Every election cycle is rife with fear of corruption, ballot tampering, or some nefarious “rigging.” Certainly, a raging pandemic and a storm of hostile political divisiveness aren’t doing much to quell anxiety surrounding the current election.
Despite the general consensus that US elections’ integrity is safeguarded, there have been a few brazen attempts to interfere with election outcomes. New York’s Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed come to mind and before that, an organized mail-in ballot scam by Union troops favoring George McClellan in his attempt to end Lincoln’s presidency.
Others, like the Kennedy-Nixon election of 1960 and Bush-Gore in 2000, still linger under suspicion despite countless investigations finding little evidence for grand malfeasance.
Kent County Maryland, however, is another story, according to Kevin Hemstock.
Hemstock, former Editor of The Kent County News and regarded regional historian tells the tale of an attempt to forcibly “rig” the local county election of 1863 during the height of the Civil War. It is a story complete with a Casablanca “round up the usual suspects” at gunpoint moment, a steamboat of arrested prominent Kent citizens shipped to Baltimore, Federal troops at the polling stations, and a dramatic intervention.
The coup attempt was even bizarre enough to make it to Lincoln’s desk where it might have affirmed his decision to suspend Maryland’s constitutional rights at the outbreak of the Civil War.
In fact, Hemstock’s story reflects Lincoln’s concern with Maryland, a slave-state teetering on succession. In the microcosm of local politics, Kent County faced an Emancipation Proclamation dilemma—could Maryland both embrace the North and retain its slaves? Slave owners in Kent County tried: one party thought as much while another believed unconditionally in abolition however it could succeed.
G. Kevin Hemstock, is a lifelong history sleuth, archivist, and author. His books include “Injustice on the Eastern Shore,” “The Thirteen Most Sensational Murders of Kent County, MD,” “Freaks, Fables and Fires of Kent County, MD,” and “The History of Millington: Vol 1 and 2.”
This video is approximately eleven minutes in length.