Thomas A. Roberts
July 24, 1861
In July of 1861, Thomas A. Roberts, was the captain of a local militia company in Portland.
Roberts had learned that at the beginning of August, the 1st Maine Infantry regiment was due to return from its three months of volunteer service for the Union army.
Acting on his authority as a local officer, Roberts writes to Maine’s Adjutant General, John Hodsdon.
"The vast number of the military of Portland propose to form an escort for the First Regt" to welcome them home and honor them, Roberts writes.
However, from Roberts’ perspective, it is difficult to serve as a military escort without having any weapons – regardless of whether those weapons work.
With the State in charge of military affairs, Roberts asks Hodsdon to borrow from the arsenal a number of old muskets, and he promises that the local government will be responsible for the safe return of the weapons.
According to a note on the bottom of the letter, written in a different penmanship from Roberts’, "Answered. Consenting."
Roberts’ request was fulfilled.
The 1st Maine Infantry Regiment mustered out in Portland on August 5, 1861, with an armed escort of local militia present. Because of confusion about how long the men were supposed to serve, many were ordered by Governor Israel Washburn to remain in the military and to reform as Maine’s 10th Infantry Regiment.
Militia Company Captain Thomas A. Roberts was not among them. He would volunteer in 1862, received an officer’s appointment by the Governor, and served in the Union Army as Colonel of the 17th Maine Infantry Regiment. He was discharged due to disability on June 3, 1863.
Questions for further thought/research:
- What is a local militia and how is it different from the 1st Maine regiment?
- The 1st Maine was called to serve only 3 months. Later regiments were enlisted for longer periods of service. What does this imply about the perceptions of the duration of the war?