The North Baltimore home of Gov. Augustus W. Bradford was burned to the ground by marauding Confederate troops 150 years ago Friday and marked the closest point that rebel troops came to entering the city during the Civil War.
A Unionist who was opposed to slavery, Bradford served as governor of Maryland from 1862 to 1866.
In early July 1864, Confederate Gen. Bradley T. Johnson’s cavalry brigade got a boost when the First and Second Maryland Cavalry battalions and the Baltimore Light Artillery under the command of Maj. Harry Gilmor were added to his forces.
Johnson’s forces swept into Maryland, eventually moving into Carroll County and Cockeysville, where they burned bridges on the Northern Central Railroad.
Meanwhile, Gilmor was dispatched to the Gunpowder River, where he was ordered to burn the drawbridge that carried the tracks of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, which would effectively paralyze North-South railroad traffic.
Destroying several trains, Gilmor and his forces then moved westward but not before terrorizing Towson and Govanstown in a skirmish with the federal cavalry.
On July 11, Johnson sent 12 men from Gilmor’s troops under the command of Lt. Henry Blackistone to burn Bradford’s home, which was in retaliation for Union forces burning the home of Virginia Gov. John Letcher near Lexington.
Bradford, who was in the city at the time the rebels arrived at 8 a.m., ordered his family out of the home before it was set on fire.
“The first event of the day was the burning of the beautiful country residence of Governor Bradford on Charles Street Avenue which is to the regret of his many friends,” The Baltimore Sun reported the next day.
“They carried out their purpose to its fullest extent, not allowing any of the Governor’s valuable papers, his library, or much of his furniture to be saved,” reported the newspaper.
The Chicago Tribune described the home as being “one of the most elegant establishments in the vicinity of the city” and said that by being in Baltimore, Bradford had been spared being taken prisoner.
Bradford was 76 when he died in 1881. He was buried in Greenmount Cemetery.
“What can be said of him personally,” reported The Sun, was that “he was a man of unblemished integrity, and although set in his opinions, he was conscientious in the discharge of what he believed to be his duty.”
Today, the Elkridge Club occupies the site of the home.