Paging Reuel Furlong, paging Captain Reuel Furlong

During a rare (and successful) night action, Union troops attacked and overran a heavily defended Confederate position at Rappahanock Station, Va. on Nov. 7, 1863. Believing that George Meade would attack elsewhere, Robert E. Lee felt the salient, connected to Confederate lines only by a bridge flung across the river, would suffer only a probing attack, not a full-scale assault. Although Union forces suffered far fewer casualties that did the Confederate defenders, the battle was costly for Calais.

After scouring Calais for a local Civil War hero earlier this summer, I now understand how troops could wander astray when approaching a battlefield blanketed by hills, ravines, and woods.

Even with a printed map, an address, and directions, I could not find Capt. Reuel Furlong, late of the 6th Maine Infantry Regiment. If anyone should encounter him Down East, please, give him my regards.

Nicknamed the “Calais giant,” the 6-2 Furlong towered over most Calais men with whom he went to war as a first lieutenant in a company commanded by Capt. Joel Haycock. Traveling via steamer to Eastport, the Calais boys joined other Down East companies destined to round out the 6th Maine; the hard-righting regiment performed stellar service with the Army of the Potomac.

The so-called “Calais Company” became Co. D, led by officers and noncoms primarily in their mid-to-late 20s. Haycock and Furlong were 25; the company’s second lieutenant, Henry Wait, was 28. All three men gained promotions in 1863: Haycock to major, Furlong to captain, and Wait to first lieutenant.

Then the 6th Maine participated in the daring (and surprisingly successful) night attack on Nov. 7, 1863 against Confederates entrenched on the north bank of Rappahannock River in Virginia. Writing in his detailed regimental history, “No Rich Men’s Sons,” author James H. Mundy described what happened as the 6th Maine boys attacked Confederate fortifications after dark.

“In another part of the redoubt” Capt. Reuel Furlong “was fighting his last fight,” Mundy wrote. Furlong had “led the men of Company D over the parapet.

“After emptying his revolver, he grabbed a musket and fought on,” Mundy wrote. In a scene eerily reminiscent of Fess Parker (alias “Davy Crockett”) going down swinging “Old Betsy” in the last act of the Alamo (as filmed for Disney’s “Crockett” movies), Reuel Furlong “was last seen swinging” the musket “over his head as he disappeared into a crowd of Rebel soldiers.

“They found him after the battle among a pile of dead Confederates, several of whom had been killed by the blows of a musket stock,” Mundy wrote.

Furlong’s embalmed body soon arrived for burial in the Calais Cemetery, then located on rural South Street. Hannaford and Wal-Mart moved in down the road in the late 20th century, and Calais Regional Hospital relocated to a new facility not far away from the cemetery several years ago.

A “Maine at War” reader informed me about Furlong and his Calais burial in late spring 2011. In late June 2012, I traveled to Calais to “meet” Reuel and pay my respects.

I possess a somewhat detailed Calais Cemetery map and an official City of Calais “Cemetery Department” report that identifies exactly where Furlong and his relatives are buried: Block 108, Lot 1.

Let’s make that “should be buried.” Beneath a gray sky that threatened rain and spawned mosquito hordes, I pulled alongside Lot 108, got out of the car, and checked IDs against gravestones.

Not a Furlong in sight.

I started searching the cemetery, lot by lot, Civil War grave by Civil War grave. Fortunately the Calais Cemetery Department had left the GAR flag holders and American flags beside the appropriate graves; I learned to “zero in” on the flags and their GAR holders as, for 2½ hours, I scoured that cemetery.

I never did meet Reuel Furlong. Since then I’ve received a photo that reveals his gravestone is an obelisk, not the traditional post-war marker.

That explains one reason why we never met; compared to many other Civil War veterans buried in Calais, Furlong has a complex gravestone.

And the other reason we did not meet? He’s buried some distance from Lot 108: I will find him buried slightly uphill and over a few blocks (er, lots) from where he’s supposed to be.
So Furlong and I will not meet until another time, but I did encounter at least 25 Civil War veterans buried not far from him. Let’s mention a few:

• George Cayer, Co. C, 1st Maine Cavalry. His weathered stone has fallen over.

• William Wallace Coy, Co. D, 6th Maine Infantry, killed in action at the Battle of Rappahannock Station. He likely died about the time that eyewitnesses saw Furlong charge into the Confederate troops who ultimately killed him.

• Corp. John Gower, 5th Maine Light Artillery. His stone defines simplicity.

• Enoch Gower, Co. D, 6th Maine Infantry. He lived until 1925 and likely spent more money on an ornate stone for his wife, Cyrena (who died in 1906), than was spent on his stone.

• Corp. George A. Stanhope, Co. D, 1st Maine Heavy Artillery.

• Sgt. Charles M. Flint, Co. D, 6th Maine Infantry. He definitely outlived Reuel Furlong, by six months at least. His ornate white stone was erected “in memoriam,” because Flint went “missing in battle at Spotsylvania Court House, Va.” on “May 10, 1864.” He was 22.
• Sgt. John Noble, Co. G, 30th Maine Infantry.

So my fruitless, bug-plagued search for Reuel Furlong introduced me to many unsung heroes from Calais who served their state and country well during the Civil War.

Some day, maybe in 2013, I hope to return to Calais and drive right to Furlong’s grave; with a photo and a detailed location now firmly in hand, I cannot miss it.

Or can I? Must I spend another muggy Saturday afternoon wandering the Calais Cemetery while muttering, “Paging Reuel Furlong, paging Capt. Reuel Furlong.”


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