AUGUSTA — Colin Maloney signed up for the volunteer militia Saturday.

The 4-year-old accompanied his mother, Rep. Maeghan Maloney, D-Augusta, to the Maine State Museum, where federal soldiers from the Kennebec Arsenal were recruiting men.

It was on April 15, 1861, that President Abraham Lincoln asked the states to raise 75,000 volunteer soldiers to defend the Union against Southern states that were seceding, partly because of the issue of slavery.

After answering questions about his height and weight and whether he had two teeth — soldiers had to have at least two healthy teeth, one on top of the other, to tear open the paper cartridges — he signed his enlistment papers with a feathered pen.

The recruiters told him that a soldier had to be able to tear a cartridge with his teeth, pour the powder in, insert the ball, ram the cartridge, and prime and fire his weapon during a war.  

 “Don’t worry, mother,” said Steve Henry, a federal soldier. “He’ll be back in time for Christmas. This rebellion will be put down in quick order.”

“Saving the Union: The Call for Volunteers,” was held Friday at the Augusta Civic Center to honor Maine’s significant role in the Civil War and mark the conflict’s 150th anniversary, or sesquicentennial.
The recruiting drive continued on Saturday in front of the museum.

Re-enactor Paul Dudley, a first lieutenant of Company B, 20th Maine Volunteer Regiment, said Lincoln’s 1861 proclamation was prompted by the bombardment of Fort Sumter, a federal installation in Charleston, S.C., by Confederate batteries from seceded Southern states.

He said the recruitment drive is intended to recall how a call-up would have looked in 1861 as the War between the States began.

In the form of street theater, re-enactors used a few props as regular soldiers in order to give a military impression to passers-by.  

Broadside pamphlets giving newspaper accounts of Lincoln’s proclamation and sample enlistment forms were distributed as souvenirs.  

“On April 16, 1861, there were no militiamen in Maine,” Dudley said. “Fort Sumter had just recently surrendered and Lincoln called for 75,000 soldiers. There were federal soldiers at the Kennebec Arsenal who were here to recruit. They wanted 780 from Maine; 743 would be enlisted men and the rest to be officers.”

He said everyone expected the battle would end in short order. The president had the authority to call in troops for 90 days. Soldiers were called on to take back the fort and protect Washington, D.C., he said.
The war was not declared officially until July, he said.

“There was a member of Congress that said, ‘I’ll be able to sop up blood from this war with a handkerchief,’ ” he said, “but that didn’t happen.”

Maloney said she and her son, Colin, were at the civic center Friday to enjoy the re-enactment, and he asked to come to the museum on Saturday for the recruitment.

 She said both Friday and Saturday’s events made history “come alive” for her family.
 “I like to pretend I’m a soldier,” Colin said. “I learned about soldiers on ‘Veggie Tales.’ ”

 Angela Hardy of China brought her family to the museum. She said re-enactments are a great way for people to learn about history.

“I think it’s interesting to bring history to life,” Hardy said. “It helps all of us to understand and know what it was like.”

Mechele Cooper — 623-3811, ext. 408
[email protected]

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