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05.12.01 Howard, Francis (Frank) Key, Fourteen Months in American Bastiles, published in 1863

Notes About the Author

Francis (Frank) Key Howard (1826 – 1872) was the grandson of Francis Scott Key and Revolutionary War colonel John Eager Howard.  Frank Howard was the editor of the “Daily Exchange”, a Baltimore newspaper sympathetic to the Southern cause. He was arrested without a warrant just after midnight on September 13, 1861 at his home by U.S. major general Nathaniel Banks on the direct orders of general George McClellan enforcing President Abraham Lincoln’s policy to arrest and imprison opposition Democrats. 

Our Review

Howard tells how Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Prentice Banks arrested him at his home without a warrant around midnight on September 3, 1861. Banks said the order for the arrest came Secretary of State William Stewart enforcing the Lincoln’s policy. An editorial in the Baltimore newspaper Daily Exchange criticizing the Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

Chief Justice Roger Taney had declared the action unconstitutional in Maryland after the Baltimore mayor, all the police commissioners, all city council members and sitting member of U.S. Congress.

In his book, Frances Key Howard writes at Ft. McHenry, “When I looked out in the morning, I could not help being struck by an odd and not pleasant coincidence. On that day forty-seven years before my grandfather, Mr. Francis Scott Key, then prisoner on a British ship HMS Tonnant, had witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry When on the following morning the hostile fleet drew off, defeated, he wrote the song so long popular throughout the country, the Star Spangled Banner. As I stood upon the very scene of that conflict, I could not but contrast my position with his, forty-seven years before. The flag which he had  then so proudly hailed, I saw waving at the same place over the victims of as vulgar and brutal a despotism as modern times have witnessed.”

I recommend Fourteen Months in the American Bastilles by Frances Key Howard to read as history but also as a caution that this could happen today.

Availability of this book

This is available as a reprint, an e-book and as an audio book.  See Amazon offering below: