Francis Key Howard's American Bastille
Francis Key Howard (1826-1872) was the grandson of Francis Scott Key and revolutionary war Col. John Eager Howard; in 1861 he served as editor of the Baltimore Exchange which criticized Abraham Lincoln’s unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. On Lincoln’s order, Howard’s newspaper was office was closed and he was made a political prisoner for fourteen months in Forts McHenry and Lafayette, and Warren. He later published “Fourteen Months in American Bastilles.”
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Francis Key Howard’s American Bastille
“On the morning of the 13th of September, 1861, at my residence, in the city of Baltimore, I was awakened about half-past twelve or one o’clock, by the ringing of the bell. When I opened it . . . two men entered . . . One of them informed me that he had an order for my arrest.
In answer to my demand that he should produce a warrant or order under which he was acting, he declined to do so, but said he had instructions from Mr. [William] Seward, the Secretary of State. [He] stated that he intended to execute his orders and that resistance would be idle, as he had with him a force sufficient to render it unavailing.
As he spoke, several men entered the house . . . The leader of the gang then began to search the apartment. Every drawer and box was thoroughly ransacked, and also were my portfolio and writing-desk, and every other place that could possibly be supposed to hold any papers. All my private memoranda, bills, note-books and letters were collected together, to be carried off. After the first two rooms had been thus searched, I was told that I could remain no longer, but must be prepared to go to Fort McHenry.
Two men, wearing the badges of the police force which the Government had organized, escorted me to the fort. I reached Fort McHenry about two o’clock in the morning. There I found several of my friends, and others were brought in a few minutes afterward . . . fifteen in all. Among them were most of the members of the [Maryland] Legislature from Baltimore, Mr. Brown, the mayor of the city, and one of our Representatives in Congress, Mr. May.
The rooms were in the second story of the building, and opened upon a narrow balcony, which we were allowed to use; sentinels, however, being stationed on it. When I looked out in the morning, I could not help being struck by an odd and not pleasant coincidence.
On that day, forty-seven years before, my grandfather, Mr. [Francis Scott] Key, then a prisoner on a British ship, had witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry. When on the following morning, the hostile fleet drew off, defeated, he wrote the song so long popular throughout the country, the “Star-spangled Banner.” As I stood upon the very scene of that conflict, I could not but contrast my position with his, forty-seven years before. The flag he had then so proudly hailed, I saw waving, at the same place, over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a despotism as modern times have witnessed.”
(American Bastille, John A. Marshall, Thomas W. Hartley & Company. 1881, pp. 643-646)