Portland cemetery tour to explore Civil War history

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 2

PORTLAND — A special tour of Evergreen Cemetery on Saturday will explore Maine’s connections to the Civil War.

The 10:30 a.m. tour July 28 is free and open to the public, but donations are encouraged. The event is a joint venture of the Friends of Evergreen Cemetery and the Joshua L. Chamberlain Civil War Roundtable in Brunswick. Attendees should meet at the Stevens Avenue cemetery’s Wilde Memorial Chapel.

Evergreen, founded in 1854, is a national historic landmark. It was designed by Charles H. Howe “as a rural landscape with winding carriage paths, ponds, footbridges, gardens, a chapel, funerary art, and sculpture,” according to the city website.

The cemetery, which totals 239 acres, is the second largest publicly owned open space in the city. It also attracts bird watchers, dog walkers and bicyclists, and is also known as a perfect spot to enjoy fall foliage.

The Friends of Evergreen Cemetery also offer several Civil War-themed tours throughout the summer and fall. The friends group was founded in 1991 with a mission of preserving and protecting the cemetery.

Among the group’s accomplishments, according to its website, are a master plan, the creation of a variety of educational programs, restoration of the Wilde Memorial Chapel, and planting projects.

The Joshua L. Chamberlain Civil War Round Table, was founded as a forum for those interested in learning about and discussing the ideas and events that were part of the Civil War, according to its Facebook page.

Chamberlain is one of Maine’s most well-known Civil War heroes.

He was a professor at Bowdoin College who enlisted in the Union Army. His first commission was as lieutenant colonel of the newly raised 20th Maine Infantry.

The 20th Maine is often credited with turning the tide at the battle of Gettysburg. Following that victory, Chamberlain was called the “Lion of Little Round Top.”

He also earned the Medal of Honor for “daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults,” according to the National Park Service.

Presenters at this weekend’s tour of Evergreen Cemetery include James E. Dufresne, director of The Maine Masonic Civil War Library & Museum, and local historian Herb Adams.

Lin Brown, a Civil War docent at Evergreen, said the cemetery houses the graves of 1,400 veterans from several wars, and the friends group “has done much research regarding Civil War veterans buried at Evergreen.”

Brown said that with the help of a grant from the Maine Historical Society and the Maine Humanities Council several years ago, “we have added 400 names to the original Evergreen list of Civil War veterans.”

Among the Civil War heroes buried at Evergreen are two Congressional Medal of Honor winners.

One of them is Charles Porter Mattocks, who was a major in the 17th Maine, which also played a role in the victory at Gettysburg. Brown said Mattocks received the medal  for displaying “extraordinary gallantry in leading a charge of his regiment, which resulted in the capture of a large number of prisoners and a stand of colors.”

The other medal of honor winner buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Brown said, is Sidney Warren Thaxter, who was a major in the 1st Maine Cavalry.

The 1st Maine suffered the heaviest losses of any Union cavalry regiment during the war, according to the Maine Historical Society. It was mustered in Augusta in November 1861 and consisted of 12 companies.

In addition to taking part at Gettysburg, the 1st Maine also fought in 28 other battles, including the second battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Fredericksburg.

Brown said Thaxter earned his medal of honor for “voluntarily remain(ing) and participat(ing) in the (battle of Hatchers Run, Virginia,) with conspicuous gallantry, although his term of service had expired and he had been ordered home.”

Other points of interest at Evergreen Cemetery include a Civil War Monument, erected in 1895 by the Cleaves Family to commemorate those who fought and died.

Brown said he hopes that tour attendees on Saturday will “see that Maine played a considerable role” in the conflict.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Evergreen Cemetery on Stevens Avenue in Portland on Saturday, July 28, will be the site of a special tour dedicated to Maine’s Civil War history.

The Libby brothers, buried side by side in Portland’s Evergreen Cemetery, both served in the Civil War.

2