Blanket Brigade: the perfect gift for Thanksgiving

  Note: This is the conclusion of the three-part series about the “Blanket Brigade.” Rising from their rude shelters in Ridgeville, Md. on Sunday, Sept. 14, the 16th Maine Infantry boys listened to “the terrific cannonading” erupting from the Battle of South Mountain, fought miles to the west, Adjutant Abner Small recalled the distant thunder. […]

Blanket Brigade: hard luck on the Potomac

  Note: This is the second part of a three-part series about the “Blanket Brigade.” A hard-luck infantry regiment that Maine fielded in midsummer 1862 later drew scathing ridicule as the autumn rains and cold literally dissolved clothing, men, and equipment in those wretched weeks after Antietam. Commanded by Col. Asa W. Wildes of Skowhegan, […]

Blanket Brigade: Forming the regiment

  In early April 1862, United States Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas ordered that recruiting cease in the loyal states. On April 3, Maine Adjutant General John Hodsdon issued General Order No. 11, directing that “all officers and others engaged” in “Volunteer recruiting service in this state” should “close their several offices and [points of] rendezvous.” […]

Illsley and his ilk met their match in Jackson

Shoulder-strap desire met gubernatorial reality on Monday, Sept. 9, 1861 at the 5th Maine Infantry Regiment camp near Washington, D.C. — and the “shoulder straps” led the subsequent mutiny. Known as the “Forest City Regiment,” the 5th Maine mustered into federal service at Portland (the “Forest City”) on Monday, June 24, 1861. Exactly a month […]

Living History Weekends at Gettysburg

Some 30 weekends a year, Civil War re-enactors bring their craft to life during Living History Weekends at Gettysburg National Military Park; at no cost to themselves, visitors can briefly glimpse history on the fields where it was made. We spent a few hours at Gettysburg on Sunday, September 28. That particular weekend two re-enactment […]

A Hamlin could get away with cowardice

If he did not skedaddle from Manassas in late day on Sunday, July 21, 1861, then why did Augustus Choate Hamlin expend so much ink explaining why he was not a coward? Thanks to his vice-presidential uncle, Hamlin enjoyed a distinguished surname that fateful spring. A doctor by profession and a Republican by choice, he […]

1st Maine Heavies dueled with Ewell’s best at Harris Farm

  Note: This is the second of a two-part article about the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery’s involvement in the Battle of Harris Farm, Va. Unable to break the Confederate lines at Spotsylvania despite repeated assaults, Ulysses Simpson Grant tried in mid-May 1864 to slip the Army of the Potomac east and south around the enemy […]

Lack of combat skills costs 1st Maine Heavies dearly at Harris Farm

  A few hours spent learning rudimentary combat skills could have saved many Maine lives near Spotsylvania Court House, Va. on Thursday, May 19, 1864. The modern Army’s concept of “Advanced Infantry Training” did not exist during the Civil War. The small pre-war Army primarily fought Indians in the far West, where parade-ground maneuvers drawn […]

Locked and Loaded in Baltimore

Friendly receptions drew loud “huzzahs” as the 3rd Maine Infantry Regiment headed south to the war zone in early June 1861. And then there was Baltimore. Beneath “a cloudless sky,” the 3rd Maine boys left Augusta by train on Wednesday, June 5, 1861, recalled Col. Oliver Otis Howard, the professional soldier from Leeds who had […]

Images of the Dead

During the early months of the Civil War, civilians and soldiers — North and South alike — viewed war as a grand adventure comprising glittering cavalcades of marching soldiers and held-high flags. Then came the reality of war, experienced first on the battlefield by amateur soldiers in early summer 1861 and next by civilians some […]