Lakeman loses larking lieutenants

Confederate rangers commanded by John S. Mosby capture a “sutlers’ train” somewhere in Virginia in summer 1862. Southern cavalrymen and guerrillas often conducted lightning raids against weak points in the federal transportation system. (Harper’s Weekly)

Moses B. Lakeman lost lieutenants on June 20, 1863.

He had a pretty good idea what happened to them.

Commanded respectively by colonels Lakeman and Elijah Walker, the 3rd and 4th Maine infantry regiments served in the 2nd Brigade led by Brig. Gen. John Henry Hobart Ward, a New York City native and Mexican War veteran. His command included the 20th Indiana (Col. John Wheeler), the 86th New York (Lt. Col. Benjamin L. Higgins), 124th New York (Col. Augustus van Horne Ellis), and the 99th Pennsylvania (Maj. John W. Moore).

Originally a captain in the 3rd Maine Infantry Regiment, Moses B. Lakeman rose to its colonelcy and took the veteran regiment to Gettysburg in June 1863. (Maine State Archives)

Ward reported to Maj. Gen. David B. Birney, commanding the 1st Division in III Corps (Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles), which Joseph Hooker had started north after Robert E. Lee on June 11, 1863.

Mustered at Augusta on June 4, 1861, the 3rd Maine was considered a Kennebec Valley regiment, with some companies drawn from militia companies from Bath north. The regiment lost 49 men (eight dead, 20 wounded, 12 captured) at First Manassas and fought on the Peninsula and at Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville.

Originally a captain, Lakeman later commanded the 3rd Maine; his official reports reveal the heavy fighting and casualties the regiment took in Pitzer’s Woods and at the Peach Orchard on July 2, 1863.

But the 3rd Maine had to tramp there first. Reaching Gum Spring, Virginia on June 19 after enduring “a very severe march on account of rain,” the 2nd Brigade bivouacked there for almost a week, Lakeman said.

On a rainy June 20, he lost lieutenants Holman M. Anderson, George S. Blake, John R. Day, and Samuel L. Gilman “missing, supposed to be captured by guerrillas.”

They certainly were.

Confederate irregulars, guerrillas, partisans, whatever they called themselves, flitted outside Union lines in Virginia throughout the war. Raiding wagon trains and small military detachments (including those guarding key posts behind the lines), the will-’o-the-wisp Johnnies looked struck fast and hard and got away as fast, often with supplies, prisoners, and horses.

John S. Mosby organized a Confederate cavalry force that fought in uniform and with official recognition. Considered guerrillas by their Yankee opponents, Mosby’s men often scooped up stray Union soldiers and raided behind-the-lines’ outposts. (Library of Congress)

Looking for non-army food, Union soldier sometimes visited civilian homes located near regimental camps. A few to a dozen or so Yankees diverted by pretty Southern belles and hot food were prime targets for Confederate raiders like John S. Mosby.

Lakeman’s lieutenants apparently wandered off on a lark while seeking food, feminine company, or both. From his brief comment about their disappearance, we can tell that Lakeman was not impressed.

Living in Augusta when the war started, Anderson was a 19-year-old shovel maker when he enlisted as a corporal in Co. I, 3rd Maine on April 30, 1861. Single at the time, he stood 5-8½ and had blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion.

There was something about this particular corporal, however. He showed leadership potential and probably did not complain much about army life. Anderson made first sergeant and first lieutenant before he was “must’d into service as Capt., same Co. & Regt., to date June 13, 1863.”

Seven days the Co. I captain, and Anderson vanished.

George S. Blake was a 5-6 school teacher from Belgrade when he joined Co. H as a corporal on June 2, 1861. Like Anderson, he had get-up-and-go, advancing to sergeant, first sergeant, and second lieutenant before the enemy grabbed him.

The 5-10½ John R. Day hailed from Waterville when he joined Co. H as its second lieutenant on April 30, 1861. Twenty-five and married at the time, he had black eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion. He made first lieutenant by spring 1863.

A printer by trade, the 5-11 Samuel L. Gilman was 32 and married when he enlisted in Co. F as a sergeant on April 24, 1861. He lived in Skowhegan at the time and had blue eyes, light hair, and a light complexion.

Somewhere along the way, all four officers rejoined the 3rd Maine. The soldier’s file for Anderson describes him as “an escaped prisoner of war.” Blake and Day were paroled, and Gilman probably was, too.

The four men did not rise higher in rank, for reasons not evident in the records. We can only speculate that Lakeman, irritated at losing officers who apparently were out on a private junket, did not recommend them for promotion.

The 3rd Maine left the line on June 4, 1864. Those three-year veterans who did not re-enlist went home, shipping for Augusta on June 5 and arriving there to a warm welcome on June 11. The regiment mustered out on June 28 and passed into history.

Anderson, Blake, Day, and Gilman stayed in the field, and all mustered out individually at Augusta:

Anderson on January 30, 1865;

Blake on January 5, 1865;

Day on January 23, 1865;

Gilman on January 17, 1865.

Sources: Col. Moses B. Lakeman, Maine at Gettysburg: Report of Maine Commissioners, Lakeside Press, Portland, Maine 1898, p. 135; Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Maine, 1864 and 1865, Appendix A, Stevens & Sayward, Augusta, Maine, 1866, p. 1076; Organization of the Army of the Potomac, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, U.S. Army, commanding, at the battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Vol. 27, Part 1, No. 9, p. 159; Holman M. Anderson, George S. Blake, John R. Day, and Samuel L. Gilman soldiers’ files, Maine State Archives


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Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. 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 visionsofmaine@tds.net.