John A. Poor
December 28, 1861
Concerned that Maine’s lengthy coast on 1861 was vulnerable to attack or invasion, Governor Israel Washburn commissioned three prominent Maine men to approach Congress and the Lincoln Administration for federal help.
The Governor asked his acquaintance, Hannibal Hamlin, to serve. Hamlin, now Vice President, agreed and allowed as how would be in Washington, anyway.
Washburn also asked former U.S. Senator Reuel Williams, of Augusta, to help. The Governor rightly figured that Williams’ work as chairman of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs would help Maine’s cause, despite the fact that Williams, at 78, was frail.
The third member of the team was John A. Poor, of Bangor, and Portland. A lawyer, newspaper editor, and businessman, Poor was instrumental in developing a railroad system in Maine and was considered an energetic visionary.
The three traveled to Washington in late 1861 to press Maine’s case. (See October 23, 1861, story of Gov. Israel Washburn.)
"We have felt it our duty to remind the Secretary of War of the urgency of our necessities and of your request. We have also advised the Commanding General of the extreme urgency of the case," Poor writes to Gov. Washburn.
Worried about possible Confederate raids or, worse, action by the English or French navies that were anchored at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Poor, Williams, and Hamlin wanted to speed the process to have large cannon manufactured and installed at Maine’s key ports and forts.
"The urgency of your appeals for immediate action, under dates of the 16th and 17th inst., moved Gen. Ripley to put forth extraordinary efforts for the temporary defence of Maine," Poor informs the Governor.
As he had advised Washburn about the possible use of the railroad to move troops from Portland into the nation’s interior, Poor realizes that the prospect bothers more than the men from Maine.
"That a profound interest is awakened to the importance of the defence of Maine, is fully shown by the earnestness of the delegation in Congress, and the zeal shown by the citizens of Portland, whose mayor has officially visited Washington to urge upon the Administration and upon Congress the plans of defence you have had the honor to propose," Poor reports.
The Commission meets with Congressional success. Funds were allocated to produce and install the recommended weapons in the forts. Some of the work was completed. Most was not. The English and French threat diminished, and the cannon were needed at the war front more than on the coast of Maine.
- Why would Maine worry about the French and British navies?
- What would be the key factors in identifying which harbors to defend?