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Lt. Charles Bridges, 80th Colored Troops

Charles Bridges, Castine, ca. 1864

Charles Bridges, Castine, ca. 1864

Item 67295 info
Maine State Archives

All told, 180,000 blacks from both the North and the South served in the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. Charles Bridges was one of some 7,000 whites who served as their officers.

Bridges' career spans the whole length of the Civil War, and provides snapshots as it gradually changed. Bridges was there as enlistments of 90 days gave way to those of two and three years, as a war that was meant to end in the summer of 1861 dragged on for four years, and as the United States government took increasingly determined steps towards ending slavery.

Bridges transferred soon after the beginning of black enlistment – a moment that did not herald true equality, as evidenced by discriminatory allocation of duty and unequal pay.

Bridges served for more than four years, roughly splitting his time between Virginia and Louisiana. Yet, particularly in the 2nd Maine but even to some extent in the 80th USCT, his home community was reconstituted in the men with whom he served.

The men of Company B, 2nd Maine, the "Castine Light Infantry," mostly lived within 25 miles of the namesake town. After he transferred to the USCT, Bridges served with his friend William S. Mudgett, and it was probably through Maine connections that they received their appointments.

If not for the intervention of Colonel Woodman, their friend John C. Phinney would likely have joined them as well.

With little remaining that attests to Bridges' personal experience, it is the persistence of these personal and community ties, even at great distance from Penobscot Bay, that is most prominent.

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