The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War is being noted from now until April 2015. It might be likened to our nation's “Iliad,” having done more to shape who we are as a nation today than any other event.
It seems fitting to pay homage to some of the lesser known Mainers who put their lives on the line in that tragic conflict.
To most, Maine's “Role of Honor” in the Civil War begins and ends with Joshua Chamberlain. Chamberlain deserves the accolades bestowed on him, but there were many other less known Mainers who left part of themselves on the battlefields. Let's recognize three fine men.
Sgt. Andrew Tozier of Litchfield mustered into the 2nd Maine Infantry in Bangor in the spring of 1861 for what he thought was a two-year enlistment.
The 2nd Infantry served with great distinction in every battle in the eastern theater of war through Chancellorsville. At that time, half the men were mustered out at the completion of their two-year obligation. However, Tozier and the rest had unintentionally signed three year enlistments.
All but one were reluctanty placed into Chamberlain’s 20th Maine just before Gettysburg. Chamberlain boldly made Tozier the regimental Color Sergeant, a dangerous but coveted assignment.
The 20th found itself on Little Round Top struggling against an attack by Confederate forces. Nearly out of ammunition, the Mainers fought on. Standing at the crucial pivot point was Sgt Tozier, holding the colors high, using scrounged ammunition to fire away at the attacking Rebels.
Amazingly, he emerged unscathed. For his heroic stand, Tozier was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Tozier continued to serve in the 20th through the following spring and was mustered out in June 1864. He retired to his home in Litchfield to raise a family and lead a quiet life as a dairy farmer. A modest man, he seldom mentioned his heroic service and died peacefully in 1910.
Major Abner Small of Waterville originally enlisted in the 3rd Maine Infantry, mustering in during June 1861. He rose rapidly to become an officer.
In May 1862, Small was sent home to recruit men for the new 16th Maine Infantry. The 16th found itself at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, ordered to assist in repulsing a furious Confederate assault.
Placed in an untenable situation, the regiment was mauled. Small, with a few others, managed to tear the regimental and national colors into pieces to prevent their capture by the Rebels. Small was one of only 38 other men to report for duty on July 2, but the colors had been saved. Small continued to serve in the 16th, rising to regimental adjutant, but was captured in August 1864 at Petersburg, Va. He spent several brutal months in Confederate prisons until he was exchanged in early 1865. He weighed 90 pounds on his release.
Small became a successful merchant after the war. He wrote the semi-official history of the 16th. He quietly worked on a personal memoir of his service, intending it only for family members.
Long after Small's death, his son published the memoirs as “Road to Richmond,” in my opinion the finest personal memoir of an American's military service ever written.
Finally there's Lewiston's own Sgt. Edward Tobie, who enlisted in the 1st Maine Cavalry in the fall of 1861.
Most of the recruits had little familiarity with riding horses, but by war's end, the unit participated in every major battle in the eastern theater. Tobie rose to the rank of sergeant-major. In the spring of 1865, Tobie was wounded but continued on. He was awarded the Medal of Honor: “Though severely wounded at Sailors Creek, 6 April, and at Farmville, 7 April, refused to go to the hospital, but remained with his regiment, performed the full duties of adjutant upon the wounding of that officer, and was present for duty at Appomattox.”
After the war, Tobie went on to write “The History of the 1st Maine Cavalry,” considered a classic in regimental histories. Tobie died on Jan. 21, 1900, and is buried in Providence, R.I.
There are many more Mainers who served their country with honor during the Civil War. I encourage people to learn more about their forbears in this 150th anniversary time period.
Andrew Hall is lifelong resident of Lewiston and Auburn, and a long time Civil War enthusiast.