The Lexington of 1861
In many cases, visual resources not only provided a means by which to depict a news event, but also a way to interpret that event. This lithograph, produced by Currier & Ives, shows the Sixth Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment fighting its way through a mob in the streets of Baltimore, attempting to reach Washington, D.C., in answer to Lincoln’s call for seventy-five thousand troops after the firing on Fort Sumter. Sixteen people died in the riot, including four of the Massachusetts soldiers, considered the first combat fatalities of the Civil War.
Comparisons between this riot and the Battles of Lexington and Concord—hence the title The Lexington of 1861—were swift and inevitable: they both happened on April 19, involved Massachusetts men, and resulted in the first fatalities of the war. And, as the Union would have it, in both cases the Massachusetts men were simply going about their business when they were ruthlessly attacked by the aggressor. The subtitle of the print states: “The Massachusetts Volunteers fighting their way through the streets of Baltimore, on their march to the defence of the National Capitol April 19th 1861. Hurrah for the Glorious 6th.”