Tag Archives: 17th Maine Infantry Regiment

The 17th Maine backstabbers, part 2

With his resignation from command of the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment already submitted, Col. Thomas Roberts had one last chore to perform: recommend his successor. Since the regiment’s muster in Portland in August 1862, Roberts’ second-in-command had been Lt. Col. Charles B. Merrill, also from Portland. Roberts was away sick when Merrill led the 17th […]

The 17th Maine backstabbers, part 1

The departure of Col. Thomas Roberts from the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment in late spring 1863 sparked a lobbying campaign that elevated his major to regimental command. The trouble was, his lieutenant colonel should have received the promotion. The 1860 census found Roberts living in Portland with his wife, Mary, and their three sons: Charles […]

Obstinate Maine soldiers muck home: Mud March, part 3

Caught by a cold rain while attempting to outflank Robert E. Lee at Fredericksburg on January 20, 1863, Union soldiers, horses, and mules suffered immeasurably as the Ambrose Burnside-planned attack dissolved into the “Mud March.” With horses and mules unable to pull mud-stuck cannons, caissons, and wagons, Union infantrymen taking to the flooded roadside terrain […]

Even the weather fights the Yankees: Mud March, part 2

His direct assaults on Confederate-defended Fredericksburg handily repulsed in mid-December 1862, Ambrose Burnside decided to outflank Robert E. Lee’s dug-in veterans 5½ weeks later. Burnside planned to wheel his Army of the Potomac over the Rappahannock River to flank Lee’s army and force it to fight on open ground, where the Yankees could surely outmaneuver […]

John Haley, the reluctant recruit

At Saco in York County, 22-year-old John West Haley wondered if he should enlist as Maine formed five new infantry regiments in summer 1862. Looking back some 15 months, he realized that “in 1861 I concluded I had a duty to perform[,] but hesitated about embarking on this troubled sea,” said Haley, recently a Saco […]

Joe Hooker takes command, and Maine boys notice, part II

The arrival of Joe Hooker at Army of the Potomac headquarters in late January 1863 stirred interest, trepidation, and many questions. Within weeks he instituted morale-building improvements that restored the army’s elan. “Never was the magic influence of a single man more clearly shown than when Hooker assumed command,” said Capt. Charles P. Mattocks of […]

Maine boys notice when Joe Hooker takes command, part I

Despite all the immorality-related baggage (drinking, carousing with prostitutes, etc.) historically associated with him, Joseph Hooker helped save the Union in winter 1863. Abraham Lincoln could have done worse than replace Ambrose Burnside with Hooker, at least in the months prior to Chancellorsville. In the regimental camps sprinkled across Stafford County opposite Fredericksburg, morale all […]

Spotsylvania Part VI: A rooster’s crow unleashed the slaughter

Wandering amidst hell on earth after sunrise on Friday, May 13, 1864, Pvt. John Haley and other survivors of the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment gazed upon “more dead than we had ever seen,” he later told his journal. Raised in summer 1862, the 17th Maine belonged that spring to the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, part […]