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Maine Meets Gettysburg 150 Years Later Through the Maine Civil War Trail

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Our Lady of Victories Civil War statue war monument in Portland, maine. Photo by Norm Forgey
Our Lady of Victories Civil War statue war monument in Portland, maine. Photo by Norm Forgey

The U.S. Civil War Sesquicentennial revisits the Battle of Little Round Top at Gettysburg.

General Joshua Chamberlain and the Maine 20th Regiment saved Little Round Top for the Union, and in saving Little Round Top, saved the Battle of Gettysburg and perhaps the entire Union on July 2, 1863.

Follow the Maine Civil War Trail – from Kennebunk to Castine along the coast and inland to Bangor, Augusta and Livermore, with over 20 exhibit sites and other activities taking place throughout Maine
during 2013.

One hundred forty eight Maine towns have a Civil War monument in a prominent place – a testament to the over 70,000
soldiers and sailors, the most per-capita of any other Union State, that served in the war. Create your
own Civil War Trail and learn their stories.

The Greater Portland area and Brunswick offer an excellent day trip introduction of Maine’s vital role in the war. Start at Monument Square in the center of Portland and end at General Joshua Chamberlain’s grave in Pine Grove Cemetery, Brunswick.

The Soldiers and Sailors 1891 monument is named “Our Lady of Victories” and is the largest work of public art in Portland at Monument Square. The sculptor was Portland native, Franklin Simmons.

The only Civil War battle fought in Maine was the naval Battle of Portland, in June 1863. Twenty-four Confederate sailors, pretending to be fishermen, were captured after a short naval battle. Preparations to defend Portland had begun in 1861 when the Civil War broke out. View Fort Gorges from the Eastern Promenade. This Civil War fort is similar in size and construction to Fort Sumter, but is built of granite instead of brick. The fort was completed in 1865 as the war ended. By then the fort was obsolete, due to the ammunition improvements made during the civil war. No shot has ever been fired from the fort. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1960. It is owned by the City of Portland and is open to the public; however, there is no public boat transportation available to access it.

Learn of the personal stories about Maine people during the Civil War at the Maine Historical Society in
Portland. The Portland Museum of Art will exhibit “Winslow Homer’s Civil War” beginning in September. Take a quick ferry ride to Peaks Island to journey back in time at the the headquarters of the Fifth Maine Infantry. The ferry ride also provides an excellent view of the Fort Gorges in Casco Bay.

In South Portland, visit Fort Preble and South Portland Historical Society to see samples of Civil War artifacts from South Portland men who served. Enjoy the views from Bug Light and Spring Point Lighthouse, as well.

Travel about 40 minutes north of Portland and make your first stop in Brunswick; the Pejepscot Historical Society Museum. Founded in 1888, this is one of the oldest historical societies in the State of Maine. The Society’s headquarters feature the General Joshua Chamberlain research collection, which is the largest repository of Chamberlain artifacts in a single place. The Society has the entire set of original copies of the Maine Adjutant General Civil War Annual Reports. These are detailed records of each Maine Regiment, the men who served, dates, and fate. This is a great place to start your own search for local family and civil war history. Do you have a Maine ancestor who fought in the Civil War?

Nearby is the Joshua Chamberlain Museum. You will see many of Chamberlain’s belongings on their one hour narrated tour. Bowdoin College is across the street from the museum, with the eight foot bronze statue of Joshua Chamberlain erected in 2003, in view. Chamberlain also was the Governor of Maine and the President of Bowdoin College after the war.

Bowdoin College’s Memorial Hall began as their Civil War Memorial Building built in 1873. Used originally for military drill, there are honor rolls for Bowdoin Civil War alumni in the entry way. Notice the Confederate roster on the stair landing to the left as you view the Union roster on the front wall.

Pine Grove Cemetery is a few blocks away. Joshua Chamberlain’s grave is marked with a reddish granite
stone. Enter the first cemetery drive and the Chamberlain family plot is on the right near the road.

Let these and the many other Maine Civil War Trail exhibits tell their stories.

About the author: Norm Forgey created Maine Day Trip Tours in 2007. Thier customized private tours and shore excursions have enthralled visitors from all over the world with the historical landmarks, lighthouses, museums and the scenic coast of Maine. Experience a relaxed and informative tour and day trip at your pace and with special requests welcomed. Log onto Maine Day Trip Tours for more information.

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