The Southern sympathizer who still tried to quell the 1861 Pratt Street Riot
George Proctor Kane (August 4, 1817 - June 23, 1878) was active in Baltimore politics from an early age. He was a member of the Whig Party and worked to support party candidates. He also was an officer in one of the city militia units and involved in the organization of a city fire company.
President Millard Fillmore appointed Kane as the Customs Collector for the Port of Baltimore. He remained in this position as long as the Whig Party was in power.
In 1858 Kane became the Marshal of the Baltimore Police. Under Kane's leadership, the newly-organized police department ended the rule of Baltimore's political gangs.
Though Marshal Kane was a known Southern sympathizer, he still believed that his job was to keep the peace on April 19, 1861, when Union troops passed through Baltimore on their way to defend Washington, D.C. The attack on Fort Sumter had occurred just one week earlier.
However, before the day was over, the first casualties of the American Civil War lay dead in the Pratt Street area where the Baltimore Aquarium, Harborplace and the Baltimore Convention Center now stand. Marshall Kane and his police force probably prevented even more deaths in what came to be known as the Pratt Street Riot.
As war clouds gathered, Baltimore had become a hot bed of Southern sentiment and conflicts between neighbors. Troops from the 6th Massachusetts Regiment moved south toward the nation’s capital and needed to change railroad lines in Baltimore. They marched in formation and rode trolley cars from the President Street Station to Camden Street Station.
Southern supporters gathered along the route. Some threw paving blocks into the formation. The Massachusetts troops, who had little in the way of military training, fired into the crowd.
Marshal Kane and Mayor George Brown arrived with members of the police department and were able to quell the rioters and enable the Massachusetts soldiers to reach the railroad station and proceed. By the end of the day, 11 civilians and five soldiers had lost their lives.
Despite this display of law and order, Marshal Kane was arrested two months later by the federal authorities for his southern leanings. A number of other prominent Baltimoreans were detained as well. He was imprisoned at Fort McHenry, later transferred to a Boston military prison and was eventually furloughed in 1862. He went to Canada and then to Richmond, working to aid the southern cause.
After the war, Kane returned to Baltimore and was elected sheriff in 1873. In 1877 George Kane was elected Mayor of the City of Baltimore. He died in office in 1878. George Kane is buried in New Cathedral Cemetery, Baltimore.
Brown, George William, Baltimore and The Nineteenth of April, 1861, Baltimore,
N. Murray, Publication Agent, Johns Hopkins University, 1887
The Late Mayor Kane, The Baltimore Sun, Jun 25, 1878, pp. 1
The Death of Mayor Kane, The Baltimore Sun, Jun 24, 1878, pp. 2
The Pratt Street Riot, The National Park Service, Retrieved, December 15, 2017