By fall of the year 1860, 104 students attended the College of Saint James. The Rev. Dr. Kerfoot and his faculty supported the Union. Yet, they were able to keep the School running peacefully despite the fact that three-quarters of the student body hailed from the South.
However, as southern states began to secede from the Union, Kerfoot grew worried about mounting wartime tensions and their impact on the survival and well-being of the School and its students. The Headmaster expressed his concerns in this letter to the Bishop of Maryland:
"But our College is in great peril. Border war, apparently inevitable now, must shut it up – and then how long? If to the North, will youths come to us thence? They will hardly come then from the South. If to the South, will the South trust us in the embittered feeling of recent war and distrust and antagonism?.....We cannot go on if war overruns this district, as it must if peace does not come soon.....All these anxieties may be dissipated by the actual result of things. But to count on this would not be wise. We are preparing to meet any emergency by calmly pondering our duty under probable contingencies of the times just ahead. Every man here is bent on discovering his duty. We all seek grace to think and do what is right....."
Parents began to express their mounting concerns as well, penning letters to Kerfoot as Maryland hung in the balance of secession. One mother from South Carolina wrote that if Maryland did not secede, she would be forced, in response to local pressure, to remove her son from the school the following year. A Pennsylvania family informed the Headmaster that they would send another son to Saint James if Maryland stayed with the Union. The future of Saint James seemed uncertain.