Dedication of the First Maine Monument and Cause Victorious

On my recent trip to Petersburg I was able to find an account of the dedication of the First Maine Heavy Artillery Monument at Petersburg, Virginia. The monument stands on the bottom of Hare House Hill inside the boundaries of the Petersburg National Battlefield. The monument was dedicated in September of 1894 in what the Petersburg Index Appeal calls an interesting ceremony. The monument is erected to honor the experience of the First Maine Heavy Artillery on June 18, 1864 in which over 200 members of this regiment were killed and over 400 were wounded in what has been calculated to be the single largest battle lost of any regiment in the Civil War. While monument is meant to honor the sacrifice of the fallen there is a deeper story that comes out of the details of the dedication that help present a story of how the process of memory and reconciliation and reunion evolved.

While it would be impossible to say that story of one monument dedication completely represents all elements of reconciliation or evolving Civil War memory I thought I would look at the account of the dedication of this particular monument because I think it does provide insight into how some Civil War Soldiers chose to remember the war.

I will be referring to a lot of the arguments found in John R. Neff’s Honoring the Civil War Dead, Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation John R. Neff’s Honoring the Civil War Dead, Commemoration and the Problem of Reconciliation. Neff’s fundamental theme is that impact of death during the Civil War and its effect on Northern and Southern society both during the war and after has not been fully investigated. His argument is that for all the reconciliation themes that highlight the coming together of Northern and Southern veterans after the war can not wash away all of the bitterness caused by the fact that each side dealt death to the other in a scope and scale that was unprecedented in this country. Neff assertion that the North was just as involved in myth building as the South and it’s “Lost Cause” is a central point. To Neff the term re-union was really undefined and unrealistic even through it was the central point of many post war memorials and dedications. The North’s mythology centered on the “Cause Victorious” which prescribed that “the nation had been reunited virtually at the time of the Confederate surrender.” In other words it was the assumption by many in the North that all sectional lines would be erased by the war and both sides would quickly merge together in nationhood. What Neff asserts is that while Northern veterans talked of how the sacrifices of their comrades had brought about re-union, it was not because re-union was a tangible outcome it was more because it provided them with “triumphant sense of reality” that allowed them to rationalize the scale of the death they had witnessed and give it a sense of purpose.

It is this sense of re-union and reconciliation that is very evident throughout the speeches given at the dedication of the First Maine Heavy Artillery and gave the veterans something to point to as a justification for the sacrifice of 200 plus men of the First Maine Heavy Artillery who died on June 18, 1864. “ The sacrifices these brave fellows made seemed at first of no avail; but afterwards the victory came… We fought for the form of a government for the whole people. We fought for the whole land.” The monument its self with its symbolic links of Peace and Union binding the states of Maine and Virginia together that according to Horace Shaw who had bought the land in which the monument was placed the inscription “was expressive of our sincere desire.”

What is telling in this account is that the ending of slavery as an outcome of war is not mentioned. In contrast calling attention to and honoring the sacrifices of the Confederate Soldiers who also spilled their blood on the same field is a central theme of the dedication. Shaw who had what amounts to the keynote speech stated that they could not honor the memory of the dead from the First Maine Heavy Artillery “without expressing our admiration for courage and soldierly qualities of those opposed to us here” because the ground was scared to both sides. Shaw in words similar to Abraham Lincoln calls the real victory of the Civil War the fact that the American experiment of popular government, which the crowned heads of Europe had hoped might perish from the earth was know taking root in Europe and that the last crowned head had departed from the Western Hemisphere.

While the speakers made reference to reunion and reconciliation there was still examples that there were divisions between north and south. In the last part of his speech Shaw points out that in the south “you have your race problem” while the north was facing an “immigrant question.” While both sides could recognize that our representative form of government had been preserved, claiming that the nation was completely unified on all levels was part of the Northern myth of “Cause Victorious.” As Neff points out, even as late as 1898 there was no comprehensive or readily embraced American nationality. So while the monument to the First Maine Heavy Artillery my have proclaimed Union it was still more hopeful desire rather then firm reality. Shaw unintentionally points out this fragile sense of re-union by indicating while “we leave our dead and our memorial stone with profound feeling that they sleep in a country and among people as loyal and kind as our own. What can be seen in Shaw’s words is that he himself still sees a separation and difference between North and South.

