by MHS archivist/cataloger Nancy Noble
A couple weeks ago, I was immersed in the lives of Maine’s Civil War soldiers and sailors. I cataloged 66 pamphlets that once belonged to Dr. David Parsons, transferred from the Weston Family Homestead collection, which is almost near completion of being processed (stay tuned). Dr. Parsons, a medical doctor from Oakland, Maine, served in the 19th Maine Regiment.
These “In Memoriam” pamphlets were published by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Commandery of the State of Maine. These particular pamphlets, which belonged to Dr. Parsons, range in date from 1886-1914. The “In Memoriam” tributes were read and adopted at meetings of the commandery, soon after the deaths of their fallen comrades. While some are in memory of well-known national and local figures, such as William Techumseh Sherman, William McKinley, Hannibal Hamlin, Thomas Brackett Reed, Francis Fessenden, John Marshall Brown, Winfield Scott Hancock, and Rutherford B. Hayes, most celebrate the average Maine soldier. Quite a few went on to become state legislators and hold government jobs, while others were involved in business and civic ventures. A few were physicians, along with several clergy.
One of the most poignant tributes is for a young man who wasn’t even born until after the Civil War: Edwin Livermore Nash (1869-1897). His father, Charles Elventon Nash, did serve in the war, and in fact is a subject of one of these tributes. Edwin, despite not having served, belonged to the commandery. Sadly, he and two of his friends died in a boating accident “by the upsetting of their boat in the rapids of the Kennebec River.” Another veteran, Joseph Warren Hawthorne, drowned off the coast of Florida, at the age of 63–the ship he commanded in the merchant marines in 1899 capsized. Most, however, made it to a ripe old age, at home, surrounded by family and friends in their dying moments.
The tributes are both flowery (“His noble and genial manhood, his unfailing loyalty as a friend and his self-sacrificing devotion to his family and loved ones, so manifest in his life, are made precious memories in his death”) and unflinching (“Early in the present year he was attacked with a mental trouble that rapidly increased–His family was obliged to have him moved to the asylum at Augusta … and he died there … of acute melancholia”). Small wonder, with Henry Burrage as Recorder. Burrage, Maine’s first state historian, wrote and published extensively on the history of Maine.
To access these biographical gems, search our Minerva database for the author: Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Commandery of the State of Maine, and look for those titled “In memoriam.”