As a lawyer, U.S. Attorney, son of a Maine Supreme Judicial Court judge, and a native of Maine who had lived in Saco, Bangor, and Portland, George F. Shepley was well known and well connected.
The Civil War disrupted an important part of Maine's economic activity: shipping, and especially the shipping of southern cotton.
Ship owners as well as others seeking to do business in the Union-occupied territories contacted Shepley, looking for introductions to be able to conduct business or looking for permission to load and unload cargo in Louisiana ports.
If the ship owner or captain, or the aspiring business person did not know Shepley, they often got a letter of introduction to him.
In November 1862, Abner B. Thompson, a Brunswick merchant, wrote introducing ship captain and merchant Henry W. Green of Topsham.
Thompson wrote, "He goes out in the ship "Genl Shepley" to New Orleans, with a view of engaging in some Mercantile affairs, should opportunity arise."
A month later, J. Parker Morse of Bath wrote a brief note introducing James Stetson, captain of the Gen Shepley and inviting Shepley to visit the ship named after him.
R. Morse & Sons of Bath built a series of ships named after Union generals. The General Butler and General Shepley were built in 1862, the General Grant in 1864 and the General Chamberlain in 1869.
This letter refers to a ship of a similar name, but calls it a "new ship." It is possible two ships were named for Shepley in 1862.
Shepley received innumerable letters of introduction or letters seeking help. This one, from J. A. Southard of Richmond introduced Capt. Edward Howe, who was taking Southard's ship Ellen Southard to New Orleans.
Southard sweetened the request, telling Shepley the captain would have a package on board "which he will send you if desirable."
Not all requests related to ships and shipping. Louisiana, disrupted by war, seemed fertile soil to some northerners.
Samuel J. Anderson, a lawyer in Portland who no doubt knew Shepley, wrote to recommend Horace M. Jordan of Westbrook, who had studied law in Anderson's office.
Anderson wrote that Jordan was visiting New Orleans and planned to relocate there. Jordan reportedly wanted to enter a law firm, go into business for himself, or work as a newspaper editor or reporter if the law was not a possibility.
Another probable acquaintance of Shepley, Bangor judge Edward Kent, wrote to introduce and recommend William S. Cochran of Rockland, listed in the 1860 census as a sail manufacturer.
Cochran wanted to explore going into business in New Orleans.
Cochran had connections; Samuel Cony, soon to be elected governor of Maine, also recommended him.
Louisiana also may have represented an opportunity for second chances.
Alfred J. Stone (1808-1873) of Brunswick wrote in October 1863 for help in securing a "position by which I can make some money."
He said he did not need to state that he had "failed," for that was well understood.
Stone, who had been the postmaster in Brunswick, wrote that he did not care what the business was -- he just needed to make money. He said his business acumen was as good as ever. Stone, like Shepley, was a Democrat.
In January of 1864, H. I. Libby of Portland wrote to introduce "Mr. Towle," brother-in-law of F.O.J. Smith, a well-known politician; and "Mr. Baxter."
The two men were on their way to New Orleans "hoping to make some money by raising cotton or in some other honest way."
Shepley's files do not contain remarks on the outcome of these requests for assistance.
This slideshow contains 8 items