nice.

Wesley Sanders Hanna’s obituary:


The Sun (1837-1993); May 5, 1945; ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Baltimore Sun pg. 16


Old-Line GOP Leader Held Office Here Once

Wesley S. Hanna, old-line Republican political leader and for eighteen years deputy city comptroller, died last night at his home, 4510 Roland avenue. He had been in failing health for some time, Mr. Hanna resigned as deputy comptroller in 1935 to serve a four-year term as State insurance commissioner in the administration of Governor Nice.

Adherent Of Weller

For many years he was a member of the Republican City Committee and party executive of the Twelfth ward. He was a GOP factional adherent of former Senator O. E. Weller.

Mr. Hanna's great-grandfather, Major John Hanna, commanded the Fells Point Light Dragoons in the Battle of North Point during the War of 1812. His maternal great-grandfather, Jacob Small, was Mayor of Baltimore from 1826 to 1831.

His grandfather, William Hanna, was among the organizers of the Republican party when a split in the old Whig party gave birth to the new organization.

Funeral Monday

Mr. Hanna's father, Charles Fleetwood Hanna, was deputy collector of the Port of Baltimore for more than 50 years, retiring at the age of 83.

Mr. Hanna is survived by his wife, Mrs. Helen Turner Raborg Hanna; a son, Charles F. Hanna of W.; two daughters, Mrs. Marian B. Williamson and Mrs. Frederick C. Williamson; two sisters, Mrs. Arthur C. Macy and Miss Leila Hanna; a granddaughter, Mrs. Robley D. Bates, Jr., and a grandson, Frederick Williamson.

The funeral will be on Monday.

A Roman Catholic, Wesley Sanders Hanna (1865/10/6-1945/05/4) was buried in New Cathedral Cemetery and the memory of his public life has largely been forgotten.

The images of the private life of the Wesley Sanders Hanna Family not only illuminate the context and costumes of what might be deemed a nuclear family of the rising white middle class of Baltimore, but also glimpses of the physical world in which they lived and vacationed. For the most part they center around the third child, Helen Wesley Hanna who was three in August 1910 when the family moved to their own house at 212 East 20th Street.

Helen Wesley Hanna, age about 3 on the steps of 212 East 20th Street.

Helen visiting the Macy family farm at Glenwood, Maryland?, ca. 1910

Helen at the Macy farm, Glenwood Maryland, ca. 1910?

Cowboys (brother Charles) and Cowgirls (Helen) at the Macy farm, Glenwood, ca. 1910 preceded by a lesson on horseback, with an anxious mother to the side.

Out for a walk, August 1910, near 2201 Charles Street. Note the Streetcar conductor.

Hanna Family Vacation, ca. Summer of 1909, Atlantic City

Mother and father (Helen and Wesley) on the beach, Atlantic City, Summer of 1909?

A commercially available photograph of the site of the Hanna family visit to Atlantic City. The photographs of Helen and family were taken on the beach just off to the center right of this photograph. By the time of their visit the Bull Durham billboard had been added to the top of the buildings in the center right of the photograph.

There are a number of people and scenes in the negatives yet to be identified including this puzzle featuring Helen and her parents about 1910. It is of an unidentified church, possibly in the Glenwood area of Howard County. Its architecture is reminiscent of the Lutheran Evangelical Lutheran Church that was just a block away from the Hanna Home on East 20th Street. Perhaps it was built by the same Architect?

Where is this church? Look closely as it is Helen, her mother, brother and sister taken in what appears to be July or August 1910 (the Crepe Myrtle is in full bloom), probably taken by Wesley Sanders Hanna and from Helen’s appearance very near to the time of Helen’s walk on Charles and East 20th street in the images featured above.

Today the East 20th Street neighborhood of the Hanna’s is literally no more. The block of houses in which the Hanna’s purchased their first Baltimore home is now the basketball court of the Dallas F. Nicholas, Sr., Elementary School, but from 1910 to 1926 it was the home of the Deputy Comptroller of the City of Baltimore and State Republican Party Committeeman from the 12th Ward in which East 20th Street was located.

Boundaries of the 12th Ward of Baltimore City, 1901-36


Perhaps someday more will be written about Wesley Sanders Hanna, his family and his public world, as well as about the two white servants in the Raborg household at 2201 North Charles before 1910 who waited on them, Lucie Nickens and Lillie Cassell. At the new home East 20th Street, they had no servants, although it is probable that they hired daily help to cook, clean, and wash their clothes.

As to Helen Wesley Hanna (1906/o7/29-1990/05/07), the little girl featured in most of the negatives, she moved with the family to the Roland Park house in 1926, married Frederick C. Williamson (1900/05/17-1979/03) from Indiana who she brought to 4510 Roland Avenue, where she continued to live until two years before her death. Throughout her life except perhaps the years on East 20th Street (1910-1926) she lived within what might be called a family compound. For her first three years she lived with her parents, siblings, servants, and Raborg grandparents in the grandparents home on Charles Street. After 1926 she lived with her parents, her cousins families including one Raborg cousin who was born in Brazil, and her Williamson husband at 4510 Roland Avenue. Apart from the charming photos of a child of a middle class white urban household, and the scenes of the city and country around her, her story is unknown, yet by knowing what we do now, we have a significant new insight into the nature of a rising (economically) middle class urban family life that was not as nuclear as it might have been thought to be.

Apart from the historical interest and the stories to be derived from an appraisal of this nearly castaway family collection of photographic negatives, the moral of this account lies in the asking of what to do with the collections of family papers and memorabilia that often occurs on the removal to a retirement home, or death of the family member that was for whatever reason the custodian. The normal response is 1-800-got junk (or something similar) but it would benefit understanding of ourselves and enrich the stories about our private and public worlds if there were a helping hand to save and care for what has survived in a well-inventoried online environment and a safe and secure storage facility. This small collection and its online access will be at the Baltimore City Archives as BMS 48_21, the James F. Schneider Collection. Guidelines for what to and how to go about doing it can also be obtained from one of the volunteers at the Baltimore City Archives, including instructions on the basic procedures for ‘containerizing’ and inventorying the family archives. I am hoping there are a lot more Jim Schneiders and Ernie Dimlers out there who are willing to give or share what they have inherited or have collected.


Comments, additions and corrections are most welcome.