Following the outbreak of hostilities between the north and south in April 1861, thousands of Maine men rushed to answer President Lincoln's call for troops. The Fifth Regiment Maine Volunteer Infantry was one of the first Maine regiments to be mustered in. The regiment consisted of 1046 men (another 500 joined later) from southern and central Maine. Three of the ten companies in the regiment were composed of men from Portland, thus earning the regiment the nickname the Forest City Regiment. (Portland was known as the Forest City). The men left Portland by train in July 1861, stopping briefly in New York where they were presented with a silk flag by Portlanders living in that area.
|List of Fifth Maine Battles|
Upon arriving in Washington, the regiment was assigned to the Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The Fifth fought in 22 battles from First Bull Run (Manassas) to Petersburg. During the battle of Rappahannock Station the regiment is credited with capturing 4 Confederate battle flags and 1200 prisoners (several of them officers).
The Fifth was known as one of Maine's fighting regiments. It captured more prisoners than the number of men who served in the regiment and three times the number of battle flags than any other Maine regiment captured. After three long years only 193 men were mustered out in July 1864. The rest had been killed in action, died from disease, wounded, deserted, or transferred to other regiments.
The men who served in the Fifth Maine came from all walks of life. Some were college educated. Others made their living as farmers and fishermen. Among them were Clark S. Edwards and Alonzo and Harry Stinson.
When news of the attack on Fort Sumpter reached the small town of Bethel, Maine, Clark S. Edwards was high on a ladder shingling his roof. He immediately climbed down, obtained permission from the appropriate authorities to form a company of men, and set out
to gather recruits from Bethel and the surrounding towns. This group became Company I, Fifth Regiment Maine Volunteer Infantry with Edwards as its Captain. He rose through the ranks and was appointed Colonel of the regiment following the resignation of Colonel E.A. Scammon in January 1863.
Following the war Col. Edwards, who had been breveted to Brigadier General for bravery in battle, returned to Bethel to engage in farming. In 1898 he was appointed Maine's Commissioner to the
Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In that capacity he directed the construction of the State of Maine building which now stands in Poland Spring, Maine.
Col. Edwards retained close ties with his comrades in the Fifth Maine, spending many a summer day at the "cottage" on Peaks Island. His comrades, in turn, eulogized him in a stirring funeral service attended by Joshua Chamberlain.
Sergeant Alonzo P. Stinson was the first man from Portland and the first Fifth Maine man to be killed in the Civil War. Alonzo (age 19) and his brother Harry (age 17) enlisted in Company H of the Fifth Maine in April 1861. During the battle of First Bull Run on July 29, 1861 Alonzo was mortally wounded. Harry refused to retreat from the battlefield with the rest of the regiment, choosing, instead, to remain with his dying brother. He was captured by the Confederates but later released. Harry rejoined the army, rising through the ranks to Lieutenant- Colonel on the staff of General Oliver Otis Howard. He, too, died at the close of the war from a wound suffered in Georgia.
Following the war, Alonzo's comrades from Company H erected a monument in his honor in Portland's Eastern Cemetery. It still stands in the corner of the cemetery where Congress and Mountfort Streets intersect, a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by a brave young man in the not so distant past.