With their opposition to slavery, the Republican Party took hold in Maine in 1856, following several years of reform movements, including temperance and anti-slavery. Maine politicians held high positions in Lincoln’s administration. Maine Senator Hannibal Hamlin was Lincoln’s first term vice-president, and Senator William Pitt Fessenden served as Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury in 1864. Maine remained a Republican stronghold throughout the Civil War, and the majority of Mainers remained staunch supporters of suppressing the rebellion in the Southern states.
In the first battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861, the troops of Maine bore an honorable and conspicuous part, and despite the reverse suffered by the Union Army of McDowell, won fame for themselves and glory for their state.
By the close of the year 1862, there had been sent into the field from the State of Maine, twenty-seven regiments of infantry, one regiment of cavalry, one regiment of heavy artillery, six batteries, and one company of sharpshooters, exceeding 30,000 men. These were all volunteer troops, and were distributed in Virginia on the Peninsula; southwest of Washington; at Port Royal, S.C.; Fernandina and Pensacola, FL.; and at New Orleans. In addition to the troops above mentioned, a considerable number were also recruited for regiments in the field, which had become depleted from active service.
The Civil War had a tremendous impact on the state’s maritime and agricultural economy. Prior to the war, Maine’s shipping industry faced rising prices and a general decline in cargo shipping. However, while foreign trade declined in other northern ports during the war, it nearly tripled in Maine because of its commercial ties with Canada. Many Maine commercial vessels were sunk by Confederate raiders during the war. Of the fifty-three vessels sunk by the CSS Alabama, eleven were from Maine. Federal cutters also captured several Maine vessels that tried to run the Southern blockade.
During the progress of the war the Confederates made increasing efforts to acquire a navy, and already several powerful vessels flying their flag were inflicting much damage upon Northern commerce. In the spring of 1863 rebel privateers appeared off the coast of Maine and attacked a number of vessels. On June 26, 1863, the crew of the Confederate bark Tacony, under the command of Lieut. Reade, entered Portland Harbor in the disguise of fishermen, on board a fishing schooner they had recently captured. After the capture of the schooner, their commander had transferred to her his crew and effects, and then burned the Tacony. The night after their unsuspected arrival in the harbor, they succeeded in capturing the United States revenue cutter, Caleb Cushing, an armed vessel, as she lay at anchor. Inquiry the next morning soon disclosed the method of her disappearance, and a volunteer fleet was sent in pursuit. Being a sailing vessel, the cutter was soon overhauled in the outer harbor. After a brief resistance, the Confederates set the cutter on fire and took to their boats in an attempt to reach the fishing schooner. The magazine of the cutter was stored with 400 pounds of powder, which exploded at 2 p.m. with terrific force, in full view of thousands of citizens who were watching the proceedings from vantage points on the shore. The daring Confederates, 23 in number, were captured before they could reach the schooner, and proved to be from the man-of-war, Florida. Their leader held a regular commission from the Confederate government and they could not, therefore, be adjudged pirates. After a short confinement at Fort Preble, they were exchanged.
During the year 1864, Maine contributed to the military and naval service of the country an aggregate of 18,904 men, of whom 3,380 were enlisted under the call of Oct., 1863, and 3,525 were veteran soldiers, who reenlisted. Enlistments for the navy numbered 1,846.
By the close of 1864, the state had furnished for the military and naval service more than 61,000 men, a number nearly equal to one-tenth of her whole population.
Soon after the capitulation of General Lee, April 1865, the Maine troops began to return home to their families and friends. The regiments returned, sunburned, ragged and worn, sacred for their losses and crowned with honor. Many flags had been captured, but not one had been lost, by the gallant sons of Maine. The troops furnished by Maine to the Union army during the progress of the war comprised two regiments of cavalry; one regiment of heavy artillery; three companies of garrison artillery; one battalion of seven batteries of light artillery; one battalion of six companies of sharpshooters; thirty regiments and sixteen companies of infantry, inclusive of the coastguard battalion of seven companies, a total of 72,114; or, reduced to a three years standard, 56,776. In addition to the above, the state was credited with a total of 6,750 men in the navy and marine corps, and also furnished about 800 men for the 1st D.C. cavalry, an independent organization under the command of Col. L. C. Baker. It will thus be seen that Maine contributed considerably more than one-tenth of her 'total population' to the service of the nation.
Of the numbers above given, according to The Union Army, 1908, Maine suffered 2,801 in killed or died of wounds, 4,521 died of disease; and 6,642 were mustered out for disabilities resulting from casualties occurring in service or from sickness. According to Frederick H. Dyer,
A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, 1908, during the course of the Civil War, Maine suffered a total of 9393 deaths: 3,184 in killed and mortally wounded; 5,257 died from disease; 541 died as prisoners-of-war; 118 died from accidents; 298 died from causes other than battle. See also Maine in the American Civil War (1861-1865).