Nathaniel J. Jackson
May 1, 1861
Nathaniel Jackson spent several days in Portland, watching the 1st Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment assemble. Jackson was 38 years old and Colonel of the Lewiston Light Infantry, one of ten local militia companies ordered to Portland in late April, 1861, to become the 1st Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
The regiment would grow to more than 770 men, and would be Maine’s first response to President Abraham Lincoln’s April 15 call for troops to respond to the bombardment of Fort Sumter.
Soon to leave for Washington D.C., where it would be positioned to defend the nation’s capital, the 1st Maine was missing something. Jackson thought that the regiment lacked a key piece in its organization.
In fact, he was so sure of it that he hurriedly telegraphed Governor Israel Washburn, asking him to contact Secretary of War Henry Stanton to fix the oversight.
As Jackson saw it, there was no authorization for the 1st Maine to have a quartermaster sergeant, and no regiment could function without one. The quartermaster was responsible for ordering, receiving, and accounting for the regiment’s property – everything from boots to bullets, blouses to blankets, belts to bugles.
Without a quartermaster, every company would be forced to fend for itself or go without, and to Jackson, that was no way to run a regiment.
His remedy was to have the federal government amend President Abraham Lincoln’s request to include a quartermaster.
"In the requisition from the President for troops there is no call for Quartermaster Sergeant. The Regiments can’t be officered complete without such an officer. It is absolutely of the highest importance that this office be recognized. Will you telegraph this fact to the Secretary of War without delay, and have the proper order issued from Head-Quarters to Capt. Gardiner at once, to muster such an officer?"
Jackson’s plea succeeded. The 1st Maine soon had a quartermaster, and the regiment departed for Washington, where it spent May, June, and July. The men in the 1st Maine saw no combat while defending the city. They were mustered out on August 5, but many were then assigned to the 10th Maine Infantry Regiment and sent back to the war.
- How could the lack of one person in a regiment cause such difficulty?
- If Maine’s military was under the direction of state government, why would the Secretary of War have to issue an order?