If only Andrew Bean’s trunk could talk


Among the exhibits at the Brooks Museum in Brooks is the trunk the Capt. Andrew Derby Bean took to war in spring 1861. Bean packed his clothing and other items in the trunk, on which he painted his name and the identity of his regiment, the 4th Maine Infantry. Wounded at the Battle of Manassas, Bean later returned to Brooks. Forgotten for years after his death, the trunk was found in the house that Bean once owned on today’s Moosehead Trail in Brooks. (Brian Swartz Photo)

Sometimes we can almost reach across history and “touch” a Civil War veteran.

At least with Andrew Derby Bean from Brooks, we can touch the trunk that he took to war in spring 1861, and if only that trunk could talk,

If only the trunk owned by Andrew Derby Bean could talk, the war stories it could tell.

After Fort Sumter’s surrender on April 14, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln asked loyal governors to provide 75,000 men to help defeat the Confederacy. Midcoast patriots converged on Rockland on Tuesday, April 23 to join the war effort; during a “rah-rah, sis-boom-bah” evening meeting, “a twenty dollar gold coin was tossed on the floor for the first volunteer” who would join a fledgling regiment, recalled Elijah Walker.

“It was picked up by Stephen H. Chapman, who enlisted in my company and acted as orderly sergeant until appointed by Col. [Hiram] Berry as Sergeant-Major of the regiment,” wrote Walker. He intended to raise a 100-man company for the regiment, later designated the 4th Maine Infantry.

Scurrying to Augusta overnight, Walker spent Wednesday morning there completing blank recruiting forms. “At eleven o’clock a.m. seventy-three names had been signed to the [company’s] roll,” Walker wrote. Barred from signing up additional recruits because other officers “wanted … to raise companies,” he returned to Rockland later that day to meet his recruits in a local courtroom “at five o’clock … for the purpose of choosing one captain and two lieutenants.”

Enthusiastic recruits debated the nominees and elected Walker as their company’s captain, Orrin Mitchell as first lieutenant, and Julius Litchfield as second lieutenant. All three men hailed from Rockland, as did Hiram Berry, the regimental colonel destined for eternal glory on a Virginia battlefield.

Meanwhile, Andrew Derby Bean recruited men in Brooks and neighboring towns. He personally recruited more than 60 volunteers, enough to form the 4th Maine’s Co. F, and his recruits elected him their captain. They also chose James Huxford of Brooks as first lieutenant and Charles Burd of Belfast as second lieutenant.

By mid-19th century standards, Bean essentially was middle-aged, too old to join the war effort. Born in Belfast to Josiah and Eunice Bean on March 18, 1813, Andrew relocated to Brooks at age 12 and spent his life there until 1861. He served with the Maine militia called out during the Aroostook War.

Bean married Lydia Fogg, four years younger than him; they had a son, George, and a daughter, Mary Frances. Like his father, George would join the Union army; Mary would later marry local merchant Calvin Rose and would occupy the hilltop farmhouse owned by her father.

Capt. Andrew Derby Bean hailed from Brooks and raised a company of soldiers to serve with the 4th Maine Infantry Regiment in 1861. He packed his belongings in a wooden trunk that is now displayed at the Brooks Museum. (Photo courtesy of the Belfast Historical Society)

Lydia died unexpectedly in mid-June 1843; surprisingly for that era, Andrew would not remarry for more than 20 years. Instead he concentrated on business and politics. Appointed the Brooks postmaster on July 28, 1854, Bean went to Augusta as a Democratic representative from Brooks in 1856.

Mustered into Federal service at Camp Knox in Rockland on June 15, 1861, the 4th Maine Infantry departed by ship on Monday, June 17. Army regulations let officers haul more luggage than could enlisted men; Andrew Bean neatly packed his shirts, undergarments, and socks in a wooden, metal-strapped trunk that measured 15 inches high, 28 inches long, and 17 inches wide. He identified the trunk with “A.D. Bean” and “4th Maine Reg.” painted in white on both ends.

