March 20, 1861
William Tobey did the only thing that he could.
Even though he was the commanding officer of the Kittery Light Infantry, Company B militia, he could not order the men to rally to a cause.
Mere months before the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Tobey and the men of Kittery were aware of national tensions, but there was no local cause around which to rally.
Tobey also could not arrest the reluctant members of his Company. He had no police authority, and no one to whom he could turn to execute his orders.
Instead, at the end of December, 1860, Tobey had a militia
in name only, and its members did not want to be there.
Upon finishing his administrative responsibilities, Tobey writes to Adjutant General John Hodsdon that the Company has decided to disband.
Tobey informs Hodsdon that the issue is not desertion or mutiny, but, rather "the effect of gradual disinterestedness and neglect to maintain with efficiency the Company as it should be."
He also cautions the Adjutant General that trying to force the militia to remain active makes little sense.
"Unless when organized we can be soldier-like in all that relates to militia we had better not assume the name, under the form of organization," Tobey writes.
Months later, in compiling his first Annual Report, Hodsdon admits that "Maine (just prior to the beginning of the Civil War)was as little prepared to furnish troops for maintaining the integrity of the Union as it is possible to conceive."
Although each town was to maintain a militia for the purposes of common defense, threats from outside forces had long since passed, and many of the companies, according to Hodsdon, were "paper organizations …while their uniforms, equipments and camp equipage were of a character totally unfitted for service in the field."
- What were the purposes of state militias?
- What are some reasons a Maine militia unit would have fallen into "disinterestedness" and "neglect"?
- Did state militia units evolve into state national guard units? What are the differences, if any?
- What do you imagine General Hodsdon’s response to Commanding Officer Tobey would have been?