New book highlights forgotten Civil War veterans

Posted Feb. 10, 2012, at 12:40 p.m.
Emeric Spooner, the librarian at Buck Memorial Library in Bucksport, stands at the grave of Phineas Augustine Heywood, a Civil War veteran buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Bucksport. Spooner identified Heywood as a veteran while researching his new book “Maine Gravestones and Flags Volume II: Honoring Our Civil War Heroes.”
Emeric Spooner, the librarian at Buck Memorial Library in Bucksport, stands at the grave of Phineas Augustine Heywood, a Civil War veteran buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Bucksport. Spooner identified Heywood as a veteran while researching his new book “Maine Gravestones and Flags Volume II: Honoring Our Civil War Heroes.”

Cutline for Emeric Spooner in Bucksport final.tif

Weekly Photo by Brian Swartz

Emeric Spooner, the librarian at Buck Memorial Library in Bucksport, stands at the grave of Phineas Augustine Heywood, a Civil War veteran buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Bucksport. Spooner identified Heywood as a veteran while researching his new book “Maine Gravestones and Flags Volume II: Honoring Our Civil War Heroes.”

Cutline for James Hall grave final.tif

Weekly Photo by Brian Swartz

The Bucksport grave of James Hall clearly identifies him as a Civil War soldier “killed” during the war. He actually died at Petersburg, Va. in June 1864.

Many fallen Maine heroes are no longer forgotten, thanks to a new book published by Emeric Spooner, librarian at the Buck Memorial Library in Bucksport.

“Maine Gravestones and Flags Volume II: Honoring Our Civil War Heroes” introduces readers to many men from the lower Penobscot Valley who served during the Civil War. Spooner was actually researching the grave sites of veterans from the American Revolution and the War of 1812 when “I began to find a lot of graves of Civil War veterans,” he recalled.

“That’s when I got the idea” for his latest book, he said. “My goal was to raise awareness” about the long-forgotten Civil War veterans. “These guys need to be honored … to be remembered.”

To research the book, Spooner traipsed through many cemeteries in Bucksport and surrounding towns. He focused on veterans “mostly from Hancock County, but [also] into Penobscot County and Waldo County” who joined three locally raised companies:

• Co. D, 1st Maine Cavalry. “They signed up in Orland, most of them,” Spooner said.

• Co. G, 1st Maine Heavy Artillery. This company formed in Bucksport.

• Co. E, 6th Maine Infantry. This company “was known as the Bucksport company,” he said.

Spooner combined historical sleuthing with on-the-ground reconnaissance and interviews with knowledgeable local residents. “You start with the muster rolls to get the soldiers’ names” and the towns that “they called ‘home,’” he said. “Then I went through the [local] cemetery records to find out where they (veterans) are [buried].”

Estimating that he scoured “a couple dozen cemeteries,” including “small ones and family plots,” Spooner would check names on gravestones against names on muster rolls. Armed with the cemetery records, he could quickly find many graves; each time he did so, he photographed the veteran’s gravestone and those of family members buried nearby.

Spooner often played the detective as he matched names. Some graves, like that of James E. Hall in Bucksport’s Oak Grove Cemetery, readily revealed that the interred was a Civil War veteran. Identified as a second lieutenant in Co. G, 1st Maine Heavy Artillery, Hall is listed on his partially sunken stone as “killed” at Petersburg, Va. on June 18, 1864.

But many stones did not identify the interred as Civil War veterans. The Heywood family has a sizeable plot in Oak Grove Cemetery. Among the Heywoods named on the family’s memorial shaft is P. Augustine, actually Phineas A., who lies buried behind the simple foot stone carved “P.A.H.”

Phineas Augustine Heywood fought during the Civil War, however.

At the Bridges Cemetery in Penobscot, a large stone identifies the burial plot’s occupants as Cyrus K. Bridges, his wife Sophronia, and their children. Bridges served with the 1st Maine Cavalry, but “no one knew he was a veteran,” Spooner said.

Whenever he discovered a soldier not identified as a veteran, Spooner contacted “the local American Legion so I could show them where the graves were.” Thanks to his diligence, the graves of Heywood, Bridges, and other veterans are now marked with American flags on Memorial Day.

According to Spooner, stories lie behind so many gravestones — and he relates many such tales in his book. Just across from Hall in Oak Grove Cemetery lies 1st Lt. James B. McKinley of Co. E, 6th Maine Infantry. He was killed during a night attack at Rappahannock Station, Va. on Nov. 7, 1863.

What the stone does not reveal, Spooner does in his book: McKinley had been wounded at Chancellorsville the previous May. As an officer, he could have resigned and returned home. Instead McKinley returned to his duty and to his death.

And some veterans have multiple stones. Sgt. George Carr lies “buried” in Orland, but he’s actually not there. After his death on July 10, 1864, Carr was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He has two gravestones.

“I found they have stones here, but they’re buried out there” at such places as national cemeteries located where the Confederacy operated prisons, such as Andersonville, Ga. or Danville, Va.

The book was a personal mission for Spooner, whose great-great grandfather, William Ezra Spooner, lies buried at Woodland Center Cemetery near Caribou. He fought with Co. H, 20th Maine Infantry at such battles as Fredericksburg and Gettysburg and survived the war. Spooner wonders how much fighting William witnessed.

“Maine Gravestones and Flags Volume II: Honoring Our Civil War Heroes” is a highly detailed, 265-page soft-cover book that blends historical narratives, soldiers’ letters or memoirs, and Civil War-era and modern photography to create a visually appealing book. Local historians can draw valuable information from Spooner’s hard work.

“Honoring Our Civil War Heroes” is available on Amazon or at BookStacks, 71 Main St., Bucksport.

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