Appomattox Road: Cavalry fight at Dinwiddie – Part II: “A first-class wild-cat show coming up”

  Jonathan Prince Cilley received short notice about the Confederate surprise attack that almost “rolled up” the 2nd Division, U.S. Cavalry Corps, about suppertime on Friday, March 31, 1865. Throughout the afternoon, his 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment had held the division’s far left flank while strung out along the east bank of Chamberlain’s Run, a […]

Appomattox Road: Cavalry fight at Dinwiddie – Part I: “The sharp, heavy volleys heard over the hill”

  Sent to capture an obscure Southside Virginia crossroads in late March 1865, Phil Sheridan botched the assignment — and the 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment saved him from an embarrassing defeat. Ulysses Simpson Grant sent Sheridan to make an end run around the left flank of Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. […]

Appomattox Road: You have read of Virginia rainstorms and Virginia mud

Reading the letters that her brother, Daniel Withum Sawtelle, wrote from Virginia in January and February 1865, Caroline Sophronia Murphy developed a good idea about what passed for winter in Virginia. The widowed Murphy often traded letters with Daniel, born in Minot in April 1838 and raised in Township 3, Range 5 in southwestern Aroostook […]

Appomattox Road: The solemn-faced nincompoop soon returned

  Winter 1865 found John Haley of Saco serving with the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment in the Union lines southwest of Petersburg. He and his Co. I comrades alternated their duty between the monotony and military regimen of camp life and dangerous duty at picket posts much nearer Confederate lines. “A new year dawns, the […]

Webster Warriors of Bangor

  Webster was a common Bangor surname in the mid-19th century. Then the Civil War intervened, one Webster household from the Queen City dispersed several sons throughout the Union army, and Dr. Bill Hopkins of Wisconsin discovered two of those Webster brothers in Florida many years later. One day “as I was researching Union soldiers […]

Machias forager gets his goose cooked

  Sherman’s “March to the Sea” epitomizes the concept of “living off the land” in hostile territory, but soldiers like Calif Newton Drew of Machias were cleaning out Confederate larders long before Sherman’s bummers swaggered out of Atlanta. Hailing from Machias and Whitneyville, Drew was 15 when he joined Co. K, 6th Maine Infantry Regiment […]

Mayhem and murder in Georgia

Joining the 8th Maine Infantry Regiment took Enoch Robbins of Swanville to some popular tourist haunts along the Southeast coast. And a brutal murder in Georgia opened a door to a long-sought promotion. From Cyndi Dalton of Northport comes a tale of interracial love (and possibly sex), a jealous lover, murder, courtroom intrigue, and a […]

The women of Sherman

  The shots fired by Confederate artillery at Fort Sumter in April 1861 echoed as far away as Golden Ridge Plantation in southwestern Aroostook County … … and still echoed four years later when the residents of Sherman — the town which the plantation became on Jan. 28, 1862 — took stock of the high […]

The 5th Maine Infantry’s “galvanized Rebel” — Part II

After Confederate troops captured William Frederick Irwin of the 5th Maine Infantry Regiment at Spotsylvania Courthouse in mid-May 1864, he was soon shipped to a prison camp at Salisbury, N.C. “This was a nasty place,” according to Maine historian Curt Mildner. The prisoners suffered from malnutrition, lack of clothing and shelter, disease, and sadistic guards […]

The 5th Maine Infantry’s “galvanized Rebel” — Part I

  In tracing their Civil War ancestry, some folks discover (to paraphrase the title of Tony Horwitz’s delightful 1998 book) that they have a “Confederate or Yankee in the Attic”: The family’s connection to the Civil War wore Union blue or Confederate gray.A And then there are the fortunate Civil War descendants, like Elizabeth Kane […]