One day after General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Kennebunk received a telegram at 8:00am announcing the important news. Immediately, the news spread, the church bells were rung throughout town, and all the U.S. flags in the village were brought out. Some were hoisted on a line running from the current location of the library to the Brick Store. Schools were dismissed, and those that owned guns, wrote Andrew Walker, “fired away all the powder they could get.” The war was over.
[Did You Know?
Maine’s population grew by more than 8% between 1850 and 1860, but faltered during the war. In the 150 years since the Civil War, the population of Maine has only doubled, whereas most other states’ populations multiplied by at least 10 times.]
As a whole, the State of Maine paid over $10,000,000 in bounties, commutations, and other payments to soldiers in the War. York County paid $1,431,835. Today, that equals over $38.6 million. An 1865 report by the Treasury Department showed that the government expended about $1.5 million for each day of the war.
Two days after the formal cessation of the war, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865. On April 15, the newspaper in Kennebunk announced the news of Lincoln’s death. Citizens were astounded. Again, church bells rang across town. The money that had been collected with the intent to purchase fireworks on account of Lee’s surrender was returned to those who donated.
On April 19, a clear and windy day, Kennebunkers attended funeral services for Lincoln at noon at the Unitarian Church on Main Street. The church was decorated in mourning. All places of business were closed, also draped in mourning. Andrew Walker described the scene: “the private residences of citizens in all walks of life, and in every avenue, bore more or less some fitting emblem of the occasion.”
[Object: Lincoln on deathbed print, Currier & Ives]
The Grand Army of the Republic was a large, influential organization of Union veterans founded in 1866 in Illinois. This oathbound society was created for the “defense of the late soldiery of the U.S., morally, socially, and politically.” The organization reached a peak of 409,489 members in 1890. This high number was approx 40% of the Union veterans that were recorded on the 1890 census. The GAR became a powerful political force, supporting veteran’s issues including pensions, benefits, and housing. The last GAR member, Albert Woolston of Duluth, Minnesota, died in 1956 at the age of 109.
Maine by the numbers:
Of the 72,945 men from Maine that served in the Civil War, 9,398 died in service. It is estimated that over 11,000 were disabled by wounds or disease. A quarter of the state’s male population, or 11% of Maine’s 628,279 citizens, became soldiers; 13% of those men died in service.
As of 2010, Maine’s population held at 1,328,361. In terms of the Civil War, the effect on today’s population would be:
146,119 citizens enlist as soldiers
18,995 of those soldiers killed in battle or by disease. This number amounts nearly to the size of Kennebunk, Kennebunkport, and Wells all put together.
Before the Civil War altered the course of the nation, Maine was a politically influential state, earning the phrase, “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.” However, after the war, Maine coastal trade and textile industries began to collapse due to the fact that the war between the states halted southern trade. As a result, many Mainers fled the state and moved south and west.