Frank W. Haskell
May 31, 1862
Of the men of the Kennebec River valley who enlisted in the 3rd Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Frank Haskell, 18, of Benton, was one of the youngest, but he showed a flair for leadership.
Mustered into the army in June of 1861, Haskell and the 3rd Maine soon found themselves in combat, first at the First Battle of Bull Run, on July 21, and then at Bailey’s Cross Roads, in Virginia, on August 28.
Haskell entered the army as a private, but by the time the Union Army began its Peninsula Campaign in the spring of 1862, Haskell had been promoted to the highest possible enlisted rank, Sergeant Major.
His regiment fought again at Yorktown, Virginia, in April, and then at Williamsburg in early May. At the end of that month, Confederate General Joseph Johnston believed that his army had the advantage against Union forces at Fair Oaks Station (also known as Seven Pines), Virginia.
As he sent his soldiers forward, the Union army responded.
When the battle began, two Union colonels could not see everything when their forces attacked.
Henry Staples, of Augusta and the 3rd Maine Volunteer Regiment, and Thomas Egan, of the 40th New York Regiment, could see that their troops were performing well, and that they were stopping the advance of the Confederate’s 8th Alabama battalion.
They also saw Frank Haskell.
A member of Company G, of the 3rd Maine, Haskell was ahead of his Company, yelling encouragement, directing the men around him on where to attack.
Staples and Egan would write to Maine Gov. Israel Washburn a week later of Haskell’s "gallant and meritorious" conduct, and they informed Washburn that it was not just their opinion, that the entire regiment was "full of praise and admiration" for Haskell.
His effort had come at a cost.
The 3rd Maine lost 83 men – 8 killed, 73 wounded, and three missing – most of them from the fighting in Haskell’s area.
The battle itself settled little, but it cemented an impression of leadership and courage under fire. Haskell would continue his service, eventually being appointed adjutant of the 19th Maine regiment, a position of trust and responsibility.
- Sgt. Major Haskell’s story is interesting because he is applauded for "cheering on the men." Haskell understood the importance of keeping up morale and encouraging the men during the battle. Why is high morale important to maintain among soldiers?
- Sgt. Major Haskell went from being a private to a Sgt. Major, passing over the ranks of corporal, corporal captain and sergeant. He then served as adjutant of the 19th Maine. Skipping of ranks is not unusual in the Civil War. Why might that be?