Memorial Day and the boys of Kenduskeag

The Kenduskeag Civil War monument comprises a cannon and a bronze tablet set atop a concrete base in the Village Cemetery and dedicated in 1905. (Brian F. Swartz Photos)

It’s easy to miss them, even on a Memorial Day weekend.

The boys of Kenduskeag lie quietly, eternally, behind the metal fence separating Village Cemetery from traffic on the adjacent Levant Road. It curves slightly while sliding past the cemetery; a driver paying attention to the road may not really notice this rural cemetery in this rural Penobscot County town.

More than 15 decades ago, these boys — they actually were men, but in mid-19th century affection their officers often called them “my boys” — left this town, which at 16.75 square miles “enjoys the singular honor of being the smallest town in the county, with the exception of Veazie and perhaps of Brewer and Mattamiscontis,” intoned the 1882 History of Penobscot County.

A modern stone marks the grave of Pvt. George B. Martin in the Village Cemetery in Kenduskeag.

The 1860 census found 816 people living in Kenduskeag, “accounted a good agricultural town” by the History. Many boys enlisted to save the Union, and not all returned home alive. Capt. Isaac Case of Co. H, 22nd Maine Infantry Regiment, died of “the congestive fever” at Port Hudson on July 6, 1863, and Deacon Thomas Beath Kenneston lost his only sons, Leonard and Thomas, to the 16th Maine Infantry and fatal respiratory diseases in winter 1863.

The elder Kenneston had his sons shipped home and honored in a March 7, 1863 funeral held in the Kenduskeag Congregational church amidst a raging storm. The church still stands about a half mile from the cemetery.

A spring breeze stirs the American flag placed at the grave stone of William B. Clements at the Village Cemetery in Kenduskeag. Inscribed on the back of the stone is Clements’ service in the 1st D.C. Cavalry.

The Kenneston boys now lie side by side in the Village Cemetery; a double gravestone marks their final resting place.

They are still here, as is Pvt. George B. Martin, 31st Maine Infantry. A modern ground-level stone marks his grave; making it safely through the spring 1864 hell endured by his regiment, Brown lived until Feb. 8, 1900.

William M. Clements served in the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry, a regiment raised by the War Department under false pretenses in 1864. Recruits were promised that the regiment would not fight outside the District of Columbia; figuring they would avoid combat, sufficient men enlisted to flesh out eight companies, of which seven were summarily transferred to the under-strength 1st Maine Cav in August ’64.

Clements died at age 33 on Nov. 2, 1873. His proudest title in life, “Father,” was etched atop his small grave stone.

There there’s Greenlief Harvey (“Greenlief” being a common first name in Maine back then), husband of Augusta who lies beside him. Born on April 17, 1839, he served in a Maine unit not identified on his white stone, darkened by dirt and time.

Harvey was a devout Christian, as evidenced by the partial section of 2 Timothy 1:12 inscribed on his stone: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”

Harvey died on January 2, 1907, a cold time of year to kick the bucket in Maine. Come spring, he was laid beside Augusta, who had died on Nov. 8, 1893.

The graves of Civil War veteran Greenlief Harbey and his wife, Augusta, are located near the Civil War monument at the Village Cemetery in Kenduskeag.

And then there’s the cannon, its barrel partially lichen-covered. Surviving members of the Daniel White Post No. 19, Grand Army of the Republic, raised funds to install this cannon in the cemetery as Kenduskeag’s official Civil War monument.

Likely once installed at a Maine coastal fort, the cannon is inscribed with the words “C.A. & Co. No 502.57.0.14.” This smoothbore cannon was the 502nd “tube” cast by the Boston-based Cyrus Alger & Co., established in 1817 and run by Cyrus until his death in 1856. His son Francis then managed C.A. & Co. until he died in 1864.

The Post 19 members dedicated the monument on June 28, 1905. According to the tablet fastened to the cannon’s concrete base, the monument was erected “in memory of their comrades, whose remains lie in this cemetery and in unknown graves awaiting the last roll call of our great commander.”

The Kennestons, Clements, Martin, and Harvey lie nearby. If you get the chance this Memorial Day weekend, stop by the Village Cemetery to check out the monument and to say “hi” to the boys of Kenduskeag.

Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the wa

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.