Maine’s largest cannonball is in … Hodgdon?

A granite monument and two 12-pounder Napoleon smoothbore cannons honor the 6th Maine Battery on Hancock Avenue at Gettysburg National Military Park. A replica cannonball, possibly the largest either real or not in Maine, adorns a 6th Maine gunner’s grave in Hodgdon in Aroostook County. The five black cannonballs were made from granite quarried at Addison in Washington County. (Brian F. Swartz Photo)

Civil War service in a Maine artillery battery so affected Royal Spaulding Adams that prior to or after his death, he left arrangements to adorn his monument with what could be Maine’s largest cannonball, real or replica.

Royal was a Hodgdon lad, born there to Isaac Benjamin Adams and Margaret E. Hawksley Adams on February 10, 1847. Royal’s ancestry was pure Canadian: Isaac was born in Prince William, New Brunswick on April 16, 1800, and Margaret was born in New Brunswick, place unknown, on May 23, 1816.

The couple moved to Maine between the 1838 birth of son Henry M. in New Brunswick and the 1844 birth of son John Quincy Adams in Hodgdon. All three lived to see the 20th century, albeit Henry by only 5½ months.

Isaac died in Hodgdon on February 22, 1860, and his family buried him in the Hodgdon Cemetery.

All three Adams brothers joined a Maine outfit during the Civil War. John Quincy was the first to sign up.

There’s no doubt that he was born on August 1, 1844. There’s no doubt that he joined the 6th Maine Battery on November 9, 1861 and mustered with it on January 1, 1862 — which means there is no doubt that he spent that winter’s brutal cold at the battery’s encampment in Augusta.

So John Quincy was 17 when he enlisted. But he claimed he was 19. This patriotic Hodgdon lad lied to join the army and defend his country.

After looking over J.Q. and noticing his youthful appearance, the recruiting officer probably shrugged his shoulders and said, “Eh, you’ll do.”

An American flag placed for Memorial Day on the Hodgdon monument of Royal S. and Susan Scott Adams gives an idea of the approximate size of the polished granite cannonball atop the monument. (BFS)

Stockton Springs sea captain Freeman McGilvery raised the 6th Maine Battery in autumn 1861 and took it into its first fight at Cedar Mountain, Va. in early August 1862.

Civil War buffs from Maine will recognize the 6th Maine Battery as “Dow’s 6th Maine Battery” from Gettysburg fame. Commanded by 1st Lt. Edwin Dow (whom McGilvery ironically had not supported for the position), the battery helped stem the sunset advance by William Barksdale’s Mississippians on July 2, 1863 and shelled attacking Confederates on July 3.

John Quincy Adams is identified as a 6th Maine Battery private on page 332, Maine at Gettysburg. He fought July 2-3, and he witnessed Pickett’s Charge from the working end of a 12-pounder Napoleon.

Royal S. Adams was officially 18 by army requirements when he enlisted (and mustered) in the 6th Maine Battery in Bangor on February 25, 1864. Some quick math tells us he was only 17, so he lied about his age, too.

Young patriots often did that during the war.

Employed as a “farmer,” Royal stood 5-6½ and had blue eyes, brown hair, and a fair complexion.

Royal’s first combat occurred at The Wilderness on May 5, 1864. He mustered out on June 17, 1865.

A “farmer” like his brothers, Henry M. Adams (a strapping 6-2½ with hazel eyes, brown hair, and a fair complexion) joined Co. F, 20th Maine Infantry Regiment on October 12, 1864. He probably participated in the Appomattox campaign and certainly mustered out on June 3, 1865.

All three brothers returned safely from the war. John Quincy later moved to Massachusetts and died in Wellesley at age 87 on November 24, 1931. He lies buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery there.

Henry stayed in Hodgdon and married Amelia M. Scott. According to Find-A-Grave, Henry’s last direct descendant apparently died in 2019.

The black polished-granite cannonball honoring Royal S. Adams’ service with the 6th Maine Battery was probably quarried in Addison, Maine. (BFS)

That leaves Royal. He married Susan C. Scott (born on May 14, 1850), and the couple ended up farming in Smyrna, a few towns west of Hodgdon on modern Route 2. Their son, Jefferson Davis Adams, was born there on April 19, 1877. Daughter Ethelyn A. Adams was born at Smyrna Mills on August 6, 1880. Ironically, hers is the only child’s name listed for her parents by Find-A-Grave.

Son Ora Lester Adams was born in Smyrna on October 17, 1884. He was apparently born at home; his birth record indicates that the “source of record” was “Leonard P. Berry[,] Neighbor.”

Royal and Susan live on through Ora and his son, Ora Jr., whose descendants still live in North Carolina. Royal via Ora may have other descendants living in the Houlton area.

Susan Adams died on April 19, 1896, and Royal buried her in the Hodgdon Cemetery.

We do not know if Royal placed the polished granite cannonball and monument by Susan’s grave then. The monument would have been expensive, and according to the 1880 Smyrna census, Royal was not rolling in the dough. Employed as a “farmer,” he was unemployed six months out of the previous 12.

Royal died on March 25, 1907 and joined Susan at the Hodgdon Cemetery. Was that cannonball-topped monument set in place then? Or did descendants raise it years later?

The cannonball and monument’s inscription strongly suggest that Royal passionately remembered his 6th Maine Battery service. Someone certainly ensured that we will not forget it.

Sources: Royal Spaulding Adams, Henry A. Adams, and John Quincy Adams, soldiers’ files, Maine State Archives; 1880 U.S. Census for Smyrna; Jefferson Davis Adams and Ora Lester Adams, birth records,

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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. —————————————————————————————————————–

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This new book chronicles the swift transition of Joshua L. Chamberlain from college professor and family man to regimental and brigade commander and follows him into combat at Shepherdstown, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and the Petersburg and Appomattox campaigns.

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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