The Courier
Volume 34, No. 2 (2010)

Bethel in the War of the Rebellion

by William B. Lapham

[The following lightly edited text is taken from the History of Bethel, Formerly Sudbury Canada, Oxford County, Maine 1768-1890, compiled by William B. Lapham and published in 1891 by the Press of the Maine Farmer.  Please note that the Civil War enlistment and service records listed here (and omitted from the print version of The Courier article cited above) have not been checked against information in other sources.]

When in eighteen hundred and sixty-one the war of the rebellion broke out, Bethel in common with other towns in the County had no military organization.  There was only one military company in the County and that the Norway Light Infantry.  But Bethel was loyal to the government, and in the impending crisis, was prepared to do her whole duty.  When President Lincoln called for seventy-five thousand volunteers to protect the National Capitol, Maine was asked to furnish one regiment and Oxford County one company.  The Norway company at once volunteered, and asked for men to fill up the ranks.  There was no necessity for repeating the call, or of urging men to enlist, for they at once began to pour in and it would have been an easy matter to have filled up several companies.  Only a few could be taken from Bethel, but eight persons enlisted and went to take their places in the ranks of the Norway Light Infantry.  Their names were Solon Robertson, Alfred M. True, Ai E. Seavey, Charles Stearns, Edward Stearns, H. Dolloff, Adelbert Grover and Timothy M. Bean.  The first call was for three months’ men, and the Bethel recruits served their term and most, if not all of them, re-enlisted.
   A second call speedily followed the first, this time for three hundred thousand men for three years.  Under date of May third [1861], the Bethel Courier stated that the military ardor of the people of the town was aroused, and that about forty men had enlisted, and that a company would be organized the following day.  In the same editorial article it was stated that a company had been raised at Bryant’s Pond [Woodstock] by Dr. [William B.] Lapham.  In its issue of May tenth, the Courier stated that the company recruited by Clark S. Edwards, known as the Bethel Rifle Guards, was organized on the Saturday previous (May fourth) by the choice of the following officers: Captain, Clark S. Edwards; First Lieutenant, John B. Walker; Second Lieutenant, Cyrus M. Wormell.  Major, now United States Senator, Frye of General Virgin’s staff was present at the organization, and made a very eloquent and patriotic speech.  On the following day the company attended at the Congregational Church, where a sermon appropriate to the occasion was preached by Rev. John B. Wheelwright.  In the afternoon they attended at the Universalist Church, where a very able and eloquent discourse was delivered by the pastor, Rev. Absalom G. Gaines, a native of Kentucky.  In the evening they went to the Methodist Church, where they were addressed by Messrs. Blackman, Gaines, Wheelwright, Dr. [Nathaniel T.] True and [Deacon] George W. Chapman.
   The roster of the company as printed in the Courier was as follows: Clark S. Edwards, Captain; John B. Walker, First Lieutenant; Cyrus M. Wormell, second Lieutenant; Daniel W. Sanborn, Orderly Sergeant.  Sergeants: Charles C. Barker, Benjamin Freeman, Simeon W. Sanborn, Sullivan R. Hutchins, Washington F. Brown, Emery G. Young, Peter G. Knapp, James L. Parker.  Asa P. Knight, Clerk.  Privates: Henry F. Barker, Stillman N. Littlehale, William R. Harper, James H. Bowker, Charles Dunham, Oren S. Brown, Joseph B. Hammond, John A. Bent, Charles R. Bartlett, Willoughby R. York, George E. Small, M. C. Connor, Lorenzo Poor, Lorenzo D. Russell, Henry Vaillancourt, Levi W. Dolloff, James M. Everett, Joseph A. Twitchell, L. D. Wiley, David E. Andrews, E. C. Penley, Moses F. Kimball, Dustin A. Cook, Daniel Griffin, John W. Sanborn, Wm. H. Pingree, Asa D. Jordan, Oliver S. Lang, Stephen L. Ethridge, Lewis C. Beard, Edmund Merrill, Jr., Andrew J. Ayer, T. Spencer Peabody, Joseph U. Frye, Joseph L. Oliver, Wm. G. Capen, James Seavey, John E. Bean, Sidney T. Cross, David A. Edwards, Frank W. Ham, Samuel Gray, Jr., Elbridge G. McKeen, Washington B. Robertson, John A. Bryant, [Benjamin] C. Hicks, Charles Freeman, Henry F. Blanchard, Lafayette G. Goodnow, Charles M. Wentworth, Morrill S. Eastman, Albion Adams, Nelson Rice, Levi W. Towle, James C. Ayer, Stephen Burbank, Clement S. Heath, Sidney G. Wells, [and] Aaron F. Jackson.
