August 20, 1861
The summer of 1861 brought a little confusion and consternation to Augusta.
Somewhat unexpected by Governor Israel Washburn, the soldiers of Maine's 1st Infantry Regiment returned to the state after serving three months on guard duty outside Washington, D.C.
The regiment was comprised of 10 companies of Maine militia, and many of the men believed that they could only be called up to serve the federal government for 90 days.
Gov. Washburn, an attorney with a high regard for the language of contracts, disagreed. The enlistments in April and May of 1861 were for two years – not 90 days – and with a nation at war, he believed that the soldiers were to honor the terms of their enlistments.
The regiment, however, declined to stay in Washington beyond the 90 days of service, and the men returned to Maine. As an indication that their decision might be contrary to the Governor’s wishes, the men were dispersed to their homes without pay and without food.
Some soldiers went to Augusta to apply for a discharge. Gov. Washburn was unamused, telling one of them, "It's strange that a man who has received a bounty of $22 and served only three months of two years should be expected to be discharged. His excuse must be VERY good indeed."
The Governor expected the 1st Maine either to remain on duty in Washington, or to shovel dirt in Maine. Somewhat reluctantly, the men of the 1st Maine returned to war. Individually, by twos, by squads, and by companies, the soldiers made their way to Camp Preble, on Cape Elizabeth's racing grounds.
Once there, the regiment was not reassembled as the 1st Maine, but as the 10th Maine Infantry Regiment, and none of the regiment's original field officers was allowed to resume command.
As October began, the War Department called for the 10th Maine to return to Washington. The newly re-formed regiment – un-armed and otherwise ill-equipped – departed from Maine on October 6 under the command of Colonel George L. Beal, of Norway.
- Why would the governor be unhappy that the regiment returned to Maine?
- Why would he insist on changing the regiment from the 1st Maine to the 10th?
- Why would the field officers not be retained?