Ironically made from granite quarried at Hallowell in Kennebec County, the New York State Monument rises more than 94 feet above the Gettysburg National Cemetery, not far from its Baltimore Pike entrance. Erected to honor New York’s approximately 6,700 battle of Gettysburg casualties, the monument also incidentally serves as a landmark for anyone seeking the Maine section inside the cemetery:
• Stand at the monument’s base, draw a bead on the Soldiers’ National Monument, and start walking toward it while steering a little to the right. Odds are very good that you will soon tramp on the Maine boys.
There are 104 Mainers here, laid out in seven rows, each called a “section” and assigned a letter (A through G). Some ground-level headstones identify the buried hero as “Unknown,” but from a particular regiment.
Yet among the unknowns lies Maine’s true “Unknown Soldier,” his grave marked “Unknown,” period.
He lies between “Corp. B. Hogan” (17th Maine) on the north and “John F. Shuman” (4th Maine) on the south. He is Maine’s unknown “unknown,” his name and fate familiar only to God.
This hero reminds me about the wartime poem titled “Company K,” published by the Portland Daily Press on July 19, 1864. Written from a sweetheart’s viewpoint, with the author not identified, the poem honors the heroes, including Maine’s Unknown Soldier, who gave their all to save the United States.
There’s a cap in the closet, old, tattered, and blue,
Of very slight value, it may be, to you:
But a crown, jewel studded, could not buy it to-day,
With its letters of honor, brave “Co. K.”
The head that it sheltered Needs shelter no more!
Dead heroes make holy The trifles they wore:
So, like the chaplet of honor, of laurel and bay,
Seems the cap of the soldier, marked “Co. K.”
Whose footsteps unbroken came up to the town,
Where rampart and bastion looked threat’ningly down?
Who, closing up breaches, went on their way,
Till guns, downward pointed, faced “Co. K.”
Who faltered or shivered? Who shunned battle stroke?
Whose fire was uncertain? Whose battle line broke?
Go, ask of history, years from to-day,
And the record shall tell you, not “Co. K.”
Though my darling is sleeping to-day with the dead,
And daisies and clover bloom over his head,
I smile through my years as I lay it away —
The battle worn cap lettered “Co. K.”
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. —————————————————————————————————————–
Available now: Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Civil War, released by Savas Beatie.
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.
Drawing on Chamberlain’s extensive memoirs and writings and multiple period sources, historian Brian F. Swartz follows Chamberlain across Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia while examining the determined warrior who let nothing prevent him from helping save the United States.
Order your autographed copy by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Passing Through the Fire is also available at savasbeatie.com or amazon.com.
Brian Swartz can be reached at email@example.com. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.