It was 5 a.m. on April 12, 1865 — exactly 150 years ago.

Thousands of Union troops were lined up along the main road leading to Appomattox Court House. Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who was heading back to Washington to confer with President Abraham Lincoln, was not there when the South would formally surrender its arms and colors.

Grant awarded that honor to Maine Gen. Joshua Chamberlain, selecting him over several higher-ranking officers.

A Mainer was once again present at a pivotal moment in the Civil War.

From Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and high-ranking Maine generals like Oliver Otis Howard, to Chamberlain — with his heroic stand on Little Round Top at Gettysburg and his honorable salute at Appomattox Court House — and the thousands of other officers, soldiers and sailors who sacrificed their lives, Maine citizens were quick to answer the call, serve with distinction and help preserve the union.

How significant was Maine’s role?


It was substantial, argues Jerry R. Desmond, a Maine native and author of the book “Turning the Tide at Gettysburg,” which describes in detail where all the Maine regiments were during the three-day battle that is often called the turning point of the war.

The subtitle of his book is “How Maine Saved the Union.”

“I noticed that at the key places on the battlefield, there was a Maine unit there, and they were doing good work,” Desmond said.

The same could be said for Maine’s efforts throughout the four-year war.

A total of 4,022 Maine soldiers fought at Gettysburg, which was 4.3 percent of the Union Army, and nearly 1,000 were killed, wounded or captured. But Maine had the highest percentage of Medal of Honor recipients per 1,000 soldiers during that battle.

In fact, Maine contributed the largest number of combatants in the Civil War of any state in the Union in proportion to its population. Records show that 9,393 Mainers died, including 3,184 killed or mortally wounded and 5,257 by disease.


There are hundreds of stories of valor, sacrifice, honor and sadness that could be told about Maine’s role in the war. What follows are a few of these vignettes.

Healing the country

Handpicked by Grant, Joshua Chamberlain was the perfect choice to preside over the surrender at Appomattox.

A week earlier, at the Battle of Five Forks, Chamberlain’s brigade was the first to break through the Confederate lines. That led to a major Union victory. Chamberlain’s troops captured more than 1,000 soldiers that day, including 19 officers, and five battle flags. A week later, the Confederates were waving the white flag.

“Chamberlain performed very well during the war,” said Charles Plummer of Auburn, a Civil War historian who portrays Chamberlain in talks and serves as a tour guide at Chamberlain’s former Brunswick home, now the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum. “A lot of people don’t realize with the Army of the Potomac, Chamberlain at Five Forks played a significant role in breaking through the Confederate lines. Grant knew that. It was recognition of his dedication as a commanding officer.”

Grant gave Lee favorable terms. His officers could keep their horses and their own personal sidearms. But Grant wanted a respectful and solemn ceremony without embarrassing the surrendering soldiers.


No one understood that message better than Chamberlain.

“Chamberlain took that to heart,” Plummer said. “What better way to begin reuniting the country than to greet them with a salute of honor.”

Chamberlain ordered the Union troops to stand at attention and give the “carry arms” salute while nearly 28,000 Confederate soldiers marched toward the Union troops to lay down their muskets, ammunition and battle flags.

The show of honor surprised and touched the defeated Southerners, who returned the salute.

Chamberlain was later criticized for the salute, but he never backed down, stating he was honoring the soldiers and not their cause.

Bates Mill


Founded in 1850, Bates Mill was one of the largest textile manufacturers in New England and helped turn Lewiston-Auburn into the industrial center of Maine.

By 1857, the mill employed more than 1,000 people and produced 5.7 million yards of cotton products. That was the year before the mill began producing its renowned Bates bedspread.

War appeared likely following Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 and textile mill owners faced losing access to the raw materials needed to remain open. But most of them believed a war would only last a few weeks.

Not Benjamin Bates. The local mill owner gambled that the war could continue for years before a resolution. Instead of downsizing and cutting supplies, Bates bought as much cotton as he could find.