Saying that the North was suffering from a peaceful invasion by an “army of immigrants larger than the hordes that had invaded Rome” and threaten our way of life he was hopefully that the South even with its race problem might come north with arms in order to save the nation if needed. Clearly the idea of re-union and the result of victory for Shaw and the other veterans centered around the idea of preservation of the national government and not expansion of civil rights or equal opportunity for all.

The fact that the speakers all referred to the ideals of reunion and proclaimed reconciliation indicates that they still trying to rationalize and put meaning around the death of those killed on June 18, 1864. Preservation of the union imperfect and as undefined as it was became the one thing these veterans could hold on to.

Below is an Account of the Dedication of The First Maine Heavy Artillery Monument at Petersburg, Virginia on September 14, 1894

Petersburg Index Appeal, Petersburg, Va, Saturday September 15, 1894



Interesting Dedicatory Exercise Held Yesterday, at Which Patriotic Speeches Were Made by Men Representing The Blue and The Gray.

Major Horace H. Shaw, of Portland, Me who during the late war between the states was adjutant of the First Maine Heavy Artillery, some months ago purchased about four acres of land, the same being a part of what is known as the Hare farm, in Prince George county, about two miles and a half from Petersburg. On this parcel of land, about two hundred yards northwest of Fort Steadman, the survivors of the First Maine Heavy Artillery on June 18th of this year erected a monument to commemorate the bravery and valor of those of their comrades who were killed and wounded in the battle fought on the same grounds on the 18th of Jun, 1864. The regiment went into this engagement with between eight and nine hundred and of this number 604 were killed or wounded.

The monument is of Hallowell, Maine granite and the designers and makers were Messrs. Badger and Brothers of Quincy, Mass. On the front at the top is the coat of arms of the State of Maine. Below this are the words: “Maine Heavy Artillery. In memory of the 604 brave members who fell charging here June, 1864.” Under this appears the words: “Maine – Virginia”, joined together by the words: “Union and Peace”. The monument is 11 feet high, base 3 ½ x 6 ½ feet, shaft 5 x 2 feet. It cost twelve hundred dollars – one half of which was paid by the survivors of the First Maine Heavy Artillery, and the other half by the State of Maine. On the back of the monument is an open space into which is to be placed two bronze tablets with the names of the killed and wounded of the regiment inscribed on them. These tablets will cost twelve hundred dollars, which will make the total cost of the monument $2400.

Shortly after ten o’clock yesterday morning the visiting members of the First Maine Heavy Artillery, accompanied by members of George H. Thomas post G.A.R. and members of A.P. Hill Camp of Confederate Veterans, and other citizens and quite a number of ladies, drove down to attend the dedication of the monument. Among the survivors of the First Maine Heavy Artillery present were Major Horace H. Shaw of Portland, Me; Major Fred C. Lowe of Gloucester, Mass; Sergeant H. P. Smith of Brooklyn, N.Y.; Sergeant Henry L. Thomas of Sangerville, Maine; Mr. F.R. Knowton of Action, Mass; Lieutenant A.P. Eastman of Washington; Mr. J. Albert Dole, of Bangor, Me; Sergeant Simon C. Whitcomb, of Pittsfield, Me; and were Col. E. R. Brink who during the war was a member of the Tenth Ohio Calvary and is now commander of the Geo. H. Thomas post, G.A.R. , of this city; Julias Liebert, A.W. Burgess, Lewis M Youngblood, J.J. Hasler and Daniel Rahily.

