Confederate and Union troops will battle in Fairfield Aug. 25-26 as the Good Will Hinckley School hosts the largest Civil War Sesquicentennial event slated to take place in Maine this year.
Sponsored by the Maine Living History Association, “We Are Coming, Father Abraham” will honor five Maine infantry regiments mustered into the Union army in August 1862. The weekend’s activities will include military encampments, a civilian town, author presentations, and a supper and dance on Saturday, Aug. 25.
According to event organizer Miss Christabell Rose, uniformed re-enactors will stage skirmishes and battles in the fields and woods at Good Will Hinckley School, located on Route 201 in Fairfield. Event hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Aug. 25 and 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Aug. 26. Each visitor age 12 and older can make a suggested $5 donation.
Limited parking will be available at the site; free satellite parking will be available at Kennebec Valley Community College at 92 Western Ave., Fairfield, and a free shuttle service will transport visitors to and from the re-enactment. Take Interstate 95, Exit 132 to reach KVCC.
Re-enactors representing Confederate and Union artillery, cavalry, and infantry units have already committed to participating in “We Are Coming, Father Abraham.” The military encampments and civilian town will be open to visitors both days; re-enactors encourage visitors to ask questions about Civil War-era life. Visitors will be able to watch the battles and skirmishes scheduled for both days.
Among the authors scheduled to speak are:
• Tom Desjardin, a Maine author who was the archivist and historian at Gettysburg National Military Park in the 1990s. He has written such books as “Stand Firm, Ye Boys From Maine.”
• Pamela Weeks, curator of the New England Quilt Museum and co-author of “Civil War Quilts.” She has appeared at Belfast Historical Society programs highlighting that city’s recently returned Civil War Soldiers’ Quilt. She is also the curator of the New England Quilt Museum.
• Jean Mary Flahive, a South Portland author who in 2007 published “Billy Boy: The Sunday Soldier of the 17th Maine.”
• William Thomas Tear, who wrote “Memoirs of a Confederate Gentleman.” He will display Victorian hair work jewelry and will read excerpts from his novel.
• Blaikie Hines, a Thomaston historian who has written “Civil War Volunteer Sons of Connecticut” and the well-researched “The Battle of First Bull Run – Manassas Campaign July 16-22, 1861 – An Illustrated Atlas and Battlefield Guide.”
• Kat Smutz of Calais, who has written “American Civil War History In An Hour.”
The L.C. Bates Museum and Bangor Museum and History Center will display historic artifacts, and the Quilt of Valor Program will display quilts made for soldiers wounded in modern wars.
In July 1862, President Abraham Lincoln asked for another 300,000 volunteers to fight the Confederacy. “The patriotic sons of Maine responded with such enthusiasm that the state exceeded her quota of four regiments by raising five,” Rose said. Those five infantry regiments were the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th, all destined for glory on distant battlefields.
Among the officers joining these regiments were Charles Tilden from Castine and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain from Brewer (Brunswick also claims him). Tilden later commanded the 16th Maine at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg; Chamberlain, of course, commanded the 20th Maine at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Employed as a Bowdoin College professor in 1862, Chamberlain lacked military experience. He wanted to serve, so on July 14, 1862 he wrote Maine Gov. Israel Washburn and asked “if your Excellency desires and will accept my service.
“I believe you will be satisfied with my antecedents,” Chamberlain wrote. “I am a son of Joshua Chamberlain of Brewer. I have always been interested in military matters, and what I do not know in that line, I know how to learn.”
Washburn accepted Chamberlain’s offer, and Chamberlain fought his way into American history.
Particularly welcome at “We Are Coming, Father Abraham” are descendants of soldiers who served with the regiments created in summer 1862. Descendants can “enlist” under their ancestors’ names and can bring “memorabilia they can display and talk about,” Rose said.
Other visitors can “adopt a soldier for the day,” she said. “These soldiers will be the men of the five regiments who answered Lincoln’s call.” Each visitor will learn about “their” adopted soldier and sign his name in the official Roll Book by tracing over his name as he wrote it 150 years ago. Visitors will then “fall in with the soldiers on the field as the brave soldiers swear their allegiance to the Union,” she said.
For more information, log onto gwh2012.civilwarmaine.org or call (207) 200-6542.