As the war continued and cotton supplies from the South dried up, most textile plants in the North struggled to meet demand, while Bates was adding capacity.

“He had the foresight to stockpile cotton before the war,” local historian Russ Burbank said.


That allowed the company enough cotton to maintain production throughout the war and keep the Union Army supplied with uniforms, tents and blankets.

Bates tried to keep up with the demands of the war, but the mill lacked the manpower required to keep the looms running. Women and immigrants from Canada were not enough. Like other manufacturers at the time, the mill reached out to children. In October 1861, the mill published a notice seeking “120 Girls & Boys” to help the war effort produce tent cloth.

“Twisting, spooling, spinning, doffing and quilling. They will be required to work 9 hours per day,” the notice said.

Two Blue, one Gray

Fewer than 1,900 people lived in Leeds in 1860, but the tiny town produced three Civil War generals — including one who fought for the South.

The best known was Oliver Otis Howard. A graduate of Bowdoin College and West Point, Howard commanded the Third Maine Regiment as its colonel at the start of the war. He soon was leading the Army’s 11th Corps and rose to the rank of brigadier general following the First Battle of Bull Run.


He won the Medal of Honor during the Battle of Fair Oaks in 1862 when he lost his right arm after his elbow was shattered by a musket ball.

Not even an amputation slowed him down. His command received some criticism following Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, but Howard made the key decision to place his troops on the high ground at Cemetery Hill at Gettysburg on the first day. Howard is memorialized on that site with a statue of him sitting on his horse.

Later in the war, Howard received praise from Gen. William Sherman when he commanded the right flank during the March to the Sea through Georgia and South Carolina.

Howard is “unfairly overlooked” when the topic of the top Union generals is discussed, Burbank says.

After the war, Howard helped the emancipated slaves as the first commissioner for the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands. He was successful for awhile until politicians eliminated his funding. His efforts were not in vain. He is one of the founders of Howard University in Washington, which is named for him.

By 1888, Howard was the second-ranking general in the Army. He died in 1909 and is buried in Vermont.


His brother, Charles Howard, served for much of the conflict as an aide for his more famous brother. He was promoted to brevet brigadier general by the end of the war.

Leeds’ third general was Danville Leadbetter, a 1836 graduate of West Point who worked as an engineer when he was stationed in Mobile, Ala. At the start of the war, he resigned his commission in the Army and accepted the appointment as lieutenant colonel in his adopted state.

He was promoted to general in 1862 and led troops and served as an engineer in Alabama and Tennessee for the remainder of the war. He died in Canada in 1866 and is buried in Mobile.

Local Medal of Honor recipients

The Medal of Honor is the highest award given to members of the military for acts of valor against an enemy force. More than 1,000 were awarded to veterans of the Civil War, with 53 from Maine.

In addition to Gen. Howard, six Medal of Honor recipients hail from the Lewiston-Auburn area.


• Moses Hanscom was born in Danville and was a corporal in Company F of the 19th Maine Infantry. During the battle of Briscoe Station, Va., Hanscom received his medal for capturing the flag of the 26th North Carolina on Oct. 14, 1863.

After the war, he attended Newton Theological Institution in Massachusetts, but died at age 30 in 1873. He is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Auburn.

• Sgt. Maj. Edward P. Tobie of Lewiston was a decorated member of the 1st Maine Cavalry.

His citation states that he was severely wounded on April 6, 1865, at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek and again the following day at Farmville, both located in Virginia during the waning days of the war. His citation says that Tobie “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 authored a compelling book about the 1st Maine Cavalry. He died in Providence, R.I., where he is buried.

• Capt. Augustus Merrill of Byron served with Company B of the 1st Maine Veteran Infantry. On April 2, 1865 at Petersburg, Va., Merrill and six men “captured 69 Confederate prisoners and recaptured several soldiers who had fallen into the enemy’s hands.” Merrill died in 1895 and is buried in Chicago.


