The end of Appomattox Road: paying the ultimate sacrifice

 

Their billowing American flag pockmarked with bullet holes, Union ren-enactors fight opposing Confederate infantry while recreating the Battle of Appomattox Court House on April 9, 2015. Exactly 150 years ago, men from the 11th Maine Infantry Regiment fought on this same site — and some died only a few hours before the war ended in Virginia. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Their billowing American flag pockmarked with bullet holes, Union re-enactors fight opposing Confederate infantry while recreating the Battle of Appomattox Court House on April 9, 2015. Exactly 150 years ago, men from the 11th Maine Infantry Regiment fought on this same site — and some died only a few hours before the war ended in Virginia. (Brian Swartz Photo)

So close, yet so far: Some Maine soldiers who witnessed the literal dawn of peace at Appomattox Court House on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865 did not see its sunset.
Their blood, along with that shed by many other Union soldiers that day, was the price to end the Civil War.

As the 11th Maine Infantry Regiment advanced along the Lynchburg Stage Road to engage John B. Gordon’s Confederate veterans, Col. Jonathan Hill of Stetson presented a particularly tempting target atop his tired horse. Like Hill’s footsore infantrymen, the horse had gone with little sleep (but at least some fodder) during the regiment’s 100-mile sprint during the past few days to cut off Robert E. Lee and his retreating Army of Northern Virginia.

With the 11th Maine marched other men from the lower Penobscot Valley. Over in Co. A was Pvt. Robert Douglas, a 32-year-old from Hudson who had joined up on Nov. 18, 1864; like so many late-comers to the Union ranks, he had probably chased bounty-related dollar signs all the way to the recruiting office.

The feds, Augusta, and many Maine cities and towns were paying cumulatively pricey bounties to lure men into uniform during the war’s waning months.

In Co. B was Manuel Raymond, 32, a Prospect soldier likely drawn into the ranks by a bounty on Nov. 11, 1864.

First Sgt. Charles F. Wheeler kept an eye on the Co. E boys. Twenty-one when he enlisted on Sept. 25, 1861, he came from Alton. In the same company were two Bangor privates: Charles Trask, only 20 when he signed up on Oct. 8, 1864, and John Walker, 18 when he joined on Aug. 14, 1862.

And over in Co. K was Sgt. Augusta D. Locke of Bangor, also 18 when he joined the original 11th Maine on Oct. 18, 1861.

An empty sleeve identifies that price that Jonathan Hill of Stetson paid for defending the Union during the Civil War. He commanded the 11th Maine Infantry Regiment during the Appomattox Campaign; as the regiment fought opposing Confederate cavalrymen at Appomattox Court House on Palm Sunday 1865, Hill almost became one of the last men killed during the war in Virginia. Shot and wounded, he fell from his horse near Clover Hill; enemy cavalrymen swooped in to capture Hill and lift him atop a horse prior to taking him away as a prisoner. Hill's men hustled to rescue their commander, who was dumped from the horse and robbed of his sword as his would-be captors fled. (Maine State Archives)

An empty sleeve identifies that price that Jonathan Hill of Stetson paid for defending the Union during the Civil War. He commanded the 11th Maine Infantry Regiment during the Appomattox Campaign; as the regiment fought opposing Confederate cavalrymen at Appomattox Court House on Palm Sunday 1865, Hill almost became one of the last men killed during the war in Virginia. Shot and wounded, he fell from his horse near Clover Hill; enemy cavalrymen swooped in to capture Hill and lifted him atop a horse prior to taking him away. Hill’s men hustled to rescue their commander, who was dumped from the horse and robbed of his sword as his would-be captors fled. (Maine State Archives)

Advancing west of the stage road on Palm Sunday morning, the 11th Maine got into a pretty good dust-up with well-handled Confederate cavalrymen. An enemy soldier shot Hill off his mount; grabbing the wounded colonel, enemy soldiers threw him on a horse and tried to haul him away as a prisoner.

His angry boys swarmed forward and rescued their colonel.

No Confederate was going to haul off the 11th Maine’s one-armed colonel; badly wounded in an earlier battle, he wore his right sleeve pinned shut.

Soon the shooting stopped, and a mounted Union officer caught up with the 11th Maine. “Lee has surrendered, and the war is over!” he shouted.

