Phil Sheridan conquers Maine, part 1

Advancing north from the Piscataqua River, Phil Sheridan realized by the time he captured Maine “that this is the hardest campaign he ever had.”

And that difficulty occurred even as Mainers welcomed him as a conquering hero.

Renowned for his wartime exploits in the Shenandoah Valley and during the Appomattox Campaign, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan visited northern New England in autumn 1867. Mainers welcomed him as a conquering hero. (Library of Congress)

Viewed by many Northerners as a successful general in the anemically led Army of the Potomac, Sheridan toured northern New England in autumn 1867. Just completing his first term as governor, Joshua Chamberlain and other state officials had invited Sheridan to visit Maine.

Then a major general, Sheridan commanded the Department of the Missouri, an appointment made by Lt. Gen. Ulysses Grant in August 1867. Sheridan’s sole assignment was to pacify hostile Indians so the region stretching from the Mississippi River west to the Rocky Mountains could be fully opened for settlement and economic exploitation.

Catching a Boston & Maine Railroad train at Boston’s North Station, Sheridan and his staff rattled north along the rail corridor utilized today by Amtrak. Mainers flocked to the local depots and even stood trackside to watch Sheridan pass.

Staying overnight in Portland on Monday, Oct. 28, he left the Forest City at 7 a.m., Tuesday “in the same cars that had conveyed him from Boston,” a reporter noted. The train pulled into Brunswick in an hour or so, and “His Excellency,” Gov. Chamberlain, stepped into the Sheridan car.

Just finishing his first term as Maine’s governor, Joshua L. Chamberlain arranged a quick tour of Brunswick for Phil Sheridan and then accompanied him to Augusta. (Maine State Archives)

The men held “a cordial” meeting, and Chamberlain invited Sheridan to visit Bowdoin College, Chamberlain’s alma mater. “The bells were rung,” and people cheered as the two men climbed into a carriage “and [were] driven about town,” according to the press.

Bowdoin President Samuel Harris welcomed Sheridan and mentioned that 25 percent of Bowdoin men had served during the Civil War. “The General made a brief reply of thanks and then returned to the train,” wrote a reporter evidently traveling with Sheridan’s entourage.

Sheridan spent 30 minutes in Brunswick, the press claimed, but the actual time must have run longer.

A Boston & Maine Railroad train steams north over the Saco River at Saco in 1879. Phil Sheridan would have seen similar scenery when he came north by train from Boston in late October 1879.

Up the Kennebec Valley the train steamed. A brief stop in Richmond brought Sheridan to the platform of the rear car. People cheered him there and extended him “an enthusiastic reception” in Gardiner, where “a salute was fired and the bells rung.”

The reporter commented on the “immense throng … assembled at the [Gardiner] depot, near which a temporary platform had been erected.” Probably accompanied by Chamberlain, Sheridan climbed the steps to the platform, let the Gardiner mayor introduce him, and acknowledged the “three hearty cheers” tossed by the crowd.

Thanking his admirers for the reception, Sheridan expressed his regrets “that his stay could not be longer,” a newspaper reported. “He had experienced nothing but kindness during his stay in Maine, which had sent forth many brave and gallant soldiers” to save the Union during the war.

Only 30 months since the Civil War had ended, Mainers remembered Phil Sheridan for destroying the right flank of Robert E. Lee’s army at Five Forks, Va. on April 1, 1865. Union cavalrymen charged Confederate infantry during the battle. (Library of Congress)

Meanwhile, from Bangor steamed a Maine Central Railroad “special train,” which had departed the Queen City at 7 a.m. Today, motorists traveling south on I-95 from Bangor can reach Augusta in an hour or so; even with the tracks cleared through Newport, Pittsfield, and Waterville, the MCRR train did not pull alongside the Augusta depot until 10 a.m.

The train carried companies A and B, Maine State Guards, and the Bangor Cornet Band, as well as some Bangor dignitaries. Designated the military escort for Sheridan, the state guardsmen “made a very fine appearance” and “elicited the highest encomiums for their fulls ranks, correct marching and soldierly bearing,” a Bangor reporter noted in the era’s flowery prose.

And “the Bangor Cornet Band … furnished excellent music, second to none,” he commented.

Reboarding their train at Gardiner, Sheridan and Chamberlain rode to Augusta, where “the most tumultuous cheering [was made] by an immense crowd,” observed a reporter. After the train reached the Augusta depot at 10:30 a.m., “a salute was fired” from the federal arsenal across the Kennebec.

It is with much pleasure that I meet you on this occasion, and in behalf of the citizens of Augusta, the Capital of Maine, I tender to yourself and staff, a most cordial welcome,” Augusta Mayor Patterson welcomed Sheridan.

I am much obliged to you, Mr. Mayor, for the very cordial welcome you have given me,” replied Sheridan. “I am glad to meet you and your people, and to visit the Capital of Maine by invitation of the State authorities.

I am ready to accompany you,” Sheridan said.

Patterson invited Sheridan and Chamberlain “into a barouche,” a fashionable horse-drawn carriage drawn by two horses, likely a pair matched in breed, coloration, and size. Maine Adjutant General John Caldwell (a former Union general) joined the three men.

Then Chamberlain escorted Sheridan to the State House in a parade the likes of which few Augusta residents had ever seen.

Next week: Phil Sheridan takes a whirlwind tour of Augusta

Source: Daily Whig & Courier, Wednesday, October 30, 1867

If you enjoy reading the adventures of Mainers caught up in the Civil War, be sure to like Maine at War on Facebook and get a copy of the new Maine at War Volume 1: Bladensburg to Sharpsburg, available online at Amazon and all major book retailers, including Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble. —————————————————————————————————————–

Brian Swartz can be reached at He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.

Brian Swartz

About Brian Swartz

Welcome to "Maine at War," the blog about the roles played by Maine and her sons and daughters in the Civil War. I am a Civil War buff and a newspaper editor recently retired from the Bangor Daily News. Maine sent hero upon hero — soldiers, nurses, sailors, chaplains, physicians — south to preserve their country in the 1860s. “Maine at War” introduces these heroes and heroines, who, for the most part, upheld the state's honor during that terrible conflict. We tour the battlefields where they fought, and we learn about the Civil War by focusing on Maine’s involvement with it. Be prepared: As I discover to this very day, the facts taught in American classrooms don’t always jibe with Civil War reality. I can be reached at