Belair on the Home Front
Belair on the Home Front: Southern Sympathizers
History: When the Civil War began, Prince George’s County was full of Southern sympathizers. To keep Maryland in the Union, President Abraham Lincoln imposed martial law, and as the Prince George’s Planter’s Advocate on May 8, 1861,noted, “Maryland is thus subjugated without firing a gun.”
Here at Belair, owner George Cooke Ogle and his family struggled to maintain the plantation. Ogle’s nephew, Richard Ogle Hodges,enlisted in the Confederate army, as did many local men.
When the Federals stopped steamboat travel on the Patuxent River in August 1861, it created a great hardship on local residents, who could not get supplies or ship their produce.
In 1864, Confederate Gen. Bradley Tyler Johnson raided the county, destroying rail lines at Beltsville, cutting telegraph wires, and bivouacking at the Maryland Agricultural College (now University of Maryland, College Park). After the war, George Ogle hoped a new railroad would bring prosperity.
More to Explore: Tour the Belair Mansion Museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion interprets the lives of its residents from 1747 – 1950, including the Ogle, Tasker and Woodward families.
The mansion is also listed on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, because of enslaved people who fled from this estate. A featured exhibit “African-American Slaves at Belair,” tells the stories of resistance and flight.
The Belair Stable Museum highlights the accomplishments of Belair’s Thoroughbred race horses over a 200-year racing legacy. It also features Belair’s other agricultural uses and contains a restored 1923 Stable-master’s living quarters.
1. Belair Mansion in decline, from Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly, April 1886.
2. George Cooke Ogle, owner of Belair
3. Anna Maria Cooke Ogle, ca. 1860, mistress of Belair
4. Richard Ogle Hodges (1841-1899) in his Palmetto Guards uniform, ca. 1861