Long before suffering its last combat casualties at Appomattox Court House, the 11th Maine Infantry Regiment lost men on other Virginia battlefields. This gravestone in the Gray Village Cemetery honors Charles G. Cobb, only 20 when he joined the regiment on Oct. 18, 1861. Cobb died at Yorktown, Va. on May 9, 1862; he may lie buried in the Old Dominion State, and this weathered stone may mark an empty grave. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Long before suffering its last combat casualties at Appomattox Court House, the 11th Maine Infantry Regiment lost men on other Virginia battlefields. This gravestone in the Gray Village Cemetery honors Charles G. Cobb, only 20 when he joined the regiment on Oct. 18, 1861. Cobb died at Yorktown, Va. on May 9, 1862; he may lie buried in the Old Dominion State, and this weathered stone may mark an empty grave. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Just hours before the Civil War ended on this Palm Sunday, the last battle in Virginia killed Charles Wheeler from Alton and Robert Douglas of Hudson. Wounded in the last advance of the 11th Maine Infantry were Augustus Locke from Bangor and Manuel Raymond from Prospect.

And in the war’s ultimate indignity, Confederate cavalrymen captured Charles Reinbold and Charles Trask of Bangor.

Rising above the aligned rows of headstones at Culpeper National Cemetery in Culpeper, Va., the 10th Maine Infantry Regiment monument lists the names of 22 officers and enlisted men from the regiment killed during the Aug. 9, 1862 Battle of Cedar Mountain. After the Civil War ended, the bodies of Maine soldiers buried in Virginia were exhumed and relocated to various national cemeteries. The Maine soldiers killed at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1864 were primarily buried at Poplar Grove Cemetery in Petersburg, Va. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Rising above the aligned rows of headstones at Culpeper National Cemetery in Culpeper, Va., the 10th Maine Infantry Regiment monument lists the names of 22 officers and enlisted men from the regiment killed during the Aug. 9, 1862 Battle of Cedar Mountain. After the Civil War ended, the bodies of Maine soldiers buried in Virginia were exhumed and relocated to various national cemeteries. The Maine soldiers killed at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 were primarily buried at Poplar Grove Cemetery in Petersburg, Va. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Other infantry regiments advancing on Appomattox Court House met Union cavalrymen retreating as Gordon’s Confederate infantrymen advanced on Sunday morning. Running “through a thick belt of woods,” many 20th Maine soldiers “met cavalrymen riding back, badly broken up and demoralized,” recalled Pvt. Theodore Gerrish.

“They told us they had been fighting all night, and holding the rebels in check until we should arrive,” he said.

Union infantrymen approaching Appomattox Court House found blue-clad cavalrymen lying dead or wounded in the fields and woods southwest of the village. Among the 1st Maine Cavalry dead was Pvt. George E. Emery of Hampden and Co. A. He had survived the regiment’s determined stand at Dinwiddie Court House on March 31, only to die with the war almost over.

Located about a quarter miles west of the McLean House at Appomattox Court House is the Confederate Cemetery, containing the bodies of Confederate soldiers (primarily North Carolinians) killed in the last battle fought in Virginia on April 9, 1865. The Union boys (including some from Maine) shot dead in that battle were buried at Poplar Grove National Cemetery near Petersburg, Va. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Located about a quarter miles west of the McLean House at Appomattox Court House is the Confederate Cemetery, containing the bodies of Confederate soldiers (primarily North Carolinians) killed in the last battle fought in Virginia on April 9, 1865. The Union boys (including some from Maine) shot dead in that battle were buried at Poplar Grove National Cemetery near Petersburg, Va. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Sgt. Charles A. McIntyre of Warren and Co. B sprawled dead on the rolling terrain where he had fought his last fight.

The 1st Maine’s Co. E had lost a captain, a sergeant, a corporal, a bugler, and a private (and later a mortally wounded private) during an April 6 attack on a Confederate wagon train near Sailor’s Creek, Va. To the list of dead was added, Corp. Albert Gardiner of Fairfield, mortally wounded at Appomattox Court House on April 9; he died before midnight.

Lubec and Co. G lost Pvt. William E. Clarke just hours before Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant.

And Co. M of the 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment lost four men wounded outside Appomattox Court House. Corp. Cyrus Geary and Pvt. George Cushman later died of their wounds.

They were among the last Mainers who sacrificed their lives to help restore a shattered nation.

Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. He would love to hear from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.

Brian Swartz

About Brian Swartz

Welcome to "Maine at War," the blog about the roles played by Maine and her sons and daughters in the Civil War. I am a Civil War buff and a newspaper editor recently retired from the Bangor Daily News. Maine sent hero upon hero — soldiers, nurses, sailors, chaplains, physicians — south to preserve their country in the 1860s. “Maine at War” introduces these heroes and heroines, who, for the most part, upheld the state's honor during that terrible conflict. We tour the battlefields where they fought, and we learn about the Civil War by focusing on Maine’s involvement with it. Be prepared: As I discover to this very day, the facts taught in American classrooms don’t always jibe with Civil War reality. I can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net.