Tag Archives: Abner Coburn

Maine Supreme Court strikes down onerous draft-avoidance scheme

Maine Governor Abner Coburn scratched his head after Congress passed in March 1863 a law titled “An Act for enrolling and calling out the national forces and for other purposes.” This law established the national draft, which spawned its own problems by summer 1863. New Yorkers might riot, burn, and kill in the Draft Riots, […]

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 […]

Dead man walking gets promoted

With all the lead flying, a savage battle like Chancellorsville brought promotion for an aspiring young officer or NCO, especially if a bullet struck the right place … on someone else. Absent when his 17th Maine Infantry Regiment fought with III Corps and Daniel Sickles in the fields and woods comprising the Chancellorsville battlefield, Col. […]

Emancipation: An opportunity for promotion

The Emancipation Proclamation turned on the manpower spigot for the new black regiments forming at various locations in the United States. Since only whites could serve as officers in those regiments, many white soldiers sought higher status and pay by lobbying for commissions in the new units. Even discharged soldiers got in on the act. […]

Emancipation: Free the blacks, if only to save the whites

Sworn into office as Maine’s governor in early January 1863, Abner Coburn of Skowhegan strongly supported raising black regiments — and not just for applying more pressure on the struggling Confederacy. Enlisting “the negroes for armed service in holding Southern ‘forts, positions and stations’ will be an immeasurable relief to the population of the North,” […]

The right man at the right time for governor — Part I

  New Year’s Day 1863 gets some attention in American history books because the Emancipation Proclamation took affect that Thursday. But what happened six days later, on Wednesday, January 7? Not much on the national level, Civil War-wise, but a momentous event took place at the State House in Augusta. Maine’s first wartime governor, the […]

A Christmas gift from God and Abner Coburn

  At Camp Russell south of Winchester, Virginia, Capt. John Mead Gould of Portland and two other 29th Maine Infantry Regiment officers — George H. Nye of Lewiston and Alpheus L. Greene of Portland — received a particularly wonderful Christmas present on Friday, Dec. 23, 1864. The recent promotion of Col. George L. Beal of […]

The 6th Maine’s screaming demons led the way

Frantically loading and firing their rifled muskets, the Mississippi infantrymen defending the stone wall at Fredericksburg about 11:05 a.m. on May 3, 1863, suddenly realized that all the .58-caliber lead bullets in the world would not stop the screaming, wild-eyed berserkers swarming toward them. No matter how many comrades pitched onto the slope below Marye’s […]

Help was on the way

  To paraphrase the patriotic song “We Are Coming, Father Abraham,” by February 1863, the war-weary Maine veterans manning the nation’s ramparts from Virginia to Louisiana could “look across the hilltops that meet the southern sky,” where “long moving lines of rising dust your vision may descry.” Those dust clouds were kicked up by the […]