Charles H. Cobb
August 8, 1863
Ezekial M. Banks, 28, of Kenduskeag, enlisted as a private in the 16th Maine Infantry Regiment in August, 1862. With almost no chance to say goodbye to his wife and child, Banks was sent immediately to Maryland, where he marched with his regiment to the battles at South Mountain and Antietam. The Maine unit was late in reaching the fight at South Mountain, and was held in reserve at Antietam, so his first few months of duty were quiet.
The regiment's first exchange of gunfire, however, would be Banks' last. The 16th Maine was engaged in the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Banks was mortally wounded.
When word reached his widow, she decided that she could not stay in Kenduskeag. She moved to Danville, and notified the Board of Selectmen there that she needed help.
Specifically, she wanted money. And, according to a measure passed by the Maine Legislature in 1861, "An Act in aid of families of volunteers," as the widow of a Maine soldier killed in action, she was entitled to receive seventy-five cents per week for herself, and fifty cents per week for their child. Under the terms of the law, the payments would be made to her by the town of her residence for one year following her husband’s death.
Charles Cobb, a Selectman for her new town, wrote to Maine Adjutant General John Hodsdon to be certain that the Town was complying with the law.
"As stated to me the facts are these, his widow and one child have come to live in the Town of Danville and application has been made to me for State aid I wish you to inform me by letter whether I should be justified in furnishing the aid," Cobb writes.
The application was legal, and under the terms of the law, Danville would have to raise local taxes to pay the total of $65 in aid, and would then be reimbursed by the State.
Questions for further thought/research
- Why was the Board of Selectmen writing to the Adjutant General for authority to make the payments?
- What might have been some of the reasons for the Maine Legislature enacting this law?
- What might have been some of the reasons for the payments being stopped after one year?
- How do you think the Legislature decided the amount of the payments?