   Lieutenant Joshua L. Sawyer came up from Portland to drill the company and prepare the men for active service.  Before joining the Fifth Maine Volunteers as Company I, quite a change was made in the rank and file, a number of those who had enlisted being dropped out, and others enlisted to take their places.  The Fifth Maine Volunteers joined the army of the Potomac in season to participate in the battle of Bull Run, and afterwards bore a conspicuous and highly creditable part in all the great battles in which the Army of the Potomac was engaged.  Captain [Clark S.] Edwards received rapid promotion, and was soon at the head of the regiment.  He was unflinching under fire, often led his men into action and achieved a brilliant record for conspicuous bravery.  Some of those who went out under his command soon returned, others served out their time, re-enlisted, and remained throughout the War, while some fell on the field of battle and others died of disease.  The Fifth was one of Maine's best regiments, and Company I was one of its best companies.
   Company I, Fifth Maine Volunteer Infantry was the only company organized in Bethel during the War, but several other companies were commanded by Bethel officers.  Gideon A. Hastings commanded Company A, Twelfth Maine; Abernethy Grover, Company H Thirteenth Maine; O’Neil W. Robinson, the Fourth Maine Battery; Adelbert B. Twitchell, the Seventh Maine Battery.
   The following list embraces Bethel men who held commissions in the volunteer service during the War: Clark S. Edwards, Abernethy Grover, Adelbert B. Twitchell, Harlan P. Brown, Melville C. Kimball, Cyrus M. Wormell, Gideon A. Hastings, O’Neil W. Robinson, Robbins B. Grover, Wm. H. H. Brown, John B. Walker, James C. Ayer, James C. Bartlett, John M. Freeman, Simeon W. Sanborn, John S. Chapman, [and] Joseph B. Hammond.
   The fires of patriotism which kindled in Bethel at the firing upon Fort Sumpter [sic] burned brightly through the entire War.  Every call for troops was promptly met, and Bethel soldiers took part in all the great battles of the Army of the Potomac and in the Department of the Gulf.  The organizations to which Bethel men chiefly belonged were the First, Tenth and Twenty-ninth Maine, the last two of which were reorganizations of the First, the Fifth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Twentieth and Twenty-third, all connected with the Army of the Potomac, and the Twelfth and Thirteenth which went to the Department of the Gulf; also to the Fourth, Fifth and Seventh light batteries connected with the Army of the Potomac.  The Twelfth and Thirteenth took part in the campaign of the Shenendoah [sic] under General Sheridan, and were in the sanguinary battles of Fisher's Hill and Cedar Creek in the autumn of eighteen hundred and sixty-four.  There were scattering Bethel men in other organizations, but the greater part of them were in the regiments and batteries here indicated.  Harlan P. Brown, who fell while bravely leading his men in the battle of Antietam, was an officer in the Seventh Maine Regiment.  Many natives of Bethel also served on the quotas of other states where they were residing when the War began, and others served in the navy.  It is believed that these two classes number at least half as many as those who went on the quota of the town.  The record of these soldiers is every way honorable, and such as to reflect credit upon themselves, their town, their State and country.  Many of those who went to the War never returned.  Some fell on the field of battle, and others died of disease contracted in the service.  Some occupy unknown graves, some repose in the National cemeteries, and in a few cases, their remains were brought home to mingle with the soil of their native town.  Every year, loving hands renew the pledge of remembrance and affection by decorating their graves with flowers, and their sacrifices in behalf of liberty, home and a united country will never be forgotten.
   It is hoped that the following list embraces the name of every soldier who enlisted from this town.  Great pains have been taken to render it complete, but in some cases the record of service could not be obtained.  The list is a long one and will be such a memorial of the public spirit, the patriotism and the devotion to duty of the people of Bethel as will be a source of gratification and pride to their posterity through all coming time.
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