All posts by Brian Swartz

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.

Sea fight on Albemarle Sound, part 2

Commanded by Acting Volunteer Lt. Charles A. French, the side-wheel gunboat USS Miami (742 tons and six guns) weighed anchor at Edenton Bay at 1 p.m. on May 5, 1864 and steamed southeast across North Carolina’s Albemarle Sound toward the Roanoke River estuary. With Miami came the USS Commodore Hull (a 382-ton side-wheel ferry mounting […]

Sea fight on Albemarle Sound, part 1

Charles Addison Boutelle sensed trouble. Today — Thursday, May 5, 1864 — had dawned clear, already 63 degrees at 4 a.m. A southwesterly breeze flitted gently across Albemarle Sound in North Carolina as the temperature climbed steadily to 69 degrees at 8 a.m. and 83 degrees at noon. The North Carolina sun beat relentlessly on […]

Harper’s Ferry scenes for locked-down Civil War buffs

If not for John Brown, not many Americans would ever hear about Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia. Nestled in the hole where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac River, Harper’s Ferry was an important transportation hub prior to the Civil War. The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal curved beneath Maryland Heights across the Potomac, and the […]

On Memorial Day, history learned in a small town cemetery

You can learn so much Civil War history by visiting a Maine cemetery on Memorial Day. Their wooden shafts attached to five-star markers, the small American flags fluttering in the breeze identify many Civil War veterans, whose stones often list the respective units: company and regiment or artillery battery. Each stone represents history that, with […]

On Memorial Day, this Gettysburg Smith is a true Mainer

Beneath a dandelion-shadowed grave at the Gettysburg Military Cemetery lies a long-forgotten Washington County lad wounded in a useless skirmish on July 3, 1863. His headstone identifies him as “W.H. Smith.” (first line) of “CO. K. REGT. 7.” (second line). He’s a Smith — plenty of them in Maine, of course — who served in […]

Elihu Washburne’s brother blockades the bayous

The Civil War term “blockade duty” invokes stirring imagery of Navy warships prowling off Southern ports as lookouts strain to detect well-camouflaged Southern blockade runners sneaking past at night or during murky weather. Place names like Charleston, Mobile, and Wilmington come to mind. But Brashear City? Where the heck was that? Over in Louisiana, on […]

A tale of two forts

Two Civil War-era forts in Maine and Georgia share some design features, but their construction materials differ considerably. Fort Knox on the Penobscot River and Fort Pulaski on the Savannah River were built to keep enemy warships from reaching upriver ports. Garrisoned from 1863 to 1866 and again during the Spanish-American War, Knox never faced […]

Courtroom wars part 3 – the judge lays down the law

Note: We thank attorney Joseph G. Donahue, a re-enactor with Co. A, 3rd Maine Infantry, for providing the Maine Supreme Judicial Court opinion that sparked this three-part post. Appearing “in person” at the June 26, 1865 Corinna selectmen’s meeting, Pvt. John Winchester of the 4th Maine Battery “demanded” the $300 bounty and $144 for his […]

Courtroom wars part 2 – Corinna selectmen shaft a soldier

Note: We thank attorney Joseph G. Donahue, a re-enactor with Co. A, 3rd Maine Infantry, for providing the Maine Supreme Judicial Court opinion that sparked this three-part post. While stationed at forts Haskell and Stedman along the Petersburg siege lines, the 4th Maine Battery lads cast their votes — 59 for Abraham Lincoln and 34 […]

Courtroom wars part 1 – Corinna promises its recruits big bucks

Note: We thank attorney Joseph G. Donahue, a re-enactor with Co. A, 3rd Maine Infantry, for providing the Maine Supreme Judicial Court opinion that sparked this three-part post. A deal was a deal, John Winchester believed, and his hometown selectmen had better keep their end of the bargain — or else. Born January 25, 1822 […]