This scene depicts various time periods in Leonardtown’s history. It is a rendering of a mural painted in downtown Leonardtown.
In general, the left side of the painting presents an older time period, around the turn of the century. As you move to the right, the chronology advances to a point in the mod-1950s. However, the time frame drops back to the 1860s where you see the sepia-toned vignette in which Congressman Benjamin Gwinn Harris is being arrested on April 26, 1865 on the porch of the Fenwick Hotel for his opposition to the Civil War.
Though Congressman Harris was arrested after the Civil War was over, he was, nonetheless, charged with war crimes for giving a small amount of money to two freed Confederate prisoners making their way from the Point Lookout prison camp to Baltimore. In fact, the prisoners had been detained by Union officers and ordered to seek lodging from the congressman. Harris was suspicious and instead of taking the men into his home at Ellenborough, just outside of Town, he gave them each a dollar and suggested they seek food and lodging at the hotel.
The soldiers reported this to the Union officers who had Congressman Harris brought from his home into Town for the reading of the charges. He was immediately transferred to a boat waiting in Breton Bay and taken to Washington, D.C. for incarceration. He was convicted of war crimes by a military tribunal, even though he was a civilian and the war was over when the alleged crime occurred.
He was also removed from his seat in the House of Representatives and thrown in jail.
Leonardtown lawyer, John A. Camalier, pleaded the case of Congressman Harris to President Andrew Johnson who agreed that Harris had been treated unfairly. He gave Camalier a pardon for Mr. Harris and told the attorney to invite Congressman Harris to the White House for dinner that night.
The unrepentant Harris refused the dinner invitation in the strongest terms. He returned to Leonardtown and was sent back to Congress at the next election.
The mural scene was designed and painted by Tim Scheirer, Carla Tomaszewski and Clarence Schumaker. Initial financial support came from the St. Mary’s County Arts Councils, the Maryland State Arts Council and the Commissioners of Leonardtown.