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Baltimore, Maryland 1861
Samuel Ward watched the rising sun and wondered why he had even bothered to go to bed the night before. He hadn't slept, nor had he expected to. How could he when the woman to whom he'd pledged his love and devotion had broken his heart?
Julia's words sliced through his mind.
You are a coward. I will not marry you.
He raked his fingers through his reddish-brown hair, trying to comprehend such a declaration. Just a few weeks ago, they'd been happy and in love. Their future had seemed secure. But the bloody conflict that had divided the nation into North and South had divided Sam and Julia, as well. The final straw had come last night when word had spread that Federal troops were in the process of occupying Baltimore. Angry and frightened, Julia had wanted him to say that he'd support the Confederacy and drive the Northern troops out of their home. But he could not say it. He could not support States' Rights. And that was something she could not accept.
The hole in his heart was vast but as a history and rhetoric teacher at the Rolland Park Men's Seminary, he had a duty to perform. He picked up his watch and gathered his books. He knew the campus would be in an uproar because of what was happening in the city. He prayed for wisdom.
Help me, Lord. Help me follow Your path.
When Sam arrived at the seminary the halls were filled with talk.
"That army is going to arrest anyone with Southern sympathy."
"Those that had it left town last night."
"They won't be the last to leave. You can be certain of that."
Sam walked into his classroom. He stopped briefly to glance at the painting of Francis Scott Key, which hung prominently above the blackboard. The father of the "Star Spangled Banner" had once been caught between two opposing armies. Samuel couldn't help but wonder if Fort McHenry would once again be the center of rockets' red glare.
One month ago, Confederate forces had fired upon Fort Sumter. President Lincoln called for volunteers to put down the rebellion. When Northern troops tried to pass through Baltimore en route to Washington they clashed with pro-secession citizens. Rioting commenced. The soldiers opened fire. People were killed.
His country was at war. So was his family.
He took out his books. When his students filed in he called the roll. Five were missing. He stared at the empty chairs, rumors of their departure circulating around him.
"They rode to Carroll County last night," one student volunteered.
"They packed their haversacks with foodstuffs and took their pistols."
"They will be in Virginia before the week is through."
Julia's brother Edward was a member of the Maryland Guard. He and many other men from the state militia had gone south last night. Sam wondered if his students would fall under Edward's leadership. He prayed that wherever they were this morning that God would protect them.
The remaining men in the classroom wore faces of uncertainty. All they wished to discuss was the army that had invaded Baltimore. They were just as divided as the city. Some were for the occupation.
"Life will get back to normal now because of this show of force."
Others were not so sure. "What do you think General Butler's true intentions are?" one of the men asked.
Sam drew in a deep breath, wanting to remain calm and unaffected by it all, or at least show as much to his students. The last thing they needed was a teacher stirring up their concerns by airing his own fears. But his anxiety over Edward's safety and his despair over the loss of Julia's love made it hard to sound optimistic.
"I should hope that his intentions are as he stated in his proclamation, to ' enforce respect and obedience to the laws.'"
The notice from the Union General had been printed in the local papers that morning. Anyone who could get their hands on one had read it.
For months now the newspapers had been reporting on Maryland's possible political future. The state legislature swung one month toward Federal sovereignty and then unfettered States' Rights the next. Now Maryland's position had been determined for her. She would be kept in the Union by force.
"We have much to attend to today," he said, trying to keep the political discussion limited. "Please open your books to chapter four."
Sam tried to continue with his lesson plans but his heart was heavy and his students were distracted. The combination of which did not make for a very engaging time of study. He ended up dismissing the young men early.
"Look after your families," he told them.
The students seemed grateful to go. They rose quickly from their seats and hurried for the door. Their teacher, wishing to join them, moved to pack his books in his satchel. But where could he go? The Stantons, Julia's family, were the closest thing he still had to family. But her words the previous night had made it quite clear that she would not welcome his company any longer. Her words were still ringing in his ears.
You are a coward. I will not marry you.
A knock on the door frame caused him to look up. There in the opening stood Dr. Charles Carter, the dean of students.
"And how are you today, Mr. Ward?" he said evenly as though it were any other spring day.
Sam had only known the man for a short period of time but he had come to respect him. Dr. Carter was a by-the-book disciplinarian but impartial and even-handed, as well.
"Well, sir. And you?"
Dr. Carter smiled a tempered smile. "Oh, well enough." He stepped toward Sam's desk. "How was your class? The attendance in particular, if I may ask."
Sam sighed and gave the man his report.
Dr. Carter nodded silently, as though he had suspected such. "I am afraid to say that this is the case in many classrooms this morning," he said. His eyes swept the empty room then turned back. "Do not be discouraged, young man. The hand of Providence still guides."
Sam appreciated the remark but did not have time to express so.
The dean then asked, "Have you a moment?"
"I do, sir."
"Then would you walk with me?"
"It would be a pleasure, sir. I was headed outside myself." Sam quickly packed his satchel and closed his classroom.
"These old rooms get so musty in the springtime," Dr. Carter remarked. "I much prefer the fresh air."
Sam followed the man to the end of the hall. They descended the large, walnut staircase, crossed the main foyer and stepped out onto the tree-lined campus before Dr. Carter spoke again.
"I couldn't help but notice the small volume on your desk just now. Tell me, Mr. Ward, if you will be so kind, do you find Frederick Douglass's words captivating?"
Heat crept up Sam's neck. His tie and collar seemed a little too tight. He hadn't even been aware that an autobiography of the former Maryland slave was lying on his desk. He must have placed it in his satchel with his other school books that morning.
He had bought the book in Philadelphia during his time at the State Street Teacher's College. It was there he had first been exposed to the true realities of slavery. The more he learned, the more his conviction had grown that he could not support an institution that allowed one man to own another. It was a "state right" he could not condone for anyone's sake. Not even Julia's. Sam wondered where Dr. Carter's inquiry was leading but he answered truthfully.
"I do not find them so much captivating, sir, as I do haunting."
Dr. Carter nodded, though his face gave little indication to what he thought of the admission. "Why is that?" he simply asked.
Sam wished now that he hadn't agreed to this walk. Slavery was a dividing issue. The last thing he wanted was to cause controversy between him and one of his colleagues. But he could not deny the certainty that he felt in his heart. He had no wish to offend, but he wouldn't deny his beliefs. He answered the question carefully.
"We are all created in the image of God," he said. "We should treat each other as God treats us."
Dr. Carter stopped beneath one of the maple trees. He turned to Sam and smiled.
"I, too, share your thoughts," he said.
"Yes. Have you ever met Mr. Douglass?"
"I have. A few months ago."
"You were educated in Philadelphia, yes?"
"That is correct, sir."
They started walking once more, choosing the stone path that led to the library.
"Fine work they are doing in Philadelphia," Dr. Carter said. "Fine work, indeed."
Sam wasn't certain if he was referring to education or something else. He sensed it was the latter.
"I met Mr. Douglass once, myself," Dr. Carter said. "In Boston." He glanced at Sam. "There is fine work going on in Boston, as well."
Sam did not reveal that he had once been there, as well; but by now he was beginning to suspect that Frederick Douglass and the fine work up north were related. Coupled with Dr. Carter's first question, he reckoned that the Dean of Students had sided with the abolitionist cause. He seemed most curious to know what Sam's position was.
"It is fine work," Sam said. "Something I think that there should be more of."
Dr. Carter's eyes practically sparkled with excitement. From his vest pocket he produced a small scrap of paper. He handed it to Sam. "Then perhaps you would be interested in meeting some of my friends."
Sam studied the note. It was an address in the Fell's Point area. "Are your friends engaged in fine work?" he asked, borrowing the phrase.
"They are and they are always looking for God-fearing young men such as you to be part of such."
He was cautiously intrigued. He had met a few abolitionists in Philadelphia. Most of them were kind-hearted, wonderful people. A few, however, had such wild, vengeful looks in their eyes that frankly, they scared him. Sam wanted no part of a group like that. He believed judgment should be reserved for God alone.
A group of students exited the library. They walked toward Dr. Carter and Sam.
Dr. Carter's countenance changed, a firm disciplinary look replacing the smiling excitement his face had just shown.
"Four o'clock, next Friday," he said matter-of-factly. Then he opened the door to the library. Sam watched the white-haired gentleman walk into the building. Then he slipped the scrap of paper the man had given him into his own vest pocket.
Dr. Carter had left him with many questions. Abolitionists were a varying lot, and Sam wasn't exactly certain what he might be getting into. He would appreciate his future father-in-law's counsel. But given what had taken place with Julia, he wondered if Dr. Stanton would receive him. Does he know about our broken engagement? Will he side with Julia? He decided to take the chance. After all, he was concerned for their safety.
Heeding his own advice to look after one's family, he hurried to visit the Stantons.
The streets of Mount Vernon were nearly deserted that afternoon. Barricades had filled the streets; but, as of today, the citywide state of "armed neutrality" had given way to at least the appearance of submission. Maryland state flags and the Palmetto flag, the symbol of South Carolina and secession, had been removed. The armed men that had been patrolling the streets for the last month were nowhere to be seen. The Federal guns pointing at Monument Square had discouraged outside activity.
Sam was eager to be indoors as well. To his relief, Dr. Stanton greeted him warmly when he arrived. He invited Sam to join him in the study. The man had surrounded himself with his medical journals.
"I came to see how everyone was," Sam told him, "and to see if you were in need of any assistance." And, if I may, get your opinion about something, he thought.
Dr. Stanton nodded. "I thank you. My wife has spent the entire day in bed."
Sam's concern rose. He decided to forgo his planned request for advice. Dr. Stanton had more pressing concerns.
"I am sorry to hear that. Is she ill?"
"Not really. Edward's departure has broken Esther's heart. She doesn't know what to do." He rubbed his mustache. "I suppose we all are that way. All I can seem to concentrate on are my medical books. Julia has busied herself in the kitchen. She has baked four loaves of bread today."
Sam caught himself smiling, though it was a sorrow filled one. Julia had always baked when she was upset or angry.
"Is there any word from Edward?" he asked.
"No, and I fear that there won't be for a very long time."
Neither man knew what to say next. Dr. Stanton went back to his journal. Sam sat quietly and stared at the ceiling. He could hear the rattle of pots and pans coming from the kitchen. He wondered if Julia knew he was here.
"How were your classes?" Dr. Stanton asked. "I had five missing from my history class alone."
"They left to fight?"
"So the rumors say."
Dr. Stanton sighed long and slow. He tugged at his spectacles. "And those that remained?"
"Their minds were far from the Roman Empire."
"I imagine so."
Sam heard the rustle of her petticoats even before he saw her. Julia's approaching footsteps drew their attention to the door.
"Father, we are in need of wood for the stove "
The moment she saw Sam an unnerved expression filled her blue eyes. The rest of her words escaped her. He purposefully maintained his gaze. His heart was pounding.
Julia brushed the trace of flour from the front of her green cotton day dress and slowly regained her composure. She looked at her father.
"Will you ask Lewis to fetch some?"
Sam seized the opportunity. "I will see to it."
"Oh, thank you, son."
Son. Dr. Stanton had always called him that. Nothing had changed from his perspective it seemed. Julia, however, did not even acknowledge his presence. She turned her head and looked away as he passed by her.
Sam did not let her actions discourage him. Instead of hunting down Lewis, the family stable hand, he walked to the lean-to.
There was no wood available. He was not surprised. It was Edward's job to see that the kindling box remained full. With all of her baking Julia had depleted the supply that her brother had last chopped. Sam picked out several logs in need of splitting. He could not ease the tensions in his city or his nation. He couldn't protect Edward, his students or Julia. But this was something that needed to be done that he could do. He took off his frock coat and set to work.