January 30, 1863
Hannibal Belcher, of Farmington, wrote to newly elected Maine Governor, Abner Coburn, in January of 1863, asking for a favor.
Belcher, 43, a prominent Republican, wanted the Governor to promote another Farmington man, James Childs, from the rank of Sergeant in the 16th Maine Infantry Regiment to the rank of Lieutenant, "…In some Company in which there may be a vacancy."
Childs, 21, was already serving in Company G.
Coincidentally, Belcher’s nephew, Samuel, 23, and also of Farmington, was the Captain of Company G.
Captain Belcher's uncle does not mention the connection in his letter to the Governor.
Charles Alexander, the 16th Maine's Regimental Surgeon, was also from Farmington. He, too, wrote to Gov. Coburn on Childs’ behalf.
So did Ebenezer Childs, James' father.
The Governor received no letter from Captain Belcher, but he did not need one. The letter-writing campaign was sufficient without it.
Gov. Coburn appointed James U. Childs as First Lieutenant of Company H of the 16th Maine Regiment on February 23, 1863.
As Gov. Israel Washburn experienced before Gov. Coburn, commissioning and promoting officers in Maine regiments often resembled campaigns.
Maine eventually fielded 31 infantry regiments during the Civil War. Each regiment had 10 companies and each company had officers who needed appointments. Few officers were named without the governor having received written requests or endorsements. Consequently, letters, telegrams, and petitions to the governor arrived constantly.
Childs enjoyed his promotion and the small monthly raise in pay that came with it. In early May, he led a platoon from Company H at the battle of Chancellorsville.
Two months later, Lt. Childs was one of the 11 officers and 148 soldiers of the 16th Maine captured on the first day at the Battle of Gettysburg.
- What factors might a governor consider when appointing officers?
- Does Belcher’s letter suggest any traits that the governor would look for in a good officer?