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.

Connecticut musician composes a song to honor returning veteran Pvt. Jewett Williams

Connecticut’s first official state troubadour has honored in song the wartime saga of Pvt. Jewett Williams and of his transcontinental and century-spanning journey from Oregon to Maine. Named the first official troubadour of the Nutmeg State in 1991, Callinan is a co-owner of the Norwich-based Crackerbarrel Entertainments in Norwich, Conn. Music is his passion. For […]

Burial of returned Civil War vet Jewett Williams will shift from Togus to Hodgdon

  Apparently abandoned by his immediate family after his death in 1922, Maine Civil War veteran Jewett Williams has been commandeered by distant relatives prior to his burial in 2016 … … and the volunteers responsible for respectfully transporting his cremains from Oregon to Maine are unhappy about the bombshell dropped during today’s ceremony honoring […]

Tomatoes, green corn, and apples made for a good meal at Yorktown

Food: Maine soldiers accustomed to the bountiful harvests and diverse crops of the Pine Tree State dreamed about food, salivated about food, and stole it when- and wherever they could while escaping the Peninsula of Virginia. When all the army could serve up was rancid pork and weevil-ridden hard tack, even a green ear of […]

Civil War veteran from Hodgdon heads home for burial in Maine

Cue When Johnny Comes Marching Home as Jewett Williams, a combat veteran from the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment, winds his way across country to a final resting place in the Pine Tree State. Born in Hodgdon in 1843, Williams was 21 when he was drafted into the 20th Maine on Monday, Oct. 12, 1864. According […]

The origin of the phrase “seeing the elephant”

Throughout the Civil War, soldiers on both sides often referred to their first experience in combat as “seeing the elephant.” A novice soldier would express his desire to “see the elephant,” effectively wishing himself to be baptized by hostile fire so he could become a veteran. Then he could write home, “I have seen the […]

Daring thieves wore the uniform of the 7th Maine

With a nod to Merriam-Webster: Thief \theef\ Noun 1. A person who steals something. 2. Hungry Maine soldiers willing to steal food from anybody at any time. Just as empty-bellied as his 2nd Division soldiers trudging south toward Malvern Hill in the wee hours of Tuesday, July 1, 1862, Brig. Gen. William F. “Baldy” Smith […]

Frightened Union casualties watch as their captors approach at Savage Station — Part III

Feverish with typhoid fever, Corp. Harrison Huckins of Co. K, 6th Maine Infantry Regiment, heard the rumors circulating around him by late afternoon on Sunday, June 29, 1862. One patient among the 2,500 to 3,000 sick and wounded Union soldiers confined to hospital tents at the large Federal field-hospital complex at Savage Station, Va., Huckins […]

Calais nurse cared for her patients even as Confederates advanced on Savage Station — Part II

As the ill Corp. Harrison Huckins of Eastport and Co. K, 6th Maine Infantry Regiment battled for his life inside a hospital tent on Sunday, June 29, 1862, he could hear the enemy coming. Describing himself as “being very sick with the Typhoid Fever,” Huckins lay in a tent at Savage Station, a whistle stop […]

George McClellan abandons his sick and wounded at Savage Station — Part I

Like a bullet-crippled Custer trooper watching Indian warriors approach him at the Little Big Horn battlefield, what did Corp. Harrison Huckins think as he watched Confederate soldiers walk toward him at Savage Station in Virginia on Monday, June 30, 1862? The Custer trooper knew the Indians were coming to kill him; did a similar thought […]

A Brit rides with the 1st Maine Cavalry: Part III — hell on earth at Andersonville

For a dead man, Pvt. George F. Alexander certainly was a lively corpse. Alexander actually was George Alexander McCluskey, born in Westfield, New Brunswick in August 1846. The 5-4½ , blue-eyed British subject had lied about his age to enlist in the Co. K, 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment in January 1864. The regiment lost 68 […]