The members of A. P. Hill camp in attendance were First Lieutenant Commander John R. Turner, Second Lieutenant Commander Edwin Spotswood; Adjutant W. M. Jones, W. H. Baxter, R. L. Kidd, George S. Bernard , P.C. Hoy, Dr. W.E. Harwood and W.H. Scott. The following were also present: Dr. D. W. Lassiter, Major F. R. Leavenworth. C. H. Pyle, Mr. A. N. Haskins, Lieutenant Wm. Lassiter, of the First regiment United State artillery stationed at Governor’s Island, New York; Mr. Charles Lunsford, and Mr. Wm Conrad, post office inspector Washington.

The ladies who graced the occasion with their presence were Mrs. A.W.P Eastman, Washington; Mrs. F. I. Knowton and her daughter, Miss Jessie of West Action, Mass; Mrs. C.H. Pyle and daughter, Miss Hattie H. Pyle, Miss Mary Dunnan and Miss Susie Strachen of Petersburg; Mrs. A. N. Haskins of Chesterfield county and Mrs. H.C. Stewart and Miss Mary C. Webb of Prince George county.

At 11:10 o’clock Lieutenant A.P. Eastman called the assemblage, which numbered about one hundred and fifty people to order and requested Rev. S.C. Whitcomb, of Maine to open the ceremonies with a prayer. At the close of the invocation Lieutenant Eastman delivered a brief address. He said the had met to dedicate this monument. The inscription on the monument tells the story. Thirty year ago we looked over this plain but we saw no monuments. We saw nothing but the line that fringe yonder woods with rifles. We hear the word charge! The order is obeyed and we lose in killed two hundred men and four hundred wounded. Some lay on the ground to be rescued at night. After the second night none were brought from the field. On the ground unprotected from the sun, they died a lingering death. Pull off the shoes from thy feet, for the ground you stand on is holy ground. If this canteen (referring to the one he had thrown across his shoulder, through which a bullet had been shot while Lieutenant Eastman lay, on the ground unconscious, having been shot through the neck and hand) had not been pierced by a ball, I would drink to your eternal happiness. The sacrifice these brave fellows made seemed at first of no avail; but afterwards the victory came. The confederates fought as well as we did and if our cause had been their cause they would have won the victory. We fought for the form of a government for the whole people. We fought for the whole land.

At the close of the address Lieutenant Eastman introduced Major Horace H. Shaw of Portland, Me; who spoke as follows: Comrades of the First Maine; of Geo. H. Thomas Post; A.P. Hill Confederate Camp and citizens of Petersburg:
“I find myself oppressed with conflicting sentiments of sorrow and gladness, of confidence and fear. We come to this spot scared to us to dedicate this simple stone which tells of the great sacrifice our comrades made here. The only sentiment upon the stone is in our motto of three links binding Maine and Virginia together in union and peace. This is expressive of our sincere desire. We come from distant states to honor and perpetuate the memory of dead who gave their lives and poured their blood out here. We cannot honor them without expressing our admiration for courage and soldierly qualities of those opposed to us here. The unsuccessful assault is always a fatal one. The charge of your own Pickett at Gettysburg was no less brilliant because unsuccessful. We cannot come here to honor our own loyal dead without paying tribute to the courage of Gordon’s men, who made a gallant, though unsuccessful, charge over the same ground on the following 25th of March. This ground is the more sacred to us because the blood of your sons mingled with ours, has made this spot sacred to you. I have great sorrow for the loss of life here: I am also very happy to be a participator in this inspiring and heart cheering incident thirty years after peace. We have lived to witness wonderful progress in the greatness of our country since the return of peace. I am not here as a prophet to say what would have been had the result of our struggle been different. But the fact that the crowned heads of Europe were watching us with a desire that this American experiment, as they called it, of popular government might perish from the earth was made significant by the fact that already in the dark days of 1864 the French emperor had sent an army of occupation to Mexico. We have lived to see the last crowned head depart from the Western Hemisphere, while the example of France and Switzerland in Europe shows that even there thrones are tottering and republics are rising.

