Would Jewett Williams like chicken McNuggets with his Happy Meal?

Returning Civil War veteran arrives at Togus VA Hospital in a Wreaths Across America Suburban on Monday, August 22. After meeting Jewett at Kittery on August 21, the Columbia Falls-based WWA will transport Jewett to his final resting place in Hodgdon on September 24. (Brian F. Swartz Photo)

Returning Civil War veteran arrives at Togus VA Hospital in a Wreaths Across America Suburban on Monday, August 22. After meeting Jewett at Kittery on August 21, the Columbia Falls-based WWA will transport Jewett to his final resting place in Hodgdon on September 24. (Brian F. Swartz Photo)

An inquisitive 4-year-old Mainer wonders if Jewett Williams, the Maine Civil War veteran whose peripatetic journey from Oregon to Maine has garnered attention internationally, would like chicken McNuggets from McDonald’s.

If not, would Jewett at least want a Happy Meal?

A few days before Jewett arrived at Kittery, Maine Patriot Guards ride captain Mike Edgecomb invited Columbia Falls-based Wreaths Across America to participate in transporting Jewett through Maine. The non-profit Wreaths Across America supplies hundreds of thousands of Maine-assembled Christmas wreaths that are placed on veterans’ graves across the United States each December.

The WAA also provides other services, such as a Veterans Transportation Program.
Wreaths Across America agreed to join the effort to transport Jewett in Maine, said Wayne Merritt, an Air Force veteran who is vice chairman of the organization’s board. He also manages the Veterans Transportation Program.

Lil Charron, the events coordinator for Wreaths Across America, met returning Civil War veteran Jewett Williams at Kittery on August 21 and transported him to Togus VA Hospital the next day. (Brian F. Swartz Photo)

Lil Charron, the events coordinator for Wreaths Across America, met returning Civil War veteran Jewett Williams at Kittery on August 21 and transported him to Togus VA Hospital the next day. (Brian F. Swartz Photo)

When a prior commitment kept Merritt from meeting Jewett at Kittery, WAA Events Coordinator Lil Charron went with the organization’s Chevy Suburban. Originally from southern Maine, she went to “Brunswick on Saturday [August 20] for the Run For The Fallen. I went on Sunday to catch up with Jewett at Kittery.”

A Patriot Guard Rider, Charron and her 4-year-old grandson, Hunter, watched as PGRs and other volunteers (including uniformed Civil War re-enactors) escorted Jewett’s cremains in an Amercan flag-wrapped box across a Piscataqua River bridge. Jewett was transferred to the custody of Maine-based Patriot Guard Riders during a ceremony held at John Paul Jones Memorial Park in Kittery.

This was the first time that the 173-year-old Jewett had returned to Maine since leaving in 1871. He and several accompanying artifacts, including his photo and a 20th Maine Infantry Regiment flag, were entrusted to Charron for the night.
Jewett was in excellent hands.

The Wreaths Across America Suburban that brought Civil War veteran Jewett Williams from Kittery to Togus VA Hospital is parked at the hospital's main entrance on August 22. Lil Charron of Harrington met Jewett at Kittery and brought him to Chelsea. (Brian F. Swartz)

The Wreaths Across America Suburban that brought Civil War veteran Jewett Williams from Kittery to Togus VA Hospital is parked at the hospital’s main entrance on August 22. Lil Charron of Harrington met Jewett at Kittery and brought him to Chelsea. (Brian F. Swartz Photo)

Hunter was getting hungry. “I can tell you [that] Jewett went to McDonald’s for the first time,” Charron said. Hunter, “who had lots of questions” about the soldier in the Suburban, ordered a Happy Meal when his grandmother went through the drive-up lane at the Kittery McDonald’s.

Hunter wondered if the soldier would like McNuggets. With his meal ordered, Hunter “wanted to know if the soldier could get a Happy Meal, too,” Charron said.

She smiled at the memory.

The inquisitive Hunter posed other questions about Jewett. His curiosity satisfied, he finally asked, “Nanny, how did you get that soldier in that box?”

Charron explained that Jewett “had passed away a long time ago and that we were responsible for transporting him” to Togus.

That night, Jewett stayed with Charron in southern Maine. On Monday, August 22 he rode with her (without Hunter) to meet his escort riders at the north-bound Maine Turnpike weigh station in York. The Maine State Police opened the weigh station so Jewett’s convoy could assemble there.

Upon his arrival at Kittery on August 21, Civil War veteran Jewett Williams promptly caught a ride in a Wreaths Across America Suburban driven by WAA Events Coordinator Lil Charron. (Courtesy of Oregon State Hospital)

Upon his arrival at Kittery on August 21, Civil War veteran Jewett Williams promptly caught a ride in a Wreaths Across America Suburban driven by WAA Events Coordinator Lil Charron. (Courtesy of Oregon State Hospital)

After holding a safety briefing and reviewing the route to Togus, the Patriot Guard Riders rolled out with Charron and Jewett promptly at 11 a.m. “It was all timing,” Charron said, explaining that Jewett was scheduled to arrive at Togus at 1 p.m.

“I’d say we had at least 75 motorcyclists with us when we took off that day,” she said. The riders in front of the Suburban were those who had escorted Jewett from Appomattox.

Turning off the turnpike at Exit 109 in Augusta, the convoy rolled along Western Avenue, through the two Augusta rotaries (temporarily closed by police so the riders could stay together), and east on Route 17 to the traffic light at the Togus main entrance.

Charron delivered Jewett safely to the VA hospital, where he was ceremonially honored. Then she took him across the Kennebec River to the Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Augusta, where he will reside until the Patriot Guard Riders transport him to Hodgdon for burial on September 24.

Wayne Merritt and Wreaths Across America will transport Jewett to Hodgdon that day.

“I had the honor to escort the gentleman home [through Maine], where he should be,” Charron said. “I was privileged to be a small part” in the highly coordinated volunteer-run campaign that brought Jewett from Oregon to his home state.

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.