Lottery winner catches the Maine-bound boat

However badly that Joseph Hooker blew the Battle of Chancellorsville, an order he issued on January 30, 1863 went over very well with the Army of the Potomac’s rank-and-file. “Orders were given on January 30th from the headquarters of the army that furloughs might be granted for fifteen days to one regimental and two line […]

The 17th Maine backstabbers, part 2

With his resignation from command of the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment already submitted, Col. Thomas Roberts had one last chore to perform: recommend his successor. Since the regiment’s muster in Portland in August 1862, Roberts’ second-in-command had been Lt. Col. Charles B. Merrill, also from Portland. Roberts was away sick when Merrill led the 17th […]

The 17th Maine backstabbers, part 1

The departure of Col. Thomas Roberts from the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment in late spring 1863 sparked a lobbying campaign that elevated his major to regimental command. The trouble was, his lieutenant colonel should have received the promotion. The 1860 census found Roberts living in Portland with his wife, Mary, and their three sons: Charles […]

The last letter home, part 2

To many soldiers’ families in New England came a letter that, as events proved, would be the last letter, forever and a day, from a loved one in uniform. The White family living in Cambridge, Massachusetts received such a letter in mid-1862. George R. White, a tired private in Co. G of the 19th Massachusetts […]

The last letter home, part 1

To many families came a letter that, as events proved, would be the last letter to arrive, forever and a day, from their soldier relative. Such a letter came to the White family living in Cambridge, Massachusetts in mid-1862. Though not connected with Maine, that letter represents similar correspondence reaching many Maine homes that year. […]

Obstinate Maine soldiers muck home: Mud March, part 3

Caught by a cold rain while attempting to outflank Robert E. Lee at Fredericksburg on January 20, 1863, Union soldiers, horses, and mules suffered immeasurably as the Ambrose Burnside-planned attack dissolved into the “Mud March.” With horses and mules unable to pull mud-stuck cannons, caissons, and wagons, Union infantrymen taking to the flooded roadside terrain […]

Even the weather fights the Yankees: Mud March, part 2

His direct assaults on Confederate-defended Fredericksburg handily repulsed in mid-December 1862, Ambrose Burnside decided to outflank Robert E. Lee’s dug-in veterans 5½ weeks later. Burnside planned to wheel his Army of the Potomac over the Rappahannock River to flank Lee’s army and force it to fight on open ground, where the Yankees could surely outmaneuver […]

Burnside rolls the dice to destroy his army: Mud March, part 1

His bloody ambition unquenched by the 12,500 soldiers sacrificed at Fredericksburg, Ambrose Burnside took another crack at Robert E. Lee in mid-January 1863. The resulting fiasco almost destroyed the Army of the Potomac, instead. “Words are inadequate to describe the scenes of that eventful campaign,” acerbically commented 1st Sgt. Edwin B. Houghton of Co. A, […]

Yakking about Lincoln sinks a Phippsburg officer

There’s a time to yap and a time to shaddup, as a promising Maine officer discovered in winter 1863. Having toyed with its wording for months, President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation in autumn 1862 and set January 1, 1863 as its effective date. All slaves in areas hostile to the United States government […]

Prickling sensation irritates a supposedly missing foot

Shot and wounded as the charging 20th Maine Infantry Regiment reached Confederate trenches at Saunders Field in the Wilderness on Thursday, May 5, 1864, Sgt. Charles H. Haynes of Ellsworth soon experienced a peculiar sensation. Striking his left leg “about five inches below the knee,” two lead bullets shattered leg bones, and a third bullet […]