After the anti-draft-inspired Kingfield Rebellion occurred in Franklin County in July 1863, state officials decided to suppress it. Filed on Thursday, July 23, “special order No. 13” set in motion a march de farce that provided a good time for recently discharged Maine veterans.
After mustering out with the 10th Maine Infantry Regiment on May 8, Leroy H. Tobie “entered the repair shop connected with the Androscoggin mills [in Lewiston] … to learn the machinists’ trade,” the “First Maine Bugle” reported in October 1893.
Summoned on July 23 to restore order in the affected towns were Capt. Jesse T. Stevens and 61 men from the Lewiston Light Infantry, plus Lt. James A. Godfrey and 21 soldiers from Augusta. Upon learning that they had been called to arms with the Lewiston unit, “many members of that [militia] organization were suddenly very much devoted to business and could not possibly go with the company,” according to the “Bugle.” The militiamen “did the next best thing — they secured substitutes … and to the veterans of the Tenth [Maine] did the very busy militiamen look for assistance and release from the duty of serving the State.”
Including Tobie, 10 to 15 veterans from the 10th Maine switched places with scared militiamen. The veterans “donned their old uniforms, which were serviceable if they did not look so well; they wore their old army ‘brogans,’” the “Bugle” relayed Tobie’s fond memories of marching to war in Maine, not Virginia.
Joined by Godfey’s Augusta contingent, the erstwhile warriors left Lewiston on an Androscoggin Railroad train at 3 p.m., Thursday, July 23. Each soldier carried 10 rounds of ammunition and four days’ rations. Five men detailed to serve draft notices accompanied the punitive expedition: “captains Knowlton and Nye, privates A.O. Morgan, W.W. Ayer, and Dr. Martin,” according to the “Bugle.” Arriving at Farmington at 6 p.m., the soldiers camped on the town common.
At 5:30 a.m., Friday, Stevens led his men north on the 22-mile hike to Kingfield, where “no news of the coming of the soldiers had [yet] reached” local residents that same morning, recalled Francis Edgar Stanley, a 14-year-old Kingfield resident. His memoirs were published in the “Lewiston Journal Illustrated” on April 27, 1918.
Experienced campaigners, the 10th Maine boys “took the advance and easily kept far ahead of the column” while “picking berries” and doing “etc.,” the “Bugle” reported.
Determined “to have some fun” with the green militiamen, the veterans kept “fretting” Stevens. “Hold on!” he ordered. “If you don’t keep back nearer the column[,] you will surely be killed by the bush-whackers!”
The 10th Maine boys “laughed in their sleeves at him, not being at all frightened at the thought of bush-whackers in the good old State of Maine,” the “Bugle” relayed Tobie’s memories.
Meanwhile, the five men planning to serve draft notices rode into Kingfield about 10 a.m., Stanley recalled. At that time a prominent Copperhead (a Northern Democrat opposed to the war) “reined up in front of the Hotel,” then “looked up the street and saw the officers coming at a smart canter down the hill, heading directly toward him.
“He took just one glance, long enough to see the blue uniforms and sparkling brass buttons” and wheeled his horse and “went tearing along over the bridge and down the road toward his home,” Stanley recalled.
Once convinced that Nye et al intended to only serve draft notices, Kingfield residents welcomed their uniformed visitors. Before splitting up to deliver notices in Kingfield, Freeman, and Salem, Nye and his companions mentioned that even more soldiers approached Kingfield via New Portland.
“Democrats and Republicans vied with each other to see who could do most for the comfort and convenience of the visitors,” Stanley remembered.
Meanwhile, the 10th Maine boys relished their summer march. Somewhere between Farmington and New Portland, “while far in advance of the column, they fired a volley or half a dozen guns at a flock of crows, which set the column into serious and half-scared commotion,” the “Bugle” reported.
Chased into New Portland by a thunderstorm, the avenging angels sheltered “in a barn on the outskirts of the town, and then in the hotel, where the citizens received them with open arms and doughnuts,” according to the “Bugle.” After enjoying lunch “and the singing of patriotic songs,” the soldiers headed for Kingfield, only 6 miles distant.
Now footsore, the militiamen “were transported in hay racks, while the Tenth Maine boys trudged along cheerfully,” the “Bugle” reported. The soldiers learned in New Portland that “the rioters had thrown up the fortifications and had pickets out on the road,” and “as the column neared Kingfield[,] the militiamen heard the sounds of martial music and were seized with a trembling.”
By now the 10th Maine veterans had evidently left their hay rack-bound comrades “not more than a mile or two away,” Stanley remembered.
“See that your guns are in order, but don’t fire until I give the command,” he quoted the soldier who “assumed command” as saying. The veterans “stood their ground” and waited.
The approaching music grew louder; suddenly a large crowd “appeared above the crest of a hill a quarter mile of away,” Stanley recalled. The veterans gaped, then grinned, because toward them marched Kingfield’s fife-and-drum band and “some fifty men and boys” sent to escort the soldiers into town.
The bandsmen saluted the veterans. Civilians and soldiers introduced themselves, shook hands, and waited for Stevens and the hay racks to arrive.
While the bandsmen waited “to escort the invading army into town,” the veterans “induced” the musicians “to play ‘Dixie’ for the benefit of the militiamen in the rear,” according to the “Bugle.” In 30-45 minutes the nervous militiamen hove into view, and the entire procession headed toward Kingfield.
Thumping and trilling “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” the bandsmen led the way to the field where the soldiers could camp. Arriving about 6 p.m., the weary boys in blue “pitched their tents and after rations were served, turned in and slept soundly,” Stanley recalled.
At 3.p.m., Saturday, July 25 Kingfield residents invited their conquerors to sit at “a table … arranged long enough to seat the entire company and the ‘distinguished’ visitors,” Stanley noted. “The table was loaded with baked beans and brown bread steaming hot, gingerbread, doughnuts, custard pie and other good things.”
The obligatory speeches followed, and later that day the well-fed soldiers broke camp and headed for Farmington. With all the draft notices served to their unhappy recipients, the Kingfield Rebellion ended.
Brian Swartz is the BDN special sections editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at http:maineatwar.bangordailynews.com.