“It is a notable coincidence that the first blood in this great struggle is drawn by Massachusetts men on the anniversary of Lexington. This is a continuation of the one that Lexington opened — a war of democracy against oligarchy. God defend the Right, and confound all traitors.” — George Templeton Strong
“Good Evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.”
This is the announcement that greeted BBC listeners on April 18, 1930. The 6:30pm radio news bulletin that night announced “Good Evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news.” Piano music was then played until the next normally scheduled program came on. It seems that the BBC found nothing noteworthy or newsworthy to report that night.
April 19 marks both the first battle of the American Revolution in 1775 and the first blood shed of the Civil War in the Baltimore riot of 1861. As Strong comments, it is interesting that both times Massachusetts men played a prominent role and it is notable that these two major American wars “started” on the same date.
In 1775, the first battle of the American Revolution took place in Massachusetts with the Battle of Lexington and Concord. This battle is remembered for many things including: Paul Revere’s midnight ride, “the shot heard ’round the world,” the holding of the North Bridge, and the first American victory against the British.
In 1861, just one week before the Baltimore riot, the battle of Fort Sumter took place signaling the start of the Civil War. No lives, however, were lost in this battle. On April 17, Virginia ceded from the Union. Two days later on April 19 the Union’s 6th Massachusetts Regiment was on its way to Washington when it stopped to change trains in Baltimore, Maryland, a pro-South town. The men had to go ten blocks to get to their connecting train. Crowds of people with Confederate flags surrounded them and eventually blocked their way. Rocks and insults were answered with gunshots from both soldiers and civilians. A riot broke out killing at least 16 people and many more wounded. Eventually the Massachusetts regiment was able to reach their new train, but they had lost four men and were forced to leave behind much of their equipment including their marching band instruments.
–Erin Sutter is a senior Ashbrook Scholar majoring in History and Political Science.