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John Merryman (August 9, 1824 – November 15, 1881) was the petitioner in one of the best known habeas corpus cases of the American Civil War, a militia officer during the Civil War, and a Maryland politician.

Early life[]

Merryman began his work life as an employee in Richard Norris' hardware store in Baltimore City. The following year he moved to Guayama, Puerto Rico to work for his uncle, Samuel N. Gott. Merryman returned to Maryland in 1842 to manage farms and raise Hereford cattle. Merryman married Ann Louisa, daughter of Elijah Bosley Gittings, in 1844. John and Ann Louisa had eleven children. Merryman, a Democrat, served as president of the Board of County Commissioners, Baltimore County, in 1857[1]. At the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, he was a farmer in Cockeysville, Maryland.[2]

Civil War[]

Prior to the Civil War, Merryman was a 3rd lieutenant in the Baltimore County Troops. By 1861 he was a 1st lieutenant in the Baltimore County Horse Guards.[1] Following the Pratt Street Riot in Baltimore, Governor Hicks ordered Merryman to aid in the destruction of several bridges north of Baltimore to prevent troops from Pennsylvania from marching through Baltimore and inciting riots.[1]

On May 25, 1861, Merryman was arrested at his home in Cockeysville by Union troops, indicted for treason, and confined in Fort McHenry.[2] Merryman petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus, which was granted by Chief Justice Taney, but the writ was disobeyed by General George Cadwalader, the arresting officer, under orders from President Lincoln, even though Taney cited Cadwalader for contempt. Taney declared Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus unconstitutional (see Ex parte Merryman).

While Merryman was in jail awaiting a hearing, Taney had furniture and home-cooked meals brought to him in his cell. Merryman later named one of his sons Roger B. Taney Merryman in the Chief Justice's honor.[3]

Merryman was State Treasurer of Maryland from 1870 to 1872.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Maryland State Archives
  2. 2.0 2.1 Toomey, Daniel Carroll. The Civil War in Maryland. Baltimore, Md.: Toomey Press. p. 21. ISBN 0-9612670-0-3. 
  3. The Politics of Continuity.


Template:Start box Template:S-off |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Robert Fowler |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Treasurer of Maryland
1870—1872 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
John W. Davis |- |}