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Maryland, My Maryland


Maryland, My Maryland

The original sheet music of Maryland, My Maryland

"Maryland, My Maryland" is the official state song of the U.S. state of Maryland. The song is set to the tune of "Lauriger Horatius"[1] — better known as the tune of "O Tannenbaum" — and the lyrics are from a nine-stanza poem written by James Ryder Randall (1839–1908). While the words were penned in 1861, it was not until April 29, 1939, that the state's general assembly adopted "Maryland, My Maryland" as the state song.[2]

The song's words refer to Maryland's history and geography and specifically mentions several historical figures of importance to the state. The song calls for Maryland to fight the Union and was used across the South during the Civil War as a battle hymn.[3] It has been called America's "most martial poem."[4]

Due to its origin in support of the Confederacy, it includes lyrics that refer to President Lincoln as a "tyrant," "despot," and "Vandal," and to the Union as "Northern scum," as well as referring to the phrase "sic semper," which was the slogan later shouted by Marylander John Wilkes Booth while assassinating Lincoln.[5] For these reasons occasional attempts have been made to replace it as Maryland's state song,[6] but to date all such attempts have met with failure.[7]


  • History 1
  • Lyrics 2
  • Later influence 3
  • References 4
  • See also 5


The poem was a result of events at the beginning of the American Civil War. During the secession crisis, President Abraham Lincoln (referred to in the poem as "the despot" and "the tyrant") ordered Union troops to be brought to Washington, D.C. to protect the capital. Many of these troops were brought through Baltimore City, a major transportation hub. There was considerable Confederate sympathy in Maryland at the time. Riots ensued as Union troops came through Baltimore on their way south in April 1861 and were attacked by mobs. A number of Union troops and Baltimore residents were killed in the Baltimore riots, including Francis X. Ward, a friend of James Ryder Randall. Randall, a native Marylander, was teaching at Poydras College in Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana, at the time and, moved by the news of his friend's death, wrote the nine-stanza poem, "Maryland, My Maryland". The poem was a plea to his home state of Maryland to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. The poem contains many references to the Revolutionary War as well as to the Mexican-American War and Maryland figures in that war (many of whom have fallen into obscurity). It was first published in the New Orleans Sunday Delta on 26 April 1861.

The poem was quickly turned into a song — put to the tune of "Lauriger Horatius" — by Baltimore resident Jennie Cary, sister of Hetty Cary.[8] It became instantly popular in Maryland and throughout the South. It was sometimes called "the Marseillaise of the South." Confederate States Army bands played the song after they crossed into Maryland territory during the Maryland Campaign in 1862.[9] According to some accounts, General Robert E. Lee ordered his troops to sing "Maryland, My Maryland," as they entered the town of Frederick, Maryland, but his troops received a cold response, as Frederick was located in the unionist western portion of the state.[10] At least one Confederate regimental band also played the song as Lee's troops retreated back across the Potomac after the bloody Battle of Antietam.



The despot's heel is on thy shore,
His torch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Come with thy panoplied array,
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Virginia should not call in vain,
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back amain,
Maryland! My Maryland!


I see the blush upon thy cheek,
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!


Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Better the fire upon thee roll,
Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!


I hear the distant thunder-hum,
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

* Although the words as written, and as adopted by statute, contain only one instance of "Maryland" in the second and fourth line of each stanza, common practice is to sing "Maryland, my Maryland" each time to keep with the meter of the tune.

Later influence

"Florida, My Florida", "Michigan, My Michigan" and "The Song of Iowa"[11] are set to the same tune. All three were written after "Maryland, My Maryland".

In 1962 Edmund Wilson used the phrase "patriotic gore" from the song as the title of his book on the literature of the American Civil War.[12]

The third verse of this song is sung annually at the Preakness Stakes by the United States Naval Academy glee club.

In the film version of Gone with the Wind, "Maryland, My Maryland" is played at the opening scene of the Charity Ball when Scarlett and Melanie are reacquainted with Rhett Butler. This confused some viewers to think it was a Christmas ball with "O Tannenbaum" playing in the background.


  1. ^ Code of Maryland, State Government, Title 13, § 13-307.
  2. ^ Maryland State Archives (2004). Maryland State Song - "Maryland, My Maryland". Retrieved 27 Dec. 2004.
  3. ^ Catton, Bruce. The Coming Fury [1961]. p. 352.
  4. ^ Randall, James Ryder. 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, p. 639.
  5. ^ Diary Entry of John Wilkes Booth
  6. ^ Another Try for Maryland's State Song?, The Washington Post, April 6, 2000.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Mrs. Burton Harrison (1911). Recollections Grave and Gay. Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 57. 
  9. ^ Scharf, J. Thomas (1967 (reissue of 1879 ed.)). "History of Maryland From the Earliest Period to the Present Day" 3. Hatboro, PA: Tradition Press. p. 494. 
  10. ^ See James M. MacPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford University Press, 1988), 535-36, Amazon Kindle Location 11129-45.
  11. ^ "State Symbols and Song". Iowa Official Register. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  12. ^ Wilson, Edmund. (1962). Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux. Republished in 1994 by W. W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-31256-9 / ISBN 978-0-393-31256-0 .
  • Maryland State Archives (2004). Maryland State Song - "Maryland, My Maryland". Retrieved 27 Dec. 2004.
  • The Morrison Foundation for Musical Research, Inc. (15 Jan. 2004). James Ryder Randall (1839 - 1908). Retrieved 27 Dec. 2004.

See also

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