After arriving in Washington, D.C., the so-called “Limerock Regiment” joined other untested troops that Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell would lead into battle. Deploying at Manassas, Va. late afternoon on a sultry July 21, the 4th Maine lost men: Stephen Chapman, he of the $20 gold coin, died from a gunshot, and Capt. Andrew Bean suffered a leg wound that lamed him for life. Chapman’s retreating comrades left his body on the battlefield; Bean lived another 31 years, but his fighting days ended at Manassas.

Sent to Maine as a recruiting officer, the crippled Bean brought home his Army trunk. After resigning his commission on May 12, 1862, he resumed his civilian life.

That summer did Bean discuss military service with his son, George? Did the son examine his father’s Army trunk and ask if he could use it if he enlisted? The trunk cannot answer such questions, but it remained in Brooks when George Bean mustered into the Union army with Co. A, 26th Maine Infantry on Oct. 11, 1862. Among his regimental comrades was George M. Bean, an 18-year-old Waldo youth assigned to Co. I.

The 26th Maine Infantry arrived in New Orleans in December 1862 and served in Louisiana and Mississippi until sent home in July 1863. George Bean of Brooks remained in New Orleans, where he died from disease on May 29, 1863, just three days after his 20th birthday. George Bean on Waldo also died there from disease; both George Beans lie in the Baton Rouge National Cemetery, the final resting place for many Maine men.

But another gravestone indicates that George Bean of Brooks lies buried in that town’s Pilley Cemetery. Andrew Bean probably could not afford to embalm his lost son and ship him home from far away New Orleans, so the Brooks grave likely contains no body.

With his wife and son dead, did Andrew Bean experience loneliness many a night in his Brooks home? His correspondence evidently vanished; Bean remains an enigma, his life highlighted in brief historical snippets. He kept his Army trunk, which in time passed into his daughter’s possession and ultimately disappeared.

Andrew Bean married Harriet Warren a widow, in Montville on May 22, 1866 and served as the Belfast postmaster from 1879 to 1887. He died in Brooks on Sept. 21, 1892; his family interred him in the First Settlers Cemetery in Brooks.

History should have forgotten Andrew Bean, an obscure officer in an obscure regiment: Despite its stellar combat record, the 4th Maine Infantry regrettably lacks the historical praise heaped on the 20th Maine Infantry. Led by Elijah Walker (now a colonel), 4th Maine boys battled Confederates at the Devils Den at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863; their sacrifice bought precious time for the 20th Maine and other Union regiments to form on nearby Little Round Top.

In 1954, Betty and Franklin Littlefield purchased the Rose House (named for Calvin and Mary Bean Rose), located atop a hill alongside Route 7 in Brooks. The Littlefields renovated the house over the years, and in the attic they discovered a wooden trunk secured by metal straps and studs. At each end, above and below the leather straps that an individual would use to lift the trunk, the phrases “A.D. Bean” and “4th Maine Reg.” stood out in white paint.

Suddenly Andrew Derby Bean was not just a forgotten warrior: The trunk that had traveled with him to war and back now brought him to life. The trunk confirms his soldierly identity; inside the trunk 150 years ago were the necessities and few personal items he considered important.

If only the trunk could talk; alas “it was empty,” Betty Littlefield recalled. The key still turned in the lock, however, and the lid swung open to reveal a functional design that even provided Andrew Bean with an ad hoc surface on which to write letters.

If only the Andrew Bean trunk could talk, the war stories it could tell about officers gathered around evening campfires in mid-July 1861 while discussing an impending battle in Virginia; about the pain that a leg wound caused Bean; about the sorrow that tore apart a father’s heart upon learning that a wartime death had claimed his only son.

Today the remarkably well-preserved trunk is displayed at the Brooks Museum, located at 11 Moosehead Trail in Brooks. Known also as the Pilley House, the circa-1818 wood-frame house has been restored to a circa-1900 timeframe. The Brooks Historical Society owns the museum; Betty Littlefield is the society’s president and the museum’s curator.

Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. He would love to hear from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.

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.