• Ephraim W. Harrington was born in Waterford, but served with the 2nd Vermont Infantry. Harrington was commended for “extraordinary heroism” when he “carried the colors to the top of the heights and almost to the muzzle of the enemy’s guns” during the Battle of Fredericksburg on May 3, 1863. The Burlington Weekly Free Press described Harrington as the tallest man of his regiment at 6 foot, 4½ inches, and said that he carried the colors for his unit in battle for more than two years.

He died in 1914 and is buried in St. Johnsbury, Vt.

• Andrew Tozier was born in Monmouth and raised in Litchfield. Originally a member of the 2nd Maine, Tozier was transferred to Chamberlain’s 20th Maine. Chamberlain and the sergeant were the only members of the 20th Maine to receive the Medal of Honor at Gettysburg.

His citation reads, “At the crisis of the engagement, this soldier, a color bearer, stood alone in an advanced position, the regiment having been borne back, and defended his colors with musket and ammunition picked up at his feet.”

Tozier returned to Maine after the war to work as a dairy farmer. He died in 1910 and is buried in Litchfield Plains Cemetery.

• William Dunn was one of 5,000 Mainers to fight with the Navy. Born in Lisbon, Dunn served as quartermaster on the USS Monadnock.


During the Second Battle of Fort Fisher in North Carolina, the Monadnock supported the amphibious invasion of the fort by shelling its defenses.

The ironclad monitor was struck five times, but Dunn “continued his duties when the ship was at anchor.” Keeping the propellers working to avoid the ship from grounding, Dunn disdained shelter and “inspired his shipmates and contributed to the success of his vessel in reducing the enemy guns to silence.”

Oxford County’s first soldier

The son of one of the founders of Norway, George Lafayette Beal was a captain for a local militia when Lincoln called for recruits to help end the Southern rebellion after the fall of Fort Sumter. Reports say Beal was the first man to enlist from Oxford County. His militia unit joined the 1st Maine Infantry Regiment as Company G.

After the enlistment ended three months later, Beal re-enlisted for two years and was promoted to colonel in the 10th Maine Regiment. His unit faced off in a bloody battle against Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s troops at the Battle of Cedar Mountain, where Beal reportedly lost 173 men in 30 minutes.

He later suffered wounds to both legs and had his horse shot from under him during the Battle of Antietam.


When his tour of duty ended in 1863 and he was mustered out of the 10th Maine, Beal was commissioned a few months later as colonel for the 29th Maine. He led the regiment in both Louisiana and Northern Virginia. Beal became brigade commander and was eventually promoted to brigadier general in August 1864.

Beal returned to Maine after the war. In addition to his role as adjutant general of Maine’s militia, he also served as state treasurer from 1888-1894. He died in 1896 and is buried at Norway’s Pine Grove Cemetery.

Maine’s surgeon general

Lewiston native Dr. Alonzo Garcelon was uniquely qualified to serve as Maine’s surgeon general. Not only did he have the medical background, he also had the political savvy needed to organize and recruit personnel to take care of the medical needs of Maine’s soldiers.

Garcelon had served in both the Maine House and Maine Senate before the Civil War. He also started the Lewiston Journal in 1847 with brother-in-law William Waldron. He was appointed Maine’s surgeon general less than two weeks after the war started.

He immediately formed a regimental hospital in Portland and made sure each regiment had a qualified doctor. Garcelon was also quick to realize the importance of using female nurses, who at the time were not allowed to serve in the medical corps. His pressure eventually convinced Gov. Israel Washburn to approve the request. Congress followed suit a few months later.


When the 4th Maine suffered a severe outbreak of measles while training in Rockland, Garcelon decided to vaccinate the soldiers who were not infected. Vaccinations were rare at the time and controversial, but Garcelon was again ahead of the curve on the issue and the outbreak was held in check.

After the war, Garcelon served as mayor of Lewiston and governor of Maine.

He practiced medicine well into his 80s. He died in 1906 at the age 93 and is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Lewiston.

