What stands out about the powerful Mainers who served in Washington in the years around and after the Civil War? 

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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President Lincoln put out a call in July of 1862 for 300,000 new recruits as a consequence of the Seven Days' campaign. Maine fulfilled its quota of men who divided between five regiments, the 16th through the 20th. The 17th Maine departed for Washington on August 21, 1862.

After their long journey to Washington (no commuter jets nor any Amtrak then), the men of the 17th were attached, on October 11, to the Army of the Potomac, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division (later to win the honor of the Order of the Red Patch), III Corps. Their first engagement was on December 13th at Fredericksburg, fighting under Brigadier General David B. Birney who bestowed the Order upon them after the battle. As was true for Monroe Quint of Leeds, Maine, those of the 17th who survived the Battle of Fredericksburg, went on to fight at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Pickett's Charge.

Some things can readily be said about the men of Maine's 17th--deployed from Maine to Washington before joining battles--based on their actions, their honors, their diaries and their letters.

  • They were persevering, courageous, dedicated and worthy.
  • They were valiant and great warriors who received group and private honors from their generals, government and ancestors: Order of the Red Patch and the Kearny Medal; the honor of ancestors for their choice to fight for freedom, e.g., tribute to Jerome R. Hodge by James R. Hodge:

I am honoring my great uncle, Jerome R. Hodge, who served in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 12, 1862. He gave his life so that others could be free.
    James R. Hodge, Arundel
    Served in Korea

  • They maintained their love and devotion to home, family and land even as they maintained their humility and senses of humor, justice and fair play, e.g., diary of John West Haley of Biddeford and Saco, 17th of Maine Regiment: of some of his comrades, he said, ""Loved rum more than country," "Always had a spasm of virtue when under fire," "Tough as a boiled owl,"" of himself, he said, ""Below criticism. Poor fighter. Attained successful mediocrity as a soldier. Present all the time.""
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