In the year leading up to the Civil War, Emmitsburg was already a divided town, politically speaking. During the 1860 presidential elections, Emmitsburg’s political views supported the Southern Democratic Party giving John C. Breckinridge 323 votes, more than half the population of Emmitsburg during the time of the Civil War. Although many Emmitsburg citizens supported the Southern Democrats, their views were mostly devoted to the Union.
Shortly after the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Maryland citizens were faced with a decision to determine if Maryland was to remain loyal to the Union or secede with the newly formed Confederacy. The strong southern feeling prevailing in Baltimore culminated in a violent outbreak on April 19, 1861, when the 6th Massachusetts Regiment marching on their way to Washington was obstructed by a mob. After the riot, a number of citizens opposed to secession left Baltimore for their safety.
The Commissioner of the Land Office William Seabrook, a Frederick native, remembers, “Only a few weeks after the exhibition of mob sympathy with secession in Baltimore, a notable meeting of prominent citizens was held in the auditorium of the Maryland Institute, in that city, to give expression to their views in relation to the action of the Government in resorting to war for the preservation of the Union. Every section of the State was represented and the great hall of the institute was crowded with a body of as representative citizens as ever assembled in Maryland.” Emmitsburg resident Doctor Andrew Annan was among those who attended this meeting and gave Emmitsburg’s support to the preservation of the Union.
Although this vote didn’t include the southern viewpoint of Emmitsburg, the history of Mount Saint Mary’s College records that the citizens who lived in and around Emmitsburg were very evenly divided during the outbreak of the Civil War. Doctor Thomas C. Moore recalled, “A company of volunteers marched off openly one day to strike for the Union cause; whilst others discovered they had important business demanding immediate attention down in the direction of Dixie’s land. The latter went off without the aid of brass bands; and if any tears were shed at parting they rolled in secret. But the feeling of bitterness on both sides was doubtless more intense than could be found farther either way from the line. Border States are always more exposed to the vicissitudes of war, and the hatred begotten of daily intercourse between citizens is deeper and more lasting than among enlisted soldiers.”
Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary did not escape the divided loyalties. It had a good many Southern students who had proclaimed their allegiance to the newly formed Confederate States of America. Dr. John McCaffrey was the college’s President and a strong supporter of the Confederate States. In a letter written on October 4, 1861, from Archbishop John Purcell to Doctor McCaffrey, he stated his opinions about the Confederate Cause. John McCloskey was the college’s Vice-President and a strong supporter of the Union. Although a Union man, he still placed the practices of Mount Saint Mary’s first and treated every Southern student with respect.
The faculty of Mount Saint Mary’s College was just as divided, but the College itself for the most part was a pleasant place no matter what side the students and faculty chose. Daniel Beltzhoover, a professor of mathematics, was an 1847 graduate of West Point and served in the wars in Florida and also Mexico. Before the Civil War, he commanded a company of Zouave Mountain Cadets and drilled them thoroughly on Eardin’s and Casey’s tactics. Beltzhoover helped to organize Watson’s Artillery, named after A. C. Watson. According to the Story of the Mountain, at least thirty Mountaineers (Mount Saint Mary’s Students) also served in the ranks of Watson’s Artillery.
With more trouble anticipated during the late election since Maryland was a border state and loyalties were truly divided, the Secretary of War and Commanding General Williams sent troops for the protection of Union men at the polls in November of 1861. Major Stone who was the provost-marshal for the areas of Woodsboro, Myersville, Wolfsville, Emmitsburg, Mechanicstown, and Wolf’s Tavern sent troops of infantry and cavalry out in protection of pro-Union men voting, however, no armed men went near the polls, and no serious disturbance occurred in this part of the state. This would be the first time that the Emmitsburg area would escape the disturbances of the Civil War.