Connecticut musician composes a song to honor returning veteran Pvt. Jewett Williams

When he learned in mid-August that the cremains of a 20th Maine Infantry soldier would travel through Connecticut while en route to Maine, musician Tom Callinan composed the song Jewett Williams' Journey and performed it during the Saturday, Aug. 20 ceremony held for Williams at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. Callinan dressed as a Union infantry musician to perform his song. (Photo courtesy of Tom Callinan)

When he learned in mid-August 2016 that the cremains of a 20th Maine Infantry soldier would travel through Connecticut while en route to Maine, musician Tom Callinan composed the song Jewett Williams’ Journey and performed it during the Saturday, Aug. 20 ceremony held for Williams at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain. Callinan dressed as a Union infantry musician to perform his song. (Photo courtesy of Tom Callinan)

Connecticut’s first official state troubadour has honored in song the wartime saga of Pvt. Jewett Williams and of his transcontinental and century-spanning journey from Oregon to Maine.

Named the first official troubadour of the Nutmeg State in 1991, Callinan is a co-owner of the Norwich-based Crackerbarrel Entertainments in Norwich, Conn. Music is his passion. For him, there was something gripping about the tale of a cremated 20th Maine Infantry Regiment private being transported across country by the Patriot Guard Riders.

“Williams’ story is quite compelling, and when I learned of it last week, I couldn’t get it out of my head,” Callinan wrote Maine at War on Friday, Aug. 19.

“And the only remedy for that condition is writing a new song,” he indicated.

At least hundreds of Patriot Guard Riders escorted Jewett from Oregon to Maine via 17 other states and about 3,500 road miles. I cannot imagine the emotion the individual Riders felt, but some have shared their thoughts on social media.

“I am very grateful that I was able to be part of Jewett Williams’ journey home,” commented Dave Robinson of Maryland. He participated in the ceremony held at Hancock, Md. to transfer Jewett’s cremains from the Pennsylvania PGR to their Maryland counterparts.

Then Robinson helped escort Jewett to Point of Rocks, Md., “where we transferred [Jewett] to [the] Virginia [PGR].

“I also joined the group receiving” Jewett at Gettysburg a few days later, Robinson noted.

“I had the honor to do the dignified transfer from MD (Maryland) to VA (Virginia),” commented Patrick Segui. Jewett “spent the night at my house and was well guarded.”

“I will never forget my small part in carrying” Jewett’s cremains “from Webster to Brattleboro,” commented Roy L’Heureux. “It was my greatest honor as a Patriot Guard Rider.”

Erik B. Sithens of Egg Harbor City, N.J. is the Southern Ride Captain for the Patriot Guard Riders in New Jersey. After participating in the transfer ceremony held at Bloomsbury, N.J. on Friday, Aug. 19, he accompanied Jewett and the seven Patriot Guard Riders from Maine all the way to Togus VA Hospital.

On Friday night, the New Jersey PGR transferred Jewett to their New York counterparts. He spent the night under close watch in Connecticut before being transferred to the PGR from the Nutmeg State in a ceremony held at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016.

Dressed as a Union infantry musician, Tom Callinan stepped to the microphone and performed his new song, Jewett Williams’ Journey. He has granted written permission to Maine at War to publish the lyrics:

Jewett Williams’ Journey
By Tom Callinan  © 2016 – CANNU YUSIC, LTD.

Jewett Williams, a soldier, went to CCSU,
Not to take classes, he was just passing-through,
On his way back to Maine, which he left to go far,
After serving the Union in the great Civil War.

Private Williams served with the 20th Maine,
That held Little Round Top, led by Chamberlain.
A year after that, Williams entered the fray,
And saw Lee surrender at Appomattox one day.

Private Williams heard Greeley, when he commanded,
“Head West, young man,” as the country expanded.
Minnesota to Washington, and when his travels were done,
He ended up in a hospital in Oregon.

Portland-to-Portland, from east coast to west,
He roamed and he rambled, along with the rest,
Whose travels within the Land Of The Free
Mimicked the song, sea-to-shining-sea.

For ninety-four years, after he passed,
He was Missing in America, as were many, alas.
In a locked basement room, in an urn, his cremains,
‘Til Patriot Guard Riders took him back home to Maine.

Cross-country by choppers, through the twists and the turns,
He who left as a man, but returned in an urn.
His journey from Oregon, back home to Maine.
Was ashes-to-ashes in the patriot-game.

“What everyone did was a tremendous demonstration of national pride, and personal integrity – and a great honor to Private Jewett Williams,” Callinan told Maine at War.

A commemorative CD of Jewett Williams’ Journey can be purchased by sending $10.00 via PayPal to Tom Callinan at limberjack@comcast.net. The price includes first-class postage, so, please, include a mailing address when purchasing a CD of this song.

Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. He loves hearing 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.