School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic C. Conflict between Ideas and Institutions

Indicator 3. Analyze regional differences in the Civil War and its effects on people in Maryland

Objective a. Describe the economic interests in Maryland, such as agricultural v. industrial and slave v. non-slave


By the time of the Civil War, Maryland had developed into a state marked by distinct regions with very different economic interests.

In Southern Maryland, the tobacco economy that had been established early in the colony's history persisted. The region was almost completely agricultural with few significant towns or roads and very little industry. Because growing tobacco was so labor intensive, Southern Maryland farmers also relied heavily on the labor of enslaved African Americans. They felt strongly that the preservation of tobacco agriculture and slavery were essential to their economic well-being.

The Eastern Shore of Maryland was also almost entirely agricultural and resembled Southern Maryland in its scarcity of roads, towns, and industry. This region had once depended on tobacco agriculture and slavery as well, but over the course of the early nineteenth century, Eastern Shore farmers transitioned from tobacco to wheat, recognizing that tobacco depleted the soil. Because wheat production required less labor, many Eastern Shore farmers believed that it was cheaper to hire seasonal labor than purchase and maintain enslaved workers, and they freed their slaves. While the Eastern Shore, then, resembled the South in its reliance on agriculture and the presence of slavery, it did not share the South's complete dependence on slavery. In fact, it was home to a substantial free black population.

Western Maryland was much more like the North than the South. Largely agricultural, the region produced wheat and other cereal crops. The area's small farms yielded large harvests due to fertile soil and the practice of crop rotation. Western Maryland's towns, such as Frederick and Hagerstown, also boasted significant industry, including flour mills, textile factories, and iron and glass works. Many of the manufactured goods people needed in Western Maryland were produced locally. A few Western Marylanders did own and use enslaved African Americans, but their numbers were small.

Central Maryland was dominated by Baltimore City. Beyond the city, the region's economy was similar to Western Maryland's in its focus on cereal crops and small-scale industry. Baltimore City itself was dominated by commercial and industrial pursuits. Shipbuilding and shipping were central to the city's economy and life. The city was a major center for the processing and shipping of wheat, especially to the West Indies. Industry also flourished, especially the production of textiles. Artisans produced all sorts of goods, such as clothing and furniture, and provided all sorts of services, including printing newspapers and butchering food. Institutions such as banks and insurance companies that supported commerce also flourished. Enslaved African Americans in Baltimore City worked on the docks, in the shipyards, as artisans, and as domestic servants. More significant though, was the city's free black population, which was the largest in the nation.

The very different economies of Maryland's regions created tension within the state's politics. Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore struggled to hold on to the political dominance they had long enjoyed despite the larger and growing populations and healthier economies of Central and Western Maryland. As the Civil War approached, these regional differences plunged the state into confusion over its loyalty to North or South.

Resources for Objective 5.C.3.a: