Note: We thank attorney Joseph G. Donahue, a re-enactor with Co. A, 3rd Maine Infantry, for providing the Maine Supreme Judicial Court opinion that sparked this three-part post.
While stationed at forts Haskell and Stedman along the Petersburg siege lines, the 4th Maine Battery lads cast their votes — 59 for Abraham Lincoln and 34 for George McClellan — in the November 8 presidential election, celebrated Thanksgiving on November 24 with “turkey … furnished us by the Christian Commission,” and built “log huts for winter quarters” in mid-December, recalled Sgt. Judson Ames.
Then the VI Corps, with which the 4th Maine Battery had served in the Shenandoah Valley, returned to Petersburg, and the Army ordered the battery to rejoin its old command. “A cold rain” fell December 19 as the Mainers relocated “several miles” westward, reaching “our new quarters” around nightfall as the rain transitioned “to soft snow,” said Ames, now promoted to first sergeant.He later became the battery’s historian.
Restored to three two-gun sections, the battery deployed into batteries 24, 25, and 26, and the Mainers promptly built new log huts with material, especially bricks, “brought from our old quarters,” Ames said. Pvt. John Winchester of Corinna helped build the hut, its sides approximately five feet tall, in which he and three other soldiers spent the winter.
The Mainers listened as a cacophonous cannonade boomed along the Union lines during the April 1-2 darkness. Standing to their cannons, “we could see but little of the terrific contest that was going on” as Union infantry attacked the western Confederate lines early Sunday, Ames said.
Robert E. Lee had pulled troops from those defenses to block Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan’s end-run around the Confederates’ right flank. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered the subsequent assault that punctured the weakened Southern lines as Sunday wore on.
“We felt that the end of the long struggle was at hand,” Ames commented.
Soon recalled with other batteries to “the reserve artillery camp at City Point,” the Mainers celebrated with cheers and a bonfire upon learning around 7 p.m., April 9 that Lee had surrendered. “Comrade grasped comrade by the hand[,] and tears of joy stood in many an eye,” Ames said.
Crossing the James River by boat on May 3, the 4th Maine Battery headed home, the lads catching an outbound train at Washington, D.C. on June 3. Along with the 6th Maine Battery “and a New Hampshire battery,” the 4th Maine reached New London, Connecticut early on June 5 and Boston later that morning.
At 5 p.m. the two Maine batteries started marching through Beantown to board a steamer bound for the Kennebec River. Ames remembered the ship docking briefly at Richmond, Gardiner, and Hallowell; few people turned out to cheer the Maine gunners, “and the boys growled considerably at the cool reception we were receiving …”
But Augustans turned out en masse, treating the hungry soldiers to “a most substantial and generous repast” at Capitol Park. The 4th Maine lads mustered out at Augusta on June 17 “and separated, many never to meet again,” Ames observed.
John Winchester likely caught a Maine Central Railroad train north to Newport, Corinna’s southern neighbor, and arrived home sound in mind, perhaps less so in body.
He greeted Elizabeth, his daughters, and his son, John Howard Winchester, born on April 13.
While in the army, Winchester had sent “his agent duly authorized” to collect the $300 bounty from the Corinna selectmen on November 26, 1864. Declining the $200 offered by selectmen Robert Knowles, Charles H. Morse, and Emery Southard, the agent insisted on the $300.
They refused to pay.
Sources: George Thomas Little, editor, Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine, Vol. 1, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York, NY, 1909; John Winchester versus Inhabitants of Corinna, Cases In The Supreme Judicial Court of the State of Maine, Eastern District, Penobscot County,1867; Lilla E. Wood, A Brief History of Corinna, Maine: 1814-1916, J.P. Bass Publishing Company, Bangor, ME, 1946; Judson Ames, History of the Fourth Maine Battery Light Artillery in the Civil War: 1861-1865, Burleigh & Flynt, Augusta, ME, 1905
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 email@example.com. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.