Maryland: Tradition and History Severed With New State Song Legislation

Posted on February 19, 2009

-By Warner Todd Huston

Contrary to popular conception, the South was not united during the Civil War. Every single southern state gave thousands of their sons to the northern armies and Maryland was no different. In fact, Maryland gave more soldiers to northern armies than it did southern (About 32,981 fought for the north and only 4,039 fought for the south). But this does not mean that Maryland was a state with overwhelming northern sentiment. Federal authorities were constantly suspicious of Maryland’s pro-Confederate sentiment, so much so that they feared New President Abraham Lincoln’s travel through the state might end in an assassination attempt. Being a border state, it had an awful lot of vocal southern sentiment and that sentiment shows in the state song, “Maryland, My Maryland.”

And now, 144 years after the civil war ended, legislation is going through the Maryland state house in Annapolis to change the long standing lyrics of the state song(adopted in 1939). It seems the “Confederate sympathies” in the song are too much for lawmaker Pamela Beidle (D-Anne Arundel) to take.

Beidle wants to completely rewrite the song, not just by editing out the “harsh” words, but by substituting as lyrics an older poem for the civil war poem written in 1861 by incensed Marylander James Ryder Randall. Randall ßwrote the words after he learned of the Baltimore riots in which federal soldiers killed several residents of the city. (A poem later put to the tune of “Oh, Christmas Tree” by Lauriger Horatius)

Now the only obvious anti-federal words appear in the last stanza which says in part: “Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!” The first stanza, though, talks of the “despot’s heel” and the “patriotic gore” that “flecked streets of Baltimore,” invoking the Baltimore riots of 1861. But, for the most part, the song speaks of the fealty to the state by patriotic citizens of Maryland as well as her history of sacrifice to the cause. It’s at the same time a war cry and a fierce statement of support for home and hearth.

Sadly, it appears few in the state are even aware of what the current lyrics are. Apparently, even the folks at the Maryland Historical Society don’t know them.

    “I’m ashamed to say I can’t remember the lyrics to it very well,” said Anne Garside, director of communications for the Maryland Historical Society.

But, like a good liberal, that doesn’t stop Mz Garside from declaring the song unwelcome.

    Garside said that despite having little knowledge of what the song says she would be open to “changing any language (of an official anthem) that doesn’t reflect our current inclusive attitudes.”


As to the new lyrics, well the proposed new lyrics are a bit more bland. Celebrating the “mountains with their gushing rills,” and how the Chesapeake divides the state in “twain,” the new lyrics hold little of the proud, warlike aspect of the original. There’s no despots and no evil Yankees mentioned. One stanza alone speaks to the tradition of service to the state, but in a much watered down form.

    Proud sons and daughters boast of thee,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    Thine is a precious history,
    Maryland, my Maryland.
    Brave hearts have held they honor dear,
    have met the foeman far and near,
    but victory has furnished cheer,
    Maryland, my Maryland.

So, the question before Maryland is this: do you keep the strident sentiment of love of state, or bow to the PC wishes of those with little stomach for forthright statements of patriotism?

In a day when the federal government doesn’t seem too far from the despotic actions scornfully chronicled in “Maryland, My Maryland,” should we edit away the 70 years of official status of a 144-year-old song? Or should we let it stand as a warning against usurpation of power and a paean to state’s rights and a lesson for children to learn well?

In an era when now more than ever we should be inculcating in our populace a jealous protection of the proper role of state governments over the ever growing power of the central state, I’d suggest that now is not the time to get squeamish about a few tough words in a state song.

I urge Marylanders not to bend to PC feels-goodism. Save your state song. Vote against the new, bland, uninspiring lyrics to “Maryland, My Maryland.”