Stephen Decatur Carpenter had been dead 5½ months and in his grave some four months when Bangor residents dedicated the monument erected initially to honor him — and ultimately all of the Queen City’s war dead.
And the thousands of people who gathered to honor all their heroes saw the war come home that particular day.
With the actual monument completed, workers concentrated on grading the immediate area. “The whole appearance will be grand and imposing, reflecting much credit on all who have had charge of the matter,” opined Daily Whig & Courier editor William H. Wheeler.
Supporters scheduled the monument’s dedication for June 17, 1864, a Friday that “opened splendidly,” Wheeler noticed, and became a perfect June day in Maine, with “quite hot, but not sultry” weather.
“Everything was favorable for the services,” he commented.
Crowds gathered as the parade participants formed up by the Bangor House on Main Street in late morning. Led by cavalry and artillery detachments, the parade incorporated the Bangor Cornet Band, Chief Marshal Israel B. Norcross and his aides, companies A and B of the State Guards, the Brewer Artillery commanded by Capt. J.N. Downe, Maj. Gen. James H. Butler and his staff, St. John’s Commandery of the Knights Templars, “wounded soldiers,” clergy and the orator, city officials, “invited guests,” and “citizens generally.”
The cavalrymen spurred their horses at 1 p.m., and the parade units proceeded north into downtown Bangor. Joined at West Market Square by the city officials and invited guests, the parade crossed the Kenduskeag Stream, climbed State Street Hill, and headed for Mount Hope Cemetery.
Turning into its main entrance, Wheeler noticed the “immense crowd … in front [or] on either side of the Monument,” and “the grove” atop Mount Hope “was filled with groups, reclining” comfortably and watching “the varied and beautiful scene.” Those people could not possibly hear the speeches, he figured.
“The attendance was very large,” Wheeler realized.
Politely declining his invitation to join the ceremonies, Maine Adjutant Gen. John L. Hodsdon sent visually dramatic evidence of the price Bangor and Maine had paid to save the Union. “The worn and tattered battle flags” sent home by the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 12th, and 14th Maine infantry regiments “and several others” stood near the Soldiers’ Monument, Wheeler said.
Some regimental flags “were pierced with shot and shell until hardly a vestige of the material was left,” he noticed. The flags “spoke in terms of eloquence beyond all words, of the terrible carnage and strife which our noble heroes of Maine have been through,” Wheeler commented.
Closely associated with Bangor, the 2nd Maine Infantry was represented by a flag presented by Bangor residents as the regiment’s 1,000 men literally marched off to war in 1861. Near that flag rose the California Flag, received by the 2nd Maine boys in a ceremony the night before they fought at First Manassas.
Wheeler watched men and women alike dab handkerchiefs to tear-moistened cheeks and eyes. Onlookers remembered “sons, husbands and brothers” who had “laid down their lives to protect” the flags, “and each person felt a more hallowed love for the old flags as those tattered folds fluttered in the wind.”
At least six Confederate regimental flags captured by Maine units stirred in the warm June breeze, too.
Bangor Mayor Samuel H. Dale opened the dedication ceremony at 3 p.m. The Bangor Cornet Band “played a dirge appropriate to the occasion,” a minister prayed, and several speakers explained the purpose of the monument.
Mayor Dale reminded listeners that June 17 was the Battle of Bunker Hill anniversary, fought on a similarly “beautiful summer afternoon.” Gathered at Mount Hope “to learn a lesson of patriotism and duty,” the crowd must “revere the memory of the departed” while recalling “the soldier in the field, the sailor on the sea” and “not forgetting the widow and the orphan at their homes.”
Judge Edward Kent (Bangor’s mayor during Mount Hope Cemetery’s formative years) “delivered an oration of great eloquence,” according to Wheeler. Singers performed a poem written by Reverend Edwin Johnson, Reverend Armory Battles delivered the closing prayer, and the ceremony ended with the 35-shell “national shot” fired by Downe and his Brewer gunners.
“The occasion was a solemn one,” and “the whole affair passed off pleasantly,” Wheeler said. “The assembly separated with a quietness which showed the deep and earnest feeling which pervaded every heart.”
Expressing his “thanks to the noble patriots” who had “died for the cause” or remained “bravely engaged in the glorious work,” Wheeler believed that through their efforts and sacrifices, “our country will be saved.”
He apparently lingered at Mount Hope for a while. The parade participants “partook of a collation prepared on the grounds” and “made a friendly call upon” Mayor Dale before their dismissal.
The Soldiers Monument was the first privately funded Civil War monument erected in the United States. Examining the monument a final time before departing, Wheeler noted that Charles P. Stetson had paid for “the beautiful stone” marking the grave of Carpenter, “a brave soldier and a patriot.”
During a meeting held August 29, Soldiers’ Monument Association members learned that fund raising had fallen $150 short of the monument’s $3,639.94 price tag. Chairman Charles Stetson then indicated he had paid the difference.
Honoring Stephen Decatur Carpenter was worth the cost.
For your further reading enjoyment, check out The Monumental Soldier, Part 1 at
and The Monumental Soldier, Part 2 at
and The Soldierly Monument, Part 3 at
Brian Swartz can be reached at email@example.com. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.