The dentist turned chaplain turned newspaper correspondent

Established in 1814, the Maine Charity School trained ministers and initially operated at Hampden Academy. Relocating to a hilltop in Bangor in 1819, the MCS became the Bangor Theological Seminary. The view is from Hammond Street. (Courtesy Bangor Historical Society)

Another minister might have studied this particularly rambunctious flock and muttered, “Lord, God, what have you gotten me into?”

But the Reverend John Kent Lincoln, a brand-spanking new minister and seminary graduate, looked upon the same slightly unruly “sheep” as needing a shepherd, particularly a shepherd who could also pull infected teeth.

On August 4, 1862, Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton informed Maine Governor Israel Washburn Jr. and Adjutant Gen. John L. Hodsdon that Maine must supply 9,609 soldiers under the Militia Act of 1862, passed by Congress on July 17. These men would be recruited for nine-month regiments.

Maine produced eight such infantry regiments, numbered 21 through 28. Recruits for 22nd and 26th Maine infantry regiment reported to Camp John Pope, located “at the old race course on Union street,” located about 1½ miles from downtown Bangor.

Washburn appointed 31-year-old Simon G. Jerrard, Levant’s head selectman, to command the 22nd Maine Infantry Regiment. Released as a roster, an initial mid-October press release identified the 22nd Maine’s other officers, including Lt. Col. Alonzo G. Putnam of Dover and Maj. John O. Brackett of Palmyra. Accidentally omitted from the list was John Kent Lincoln, a Massachusetts native.

The 1860 U.S. census found him living in Augusta with his wife, Olive, and their daughters, 5-year-old Ellen and 3-year-old Mary. Employed as a dentist, Dr. Lincoln had enjoyed moderate success in Augusta; he owned real estate valued at $400 and possessed a personal estate valued at $600.

The four-story building housing the Bangor Theological Seminary in 1853 still stands today. (Wikipedia)

But something was not quite right. He developed a calling to the ministry, so sometime after the Lincolns were enumerated for the Augusta census on June 25, 1860, they moved to Bangor so John could pursue ministerial studies at the Bangor Theological Seminary. Likely working as a dentist to earn money on the side, Lincoln graduated in 1862. He was ordained on September 30.

As the nine-month regiments formed in Bangor, Lincoln volunteered as the 22nd Maine’s chaplain. Private (and Methodist) Francis Ireland of Dexter described “Dr. J.K. Lincoln” as a “young preacher” who “appears like a nice man.” The new chaplain stood 5-9 and had gray eyes, light hair, and a light complexion.

A rough-and-ready crowd, the 22nd Maine lads packed their rifles and equipment, broke camp at 11:30 a.m., Tuesday, October 21 “and marched through our streets in column of platoons, with a fine band of music,” a journalist noted. At the Maine Central Railroad station off Front Street the soldiers boarded a train drawn by three locomotives.

Amid the parting salute of a great crowd of people,” the train pulled out of the station “a few minutes before one o’clock,” the reporter checked the time.

Traveling via train and steamer, the astounded 22nd Maine boys enjoyed “a warm breakfast” served “by the ladies of Philadelphia, at the ‘Soldiers’ refreshment saloon’ on Otsego Street,” Lincoln wrote to the Daily Whig & Courier. “Here soldiers are already welcome, and can always find a good cup of tea or coffee, and a bountiful supply of cooked food.”

Lincoln apparently arranged with publisher William Wheelden to serve as a de facto correspondent for the DW & C. The chaplain and tooth-puller would regularly report to Wheelden what the 22nd Maine was doing, with the letters touching upon many aspects of military life.

Five of Maine’s nine-month infantry regiments — the 21st, 22nd, 24th, 26th, and 28th — went to Louisiana. Typhoid fever claimed at least three 22nd Maine lads at Newport News and a comrade left at a Philadelphia hospital. Chaplain Lincoln identified the dead men as George M.D. Grant, David Wass, and Walter W. Wilson of Co. D and Greenland Lyons of Co. F.

Embalmed, Wilson was shipped home for burial; the others went into local graves. “Wass leaves a wife and two children to mourn his early death,” Lincoln observed. “Let those who remain at home, see to it that the soldiers’ widows and children do not suffer.”

The 22nd Maine sailed for New Orleans. Chaplain Lincoln would minister to the men and write about the war. Readers of the Daily Whig & Courier would read his first-hand account of the mid-April 1863 battle of Irish Bend and would learn about the horrors of Port Hudson, the Civil War’s longest siege involving a fully surrounded Confederate bastion.

Port Hudson surrendered after Vicksburg fell. Its nine-month enlistment set to expire, the 22nd Maine Infantry returned to Bangor later that summer. Unfortunately John K. Lincoln was injured by a fall, so his comrades reluctantly left him at Port Hudson on July 24.

Surviving the war, Lincoln reached home soon afterwards. He died in Bangor on May 20, 1887.

Sources: United States Statutes at Large, Vol. 12, 37th Congress, 2nd Session, Chapter 201, 1862, p. 597-598; R.H. Stanley and George O. Hall, Eastern Maine and the Rebellion, R.H. Stanley & Company, Bangor, ME, 1887, p. 171; Camp John Pope, Daily Whig & Courier, Tuesday, October 14, 1862; 1860 U.S. Census for Augusta, Maine; Francis Ireland letter to John Ireland, September 27, 1862, Special Collections, Fogler Library, University of Maine; John K. Lincoln Soldier’s File, Maine State Archives; Departure Of The 22d, Daily Whig & Courier, Wednesday, October 22, 1862; From the 22d Maine Regiment, Daily Whig & Courier, Monday, November 24, 1862; From the Twenty-Second Maine, Daily Whig & Courier, Saturday, January 3, 1863; From the 22nd Maine, Daily Whig & Courier, Tuesday, January 6, 1863

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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