I have some fear for the future. You have your race problem, and we at the north have our immigrant question. With us it is becoming alarming. Every year for ten years we have suffered a peaceful invasion by an army of immigrants larger than the hordes that overran Europe and overthrew Rome. They do not understand our institutions and are not American. You and your colored people are all American, every one of you. The time may come when the people of the south must come to the north with arms in the hands to save us from ourselves and to save the nation from destruction by its own, as we did in ‘61 and ’65. Yet let us have patience and trust that the Great Ruler of us all can solve and fix all our ills better than we can do it for ourselves. We leave our dead and our memorial stone with profound feeling that they sleep in a country and among people as loyal and kind as our own. We tank you for your unbounded hospitality and kindness.”

The next speaker was Mr. H. P. Smith, of Brooklyn, N. Y. He began by saying that he had an especial interest in these ceremonies. He had tried to embrace the confederate soldiers on the 18th of June, 1864, but they would not let him. Mr. Smith said that after the charge it was his duty to call the roll of company, and when he came to the names of those who had been his school mates it was the hardest thing of his life for him to continue the call of the roll. The terrible suffering is over and we do well in erecting monuments to those who fell, whether they wore blue or gray. He would like to see a monument to the memory of the confederate soldiers who were killed in this engagement, standing by the side of the monument they had erected. He knew that the link of sympathy was as strong as it was in granite. “God bless all who are here, and if you ever come to Brooklyn remember that there is such a post as U.S. Grant post, who will entertain you while there.”

Mr. George S, Bernard said he felt honored at being called upon to speak on the occasion. He was much pleased and indeed was moved with what he had heard from the visitors. It is pathetic thing to think that a regiment on a field of battle should loose four hundred wounded and two hundred killed – a great slaughter. It is something pathetic too, to think that some of our own southern comrades were killed an wounded here on the 25th of March, 1865, when a gallant but unsuccessful assault on Fort Stedman was made by the Army of Northern Virginia. It has been proposed to place a monument here to the memory of the confederates who fell on this field. It does not require stone to perpetuate their deeds of bravery and valor. The pen of the historian has done that. Mr. Bernard said the war was settled against the south, but he believed that an all ruling Providence knew what was best for us. We have not only the respect of our adversaries, but the respect of mankind for the manner in which this contest was waged,. He believed if a peace had been patched up at Hampton Roads there would have been long (before) this another civil war. It was for the best that the contest should have been, as it was, fought to a finish.
Mr. Bernard was of the opinion that, if the people and soldiers of the south had the war to fight over again with the same lights before them that would do just as they did but now, after the lapse of nearly thirty years he for one would venture to say that ninety nine out of every hundred southern soldiers were glad that the war ended as it did, and he was glad to be present on this occasion not say so to his friends.

Col. ER. Brink spoke as follows: “Mr. Chairman and Comrades of the First Maine Heavy Artillery: “You have assembled in the good old town of Petersburg to do honor to the brave men who fought side by side with you in maintaining the union and integrity of the states of this great republic, but who, perhaps, not as fortunate as their survivors, went down under the well directed fire of a brave and earnest foe.
“The tablet you have erected on these grounds as a memorial to their memory and valor, is a beautiful tribute of the fraternal affection of comrade for comrade. I can assure you that this sacred pile though erected among people the hostile, will be carefully guarded and preserved from vandalism by the brave men who repulsed the charge which gave cause for these services.”

Mr. J. A. Dowe, of California was the next speaker. He said that this day was one of joy and sorrow to him – a day of sorrow as he thought of the suffering that followed that charge and of the widows and orphans of the dead we left here – a day of joy that we can come here and erect this monument to honor the cause for which they died. We do not claim that they were the bravest troops in the union army, but brave because they did their duty. Mr. Dowe said he had come four thousand miles to show his devotion to the men who fell in this charge, and to thank God that his life was spared in that fight. The speaker closed by saying that nothing on this earth gives such protection as the flag of the union.

