Rebels at the Door
The war came to Maine shores a number of times.
One of those time was July 18, 1864 when Capt. William Collins and two other Confederates attempted to rob the Calais.
Warned of the raid – in part due to a tip from Collins' brother in York – guards quickly seized the three men who entered the bank.
A much larger group of Confederates had plans, now foiled, to free Confederate prisoners held in the north, hurt Northern morale, and burn Calais and perhaps more of Maine.
The three were tried, convicted, and sent to prison in Thomaston. Collins escaped 36 days later and made his way back to New Brunswick, where his parents lived.
In his prison cell, he left behind a flag from the 15th Mississippi Regiment, where he had been a scout. His brother, the Rev. John Collins, claimed the flag and donated it to Maine Historical Society in 1910.
A year earlier, the Battle of Portland Harbor both excited and scared residents.
The revenue cutter Caleb Cushing, with only a small crew on board, sat at dock in Portland on June 26, 1863.
A Confederate raiding party in a fishing vessel they had captured earlier in Southport slipped into Portland Harbor, boarded the Caleb Cushing, and subdued the crew.
They sailed out again, taking both the captured fishing boat and the Caleb Cushing, with the crew in handcuffs.
Early in the morning, the raid was discovered. Soldiers from the 7th and 17th Maine regiments, along with a number of Portland residents, including Customs Collector Jedediah Jewett, gave chase aboard the steamers Forest City and Chesapeake.
A brief battle ensued.
The raiders could not find the hidden weapon stores that were aboard the revenue cutter and none of the captured crew would reveal the location.
The chronometer is from the Archer, a fishing schooner out of Southport that had been captured by the Confederate pirates and sailed to Portland Harbor.
Realizing they could not get away, the Confederate raiders put their captives on board one lifeboat and boarded another themselves, setting fire to the Caleb Cushing as they left.
After the ship exploded, a number of private boats moved close to the scene, and their occupants picked up debris as souvenirs.
An excited City of Portland soon celebrated the thwarting of Confederate plans on local waters.
Harrison B. Brown drawing of 'Caleb Cushing,' Portland, ca. 1863
Item 96870 info
Maine Historical Society
Portland artist Harrison Bird Brown drew the revenue cutter Caleb Cushing exploding in Portland Harbor, one of many images created of the event that a newspaper account said threw Portland into "a state of excitement, bordering on consternation."
The frame is topped with a fragment of the Caleb Cushing.
In November 1863, Portland businessman Horatio N. Jose wrote, "At the present time Portland appears to be in a very prosperous condition. I think it never has increased so much in business & population in any one year as the present."
Textile mills produced cloth for clothing and tents, powder mills along the Presumpscot River were a major producer of Union gunpowder.
The Oriental Powder Mills on the Gambo Falls of the Presumpscot River in South Windham were major gunpowder producers for the war effort.
Mills began producing gunpowder along the falls as early as 1817 and continued until the early 20th century.
The Oriental Powder Mill Co. began in the 1850s. The manufacturing process was dangerous and explosions were common.
Brothers Nathan and Isaac Winslow and Newel A. Foster developed a method for safely canning food and tried, in the 1850s, to obtain a patent for their efforts.
The U.S. Patent Office didn't believe it was possible to can food.
Nevertheless, the Winslows and Foster persisted and some of their canned corn made its way to Union troops during the war.
J. B. Brown and Sons of Portland was one of the largest businesses in Maine before and during the Civil War. Its sugar refinery, built in 1845, imported molasses from the Caribbean – primarily Cuba – to fuel the lucrative sugar business.
As the war broke out, the company employed about 1,000 workers. The Sugar House was at the corner of York and Commercial Streets.
Two other sugar refineries also operated in the city. By the last decades of the nineteenth century, the sugar processing business ceased to be profitable, due primarily to changes in shipping and to competition.
The Portland Company stepped up production of marine engines and railroad locomotives, and lumber production recovered from a decline early in the war.
A Farmington Falls company had a contract with the state to provide drums for Maine regiments.
As in other parts of the North, numerous businesses profited from wartime commerce, even as others suffered.
Providing aid and support for soldiers and their families also consumed many during the four years of the war.
Most towns had women's relief organizations that collected money, clothing, and supplies for soldiers and hospitals, and that sometimes provided nurses at the front and at military hospitals.
The Maine Camp Hospital Association reported that in February 1864, it had received: "25 blankets and 70 caps from Bridgton Centre; one quilt, 15 pairs of stockings, 7 shirts from Union Falls, Buxton; 7 pairs stockings, 10 pairs mittens, 6 bottles of blueberries and ketchup, 1 keg of pickles from Hollis" as well as monetary donations.
A group of 14 people met on Nov. 17, 1862 at the home of Customs Collector Jedediah Jewett in Portland and formed the Maine Camp Hospital Association to assist Maine soldiers in the Army of the Potomac.
The organization had its genesis in the Free Street Baptist Society's Ladies Committee.
The group, which continued throughout the war, sent supplies and nurses to the Washington, D.C., area.
Many of the physical needs of soldiers – as well as other types of support – came from women at home.
Women in Maine, as elsewhere, collected "lint," scraps of linen and other cloth, to send to military hospitals during the war.
The paper surrounding the linen remnant reads, "Linen used during Rebellion 1861-65 brought from Washington by 'Florence Perry' (i.e. Elizabeth Anne Chase Akers Allen)."
The linen was saved inside the paper cover. Akers Allen, a native of Strong, had worked as a clerk in Washington during the war and wrote poetry, including “Rock Me to Sleep,” which was quite popular during the war.
Women in Stillwater planned an event for men who had volunteered as soldiers "to give them words of cheer and encouragement."
The meeting was held on April 27, 1861, about two weeks after the attack on Fort Sumter began the Civil War.
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