All posts by Brian Swartz

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.

Even a “Dear John” letter was welcome on Valentine’s Day 1864

  There were many moments in winter 1864 when a Maine doctor stationed on the Texas Gulf Coast would have welcomed a “Dear John” letter — or any printed material to disrupt the mind-numbing ennui affecting his morale. But a letter from home was the best morale-boosting elixir of all. In transferring from the 15th […]

Mardi Gras 1863 was not exactly Cinderella’s grand ball

Given the choice between participating in Mardi Gras 1863 and watching a cavalry review, Pvt. Eugene Kincaide Kingman of Dexter opted for the latter. Yet he still wound up applying a shine to his shoes and uniform and going to a masked ball, but certainly not as a blue-clad Cinderella. Hailing from Dexter, Eugene served […]

Dexter surgeon sent his wife packing and broke her heart

  Given the opportunity to have his wife and young son join him on a Texas Gulf Coast island in late 1863, Dr. John Butler Wilson of Dexter shipped them home instead. He soon regretted his decision — and had he foreseen the future, Wilson would never have let his family out of his sight. […]

A Maine cavalryman meets a legendary Union raider in Louisiana – Part III

  When he mounted his horse on Saturday, May 2, 1863, Capt. John Franklin Godfrey (“Frank” to his friends, relatives, and fellow officers) rode out to meet history — — and he became a historical footnote in doing so. Since raising Co. C of the 1st Louisiana Cavalry in New Orleans in late summer 1862, […]

A Maine cavalryman thrashes his own man in Louisiana: Part II

  By Nov. 7, 1862, Capt. John Franklin Godfrey could proudly tell his parents (John Edwards and Elizabeth Stackpole Godfrey of Bangor) that the Army had turned loose him and his Co. C, 1st Louisiana Cavalry Regiment (U.S.) to run amuck in Louisiana. “I like the cavalry service very much … and there are few […]

A Maine cavalryman runs amuck in Louisiana: Part I

Upon arriving in New Orleans, John Franklin Godfrey of Bangor discovered he would rather ride like the wind than shoot like the devil. The 22-year-old son of Judge John Edwards Godfrey and Elizabeth Stackpole Godfrey of Bangor, Godfrey had joined the 1st Maine Cavalry as a private in autumn 1861. An ambitious young man, he […]

Uniform-clad tourists got their tickets punched for the Big Easy

  Uniformed Maine tourists arriving in the nation’s capital on Monday, Oct. 27, 1862, soon learned that Uncle Sam had cancelled their round-trip tickets to Bangor. The 26th Maine Infantry boys would be going to New Orleans, instead. A nine-month regiment that mustered at Bangor in early October, the 26th Maine was led by Col. […]

Wishing you a “Merry Christmas” from a “one-horse town”

  Burping politely into his fisted hand, a well-fed 25th Maine Infantry soldier extended a heart-felt “Merry Christmas” to Portland Daily Press readers on Christmas Day, 1862. He had much for which to be thankful, especially the fact that he was not lying in a grave 50 miles south at Fredericksburg, where many other Maine […]

Bristol folk musician resurrects long-forgotten Civil War songs

Concerning Civil War-era music, familiarity breeds memory. Civil War buffs can sing “Dixie,” “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “We’ll Rally Round the Flag” with ease because such tunes are part of Civil War lore. But few people — even renowned historians — know the tunes and words of “Fort Washington” or “The Cumberland’s […]

Dearest Father, I am dying here on this battlefield

  Pain wracking his shattered body, George Ray Parsons shivers as he stirs in the damp Fredericksburg mud in midafternoon on Saturday, Dec. 13, 1862. He’s been hit, whether by a 0.58-caliber lead bullet or a shell fragment, he cannot tell. Seeping blood suggests the wound in his side is bad … real bad. Parsons […]