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During the Civil War, Maryland was sharply divided. In Harford County, Confederate sympathizers burned the Philadelphia, Baltimore Railroad and Wilmington bridges to stop Union troops from advancing to Baltimore. President Abraham Lincoln responded by declaring martial law along the railroad and dispatching Union soldiers to guard the bridges in Harford. The bridges were repaired, and 900 troops arrived from Pennsylvania to secure the area.

One of the leaders of the bridge burnings was Isaac R. Trimble. Trimble became a general in the Confederate army and on June 2, 1861, he planned an attack on Baltimore to delay the passage of Union troops again by burning bridges. However, the plan failed as Confederate forces had no way around the Union army guarding Washington.

To prevent any further bridge attacks in Harford, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and allowed Union soldiers to arrest secessionist sympathizers without charge. The bridges and rail lines in Harford remained protected for the duration of the war.

[Source: Harford Historical Bulletin, No. 83, Winter 2000. Research by Harford County Public Library.]

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