Category Archives: the Civil War during its sesquicentennial

Sitting governor runs afoul Republican opponents, Part 1

As Maine soldiers converged on Gettysburg, revengeful Republican politicians tossed aside the state’s sitting governor, Abner Coburn. A successful businessman from Skowhegan, he had beaten three opponents during the early June 1862 Republican state convention held in Portland. Winning the September election, he took office in January 1863 and soon collided with power-wielding politicians. Coburn […]

Sea fight on Albemarle Sound, part 3

While ramming the CSS Albemarle on her starboard quarter, the 14-gun side-wheel USS Sassacus rode up on the ironclad skippered by Commander James Wallace Cooke. At such a close distance, nobody could miss. “The guns were so close together that the burned powder from the ironclad’s gun blackened the bows of the Sassacus,” recalled that […]

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 […]