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“In Deer Isle, Maine” brings the Civil War home to Hancock County

Posted Sept. 07, 2012, at 8:48 a.m.
Peter Scott

Maine author Peter Scott has woven fiction and history together to tell a tale of Civil Wartime love, betrayal, and military service in the recently released “In Deer Isle, Maine: The 16th Maine Volunteer Regiment at War and at Home.”

A resident of Isle au Haut, Scott has previously published such fiction as “Something in the Water” and “Barter Island” and the nonfiction “Lost Crusade: America’s Secret Cambodian Mercenaries.” With “In Deer Isle, Maine,” he has added an interesting tale to Maine’s limited Civil War fiction genre.

Drawing upon historical accounts, Scott creates a tense account about several Deer Isle men who served in the 16th Maine Infantry Regiment, particularly in Co. K: Josiah Keen, a seminarian appointed a lieutenant; Corp. Virgil Weed, Moses Joyce, Johnson Lufkin, and other enlisted men.

Sharing the pages with them are Deer Isle residents like Helen Keen, Josiah’s sister and a woman highly interested in Weed; the buxom Rosie Eaton, who manages the town’s Lynnmore Hotel and Boarding House; and Irville Rines, the Keens’ hired hand.

Then there’s Amelia Keen, a pretty young Baltimore woman who believed that she married Josiah Keen during the war and suddenly wondered why he went missing after allegedly heading to sea in mid-April 1865. Amelia travels to Deer Isle that September to find Josiah’s family and see if they might know what fate has befallen him.

With its chapters alternating between past and present, between the war as experienced by the Deer Isle soldiers and the present as experienced by Amelia and the Deer Isle women, “In Deer Isle, Maine” takes the local men into battle at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg. There, on July 1, 1863, the regiment is all but wiped out, and the future changes forever not only for Josiah Keen and Virgil Weed, but also for the girls they left behind them.

Scott deftly blends fact and fiction in his narrative, which shifts from the quiet country life in Deer Isle (a town that later spun off Stonington) to military camps, hard marches, and combat in Virginia and Pennsylvania. Amelia’s travels let Scott introduce Hancock County towns, landmarks, and topography; Amelia spends her first name in Maine at Bucksport’s Jed Prouty Inn, and from there she rides on a horse-drawn wagon through Penobscot and Blue Hill to Sedgwick.

Then she crosses by ferry to Deer Isle, and her life takes a disastrous turn.

The women of “In Deer Isle, Maine” are well-treated by the narrative. Scott accurately casts his soldiers as less-than-saintly heroes, as men facing the trials and temptations experienced by generations of soldiers. A student at Bangor Theological Seminary, Josiah Keen is not entirely pure-hearted, as seaman Virgil Weed figures out long after a particular foraging expedition in northern Virginia.

And the battle-hardened Virgil is not the typical heroic Maine soldier as imagined today during the Civil War sesquicentennial.

Deft plot twists require the reader to stay alert. Scott relies both on action and quiet moments to explain key points; subtle passages read in one chapter suddenly make sense a few chapters later, especially as Scott links the war in 1862 and 1863 with the present in 1865 and later.

“In Deer Isle, Maine” is available as an e-book and in paperback at Amazon.com and in paperback at barnesandnoble.com.

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