“The entire regiment went to pieces”
Born in Orrington Dec. 27, 1835, William B. Baker joined Co. D, 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment. He wrote many letters describing different battles and camp life; the letters have been preserved in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under the collection title, “William B. Baker Papers, 1859-1866.”
Baker served at Gettysburg with the 1st Maine Cavalry.
Now a sergeant, Baker remained with Co. D until the May 11, 1864 Battle of Ground Squirrel Bridge in central Virginia. When Confederate cavalry ambushed the 1st Maine, “with charge after charge we held that open field, each company becoming more broken and reduced every minute,” recalled Col. Charles Smith, the regiment’s commander.
“The entire regiment went to pieces for the first time in its career, and every man took the road for himself,” Smith wrote. “We lost fifty men,” including Baker, who was shot in the leg and captured. He died in prison in Richmond on Aug. 11, 1864.
Led by another Chamberlain
Among the Brewer soldiers defending Little Round Top late on Thursday, July 2 were Charles Ayer and Frank Burr, both with surnames that survive as Brewer streets.
Ayer and Burr were privates in Co. G, then commanded by Lt. Thomas Chamberlain, another Brewer lad and younger brother to Joshua.
Ayer and Burr lie buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Brewer; Tom Chamberlain, whose character received sympathetic treatment in the movie “Gettysburg,” later married Delia Chamberlain, the widow of his brother John.
Chamberlain lies buried in Castine.
The adjective “missing” applied to many Maine men captured at Gettysburg. As thousands of Confederate infantrymen overwhelmed the sacrificial 16th Maine Infantry late day on July 1, 1863, 159 enlisted men surrendered. Among them was Pvt. Samuel Clement from Winterport.
Serving with Clement in the regiment’s Co. H was Pvt. Joseph Simpson of Corinth; he is also claimed by Levant. As Col. Charles Tilden surrendered the 16th Maine, Simpson was guarding cattle elsewhere behind Union lines.
He escaped capture that tragic afternoon, as did other Co. H soldiers, including Corp. Nelson Hewey of Veazie and Pvt. Martin Whitten of Etna.
Thaxter belonged to “the little band of officers”
The commander of Co. A, 1st Maine Cavalry Regiment during the Battle of Gettysburg, Capt. Sidney Thaxter of Bangor had mustered with the regiment in October 1861. He fought in many battles — including one battle that he should have missed.
On Oct. 26, 1864, the 1st Maine Cavalry numbered only 502 men, including 13 officers and 489 enlisted men. A battle was expected the next day, and shortly after 9 p.m., “the little band of officers, numbering not one to a company, and only one field officer, assembled … and … pledged themselves to each other that … they would stand by each and for the honor of the regiment,” wrote Edward Tobie, the regimental historian.
Earlier that day, 214 1st Maine troopers had departed the battlefield for City Point, Va., and the start of their journey home. These men had just completed their three-year enlistments and had not re-enlisted; they were scheduled to muster out of Army service.
Sidney Thaxter had completed his service, but realizing that his remaining comrades would fight at Hatcher’s Run on Oct. 27, he stayed with them instead of heading home. Thaxter participated in a charge from “the bottom of a ravine, with [steep] banks, and a climb of nearly two hundred yards,” Tobie recalled.
Surviving the Battle of Hatcher’s Run, Thaxter finally put the war behind him.
On Sept. 10, 1897, he received the Medal of Honor because, according to the citation, he “voluntarily remained and participated in the [Hatcher’s Run] battle with conspicuous gallantry, although his term of service had expired and he had been ordered home to be mustered out.”
Orono cavalrymen fought with Co. A
During the Battle of Gettysburg, Thaxter’s Co. A contained many troopers from the Bangor area; after all, this particular company had been “raised” in the Queen City in autumn 1861.
Three Orono soldiers — Corp. Ansel Drew and privates James Doe and Frank Lewis — served in Co. A. Hailing from Hermon was Pvt. John C. Bowen.
Look-alike brothers were “Twin Sergeants”
Also captured at Ground Squirrel Bridge in 1864 was Sgt. Prentiss Melon Clark from Levant. He and an older brother, Sidney Woodman Clark, had both joined Co. A, 1st Maine Cavalry in 1861. Despite their age difference, the brothers held the same rank in the same company and looked so much alike that other troopers called them the “Twin Sergeants.”
The Clarks were present at Gettysburg.
In May 1864, his Confederate captors shipped Prentiss Clark to Andersonville Prison in central Georgia. There he contracted diarrhea and later died on Sept. 8.
Clark lies buried in Grave 8143 in the Andersonville cemetery, a gloomy place even on a sunny day.
Sidney Clark survived Gettysburg and the war, lived some time in Masardis, and died in Bangor in 1902. He lies buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor.
Another Levant trooper
Another 1st Maine Cavalry trooper from Levant was Enoch Henry Lake, born in Pownal in February 1839. A farmer when the war began, he evidently felt comfortable handling horses; Lake stayed with the regiment and fought in many of its battles until he mustered out in late November 1864. He was present at Gettysburg with the 1st Maine’s Co. A.
Lake lies buried at South Branch Cemetey in Levant.
Going back 50 years later
By early summer 1913, plans were well under way for celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. In late June the Bangor Daily News published a long “list of Maine veterans who were in the Battle of Gettysburg and will attend the 50th anniversary on the famous battlefield, as guests of the State.”
From Bangor came veterans like:
• John F. Tolman, 21 years old when he enlisted in Co. A, 1st Maine Cavalry in October 1861. A bugler, Tolman survived Gettysburg only to be wounded at Shepardstown, W.Va. on July 16.
• William Teeling, an 18-year-old from Springfield when he joined the 2nd Maine Infantry.
He was assigned to the 5th U.S. Artillery rather than the 20th Maine.
Dixmont sent Enoch F. Piper, actually a Newburgh resident when he joined the 4th Maine in 1861. Likely traveling with Piper was another 4th Maine comrade and Dixmont neighbor, Albert D. Crocker.
From Brewer came Pvt. Benjamin F. Young, assigned to detached duty when the 1st Maine Cavalry had arrived at Gettysburg 50 years earlier. Lewis E. Pendleton had lived in Frankfort before fighting at the Devil’s Den with the 4th Maine; in 1913 he represented Holden while at Gettysubrg.
From Bucksport came Charles Preston, who had served with the 19th Massachusetts Infantry, and John Kennedy from the 6th Maine Infantry. After participating in an epic march from Virginia to Pennsylvania, that regiment was assigned to guard the Union army’s far right flank at Gettysburg. But Kennedy pulled no guard duty; he was assigned as a nurse in the regiment’s hospital.