Civil War Exhibit: Preparing for War

[ banner here]


 628,279 people inhabited Maine in 1861, almost half of whom were under the age of 21. At the outbreak of the war, Maine answered Lincoln’s call for volunteers. More than two dozen men from Maine served in the Union army as generals. Overall, Maine contributed 72,945 men to the war effort, a larger number of combatants in proportion to population than any other Union state.

  [Maine’s participation in the Civil War:

           32 infantry regiments

                       3 cavalry regiments (the First District of Columbia Cavalry was almost wholly raised in Maine)

 7 field artillery batteries

 1 heavy artillery regiment

 7 companies of sharpshooters

  7 companies of coast artillery

6 companies of coast fortifications]


 [ image of Chamberlain]

Joshua Chamberlain was born September 8, 1828 in Brewer, Maine. He attended Bowdoin College, where he met Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Bowdoin granted Chamberlain a requested leave of absence but was told that his purpose was to study abroad. However, without his family or his colleagues knowing, he enlisted in the army instead. 

 Initially offered the rank of colonel of the 20th Maine, Chamberlain declined, wishing to “start a little lower and learn the business first.” He was instead appointed lieutenant colonel on August 8, 1862 under the command of Col. Adelbert Ames. Chamberlain’s younger brother Thomas Chamberlain was also an officer of the 20th Maine.

 The regiment fought in several battles, including Fredericksburg, before Chamberlain was promoted to colonel. The Battle of Gettysburg in June 1863 followed shortly afterward, and Chamberlain won fame with his defense of Little Round Top. In 1864, he was promoted to brigade commander just before the Siege of Petersburg, a battle in which Chamberlain was shot through the right hip and groin. Despite his injury, Chamberlain continued his charge. At the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 12, 1865, Chamberlain presided over the parade of the Confederate infantry as part of their formal surrender. As a show of respect, Chamberlain ordered his men to stand at attention as the soldiers passed. After returning from the War, Chamberlain took office as the Governor of the State of Maine, and became president of Bowdoin College. Chamberlain died as a result of his war wounds in 1914, which made him one of the last soldiers to die from war injuries.

 [ image of Howard]

 Oliver Otis Howard

 Major General Oliver Otis Howard of Leeds, Maine, was the highest ranking officer in the Union Army from this state. He commanded the XI Corps in several major battles, including Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. He had lost an arm at the Battle of Seven Pines during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, and continued to command his corps in their transfer to the Western Theater to join the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee.

 In the Battle of Chattanooga, Howard’s corps helped capture Missionary Ridge and force the retreat of General Braxton Bragg. In July 1864, Howard became commander of the Army of the Tennessee and fought in the Atlanta Campaign. He led the right wing of Major General William T. Sherman‘s forces in the famous March to the Sea and the subsequent Carolinas Campaign.




By the end of 1863, prices of goods rose so steeply that the price of cotton advanced nearly four-hundred percent. Kennebunkers, and all citizens, would pay four times as much for their purchases in only three years. In the case of cotton, since it was an export of the South, many in New England wore shirts made of wool rather than cotton as the war continued.

At the outbreak of the war, Kennebunk had just over 2,000 inhabitants. With several shipyards located on the banks of the Kennebunk River, and small manufactories and merchants’ stores, most of the citizens were affluent. There was also a large rural population of farmers and the less affluent shipyard laborers and factory workers. In 1861, nearly all of the sea-captains living in Kennebunk believed that the Southern States would never be subjugated by the North.

 [Newspaper illustrations of Maine and Kennebunk in the 1860s:

 In 1861, nearly all of the sea-captains living in Kennebunk believed that the Southern States would never be subjugated by the North.

 The year 1860 closed with the discovery that the State Treasurer, B.D. Peck, had defaulted on his personal loans after using public monies to fund his personal investments.

 William Chase, a Kennebunk man that lived in Virginia as a schoolteacher, returned to Kennebunk after the declaration of war. Virginia had notified him that if he did not leave within 12 hours, he would be forced to join the Confederate Army.

 Joseph Titcomb, owner of the brig Zenith, learned that his ship was stuck in Florida due to the death of its captain, Uriah Caine. Upon sending Captain John Barker to retrieve the ship from the South, Titcomb expected they would sail for home. Neither Barker nor the brig Zenith was ever seen again.]

Step back in time! Click here to check out an 1860’s general store!

