Gorham, Maine Civil War Memorial
Part of the Monumental Monday series.
Here's another beauty that's easy to miss. To see a hundred times but never really notice. A Monument to Gorham's lost souls, her bloody commitment to the effort of quashing the Great Rebellion. I counted 61 names. Imagine two metro buses loaded with young men, headed South out of town, never to return. All from this one little village. 160 years ago.
High on the hill in front of the University, you can find this treasure from the past. It's boldly done, no poetic tribute, only a scoreboard of pure sacrifice. All four side panels are filled with Gorham boys. The names of each Soldier. Their Unit. The battle that claimed them, or the dank hospital that they perished in. The final day they spent on this side of the sod. The cold hard facts.
I find some cousins immediately. Harmons are everywhere. Right on the front I found Corporal Shirley Harmon Junior. Yes, that's exactly where my mind went, even in a somber moment. And don't call me Shirley! - Leslie Neilson in Airplane! I'm sorry, Cousin, for the lapse in respect. Rest in eternal peace. Shirley Jr died of disease at just 18. 2nd Maine Cavalry.
Joseph D Harmon, 22. 5th Maine Infantry. Killed at Gaines Mill, in Richmond. June 28, 1862, just a year into the four year fight. Joseph's grandfather was Thomas Harmon, a Revolutionary War Soldier in George Washington's Personal Guard. Talk about front row seats.
Another cousin. Lewis Libby, 26. Fought for the duration with the famous 20th Maine, of Gettysburg fame. He died two months after the War ended, of some gross disease that he couldn't shake. A heck of a way to go for a battle hardened Soldier.
There were a bunch of unsung heros at Gettysburg, from a lot of different regiments. Every battle had heros. Gettysburg is merely a page in a big thick book. Maybe a short chapter. Many of those brave souls were from Maine. We should be very proud of the stock that we come from.
A lot of familiar blood has been shed on behalf of our great Nation.
I see more names that I know. Good local names. Blake. Johnson. Fogg. Smith. Roberts. Files. Phillips. Newell. Shaw. Metcalf. I see 10 out of 61 that served with the 5th Maine Volunteers, one of my focus regiments in my upcoming Civil War story.
Toppan Robie brought this monument to life. He was a local business legend, leaving many gifts behind, including the old clock tower in Gorham Village. He didn't waste any time with this memorial. Many monuments didn't come to light until long after the big War. Robie struck while the memories were fresh, just a year after the fighting had finally ceased. He was in his golden age, and only lived a few years after it's dedication. I hope he was quite satisfied with the contributions and legacy he was leaving behind. He certainly should have been.
His son was proud. After Toppan died, Fred Robie presented the Town with the fancy wrought iron fence and gates around his father's monument. Fred was apparently brilliant. After Gorham Academy and Bowdoin College, he did a stint as a professor. He went to medical school, became a doctor, and had several successful practices, eventually finding his way back to Gorham.
When the big Rebellion started, President Lincoln appointed Fred Toppan as Paymaster of the Union Volunteer Army. That sounds like it would have been a pretty huge office to run. Lots of ink. My mind wanders. I picture Toppan making some clever comeback. Dang it, Abe! I'm a doctor, not an accountant!! He probably didn't say that. When Abe calls, you pack your bag.
He added that gorgeous fence. Oh, yeah, he got into State politics after the war. They called him Colonel. Maine Senate, Maine House of Representatives for ten years. Speaker of the House a couple times. Maine Governor. Twice. Huge popular vote victories. The kind of man that got us to this point. They called him Gov' from then on.
He's got a beautiful gravestone downtown in the Eastern Cemetery. I guess that's a monument for a different Monday.
Thanks for reading these, it makes me feel important.
Watch for my Civil War saga #theboysinthebox