- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

ANNAPOLIS In a reprise of a debate over Maryland's state song that has been waged for decades, lawmakers yesterday considered an alternative to the Civil War-era tune, which refers to Abraham Lincoln as a "despot" and Union troops as "Northern scum."
The current anthem was written in 1861 by 22-year-old James Ryder Randall, who was outraged to hear his college roommate had been killed when Union troops marching through Baltimore had opened fire on a crowd of Confederate sympathizers.
Maryland was a divided state at the time, torn between remaining in the Union or seceding to the Confederate States of America.
Randall, who was living in Louisiana, called on Marylanders to rebel against the federal government and "avenge the patriotic gore that flecked the streets of Baltimore." It was adopted as state song in 1939.
Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, Montgomery Democrat, presented a less-belligerent alternative to the Senate Committee on Education Health and Environmental Affairs. Wearing a scarf patterned on the state flag, she suggested a poem penned in 1894 by John T. White, a school principal from Cumberland.
It's titled "Maryland, My Maryland," as opposed to the more emphatic "Maryland! My Maryland!" though both are sung to the same tune, which was borrowed from the Christmas standard, "O, Tannenbaum," or "O, Christmas Tree."
Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Somerset Republican, sang Mrs. Forehand's alternative, although he carefully clarified that didn't qualify as an endorsement of the new words.
The two songs sound similar, but the words tell different stories. White's song is an ode to the natural beauty of Maryland, celebrating "thy streams and wooded hills, Thy mountains with their rushing rills," and evoking the Chesapeake Bay.
Mrs. Forehand, who lives in Rockville, said the poem was presented to her by an elderly church friend who was the grandson of John White.
She said these lyrics seemed much more appropriate for celebrating the state's diversity.
"Schoolchildren do not sing the Maryland state song, and I'm glad," said Mrs. Forehand, who says she had relatives who fought for both sides.
Mrs. Forehand said this year is an appropriate time to change the lyrics, as the September 11 terrorist attacks spawned a surge of national unity.
Several people testified against the new song, saying it is part of a movement toward political correctness that is whitewashing history.
"The rights along with the blood of Marylanders were shed on the streets of Baltimore," said Christopher Beck, the Maryland division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Last year, legislation to abolish the current song but not introduce a new one died in a House committee.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide