Heroes sailed from Frenchboro to save the Union

Lobsterboats and sailboats lie moored in Frenchboro Harbor on Long Island in Hancock County. Accessible only by boat, the Town of Frenchboro is among the smaller organized municipalities in Maine. During the Civil War, at least 12 men affiliated with the town fought to save the Union. (Courtesy of Jackie Mitchell)

Lobsterboats and sailboats lie moored in Frenchboro Harbor on Long Island in Hancock County. Accessible only by boat, the Town of Frenchboro is among the smaller organized municipalities in Maine. During the Civil War, at least 12 men affiliated with the town fought to save the Union. (Courtesy of Jackie Mitchell)

Every nook and cranny in Maine sent men to fight during the Civil War. From a far-flung nook of Hancock County — the Town of Frenchboro — came perhaps a baker’s dozen of men determined to preserve the country.

Located on Long Island (often called “Outer Long Island” in the past) on the southern edge of Blue Hill Bay, Frenchboro is the town’s population center. The town encompasses 12 islands: Black, Cow, Little and Great Ducks, Drum, both Greens (and neither of them much more than oversized ledges), Harbor, Long, Placentia, and Pond, plus lighthouse-capped Mount Desert Rock.

According to the 1860 census, 153 people lived in the Town of Frenchboro, most on Long Island. In the next five years, “at least 12 men with direct ties to Long Island — including seven long-time residents — fought in the Civil War. Two of those 12 died,” writes author Dean Lawrence Lunt.

We are indebted to Lunt and his classic “Hauling by Hand: The Life and Times of a Maine Island” (Islandport Press, 1999) for his insight into how the war affected the Frenchboro-affiliated men who had helped save the country.

Let’s meet a few Frenchboro heroes who sailed from their ocean-encircled home to defend the Union.

The 11th Maine Infantry Regiment attracted William Davis in 1862 and, two years later, George C. Lunt, Hezekiah W. Lunt, and Joseph W. Lunt; George R. Rich reluctantly joined in January 1865.

Then 24, Davis was married and the father of a 1-year-old daughter when he crossed Blue Hill Bay to sign his name to an enlistment form at Blue Hill on Aug. 5, 1862. He served with the 11th Maine during its diversion from Virginia to the Carolinas in 1862; with the coastal sections of those states effectively under Union control, the 11th Maine returned to Virginia in May 1864.

Wounded at Bermuda Hundred near the James River on May 17, Davis stayed with his comrades until his left arm caught a bullet during the Battle of Deep Run, fought on August 16. He mustered out in 1865.

What did the war cost William Davis? Only the chronic diarrhea he contracted in South Carolina, a “disease of [the] eyes” contracted in Tidewater Virginia, and a left arm later described by a doctor “as roughly one-half the size of the right arm,” writes Dean Lunt. All three conditions afflicted Davis for the rest of his life.

Congress awarded William Davis a $2 monthly pension in 1893. He might have been thrilled when the pension rose to $30 per month 19 years later.

Hezakiah Long and his wife, Lydia, had two young children when he joined the 11th Maine Infantry Regiment from Frenchboro in 1864. Military service left Long debilitated for the rest of his life. (Courtesy of Frenchboro Historical Society)

Hezakiah Long and his wife, Lydia, had two young children when he joined the 11th Maine Infantry Regiment from Frenchboro in 1864. Military service left Long debilitated for the rest of his life. (Courtesy of Frenchboro Historical Society)

Hezekiah Long was 31 when he left a wife and two young children to join the 11th Maine. He stood in the battle line as the regiment battled Confederate troops at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

Long fell sick afterwards. An 11th Maine comrade, George Rich of Outer Long Island, later found Long in a Virginia hospital; Rich recalled that “from his (Long’s) knees down to his feet was covered with ulcers or boils. He claimed he also had rheumatism, and he had very sore eyes.”

His medical problems followed Hezekiah Long home from the war, and like so many other disabled Union soldiers and sailors, he encountered bureaucratic intransigence while applying for a disability pension.

Perhaps in hopes that sick veterans might die before the government spent money on them (an eerie parallel with the recent VA scandals), a parsimonious War Department road-blocked pension applications by demanding affidavits, documentation, and other paperwork. Hezekiah Long first applied in 1890; the government authorized a $6 monthly pension for him in 1894.

Long and his wife, Lydia, had 10 men children after the Civil War ended; just about all were adults before he received his first pension payment.

Three houses stand at the head of Frenchboro Harbor on Long Island. One among the dwindling number of year-round inhabited Maine islands today, Long Island had about twice as many permanent residents in the early 1860s. (Courtesy of Jackie Mitchell)

Three houses stand at the head of Frenchboro Harbor on Long Island. One among the dwindling number of year-round inhabited Maine islands today, Long Island had about twice as many permanent residents in the early 1860s. (Courtesy of Jackie Mitchell)

As for George Rich, the explosion of a Confederate artillery shell at Appomattox Court House left multiple wounds in his right side: knee, thigh, and groin. Rich submitted his pension application in 1876, a bad year for a cavalryman named Custer and for disabled Civil War veterans. Ulysses Grant was ending his second presidential term, and a Congress fed up with the financial black hole known as Reconstruction was reducing spending on all things military, including veterans’ benefits.

Rich finally got his first pension payment in 1889.

The draft nabbed 36-year-old Joseph W. Lunt in October 1864. Already the father of three sons, he helped bag Robert E. Lee and his men at Appomattox Court House — but somewhere along the way in Virginia, disease and a malaria-carrying mosquito bagged Lunt.

By June 1865 “he was hospitalized with jaundice, liver ailments and other problems,” Dean Lunt writes in his book. Joseph Lunt also contracted malaria, and like William Davis and Hezekiah Long, he brought his war-caused ill health home.

Brushing against middle age when he posed for a photographer late in the Civil War, Joseph W. Lunt of Frenchboro became seriously ill after the war ended. His health declined for the rest of his life, and the federal government fought claims that wartime duty caused Long's declining health. (Courtesy of Frenchboro Historical Society)

Brushing against middle age when he posed for a photographer late in the Civil War, Joseph W. Lunt of Frenchboro became seriously ill after the war ended. His health declined for the rest of his life, and the federal government fought claims that wartime duty caused Long’s declining health. (Courtesy of Frenchboro Historical Society)

Lunt spent the rest of his life paying for helping to save the country. He retained a Mount Desert Island attorney while applying for a disability pension in 1883.

A government doctor decided the war had not caused Lunt’s physical ailments. An MDI doctor who knew Lunt noted the “malaria causing congestion of the liver and kidneys” and attested that Lunt was “free from all diseases” when he was drafted.

Bureaucratic delays lasted until Lunt started receiving a $4 monthly pension in 1885, retroactive to 1883. He continued to fail physically, suffered a serious decline late in life, and died in January 1891.

Informed of Lunt’s death, a War Department bureaucrat withheld the veteran’s last pension check, dated December 1890. Widow Alice Twist Lunt fought two years to receive that check, and in 1896, Washington sent an agent to Outer Long Island to investigate the late Joseph Lunt’s claims of war-related disabilities.

Turned out Lunt was correct after all, according to the agent.

As for the Outer Long Island-connected soldiers lost during the war, William T. Lunt charged to glory with the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment at Petersburg on June 18, 1864. He was among more than 100 men killed in that bloody charge.

Daniel Stow Lunt, an 8th Maine Infantry soldier, fell ill in South Carolina in late 1862. The Army discharged him for disability and shipped the seriously ill Lunt home; he got to Boston before dying there in a doctor’s house on February 5, 1863.

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.