141 Years Ago Today
John Steward joined the First Maine Heavy Artillery in January of 1864 as a late war recruit. Whether it was out of a sense of patriotic duty or the duty to provide for his family he left his wife and four children at home to run a farm they rented in Monson, Maine. When the First Maine Heavy Artillery left Washington in May of 1864 John Steward was in the ranks and on his way to experience the horrors of war.
After the Charge on June 18, 1864 Steward wrote to his wife "I do not want you to think that I am not as much as a Union man as ever but to witness such slaughter and butchering is awful to look at." He continued to express his dissatisfaction by writing "One glass of whiskey is worth more to our officers then a soldier's life."
Steward became quite sick in July and spent the next 5 months in and out of hospitals in Washington and Maine.returneduned to the regiment in December just in time to participate in the Weldon Raid wherewitnessingsned the hanging of 3 rebels in retribution for the killing of Union stragglers.
Steward’s disaffection with the war returned as he wrote in January “Our country’s cause is as good as ever but to see the way that it is carried on is enough to make a man hate those in command over him if not his country as every man seems to be trying to see how much he can make out of this war.”
Regardless of his dissatisfaction John Steward continued to provide guidance to his children urging them to get their education because he knew it was important. He held out hope that he would survive that war and be able to see his family again.
141 years ago today on March 31, 1865 Private John M. Steward of the First Maine Heavy Artillery was killed by a Confederate shell. He was one of the last soldiers in this regiment to be killed in action.