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.

Appomattox Road: “We will fight our way back to the regiment!” — Chamberlain and the 20th Maine at Five Forks

  Withdrawn from its White Oak Road earthworks after dark on Friday, March 31, 1865, the weary soldiers of the 5th Corps “about-faced” and went after Five Forks on April Fool’s Day … … and, in a master stroke attributable to sloppy reconnaissance, emerged onto the road leading to Appomattox Court House. Saturday’s clear, cold, […]

Appomattox Road: “The awful tide was rolling toward us” — Chamberlain and the 20th Maine at Battle of White Oak Road

  “Daylight dawned, cold, wet, and cheerless” in the 20th Maine Infantry’s temporary camp west of Petersburg, Va. on Thursday, March 30, 1865, said Pvt. Theodore Gerrish of Co. H. The previous day, elements of the 1st Division, 5th Corps, Army of the Potomac, had captured the Confederate earthworks stretching across the Quaker Road near […]

Appomattox Road: “A heavy blow struck me just above the left breast” — Joshua Chamberlain at Quaker Road

  The end was approaching. By late March 1865, “we felt sure that he (Ulysses Simpson Grant) was preparing some great movement, and this must be still to the left, to cut [Robert E.] Lee’s communications and envelop his existing lines,” said Brig. Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, commander of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th […]

Appomattox Road: Cavalry fight at Dinwiddie – Part II: “A first-class wild-cat show coming up”

  Jonathan Prince Cilley received short notice about the Confederate surprise attack that almost “rolled up” the 2nd Division, U.S. Cavalry Corps, about suppertime on Friday, March 31, 1865. Throughout the afternoon, his 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment had held the division’s far left flank while strung out along the east bank of Chamberlain’s Run, a […]

Appomattox Road: Cavalry fight at Dinwiddie – Part I: “The sharp, heavy volleys heard over the hill”

  Sent to capture an obscure Southside Virginia crossroads in late March 1865, Phil Sheridan botched the assignment — and the 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment saved him from an embarrassing defeat. Ulysses Simpson Grant sent Sheridan to make an end run around the left flank of Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia. […]

Appomattox Road: You have read of Virginia rainstorms and Virginia mud

Reading the letters that her brother, Daniel Withum Sawtelle, wrote from Virginia in January and February 1865, Caroline Sophronia Murphy developed a good idea about what passed for winter in Virginia. The widowed Murphy often traded letters with Daniel, born in Minot in April 1838 and raised in Township 3, Range 5 in southwestern Aroostook […]

Appomattox Road: The solemn-faced nincompoop soon returned

  Winter 1865 found John Haley of Saco serving with the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment in the Union lines southwest of Petersburg. He and his Co. I comrades alternated their duty between the monotony and military regimen of camp life and dangerous duty at picket posts much nearer Confederate lines. “A new year dawns, the […]

Webster Warriors of Bangor

  Webster was a common Bangor surname in the mid-19th century. Then the Civil War intervened, one Webster household from the Queen City dispersed several sons throughout the Union army, and Dr. Bill Hopkins of Wisconsin discovered two of those Webster brothers in Florida many years later. One day “as I was researching Union soldiers […]

Machias forager gets his goose cooked

  Sherman’s “March to the Sea” epitomizes the concept of “living off the land” in hostile territory, but soldiers like Calif Newton Drew of Machias were cleaning out Confederate larders long before Sherman’s bummers swaggered out of Atlanta. Hailing from Machias and Whitneyville, Drew was 15 when he joined Co. K, 6th Maine Infantry Regiment […]

Mayhem and murder in Georgia

Joining the 8th Maine Infantry Regiment took Enoch Robbins of Swanville to some popular tourist haunts along the Southeast coast. And a brutal murder in Georgia opened a door to a long-sought promotion. From Cyndi Dalton of Northport comes a tale of interracial love (and possibly sex), a jealous lover, murder, courtroom intrigue, and a […]