Finding freedom in Lewiston

John Nichols was a “highly-respected citizen” of Lewiston in the 1920s. He was married, the father of 10, a member of the Baptist church and a homeowner who lived at 197 Central Ave.

Nichols was also a former slave.


The Lewiston Evening Journal interviewed Nichols for a story in 1921 where he described his life as a slave and his harrowing journey to freedom.

He was roughly 11 and living in North Carolina in 1862 when word came that the Union troops were within 50 miles of the plantation.

Fearing being sent farther south, or even to Cuba, a group of slaves decided that escaping was worth the risk. The path to possible freedom, though, was through a huge swamp straddling the North Carolina-Virginia border.

“We were to start at midnight and follow a lumberman’s trail until the following morning,” Nichols said. “One by one, the slaves silently left their cabins and by 12 o’clock nearly or quite nearly 300 men and women were ready for the plunge into the swamp, but our guide was not there as promised.”

Their guide kept their money and told their masters of the escape plan. Despite a head start of several hours, the masters caught up to the slaves the next day. Nichols said most of the slaves decided to return home rather than risk getting shot.

“A few of the boldest refused and plunged into the thicket. I was among them and never did I run faster in my life,” Nichols said.


He spent three days in the swamp, avoiding panthers, poisonous snakes and overcoming his intense fear of ghosts before reaching a settlement and finding refuge with the Union troops. He spent the rest of the war driving mules and handling ammunition.

His life took another turn when he and a handful of other slaves were brought to Lewiston by  Garcelon.

“I came to Maine at the close of the war with a party of colored men brought by Dr. Garcelon. He was in Lewiston at the time and was anxious to get a colored man and woman to work on his farm. Some of his friends also wanted to get colored men.

“Garcelon was very kind to us when we reached Lewiston.  … It was a good thing for us all to come to Lewiston.”

Nichols lived in Lewiston until 1928, when he moved to Boston to live with his daughter. He died there in 1931.

Confederates buried in Durham, Gray


Durham and Gray are the unlikely final resting places for a pair of unknown Confederate soldiers.

Who the soldiers are and how they got there remains a mystery.

The gravestone at Strout Cemetery in Durham reads “Unknown CSA,” while the Gray Village Cemetery marker reads “Stranger, a soldier of the late war, died 1862. Erected by the Ladies of Gray.”

The book “Maine Remembers Those Who Served” offers three theories for the Durham soldier. The first suggests that a family expecting their son found a man in a Confederate uniform in the casket. Not knowing what to do, they buried the body. The second theory says the casket was sent to Durham, Maine, instead of Durham, N.C. Finally, a Confederate soldier died after escaping prison, en route to Canada.

More is known of the unknown Gray soldier. The parents of Lt. Charles Colley wanted his body shipped back home to Gray for burial after he died. Instead, a dead soldier dressed in a Southern uniform arrived. The family eventually received their son’s casket a week later. The two soldiers are buried within 100 feet of each other in the same cemetery.

Each Memorial Day, the two graves are marked with both American and Confederate flags.


Honoring the dead

Nearly every town erected a Civil War monument to commemorate the heroic sacrifices made by thousands. In Maine, Lewiston led the way.

The city was the first community in the state and among the first in the nation to approve building a memorial to honor all soldiers.

The city council appropriated $5,000 in 1866 though municipal funds, and commissioned renowned sculptor and native son Franklin Simmons to design the memorial.

Inspired by the images he saw around Washington during the war, Simmons designed the statue of a solitary standing soldier, which was cast by the Ames Foundry in Chicopee, Mass., and erected in 1868. The bronze soldier is nearly 7 feet tall and stands on an 11-foot granite pedestal in Kennedy Park. The base lists the names of the 112 men from Lewiston who died during the Civil War.

The image became the model for thousands across the country and was pictured in the April 25, 1868, edition of Harper’s Weekly.

Auburn’s granite monument in front of the county courthouse was dedicated in 1882. Newspaper reports said several thousand people attended the dedication. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard was the keynote speaker.

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