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 jive with Civil War reality. I can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net.

Mud on the Mules

  Cold rain dripping from his campaign hat, Lt. Col. James “Jim” S. Fillebrown sat squarely in the saddle and watched the mucky chaos engulfing his 10th Maine Infantry Regiment on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 1863. Until three days earlier, Fillebrown and his men had spent the early winter camping near Fairfax Court House in Virginia. […]

Did Daniel Chaplin develop a death wish?

  Did Col. Daniel Chaplin lose his desire to live after watching the annihilation of his beloved 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment at Petersburg on Saturday, June 18, 1864? Yes, surmised Pvt. Joel Brown of Orono and Co. I. And Chaplin’s own behavior suggests the behavior of a man who cared not if he lived […]

The 2nd Maine Cavalry rides again

Long-forgotten Maine cavalrymen ride once more into battle in a Civil War book recently released by Holden author Ned Smith. A few years ago, Airline Community School secretary Joni Archer “asked me what I knew about the 2nd Maine Cavalry,” said Smith, who teaches part time at the Aurora school. “I said, ‘Nothing.’” Archer’s great-grandfather, […]

Blanket Brigade: the perfect gift for Thanksgiving

  Note: This is the conclusion of the three-part series about the “Blanket Brigade.” Rising from their rude shelters in Ridgeville, Md. on Sunday, Sept. 14, the 16th Maine Infantry boys listened to “the terrific cannonading” erupting from the Battle of South Mountain, fought miles to the west, Adjutant Abner Small recalled the distant thunder. […]

Blanket Brigade: hard luck on the Potomac

  Note: This is the second part of a three-part series about the “Blanket Brigade.” A hard-luck infantry regiment that Maine fielded in midsummer 1862 later drew scathing ridicule as the autumn rains and cold literally dissolved clothing, men, and equipment in those wretched weeks after Antietam. Commanded by Col. Asa W. Wildes of Skowhegan, […]

Blanket Brigade: Forming the regiment

  In early April 1862, United States Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas ordered that recruiting cease in the loyal states. On April 3, Maine Adjutant General John Hodsdon issued General Order No. 11, directing that “all officers and others engaged” in “Volunteer recruiting service in this state” should “close their several offices and [points of] rendezvous.” […]

Illsley and his ilk met their match in Jackson

Shoulder-strap desire met gubernatorial reality on Monday, Sept. 9, 1861 at the 5th Maine Infantry Regiment camp near Washington, D.C. — and the “shoulder straps” led the subsequent mutiny. Known as the “Forest City Regiment,” the 5th Maine mustered into federal service at Portland (the “Forest City”) on Monday, June 24, 1861. Exactly a month […]

Living History Weekends at Gettysburg

Some 30 weekends a year, Civil War re-enactors bring their craft to life during Living History Weekends at Gettysburg National Military Park; at no cost to themselves, visitors can briefly glimpse history on the fields where it was made. We spent a few hours at Gettysburg on Sunday, September 28. That particular weekend two re-enactment […]

A Hamlin could get away with cowardice

If he did not skedaddle from Manassas in late day on Sunday, July 21, 1861, then why did Augustus Choate Hamlin expend so much ink explaining why he was not a coward? Thanks to his vice-presidential uncle, Hamlin enjoyed a distinguished surname that fateful spring. A doctor by profession and a Republican by choice, he […]

1st Maine Heavies dueled with Ewell’s best at Harris Farm

  Note: This is the second of a two-part article about the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery’s involvement in the Battle of Harris Farm, Va. Unable to break the Confederate lines at Spotsylvania despite repeated assaults, Ulysses Simpson Grant tried in mid-May 1864 to slip the Army of the Potomac east and south around the enemy […]