January 29, 1862
Hiram Favor, of Eastport worked as an expressman, delivering mail, packages and supplies in Washington County and occasionally in neighboring New Brunswick.
In a letter to Governor Israel Washburn in February, 1862, Favor proposes to deliver something different – seven Canadian men who want to volunteer to serve in the military.
Those seven were not alone. Winter in the Maritimes were always difficult, and the opportunity presented by the Civil War to their south was enticing. Favor informs Gov. Washburn that more men, asking similar questions, were "arriving here… every few days." In several instances, the men claim to have served in the British military or local militia.
Favor wonders formally to Gov. Washburn about whether the Canadians are eligible to serve?
If so, Favor asks whether the Maine government would "look after them" (pay for their food and lodging) while they enlisted, and before they were sent to Augusta?
The Governor soon responds that, yes, the men were eligible to serve and that Maine’s government would "take care of" them if they enlisted.
Gov. Washburn had to be diplomatic. Under the terms of the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1819, it was illegal to recruit soldiers for foreign causes in British territories.
Canada in 1861 was not its own country. It remained part of the British Empire and was ruled by the British Monarchy and Parliament. The men seeking Favor’s help to enlist in Eastport were technically considered British North Americans, not Canadians.
Despite the Foreign Enlistment law, some men were recruited on Canadian soil by American agents looking to fill recruitment quotas. Many Canadians volunteered on their own.
During the Civil War, approximately 3,000 British North Americans served in Maine regiments. Estimates for the entire Union army range from 40,000-50,000 men.
The United States welcomed volunteers from the neighboring provinces into the Union Army.
The reasons for joining varied. Some sought adventure, some wanted the bounty money, some wanted to escape a harsh climate, others had ideological reasons. Nearly all of them were welcome.
Favor’s letter to the Governor is an excellent example of the geographical closeness of Canada and the easy flow of people and ideas across the Canadian border with Maine.
- Why would the British not want Americans to recruit soldiers for the Civil War on Canadian soil?
- Can citizens of other countries serve in the United States Armed Forces today?
- Why might British North Americans (Canadians) have wanted to fight in the American Civil War?
- How are these reasons the same or different from Mainers' reasons for joining the Union army?