Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Nefarious Affair

This entry is a letter that appeared in the Newspapers, from then former Governor Francis Thomas, staunch Republican and politician residing in Maryland, as found in The Rebellion Record:  A Diary of American Events, Volume II, 1862 edited by Frank Moore.  It was a dangerous time to be a politician, especially a Republican in Maryland.
Ex-governor Thomas, of Maryland, gives the following account of the attempt of the Maryland rebels upon his life:
Cumbebland, August 24, 1861.
Dear SiR: As an incident of to-day may be misrepresented, I will communicate to you the precise facts of the case. I left here this morning at half-past six, for my home, in the railroad train. Ten miles from this place the cowcatcher of the engine ran against a pile of eight railroad ties, which had been carefully placed across the track. Fortunately six of the ties were scattered right and left of the road, and the train continued to run for about five hundred yards, when it was stopped by the resistance to its progress produced by the two remaining ties, which were so situated that one end rested on the engine and the other ploughed along the road. As soon as the cars halted, the engineer and fireman leaped off, and soon removed the two ties, while the baggage-master was out to see what had occurred to arrest our progress. All this happened in almost an instant, and before I had paid much attention to what was occurring.
At that moment the baggage-master exclaimed, "There is an armed man on the road behind us." This caused tho thought to flash across my mind that this accident had been contrived, and I called the conductor to the platform on which I stood, and directed him to put tho cars in motion by pulling the bell-rope. The conductor seemed at a loss to know how to act, but obeyed my directions, and as soon as the train began to move we were fired upon by a crowd of more than one hundred armed men, who had appeared upon the road out of the bushes near the spot where the ties had been placed on the road. We all escaped uninjured, although twenty or thirty shots were fired before we were out of reach. There were no persons on the train as passengers, but an old black man, two aged white men, and myself. This whole nefarious affair was, I have no doubt, contrived against my liberty, if not my life, by spies resident in this place, who notified their allies in Virginia that I was to pass on the railroad this morning.  And nothing saved me but that coolness and presence of mind which prompted me, under Providence, to see and guard against the danger prompt as electricity.
Please hurry on the arming of our volunteers in Frederick, as I am doing here, that we may be ready for spies within and traitors without our State. Yours, respectfully,
Francis Thomas
Francis Thomas, from the Library of Congress Collection

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