United States District Attorney Francis Rives Lassiter was the next speaker introduced. He began by saying that though not an actor in the scenes recalled by the spot and commemorated by the stone (pointing to the monument), he knew the sentiment of the surviving soldiers of the confederacy, of the citizens of Petersburg and the brave men all over the south. “In the name of all of these he said that a people is verging to decay which fails to honor and commemorate the virtues of its forefathers. He trusted that this sign of weakness is far distant from our country. In my judgment, it is peculiarly fitting to rear these monuments and voice the praise of those who fell, as did your comrades, in this war between the states. It is their peculiar fortune not only to have illustrated the virtues of valor and constancy, but also to have bequeathed to friend and foe a common heritage of glory. For it is an eternal distinction of the American people that a war so long so lately and so passionately pressed is remembered by the generations which waged it with patriotic pride in the devotion of the soldiers on either side. I may say on the part of the people of Petersburg that in rearing this graceful tribute to your comrades dead, we feel that you perpetuate an inspiring memory of this sacred soil and hand down to our children a stirring example of duty faithfully performed. And, further I pledged you for the younger generation that this stone shall ever be guarded and cherished in memory of the brave dead and in token of our common love for our common country.”

Mr. F.R. Knowton thanked the people of Petersburg for their kind treatment during their stay here. Mr. Knowton then went on to speak of the hospitable treatment he received here two years ago at the hands of the ex-confederate soldiers.
Mr. L.K. Marston said that he was glad to see the young here. He was on of the boys who were here on the 18th of June, 1864. He was one of the youngest in his company. Seven of us boys left our school books to go into the army. He was the only one left. God had sparred his life and he hoped for some good purpose. After the war he did have a little bitterness in his heart – now there is not a bit. He could remember when, as a lad he lay in the trenched around Petersburg. “I lay in the bushes right yonder,” said the speaker, (pointing to the place to which he referred), on the morning of the mine explosion, thinking what would be the result if were victorious. If we could only be convinced that God rules over this country what a happy nation it would be. Mr. Marston said he came from Dalvin post, and extended an invitation to all present to visit his post, if they ever came to Boston. He closed by saying that the shaft of the monument which had just been dedicated spoke more eloquently than words could do.”
Major Fred C. Low made a few remarks and the read the list of the members of the First Maine Heavy Artillery who were killed and wounded in the charge on the 18th of June, 1864. Major Shaw told the members of A.P. Hill camp of Confederate Veterans who were present on the ground on which the monument stood was his, and if the confederates whished to erect on it a monument to their dead they were welcome to do so.

The visitors adapted resolution of thanks to A.P. Hill Camp of Confederate Veterans, to George H. Thomas post, G.A.R. and to the citizens of Petersburg for the hospitable treatment. Three cheers were next proposed for the good people of Petersburg and A.P. Hill camp, which were given with a hearty good will. The Confederate “Vets” the gave three cheers for the for the members of the First Maine Heavy Artillery. The first and second verses of the national song “America” was next sung, and this, with the benediction by Rev. S.C. Whitcomb brought the interesting exercise to a close.

Typed Transcript – Andy MacIsaac, May 30, 2006


Kevin said…
Hi Andy, -- Hope you had a good time at the conference. I assume you did. Thanks for this post. Many of the participants in this ceremony, especially George S. Bernard, were involved in the postwar Crater events that I've been exploring.
Andy said…
Kevin, the conference was great. The overview of the Crater was especially good. With RL Krick giving a great discussion on what happend. Carrie Janey gave a wonderfull talk on the Petersburg Civilians and really good tour discussion on the Blanford Cementary. She actually talked a little bit about Mahone and his post war career in the city. I am going to have to read your article to understand how he became so unpopular. On a military perspective he seems to have got the drop on the Union forces at least 3 times. 1) Jeresalem Plank Road, 2) The Crater and 3) Boyton Plank Road.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for transcribing and posting this material, Andy. I've been through it several times, and am finding new nuggets each time. Excellent reading - I appreciate your work.
Andy said…
Brian, glad you like it. I found alot of interesting things in the account as well. I had been looking for an account of the dedication for a long time and finally patience paid off. I sent a copy over to Chris Calkins at the Petersburg NMP to see if they will change the references to when teh monument and the pictures where taken.

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