On a warm and overcast June Saturday morning, we pull into the Monroe Village Cemetery, a rural burying ground in equally rural northern Waldo County. Laid out across sloping terrain rising toward the southwest, the cemetery borders the Monroe Road about a half mile northeast of Monroe Village, the developed area around the intersection of routes 139 (East and West Main streets) and 141 and the Jackson Road (named for the town, not General “Stonewall”).
We know nobody buried here, but we have come so I can film the Civil War monument standing on the cemetery’s highest point in that southwest corner. Around us odd light-gray metal monuments rise among the traditional stone markers and headstones. The Civil War monument’s made from the same unusual metal.
I open the driver’s door, step out, and notice the American flag placed by a particularly ornate metal monument two plots away. Obviously a veteran’s buried here.
I zinc it’s Ezra.
The monument indicates he is Ezra Pattee, and he belonged to the Masons and the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment. The monument’s light-gray metal is zinc, advertised as “white bronze” by such late 19th-century monument manufacturers as the Monumental Bronze Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. That firm just happened to make the Monroe Civil War monument, featuring a great coat-clad veteran perched atop an ornate pedestal standing on a zinc base stressed to resemble granite. Only close examination reveals that the entire monument stands on an actual granite base set deep in the soil to avoid frost heaves.
Born to Collins and Ruth Pattee in Monroe on January 4, 1843, Ezra was a 20-year-old unmarried farmer when he appeared before Capt. Andrew D. Bean in Belfast on December 8, 1863. Bean had originally gone to war in 1861 with the 4th Maine Infantry Regiment. Not young then, he had come home to serve as the recruiting officer and provost marshal for Maine’s 5th Congressional District.
Standing 5-7½, Ezra had blue eyes, sandy hair, and a fair complexion. Passing the requisite physical exam, he mustered with Co. F, 1st MHA, on December 12 and left Maine to join the regiment, then garrisoning District of Columbia forts.
After losing more than 17,000 in the Wilderness in early May 1864, Ulysses S. Grant summoned several heavy artillery regiments to reinforce the depleted Army of the Potomac. Commanded by Col. Daniel Chaplin, the 1st MHA and Ezra marched south to fight at Harris Farm, a blood fest occurring late amidst the Spotsylvania Courthouse carnage.
The battle-thinned 1st MHA moved on to Petersburg, and Chaplin, detached that day as temporary brigade commander, watched horrified as his regiment charged unsupported across open ground on Saturday, June 18. Of the 900 or so men who climbed from a sunken road, formed by company into three lines, and charged entrenched Confederate infantry and artillery, 685 were killed or wounded, according to the National Park Service.
Shot in the arm, Private Ezra was among the 38 Co. F lads who were wounded; some lost arms or legs to amputation. Sixteen more Co. F soldiers died, five men (including 2nd Lt. Gardner H Ruggles) were killed that Saturday afternoon, and 11 men later died of their wounds.
Ezra ultimately transferred to the Volunteer Reserve Corps. Discharged from the army on June 28, 1865, he hurried home.
Ezra married Estelle E. Jefferds (or Jeffords) in Belfast on October 29, 1865. Five years earlier she had lived in neighboring Brooks with her parents, Nicholas (a 60-year-old farmer) and Susan (they would move to Monroe by the late 1860s). Ezra brought his new bride home to his Monroe farm.
The Pattees had a son, Ezra E., who died “aged 2 years, 3 months” on March 4, 1871, according to the information on Estelle’s side of the zinc monument. His age would place the boy’s birth around late November or early December in 1868.
But there is a problem. Her birth certificate indicates that Eveline E. Pattee was born to Ezra and Estelle E. Pattee on February 21, 1869. She was their “1st” child, according to her birth certificate.
And Estelle died that same day, apparently from childbirth-related complications. We do not know for sure, since her death certificate indicates no “Cause of Death.”
How could son Ezra E. be born in late 1868 and mother Estelle E. die in childbirth less than three months later? Only the zinc monument’s inscription gives “life” to Ezra E., whose birth certificate I cannot locate; a paper trail exists as to Eveline’s birth and Estelle’s death.
Ezra had already buried his namesake son in the family plot in Monroe Village Cemetery. Now he buried his wife there.
He married his second wife, Eliza Robertson, in Monroe on March 19, 1871 (or 15 days after the death of his son, Ezra E.). Little Eveline came with the deal, and she gained a half sister when Lizzie A. Pattee was born on June 25, 1878. She was Ezra’s and Eliza’s “1st” child — and possibly their only child.
Ezra was age 56 years, 11 months, and 16 days when he died (probably at home) of heart trouble (“cardiac delitation”) on December 20, 1899. Eliza buried him near Estelle and Ezra E. in the Monroe Village Cemetery.
Sometime afterward, someone paid for the zinc monument erected on the family plot. One side is inscribed to Ezra and another side to Estelle and Ezra E. The other two sides are blank. Eveline, Eliza, and Lizzie are not buried in this plot.
Who paid for the Pattee monument? The multiple zinc monuments in the Monroe Village Cemetery indicates the metal became popular there by the late 19th century. Actually in monumental use in the United States by the 1870s, zinc was an “inexpensive” material, and manufacturers “marketed [it] as superior to stone in terms of durability,” reports Carol A. Grisson, senior objects conservator at the Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute.
The mystery of the Monroe monument remains, but as for who’s buried beside it, it’s Ezra, we know.
Sources: Ezra Pattee birth certificate, Maine State Archives; Ezra Pattee enlistment paper and soldier’s file, MSA; Shaw, Horace H. and House, Charles J., The First Maine Heavy Artillery, 1862—1865, Portland, ME, 1903, pp. 314, 462-463; Ezra Pattee, Eveline E. Pattee, and Lizzie A. Pattee birth certificates, Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921; Ezra and Estelle Pattee and Ezra and Eliza Pattee marriage certificates, Maine Marriages 1771-1907; Ezra Pattee and Estelle Pattee death certificates, Maine Vital Records, 1670-1921; 1860 and 1880 U.S. censuses for Monroe, Maine; Cemetery Monuments Made of Zinc, https://mci.si.edu/cemetery-monuments-made-zinc
Be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel, Maine at War: Battlefields, Monuments & More
If you enjoy reading the adventures of Mainers caught up in the Civil War, be sure to 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.
Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Civil War (released by Savas Beatie) chronicles the swift transition of Joshua L. Chamberlain from college professor and family man to regimental and brigade commander.
Drawing on Chamberlain’s extensive memoirs and writings and multiple period sources, the book follows Chamberlain through the war while examining the determined warrior who let nothing prevent him from helping save the United States.
Order your autographed copy by contacting author Brian Swartz at email@example.com
Passing Through the Fire is also available at savasbeatie.com or Amazon.
Brian Swartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.