If only the trunk owned by Andrew Derby Bean could talk, the war stories it could tell.
After Fort Sumter’s surrender on April 14, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln asked loyal governors to provide 75,000 men to help defeat the Confederacy. Midcoast patriots converged on Rockland Tuesday, April 23, to join the war effort. During a “rah-rah, sis-boom-bah” evening meeting, “a twenty dollar gold coin was tossed on the floor for the first volunteer” who would join a fledgling regiment, recalled Elijah Walker.
“It was picked up by Stephen H. Chapman, who enlisted in my company and acted as orderly sergeant until appointed by Col. [Hiram] Berry as Sergeant-Major of the regiment,” wrote Walker. He intended to raise a 100-man company for the regiment, later designated the 4th Maine Infantry.
Meanwhile, Andrew Derby Bean recruited men in Brooks and neighboring towns. He personally recruited more than 60 volunteers, enough to form the 4th Maine’s Co. F, and his recruits elected him their captain. They also chose James Huxford of Brooks as first lieutenant and Charles Burd of Belfast as second lieutenant.
By mid-19th century standards, Bean essentially was middle-aged, too old to join the war effort. Born in Belfast to Josiah and Eunice Bean on March 18, 1813, Andrew relocated to Brooks at age 12 and spent his life there until 1861. He served with the Maine militia called out during the Aroostook War.
Bean married Lydia Fogg, four years younger than him and they had a son, George, and a daughter, Mary Frances. Like his father, George would join the Union army. Mary would later wed local merchant Calvin Rose and occupy the hilltop farmhouse owned by her father.
Lydia died unexpectedly in mid-June 1843. Surprisingly for that era, Andrew would not remarry for more than 20 years. Instead he concentrated on business and politics. Appointed the Brooks postmaster on July 28, 1854, Bean went to Augusta as a Democratic representative from Brooks in 1856.
Mustered into Federal service at Camp Knox in Rockland on June 15, 1861, the 4th Maine Infantry departed by ship on Monday, June 17. Army regulations let officers haul more luggage than could enlisted men. Andrew Bean neatly packed his shirts, undergarments and socks in a wooden, metal-strapped trunk that measured 15 inches high, 28 inches long and 17 inches wide. He painted “A.D. Bean” and “4th Maine Reg.” in white on both ends.
Deploying at Manassas, Va. during late afternoon on a sultry July 21, the 4th Maine lost men: Stephen Chapman, he of the $20 gold coin, died from a gunshot, and Capt. Andrew Bean suffered a leg wound that lamed him for life. Chapman’s retreating comrades left his body on the battlefield. Bean lived another 31 years, but his fighting days ended at Manassas.
Sent to Maine as a recruiting officer, the crippled Bean brought his Army trunk. After resigning his commission on May 12, 1862, he resumed his civilian life and likely wrote letters to George, who reached New Orleans by spring 1863. There he died of disease on May 29, just three days past his 19th birthday. George is buried in the Pilley Cemetery in Brooks.
With his wife and son dead, did Andrew Bean experience loneliness many a night in his Brooks home? His correspondence evidently vanished. Bean remains an enigma, his life highlighted in brief historical snippets. He kept his Army trunk, which in time passed into his daughter’s possession and ultimately disappeared.
Andrew Bean married Harriet Warren, a widow, in Montville on May 22, 1866, and served as the Belfast postmaster from 1879 to 1887. He died in Brooks on Sept. 21, 1892; his family interred him in the First Settlers Cemetery in Brooks.
History should have forgotten Andrew Bean, an obscure officer in an obscure regiment: Despite its stellar combat record, the 4th Maine Infantry regrettably lacks the historical praise heaped on the 20th Maine Infantry. Led by Elijah Walker (now a colonel), 4th Maine boys battled Confederates at the Devils Den at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. Their sacrifice bought precious time for the 20th Maine and other Union regiments to form on nearby Little Round Top.
In 1954, Betty and Franklin Littlefield purchased the Rose House (named for Calvin and Mary Bean Rose), located atop a hill alongside Route 7 in Brooks. The Littlefields renovated the house over the years, and in the attic they discovered a wooden trunk secured by metal straps and studs. At each end, above and below the leather straps that an individual would use to lift the trunk, the phrases “A.D. Bean” and “4th Maine Reg.” stood out in white paint.
Suddenly, Andrew Derby Bean was not just a forgotten warrior. The trunk that had traveled with him to war and back now brought him to life. The trunk confirms his soldierly identity. Inside the trunk, 150 years ago, were the necessities and few personal items he considered important.
If only the trunk could talk. “It was empty,” Betty Littlefield recalled. The key still turned in the lock, however, and the lid swung open to reveal a functional design that even provided Andrew Bean with an ad hoc surface on which to write letters.
The war stories that trunk could tell about officers discussing an impending Virginia battle while gathered around evening campfires in mid-July 1861 — about the pain that a leg wound caused Bean, about the sorrow that tore apart a father’s heart upon learning that a wartime death had claimed his only son.
Today, the remarkably well-preserved trunk is displayed at the Brooks Museum, located at 11 Moosehead Trail in Brooks. Known also as the Pilley House, the circa-1818 wood-frame house has been restored to a circa-1900 timeframe. The Brooks Historical Society owns the museum and Betty Littlefield is the society’s president and the museum’s curator.
The Brooks Museum will be open to the public 1-4 p.m., Aug. 26 and Oct. 14.
Brian Swartz may be reached at email@example.com or visit his blog at http://maineatwar.bangordailynews.com.