Charles P. Roberts
May 17, 1864
In the first months of the Civil War, Bangor Mayor Isaiah Stetson and the Bangor City Council were concerned about the readiness of the city’s young male students to meet their patriotic responsibilities on land or sea. Stetson and the Council directed the local school committee to institute military drill in the public school system.
The 1861 report of the Bangor School Committee states: "Early in December, upon the recommendation of his Honor the Major, the City Council instructed the School Committee to introduce the military drill into such public schools as might be deemed expedient."
As the program grew, Bangor School Superintendant, Charles P. Roberts, reported to Maine’s Adjutant General, John Hodsdon, that, "The boys of the High and Select Schools, under a City Ordinance, are just commencing military drill as a regular weekly exercise."
The boys formally drilled for two hours; an hour on Wednesday, and again on Saturday, at the city’s Gymnasium hall.
And Superintendent Roberts had a reason behind writing to Hodsdon.
In the early years of the program, the City did not supply the students with muskets with which to drill.
In May, 1864, Roberts wondered if the Adjutant General might order that musketoons then in the State’s possession at the Armory in Bangor be made available to the schoolboys.
Because of Bangor’s prominence as a river port, musketoons were plentiful in the inventory of military hardware stored in the Bangor Armory, even though the weapons had limited use. The guns featured short barrels, averaging about 30-40 centimeters in length. Musketoons were originally designed for use by seamen aboard ships, and for artillerymen working behind cannons, where the much longer barrel of a standard musket would have been impractical.
By 1864, with the advances in weaponry during the Civil War, especially the development of the highly accurate Spencer Repeating Rifles, musketoons became virtually obsolete.
In fact, musketoons were never issued to Maine troops for combat during the Civil War. Roberts, however, figured that the weapons could help the students.
He writes to Hodsdon about the musketoons, "The Arsenal keeper, Jere Maxwell, says there are about 40 of them which have been in use in the Provost Marshall’s Department, and which he is about to place in the Arsenal. Can the boys have the use of them, the City being responsible for them?"
Awaiting the Adjutant General’s reply, the Bangor students continued to train, and military drill became a fixture in the high school curriculum.
- What were the uses for the items listed in the Bangor Armory inventory?
- Why might other schools have not followed Bangor’s lead with military training?