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.

When blue lives mattered

Sometimes the past slaps the present, especially concerning our heroes. For the past few years I’ve scoured Maine to photograph its Civil War monuments, some 140 or so and ranging from the small to the tall, from the bland to the boring to the weird. I’ve photographed most, but somehow the monument in Madison fell […]

Teenager wants to scalp the Confederate that was a Yankee

Amidst the Confederate-statue toppling comes a story that not even a Hollywood screen writer could conceive: a 15-year-old Kentuckian wants to tear down a Confederate statue that started life as a Union soldier and still looks amazing like a Billy Yank, not a Johnny Reb! Jessamine County’s located due south of the Fayette County-Lexington metroplex […]

Will the Confederate monuments at Gettysburg bite the dust?

When vandals tear down a Frederick Douglass statue, what’s that got to do with removing Confederate statues — especially at Gettysburg? On Sunday, July 5, vandals broke a Frederick Douglass statue off its pedestal at Maplewood Park in Rochester, N.Y. and dragged the black abolitionist’s bronze figure to the edge of a river gorge. This […]

Disaffected Maine Republicans chuck their own governor, Part 2

Previous: Maine Governor Abner Coburn runs afoul of the special interests Married to Augusta native Harriet Stanwood, transplanted Pennsylvanian James G. Blaine wielded great power within the Maine Republican Party by summer 1863. Buying into the Kennebec Journal in 1853, he moved to Augusta and won election to the Maine House in 1858. Repeatedly re-elected, […]

Sitting governor runs afoul Republican opponents, Part 1

As Maine soldiers converged on Gettysburg, revengeful Republican politicians tossed aside the state’s sitting governor, Abner Coburn. A successful businessman from Skowhegan, he had beaten three opponents during the early June 1862 Republican state convention held in Portland. Winning the September election, he took office in January 1863 and soon collided with power-wielding politicians. Coburn […]

Sea fight on Albemarle Sound, part 3

While ramming the CSS Albemarle on her starboard quarter, the 14-gun side-wheel USS Sassacus rode up on the ironclad skippered by Commander James Wallace Cooke. At such a close distance, nobody could miss. “The guns were so close together that the burned powder from the ironclad’s gun blackened the bows of the Sassacus,” recalled that […]

Sea fight on Albemarle Sound, part 2

Commanded by Acting Volunteer Lt. Charles A. French, the side-wheel gunboat USS Miami (742 tons and six guns) weighed anchor at Edenton Bay at 1 p.m. on May 5, 1864 and steamed southeast across North Carolina’s Albemarle Sound toward the Roanoke River estuary. With Miami came the USS Commodore Hull (a 382-ton side-wheel ferry mounting […]

Sea fight on Albemarle Sound, part 1

Charles Addison Boutelle sensed trouble. Today — Thursday, May 5, 1864 — had dawned clear, already 63 degrees at 4 a.m. A southwesterly breeze flitted gently across Albemarle Sound in North Carolina as the temperature climbed steadily to 69 degrees at 8 a.m. and 83 degrees at noon. The North Carolina sun beat relentlessly on […]

Harper’s Ferry scenes for locked-down Civil War buffs

If not for John Brown, not many Americans would ever hear about Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia. Nestled in the hole where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac River, Harper’s Ferry was an important transportation hub prior to the Civil War. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal curved beneath Maryland Heights across the Potomac, and the […]

On Memorial Day, history learned in a small town cemetery

You can learn so much Civil War history by visiting a Maine cemetery on Memorial Day. Their wooden shafts attached to five-star markers, the small American flags fluttering in the breeze identify many Civil War veterans, whose stones often list the respective units: company and regiment or artillery battery. Each stone represents history that, with […]