In “Gone With The Wind,” Southern civilians wait for the Gettysburg casualty lists in a particularly heart-wrenching scene. As parents and friends frantically scan the long printed lists, women scream and men blanch.
Beloved husbands, sons, and brothers are either not coming home at all or are not coming home in one piece.
Just as casualty lists reached Atlanta, so did such lists reach Bangor, Lewiston, Portland, and many other Maine cities and towns. Local newspapers usually printed the casualty lists, which ran particularly long after Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.
But the lists remained short in winter 1863. On Wednesday, Jan. 14, the Bangor Daily Whig & Courier expended perhaps half a column on the latest lists, which included men wounded at Fredericksburg or taken ill in the central Virginia camps.
At the Lincoln Hospital in Washington, D.C. many Maine boys had been admitted in December 1862. Among them were:
• From Co. B, 16th Maine Infantry on Dec. 29, Gardiner residents Aaron Stackpole had been admitted for chronic diarrhea and W.O. Wakefield for rheumatism;
• Joseph L. Cleveland, a Skowhegan soldier from Co. G, 16th Maine, underwent surgery on Dec. 23 to amputate his left leg above the knee. He died on Dec. 30;
• Wilson Brown, another Skowhegan resident from Cleveland’s company, lost “both arms” to amputations “above [the] elbow” on Dec. 23;
• C.F. Huntley of East Machias and of Co K, 18th Maine Infantry, was admitted as a convalescent on Christmas Day 1862;
• Joseph L. Downs of Steuben, admitted for typhoid fever on Dec. 23. He belonged to Co. H, 18th Maine Infantry;
• Thomas Burke of Presque Isle, a soldier from Co. I, 18th Maine Infantry who was admitted for rheumatism on Dec. 30;
• The 19th Maine Infantry’s Martin Myrick of Vinalhaven, admitted for chronic rheumatism on Dec. 29.
One particular medical condition, “debility,” confined three soldiers to the Emory Hospital in Washington, D.C., according to the Daily Whig & Courier. James Long of Blue Hill, D. Oparon of Augusta, and John Kennedy of Lubec were all admitted on or after Christmas Day, and a stomach ailment confined Horatio James of Calais to the Emory Hospital on Dec. 27.
Some soldiers who reached the Washington hospitals did not survive. On Jan. 14 the Daily Whig & Courier reported that “we find among the recent deaths of soldiers at the hospitals in Washington the following:
“James Barbour, Co. B, 10th Me; J.C. Maskan, [Co.] I, 4th [Me]; Isaac Wilson, K, 16th; James M. Walker, G, 19th; Charles E. Staples, D, 5th; David Cutsing, C, 28th.”
This brief list did not mention the soldiers’ hometowns or provide any other information about these Maine heroes. The newspapers wasted little ink or column space on the reactions of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, sweethearts, and children of such men; the concept of the stoic New Englander existed even then, and mourning took place in private.
Meanwhile, other Maine soldiers had died “at Hammond Hospital, Point Lookout, Maryland, since its opening,” the Daily Whig & Courier reported in the same edition:
• Joel Butler of Co. F, 6th Maine Infantry, had died on July 30;
• Sgt. Rufus F. Day of Co. D, 4th Maine Infantry, had died on Aug. 18;
• Following him to the grave two days later was Horace H. Moody of Co. E, 6th Maine Infantry;
• Orrin Piper of Co. F, 7th Maine Infantry died at Hammond Hospital on Sept. 2.
Other Maine boys to die at Point Lookout that September included Oliver Billington and Ferris S. Drake. Yet additional names appeared on the report from Hammond Hospital.
Why such deaths had not been reported months sooner was not explained in the Daily Whig & Courier. Hopefully Joel Butler’s survivors already knew that he had died almost six months earlier.
And at least Butler and Moody and the other Point Lookout decedents received marked graves. Records exist of Maine men who, especially in the confusion of the Peninsula Campaign in spring 1862, went into Army hospitals and then vanished.
The 1863 casualty lists would continue to grow as the armies met at Chancellorsville and again at Brandy Station, Aldie, and a dozen other places during the run-up to Gettysburg.
But Mainers would never grow accustomed to reading the long lists of men killed, wounded, or missing at any time during the war.