June 2, 1864
George Bartlett graduated from Bowdoin College and the Harvard Divinity School. In addition to his scholarly and religious temperament, Bartlett has a taste for adventure. Before entering the ministry, he goes west to seek his fortune in the California Gold Rush. He returns home penniless.
By 1861, the Litchfield native is serving as Pastor of Augusta’s First Unitarian Parish.
When the Civil War breaks out, the 34 year-old Bartlett volunteered to serve in Maine’s military. He was commissioned as Chaplain of the 14th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment.
Bartlett accompanied the regiment to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, early in 1862. Not content to remain in camp as a non-combatant, he attached himself as a "volunteer aide" to the 14th Maine’s Colonel, Frank Nickerson, of Searsport.
Bartlett was thus a close eyewitness to the 14th Maine’s part in the Battle of Baton Rouge on August 16, 1862. In a letter, he describes the engagement as a "neat little battle." (See story: "Fighting Minister at Baton Rouge" 1862-8-16).
Later, stricken with malaria, Bartlett resigns his commission, returning home in February, 1863.
Less than a year later, Bartlett – now a civilian, allows himself to be drafted into the Army, but he is rejected for disability. He then tries to volunteer as a line officer and is again rejected. He finally is able to obtain another Chaplain’s commission, this time in the 1st Maine Cavalry, in February, 1864.
During one Cavalry fight, Chaplain Bartlett reportedly takes command of the Regiment when all of the line officers have been wounded or killed. Edward P. Tobey, in his "History of the First Maine Cavalry" calls Bartlett the Regiment’s "fighting Chaplain."
At Cold Harbor on June 2, 1864, George Bartlett is hit in the chest by a shell and killed instantly.
Maine Adjutant General John Hodson eulogizes Chaplain Bartlett in his Annual Report, 1864-1865. In part it reads, [Bartlett] "never shared in anything petty, envious or troublesome. He overcame obstinacy and bad temper by his undisturbed good nature … and he uplifted the despairing and melancholy heart, not by commiseration, but with an unaffected buoyancy."
- What were the duties of an Army Chaplain?
- Was Bartlett’s active participation in battles typical of chaplains?
- Were there any other so-called "Fighting Chaplains" in either the Union or Confederate Armies?