Advancing north from the Piscataqua River, Phil Sheridan realized by the time he captured Maine “that this is the hardest campaign he ever had.”
And that difficulty occurred even as Mainers welcomed him as a conquering hero.
Viewed by many Northerners as a successful general in the anemically led Army of the Potomac, Sheridan toured northern New England in autumn 1867. Just completing his first term as governor, Joshua Chamberlain and other state officials had invited Sheridan to visit Maine.
Then a major general, Sheridan commanded the Department of the Missouri, an appointment made by Lt. Gen. Ulysses Grant in August 1867. Sheridan’s sole assignment was to pacify hostile Indians so the region stretching from the Mississippi River west to the Rocky Mountains could be fully opened for settlement and economic exploitation.
Catching a Boston & Maine Railroad train at Boston’s North Station, Sheridan and his staff rattled north along the rail corridor utilized today by Amtrak. Mainers flocked to the local depots and even stood trackside to watch Sheridan pass.
Staying overnight in Portland on Monday, Oct. 28, he left the Forest City at 7 a.m., Tuesday “in the same cars that had conveyed him from Boston,” a reporter noted. The train pulled into Brunswick in an hour or so, and “His Excellency,” Gov. Chamberlain, stepped into the Sheridan car.
The men held “a cordial” meeting, and Chamberlain invited Sheridan to visit Bowdoin College, Chamberlain’s alma mater. “The bells were rung,” and people cheered as the two men climbed into a carriage “and [were] driven about town,” according to the press.
Bowdoin President Samuel Harris welcomed Sheridan and mentioned that 25 percent of Bowdoin men had served during the Civil War. “The General made a brief reply of thanks and then returned to the train,” wrote a reporter evidently traveling with Sheridan’s entourage.
Sheridan spent 30 minutes in Brunswick, the press claimed, but the actual time must have run longer.
Up the Kennebec Valley the train steamed. A brief stop in Richmond brought Sheridan to the platform of the rear car. People cheered him there and extended him “an enthusiastic reception” in Gardiner, where “a salute was fired and the bells rung.”
The reporter commented on the “immense throng … assembled at the [Gardiner] depot, near which a temporary platform had been erected.” Probably accompanied by Chamberlain, Sheridan climbed the steps to the platform, let the Gardiner mayor introduce him, and acknowledged the “three hearty cheers” tossed by the crowd.
Thanking his admirers for the reception, Sheridan expressed his regrets “that his stay could not be longer,” a newspaper reported. “He had experienced nothing but kindness during his stay in Maine, which had sent forth many brave and gallant soldiers” to save the Union during the war.
Meanwhile, from Bangor steamed a Maine Central Railroad “special train,” which had departed the Queen City at 7 a.m. Today, motorists traveling south on I-95 from Bangor can reach Augusta in an hour or so; even with the tracks cleared through Newport, Pittsfield, and Waterville, the MCRR train did not pull alongside the Augusta depot until 10 a.m.
The train carried companies A and B, Maine State Guards, and the Bangor Cornet Band, as well as some Bangor dignitaries. Designated the military escort for Sheridan, the state guardsmen “made a very fine appearance” and “elicited the highest encomiums for their fulls ranks, correct marching and soldierly bearing,” a Bangor reporter noted in the era’s flowery prose.
And “the Bangor Cornet Band … furnished excellent music, second to none,” he commented.
Reboarding their train at Gardiner, Sheridan and Chamberlain rode to Augusta, where “the most tumultuous cheering [was made] by an immense crowd,” observed a reporter. After the train reached the Augusta depot at 10:30 a.m., “a salute was fired” from the federal arsenal across the Kennebec.
“It is with much pleasure that I meet you on this occasion, and in behalf of the citizens of Augusta, the Capital of Maine, I tender to yourself and staff, a most cordial welcome,” Augusta Mayor Patterson welcomed Sheridan.
“I am much obliged to you, Mr. Mayor, for the very cordial welcome you have given me,” replied Sheridan. “I am glad to meet you and your people, and to visit the Capital of Maine by invitation of the State authorities.
“I am ready to accompany you,” Sheridan said.
Patterson invited Sheridan and Chamberlain “into a barouche,” a fashionable horse-drawn carriage drawn by two horses, likely a pair matched in breed, coloration, and size. Maine Adjutant General John Caldwell (a former Union general) joined the three men.
Then Chamberlain escorted Sheridan to the State House in a parade the likes of which few Augusta residents had ever seen.
Source: Daily Whig & Courier, Wednesday, October 30, 1867
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Brian Swartz can be reached at email@example.com. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.