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Lt. Charles A. Garcelon, 16th Maine

This slideshow contains 9 items
1
C.A. Garcelon to aunt, Maryland, 1862

C.A. Garcelon to aunt, Maryland, 1862

Item 66037 info
Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

Charles Augustus Garcelon was three months shy of his 20th birthday when he enlisted as a 2nd lieutenant in Co. I of the 16th Maine Infantry Regiment on August 14, 1862.

Like a number of young men who heeded Lincoln's call for soldiers to stop the Southern rebellion, Garcelon enlisted with others he knew -- the company having been formed in his hometown of Lewiston.

Also like some others, Garcelon enlisted with an older relative. He and his maternal uncle, William Waldron, formed the regiment.

In the earliest surviving letter after the 16th Maine reached Maryland, Garcelon wrote to Waldron's wife, Jane, on Sept. 13, 1863, reporting that he and William Waldron were in good health.

He also was impressed with the size of the Union army that he saw on the roads around Washington, D.C.

The prospect of battle was not far from his mind. He told his Aunt Jane: "I must tell you how I feel in respect to going into battle. I feel as though I should stand my ground and I feel as though it will be my luck to lose either a leg or an arm."

Garcelon's father, a physician and Maine's Surgeon General during the war, had been in the area, no doubt visiting surgeons in various Maine regiments.

Charles Garcelon was hopeful that, if he were injured in a battle, his father would be nearby to tend to his wounds.


2
C.A. Garcelon from near Sharpsburg, 1862

C.A. Garcelon from near Sharpsburg, 1862

Item 66038 info
Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

After marching from outside Washington to Sharpsburg, Maryland, Garcelon wrote to his aunt on Sept. 26, 1862 of his disappointment in seeing drunken officers.

Most regimental officers received their commissions because of their status in their communities or their political or business ties. Some became good soldiers and inspiring leaders; other did not.

Garcelon described marching over a battlefield and having "seen trees all split and shattered by the cannon ball ... I have seen the graves of soldiers side by side and have thought how any homes are made desolate by one conflict ..."

He may have seen the results of the first Battle of Antietam, that was fought Sept. 17, 1862, only a week earlier.


3
Charles Garcelon to father, Virginia, 1862

Charles Garcelon to father, Virginia, 1862

Item 66036 info
Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

On Nov. 10, 1862, the 16th Maine still had not been in a battle, but Lt. Charles Garcelon reflected, as he had in a letter several months earlier, about war and his role in it.

Writing to his father, Garcelon said, "If ever I do get in battle I will try to sustain the Garcelon name."

He added, "I cannot think war in general is right, but this war is for the protection of our glorious Country and I feel as though I can fight for it."

He also reported to his father about the poor conditions in camp: men without overcoats, sleeping on the ground, and most having only one shirt and one pair of stockings.

He closed, "Trusting we may meet again when this wicked war is brought to a close."


4
Charles Garcelon to Maggie Haskell, Virginia, 1862

Charles Garcelon to Maggie Haskell, Virginia, 1862

Item 66039 info
Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

Garcelon thought about more than war. In a letter to Maggie Haskell of Lewiston on Dec. 1, 1862, he asked for news of his siblings and whether they needed anything.

His mother, Ann Waldron Garcelon, had died in 1857, leaving behind several young children. In 1859, Charles' father, Alonzo, married Olivia Nelson Spear.

Charles answered a question Maggie had posed about his Sunday activities. "I don't know when it is Sunday until it has passed half the time," he wrote.

He assured Maggie, however, that "I don't forget my God. I strive to live so that if I should be called away I shall be ready to go."


5
Charles Garcelon to aunt on friends, family, Virginia, 1863

Charles Garcelon to aunt on friends, family, Virginia, 1863

Item 66040 info
Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

By his letter of Feb. 2, 1863, Charles Garcelon seemed to have become acclimated to the soldier's life.

He told his aunt that if her husband, William Waldon, also serving in the 16th Maine, did not get promoted to major, he should resign.

Garcelon also was pleased with the news that his grandfather had "put up cabbage heads to send out here," adding, "If he would send me out some butter, butter, butter, it would be very acceptable."


6
C.A. Garcelon from Gettysburg, 1863

C.A. Garcelon from Gettysburg, 1863

Item 66024 info
Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

Garcelon's war experience changed on July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The 16th Maine to which he and his uncle William Waldron belonged was among the divisions of the 1st Corps of the Army of the Potomac that had been trying to hold off a Confederate assault on the town of Gettysburg.

The 16th Maine was ordered to hold a position that would allow other troops to withdraw. They held for some time, then surrendered.

Garcelon wrote to his aunt that members of the regiment had been taken prisoner and that her husband, Capt. William Waldron, had been wounded in the neck.

"Don't worry about Uncle I think he will get along quite well," Garcelon wrote.

He also wrote that the "disaster" on July 1 was caused by "the disgraceful conduct on the eleventh corps they were on the right of our Corps, they broke and let the enemy in our rear so that we were compelled to fall back ..."



7
C.A. Garcelon on promotion issues, Virginia, 1863

C.A. Garcelon on promotion issues, Virginia, 1863

Item 66025 info
Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

By October 27, 1863, Garcelon had been in the army more than a year, had experienced battle, and was strategizing for the best way to get promoted, without starting another three-year enlistment.

Garcelon wrote to Capt. William Garcelon, his uncle who had been injured at Gettysburg and was recuperating, probably at a hospital in Annapolis, sharing his thoughts about promotion and news about relatives and friends.

Garcelon was serving with the Ambulance Corps, where his colonel recommended he stay rather than returning to the 16th Regiment, "for he thought I should not be able to stand the marching and fatigues."


8
Charles Garcelon to uncle on finances, Virginia, 1863

Charles Garcelon to uncle on finances, Virginia, 1863

Item 66026 info
Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

On December 10, 1863, Garcelon again wrote to his uncle William, focusing entirely on financial issues.

He reported on how much he had in the bank, what he had loaned to another soldier, and what family members had done to take care of his funds.

He does not mention the war.


9
Charles Garcelon to Jane Waldron, ca. 1863

Charles Garcelon to Jane Waldron, ca. 1863

Item 66027 info
Edmund S. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

In a letter that appears to have been written in December 1863 to his aunt Jane Waldron, Charles Garcelon comments that he has not hear from his father, Maine Surgeon General Alonzo Garcelon, for some time.

"I suppose he is to busy to answer my letters," Charles muses. He then adds, "I wonder if he remembers the memorable event it seems to me every body should remember that I am 21."

Garcelon's birthday, November 14, was spent, he said, at Rappahannock Station, Virginia.

It is the final letter in this collection.

Garcelon remained in the army until May 1866. On June 30, 1864, he was promoted to full captain in the U.S. Volunteers Quartermaster's Dept. Infantry Regiment.


This slideshow contains 9 items