I Zinc It’s Ezra

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.

Sometime after the death of Ezra Pattee in Monroe in 1899, someone had this zinc monument placed in the Monroe Village Cemetery to Ezra, his first wife, and their deceased son. (Brian F. Swartz Photo)

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.

Private Ezra Pattee was wounded while charging with the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment at Petersburg on June 18, 1864. (National Park Service)

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.

One side of the Pattee monument is inscribed with information about Estelle E. Pattee and Ezra E. Pattee, who died at age 2. (BFS)

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


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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.

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Brian Swartz can be reached at visionsofmaine@tds.net. 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 visionsofmaine@tds.net.