Arch D. Leavitt
July 17, 1863
Arch Leavitt was a 23 year-old teacher and a descendant of one of the earliest families to settle in the town of Turner. He was a graduate of Waterville (later Colby) College. He had wanted to enlist at the outbreak of the Civil War, but his family dissuaded him until he had been awarded his degree in 1862. Leavitt then raised a Company for the 16th Maine Infantry Regiment and was elected Captain. By January of 1863, he had been promoted to Major.
Leavitt had been sick in Washington when the battle at Gettysburg began on July 1, 1863. He had himself discharged from the hospital but reached Gettysburg too late to help his regiment.
The 16th Maine had been ordered to hold a rear guard position "at all costs" to cover the retreat of the rest of their Brigade. The Confederate forces overwhelmed the Maine regiment. By the time he arrived, Leavitt found himself the senior officer in command of the 69 men of the 16th Maine who were left, or who had straggled back.
Leavitt estimates in his July 17 report on the regiment’s losses in killed, wounded, missing, and captured. In the ensuing weeks, some captives escaped en route to prison, some were paroled, and some of the wounded subsequently died. The majority of those captured were transported to Libby Prison in Richmond.
"Col. Tilden is a prisoner," he writes. (See story of 2012-2-9, Tilden escape)
He returned to command of the 16th in March, 1864.
Leavitt had to deal with the issue of a pending promotion which had been disallowed by Colonel Tilden, General John Reynolds, and General Samuel Paul, because the candidate was not "sufficiently versed in military for the position" and "also from the fact of there being too many commissioned officers for the number of enlisted men."
He asks Maine Adjutant General John Hodsdon to advise him, saying "I now hold the commission and await further orders."
Leavitt also refers to the decision by the 16th Maine, seeing their dilemma and not wanting their flags to be captured by the onrushing Confederate soldiers. "The colors were torn in pieces to prevent capture," he writes.
The men tore the flags and hid the tatters in their pockets, hats, and shoes. The survivors of the 16th Maine carried the remnants in prison and in battle throughout the War.
Arch Leavitt died of wounds received at the Battle of Laurel Hill on May 31, 1864.
- Why would the men of the 16th Regiment and their descendants treasure and preserve the fragments of their flags?
- What is an allegory?