Patriotism Shared

Civil War post office scroll, 1862-1864

Civil War post office scroll, 1862-1864

Item Contributed by
North Yarmouth Historical Society

Post office clerks began collecting strong red, white, and blue string, rolling it onto a ball and passing it on to the next post office to express their support for the Union effort in the Civil War. Accompanying the ball was this paper scroll on which the clerks wrote messages and sometimes drew images.

The Patriotic Ball no longer exists.

Jack Bachelder, a clerk in the Utica, N.Y., post office, began the ball and scroll on April 17, 1862. He wrote, "Keep the 'Union Ball' in motion till the war closes."

In Worcester, Massachusetts, the clerk wrote, "Let it go the rounds and blow for the union."

In Salem, Massachusetts, the message referenced the city's history: "Witch keeps the ball in motion. Portsmouth boys please pass it along."

The ball then passed through various New Hampshire communities before arriving in Maine. On May 5, the South Berwick clerk added, "Patria cara carios viberitas sic semper tyranious" and "Pass it on for Rebellion is near at end."

The ball passed up the coast of Maine. One entry from Bath is written in the form of a poem:

Roll on "Union Ball." We welcome you here
For Bath is still loyal and true
Her sons -- now in "Dixie" -- all strangers to fear
Are giving the Rebels their due.

Roll on Union Ball. Increasing in size
May you travel o'er land and o'er sea
And soon may this heartcheering anthem arise
Our Country! Our Country is FREE

Many more poems followed as the ball went to Gardiner, Hallowell, Skowhegan, Waterville, Bangor, Dexter, Dover-Foxcroft, Ellsworth, Narraguagus, Columbia, Machias, and through Aroostook County.

In Littleton, on July 4, 1863, Post Master Lewis DelLatte Jr. wrote, "Monticello give the Union Ball another Stripe & let it push along. Keep Moving." The Monticello Postmaster, E. Stackpole, responded on July 10, "The Union must be preserved."

David Ross, the postmaster in Fort Fairfield wrote three poems on his stretch of the scroll. They are entitled "Union Ball," "Yankee" and "The Union."

In Lincoln, Postmaster D.S. Plumly wrote, "If the Emperior of France refuses to yield his foot hold on The Southern peninsula of North America We may conclude to examine the settlement: he has been making with Neighbors in Mexico and find a just cause for complaint, and if so, we can and will take possession of that country. Jeff Davis & Co are criminals of the darkest dye having forfeited all rights and protection under this Government And will die the death of the ungodly."

The final entry is dated Jan. 29 [1864] from A. Swetland, postmaster at Rockport. He wrote a short entry entitled "The Symbolic Stone."

May it roll untill becomes a
Mountain and fills the whole earth.