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.

His hometown of Hodgdon extends a hero’s funeral to Jewett Williams – Part 1

Jewett B. Williams, late of Co. H of the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment, received a hearty welcome as he came marching home to his native Hodgdon on Saturday, Sept. 24. Approximately 200 people greeted Jewett — he’s on a first-name basis in this southern Aroostook County town — as he rolled into Hodgdon Mills thunderously […]

Volunteers honor Jewett Williams during a September 17 memorial service at Togus

Gathered between a Confederate re-enactor’s tent and the brushy edge of a mown field at the Togus VA Hospital complex in Chelsea, some 30-35 people gathered to conduct a memorial service for Pvt. Jewett B. Williams on Saturday, Sept. 17. The service took place as part of the Maine Living History Association encampment held at […]

State official’s comment stirs commenter firestorm in Jewett Williams’ burial controversy

Quotes attributed to the director of Maine’s Bureau of Veterans Services in a Bangor Daily News article posted online at 6:16 a.m., Wednesday, September 14 have generated a commenter-fuelled firestorm. Written by Abigail Curtis and headlined “Dispute arises over Maine Civil War veteran’s final resting place” (http://bangordailynews.com/2016/09/14/news/state/dispute-arises-over-maine-civil-war-veterans-final-resting-place/) the article discussed the reasons why the cremains […]

After saving their country, heroes came to Togus from everywhere to live and to die

As the 150th anniversary festivities take place at the Togus VA Hospital in Chelsea this weekend (Sept. 16-18), modern patients and visitors can be forgiven for not knowing exactly why a veterans’ hospital was established at this remote (by mid-19th century standards) place in the first place. The reasons — there actually are 5,373 — […]

Would Jewett Williams like chicken McNuggets with his Happy Meal?

An inquisitive 4-year-old Mainer wonders if Jewett Williams, the Maine Civil War veteran whose peripatetic journey from Oregon to Maine has garnered attention internationally, would like chicken McNuggets from McDonald’s. If not, would Jewett at least want a Happy Meal? A few days before Jewett arrived at Kittery, Maine Patriot Guards ride captain Mike Edgecomb […]

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 […]