[I would really like an interactive general store here of some sort. I will look into cheap and easy programs. I would love to somehow create a general store and have guests be able to click on certain items, enlarge them and read more about the items. For example: guests could look at a toy display, click on a doll, and read about how a doll may be an expensive, lavish gift for girls who’s families were rich enough to afford them. Typical children would get marbles or blocks. ]

 [Object: Lincoln-Hamlin Flag]

 “Abraham Lincoln of Illinois was yesterday nominated for President, and Hannibal Hamlin of Maine for Vice President. The news arrived here this afternoon. Mr. Cobby has a board fastened to his store, on which is painted in large capital letters: ‘Lincoln & Hamlin.’ He is apparently determined to be the first in this village to openly approve the nomination.” – Andrew Walker, May 19, 1860

   [Object: Lincoln Club candle holder]

 Many Kennebunk citizens celebrated after Lincoln won the election. “A great change has apparently taken place in the minds of many Republicans, at least in this vicinity,” Andrew Walker wrote. Republicans scorned the idea that Southern States would secede, but after South Carolina’s secession in December, Lincoln supporters in Kennebunk remained quiet. As issues between the states intensified, money became tight at Kennebunk area banks.


 The first federal draft took place in July 1863. Previously, individual states enacted drafts only when volunteers could not fill the quota. In October 1862, several shopkeepers from Kennebunk observed the draft process when they traveled to Boston. Stopping at Faneuil Hall, they watched as a blindfolded city official pulled names from a box; another man read each name aloud, and then placed slip of paper in a large black trunk. This process lasted for an hour, with almost 400 names called to join the Massachusetts militia.

 [Wall Quote: All persons in sound condition who think themselves liable to be drafted, naturally feel anxiety at this time.” – Andrew Walker, July 1863]

 [Bolded quote]“Within a few days a great riot has taken place in the city of New York…”

 Throughout both the Union and the Confederacy, harsh reactions to the draft and the unfair advantage of wealthier men sprung up in the form of riots and protests. The Draft riots of New York City in July of 1863 erupted as Lincoln’s draft took effect. Working class men resented wealthier men who were able to purchase a $300 commutation fee to hire a substitute, thus being spared the draft. The protests took a violent turn as more than 2,000 people were injured and over 100 black citizens were killed in anger over the war.

 [Poster: Calls for men to join the U.S. Service:


                        April 16, 1861                        75,000

                        May 3, 1861               65,000

                        July 22, 1861              500,000

                        July 25, 1861              25,000

                        July 1, 1862                300,000          

                        August 9, 1862           300,000

                        July 15, 1863              300,000

                        October 17, 1863       300,000

                        February 1864                       500,000

                        July 19, 1864              500,000

                        December 19, 1864    500,000]


                        [Did You Know? Record-keeping was often faulty during the Civil War. In 1863, enrollment lists in Maine were inspected due to draft issues. In many instances, names were drawn for persons who had been dead for years; some had been non-residents for quite some time; others were already in the service. Unfortunately, the much-needed revisions meant long delays in obtaining men. Authorities in Washington forbade the revisions, so Maine ordered a new and careful enrollment as a basis for future drafts.]

 [Object: Enrollment list from Kennebunk]


The War Begins

 Like most states, Maine was unprepared for a war. Men between the ages of 18 and 45 we required to enroll their names at the Adjutant General’s office, but it was not strictly enforced. The few voluntary companies with knowledge of drill that did exist totaled only 1,200 men. In 1861, there was simply a general raising of volunteers; in 1862 the State called for a definite number of men from each locality, basing its demands on the population according to the Census of 1860.


[Hanging from ceiling: printed notice posted April 23, 1861 –



All who wish to form a company for the defense of the stars and stripes will meet at the

Town Hall

In this village (Kennebunk) this (Tuesday) evening

April 23rd, at 7 o’clock.

Let the citizens of Kennebunk and vicinity as promptly respond to the call of the President as those of other Towns in our own State and in our Sister States. Kennebunk will surely send her quota of men for the defence of the flag of our union.]

