Though Mount Hope Cemetery in Bangor is a place where the dead rest peacefully, it is alive with history and stories — particularly from the Civil War era, during which people from the Bangor area played an important role.
Bangor’s contributions to the Civil War will be in the spotlight this week, with the Bangor Historical Society’s second annual Drums on the Penobscot: A Civil War Experience. Tours, lectures and a reception will lead up to a two-day immersive Civil War encampment at the UMA-Bangor campus, Aug. 11 and 12.
“We had anticipated this would be an every other year kind of thing, but the response to the first year — last year — was just so incredible we decided we had to do it again this year,” said Melissa Gerety, executive director of the Bangor Historical Society.
A week after that, on Aug. 18, a long-lost Bangor Civil War veteran will be recognized for his service, and his grave at Mount Hope Cemetery — unmarked for more than 140 years — will be rededicated.
The focus point of Drums on the Penobscot, now in its second year, are the events set for Aug. 10-12, starting with a tour of Mount Hope Cemetery showcasing Bangor’s war dead that are buried there, set for 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, beginning at the cemetery superintendent’s office. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth.
On Saturday and Sunday, Civil War re-enactors take over the grounds of the UMA-Bangor campus on Maine Avenue. Re-enactors from Company B, 20th Maine Infantry Regiment and Company, 15th Alabama Infantry Regimen will portray Union and Confederate soldiers, do demos of artillery and skirmishes, and will recreate the trial and execution of a deserter. Lectures on genealogy, Civil War-era medicine and historical monuments are also set.
The weekend will end with two events featuring Steve and Sharon Wood, noted portrayers of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln, including a performance at 6 p.m. Saturday in the backstage area of the Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion, which is accessible via the access road off Lincoln Street, across from the Hollywood Casino garage. There’s also a 10 a.m. meet and greet Sunday at the UMA Bangor campus.
All weekend events are free; a full schedule can be found on the BHS website.
One week after Drums on the Penobscot, another Civil War event is again set for Mount Hope Cemetery.
Matthew Sargent, a native of Massachusetts, and an NROTC instructor working at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine for the summer, has spent the past few months doing research on his Maine ancestors. He discovered that his fourth great uncle, David Hanson, lived most of his life in Bangor and was a Civil War veteran.
“I’ve been a history buff and really into genealogy for a long time, so I’m always looking for things like that,” Sargent said.
Hanson enlisted in the 2nd Maine Regiment and was discharged in 1862 due to an injury after the Battle of Shepherdstown. He enlisted again, with the 16th Maine, and was again discharged due to a hernia related to his original injury. Showing remarkable dedication, in 1864 he enlisted one more time — this time with the 7th Maine Battery, a light artillery unit that allowed Hanson to ride on wagons and horses, which was less physically demanding.
Further research led to the discovery that Hanson died in Bangor in 1875, and was buried with his wife and son at Mount Hope Cemetery. Neal Currie, director of Bangor cemeteries, located the burial site, but found that Hanson’s grave was unmarked.
Working with Currie and with the Veteran’s Administration, Sargent received approval for a veteran’s stone to be placed on Hanson’s grave. A ceremony and dedication will take place at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18. It’s open to the public, and will feature a talk by Sargent about Hanson’s service and a traditional burial ceremony from members of the Maine chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
“Civil War veterans didn’t start to really be remembered and honored until later in the 19th century, so it’s not uncommon to find unmarked graves from vets from that era,” Sargent said. “It just feels really good to be able to give a voice to a veteran after all these years.”
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