An army recruiter on every corner

Much like patent-medicine hucksters peddling liquid healing, Army recruiters occupying just about every street corner in downtown Bangor in autumn 1861 promised potential recruits the sun, the moon, and the stars — and a $100 bounty to boot.

Across Maine, recruiters scrambled that fall to raise men for an artillery battery, a cavalry regiment, and four infantry regiments: the 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th. Recruiters had opened Bangor offices by Friday, November 8 and had started advertising for men. On top of that, the U.S. Army sought recruits, and Col. Charles W. Roberts had two — count ’em, two! — recruiters finding men to fill his depleted 2nd Maine Infantry Regiment.

The front page of the November 8, 1861 Daily Whig & Courier of Bangor, Maine featured multiple recruiting ads for various military units. (Bangor Public Library)

The Daily Whig & Courier ran multiple recruiting ads above the page 1 fold that Friday. With this edition in hand, a potential recruit could shop around for the best deal.

NEW ENGLAND BRIGADE, Maj. Gen. B. F. Butler TO COMMAND,” proclaimed the recruiting ad run by John F. Appleton, son of Maine’s chief justice. He was raising a company for the 12th Maine Infantry, one of the four new regiments being raised to join Butler’s campaign to capture New Orleans.

Appleton promised that “every recruit will receive AT LEAST one month’s pay in advance” for the “few strong, temperance men” who enlisted at his office at “No. 19 Central St.”

Literally right around the corner at No. 21 West Market Square, Samuel F. Thompson sought volunteers for “GEN. BUTLER’S DIVISION.” Thompson needed men “to make up a Company for the 12th Maine Regiment,” which would be commanded by Portland Democratic lawyer George F. Shepley. “Only able-bodies men, from 18 to 45 years of age, will be taken.”

The Union! The Union! RECRUITS WANTED IMMEDIATELY to form a company for the Thirteenth or Fourteenth Maine Regiment,” blared the just-below-the-masthead ad placed by recruiting officer Joseph P. French. The 13th and 14th regiments would also accompany Ben Butler to the Deep South., and “men of intelligence and temperate habits are wanted,” French indicated.

Each recruit would receive “$13 per month and rations, to commence from the time of enlistment,” the ad promised. Unlike other recruiters, Appleton had established offices outside Bangor; the ad directed potential recruits to offices at the Lower Corner in Hampden (intersection of modern Main Road South and Kennebec Road), in “Newport Village,” and in Orland.

The Hamlin Battery of Flying Artillery sought “smart, active men to enlist in this splendid troop of Mounted Artillery. From their office “upstairs” in “Harlow’s Block” on Harlow Street, Capt. J. G. Swett and Dr. J. H. P. Front promised A BOUNTY OF $100” to every recruit, plus “clothing, subsistence [rations] and medical attendance.”

At No. 6 State Street (perhaps 150 yards from Thompson’s recruiting office), 1st Lt. H. C. Woodrow “Wanted, 300 Able-Bodied Men, Between the ages of 18 and 35 years.” He recruited for the 17th U.S. Infantry Regiment, then headquartered at Fort Preble in Cape Elizabeth.

The ad claimed that Col. Samuel P. Heintzelman commanded the 17th, but he was in Virginia. Woodrow did promise his recruits that “the best of Uniforms, Quarters[,] Rations and Equipments are furnished immediately” when men arrived at Fort Preble. “REMEMBER — No Soldier is so well Cared for as the Regular,” the ad claimed.

Just a short distance from Woodrow’s recruiting office, George Weston sought men ages 18 to 45 and “weight, 125 to 168 pounds” to join the 1st Maine Cavalry. His office was in the Exchange Block, at the intersection of Exchange and State streets.

West Market Square occupied the geographic heart of downtown Bangor when this photograph was taken in 1857. The building in the center was soon torn down doe construction of the Wheelwright Block, which still stands. In autumn 1861 one army recruiting office was located at West Market Square, and several others were only a short distance away. (Maine Historic Preservation Commission, courtesy Richard R. Shaw)

Weston promised recruits $13 a month, rations, and that $100 bounty, which every Maine recruit (no matter the unit he joined) would receive upon completing his military service. The 1st Maine “will be one of the best Regiments raised in the state,” and already “one of the best Bands in this State—the Houlton Cornet Band” had signed up. And, by the way, regiment needed “12 or 15 buglers.”

Another ad announced that 1st Lt. Joseph G. Roberts had “been authorized by the War Department” to recruit enough men “to fill up” five under-strength 6th Maine Infantry companies. From his East Corinth home, he traveled to “Dover, Dexter, Milo, Oldtown, Bucksport and Ellsworth” to find “a sufficient number of able-bodies men.”

From an office in Taylor’s Block on the Kenduskeag Stream bridge, Michael Boyce recruited a specific demographic for the 15th Maine Infantry. “Volunteers! Volunteers!” He summoned “adopted citizens to the rescue. Corcoran, Meagher and Mulligan lead the way!”

The surnames referred to Irish-born generals Michael Corcoran and Thomas Meagher and to first-generation Irish-American general James Mulligan. All were Catholic in an overwhelmingly Protestant army, and all three generated pride among Irish Catholic Mainers.

The same Page 1 displayed competing 2nd Maine recruiting ads. Sent to Maine from Virginia to recruit, 1st Lt. James Deane wanted “two hundred able-bodied men, of good character,” to enlist “immediately” for three years. Interested civilians could find him at No. 7 Stetson’s Block on State Street, not much farther than a good spit from the recruiting offices operated by Thompson and Woodrow.

Raising “a new company for the Second Maine,” civilian Daniel White promised recruits that their officers would “be selected from the Company,” which would “be formed, organized and uniformed at Bangor.” All potential recruits could knock on the appropriate door at the “Exchange Block, on Exchange Street, upstairs.”

White recruited from the same building as did George Weston!

And in his capacity as acting quartermaster general, Maine Adjutant Gen. John L. Hodsdon recruited “more horses … for the army” in an ad tucked next to that for Hamlin’s Battery of Flying Artillery. Four authorized agents would visit several towns and cities to purchase “20 to 40 HORSES … for the Cavalry service” at each location.

Every recruit shopping around for the best deal that Friday learned that the deal was the same everywhere: $13 per month, rations, and that $100 bounty.

Source: Daily Whig & Courier, Friday, November 8, 1861


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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