April 23, 1861
During the winter of 1861, Hiram Berry and his Rockland business partner, Elijah Walker, discussed the possibility of a civil war. Berry told Walker that if war came, he would put his business aside and defend the Union.
"He advised me to do the same, which. However, I then thought I could not do," Walker writes.
Walker was also serving as foreman of the Dirigo Engine Company, a collection of volunteer firemen. With war a topic of near constant discussion, the men "urged me, in case troops were called for, to lead them as their captain."
When word of Fort Sumter’s fall arrived in Rockland, the citizenry held a town meeting on April 23, 1861. The townspeople passed resolutions to support the government and to raise troops.
"I, for the first time, with those brave Dirigo boys, pledged my life and all for the defence of the nation," Walker writes afterward.
As for the 4th Maine Infantry Volunteer Regiment, Walker had no question who would lead them. Hiram Berry was a native son, had been elected to the Maine Legislature, and then chosen as Rockland’s mayor. Before the Civil War, Berry had helped recruit the Rockland Guards of the Maine militia and served as the unit’s commander. The company disbanded in the autumn of 1860 because of Rockland’s political opposition to hosting any military organization.
The 4th Maine was comprised of only three existing militia companies, the Artillery and City Grays, from Belfast, and the Light Infantry, from Brooks.
The other companies of the 4th Maine were raised from Knox, Hancock, and Lincoln counties. Elijah Walker led the Dirigo Engine Company. On June 17, the regiment left Rockland. The men were mindful of history, and knew that General Henry Knox, George Washington's artillery chief and close friend, was buried in the nearby Thomaston Cemetery. The 4th Maine left camp carrying a banner inscribed: "From the Home of Knox."
The regiment marched to a nearby wharf, where the steamboat Daniel Webster awaited to transport them to the war.
"The streets, windows, wharf and surrounding wharves were filled with weeping friends and interested spectators," Walker writes.
- Who was Henry Knox and why would the regiment have recalled him as they left for war?