 On April 23, 1861, Kennebunk citizens met at the Town Hall to vote on the sum of $5,000 to be raised by subscription for those men who chose to volunteer as soldiers. James Stone, who would later become a captain in the 27th Regiment, spoke at the meeting. Within days, miniature flags popped up on lawns and businesses throughout town. Men, women, and children even wore them on their suits and dresses. A recruitment office opened soon after, with Joseph C. Hill as the recruiting officer. Although the town showed patriotic fervor, Kennebunk volunteers did not come forward as rapidly as the committee hoped.


                                    [Object: Volunteer enlistment form for recruiting offices]


Many men chose to wait for the town to offer a bounty before enlisting. Men that enlisted for three years under the call for 29 volunteers from Kennebunk on July 1, 1862 received $150 each ($4,050 today). These men mustered into the 8th Maine Regiment. In addition, William Lord promised the first ten men who signed up an extra $100 each. Every recruit was required to see a military-approved physician before being mustered in.


                                   [Did You Know?

The total amount of State bounty paid between 1861 and 1865 was $4,584,636; in today’s terms, that equals over $123 million. Aside from town bounties, there were private contributions and donations from individuals – like William Lord, Nathan Dane, and other Kennebunk merchants and shipowners – that totaled more than $1 million.


                                    [Object: Order 41, Doctors assigned to examine recruits]


                                    [Object: “No reject policy” – Emery]

 John Taylor was one of the first men in Kennebunk to enlist as a soldier in 1861. He and seven others from this area enlisted in the 2nd Massachusetts Regiment, which then became part of the Army of the Potomac. After his three years of service expired, Taylor re-enlisted in 1864 for three more years in the army. Many men traveled to different states to enlist in the army, depending on the price of the bounty. If another state offered a higher bounty for enlistment, some men chose to volunteer for the army in that state to receive a higher reward. There were several instances of this happening with Maine soldiers.


A second call for volunteers to go into nine-month service came on August 4, 1862. The Kennebunk Town Hall overflowed with citizens anxious to learn about the sum of the bounty offered to volunteers, so that a draft would not be necessary. Those in attendance were mostly men liable to be drafted, most of them under 45 years of age. A bounty of $300 to each volunteer was insisted on by the townspeople, but the committee (made up of Henry Kingsbury, Joseph Dane, Orvin Ross, Ivory Littlefield, and Joshua Wakefield) decided upon $200. Although this price versus amount of time sharply contrasted with the previous bounty of $150 for three years, the men did not want to enforce a draft. Many of these men mustered into the 27th Maine. In celebration of the non-needed draft, those who did not enlist celebrated and fired their guns until late in the evening.


Surrounding towns’ bounties:

Wells, $300 for each man who will volunteer in the nine months service and $400 to each man who will enlist in the three years, the quota of Wells being not yet filled.

Kennebunk, $200 to each man for nine months service provided the full quota of 49 volunteers is obtained. 

Kennebunkport, the same as Kennebunk; provided their quota of 62 men is obtained.

Alfred, $200 to each drafted man or his substitute who is mustered into the service of the U.S.

Saco and Biddeford, $100 to each volunteer.]


Because of Kennebunk’s position along the rail route from Portland to Boston, each of the Maine regiments (each time numbering about 900 men) traveling to Washington passed through or stopped at the Kennebunk rail depot in West Kennebunk. Many townspeople often gathered at the Depot to wave at and talk to the departing soldiers. The daily news of marching troops, skirmishes, and deaths became the norm.


                        [Photo: Train, train depot]


Of the 7,000 men Maine sent to join the 300,000 soldiers required for service by Lincoln in 1862, York County furnished 670.


[Flip Panel: Acton 13, Alfred 13, Berwick 23, Biddeford 102, Buxton 31, Cornish 12, Bayton 7, Eliot 19, Hollis 18, Kennebunk 29, Kennebunkport 29, Kittery 32, Lebanon 22, Limerick 15, Limington 22, Lyman 14, Newfield 14, North Berwick 15, Parsonfield 24, Saco 68, Sanford 24, Shapleigh 13, South Berwick 29, Wells, 31, Waterborough 20, York 31.]



                        [Interactive: Packing a haversack. I’d like to have an interactive where you see a haversack and it’s contents. You can click on each object and learn more about it much like the general store idea. For example, you can click on a bag of coffee beans and learn about Eight O’Clock coffee.]

 Did you know?

Eight O’Clock Coffee began as the coffee of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) in 1859. The Union Army purchased its coffee for soldiers’ rations from the company during the Civil War. In 1919, it became Eight O’Clock Coffee.