CLINTON — Loud reports and billows of smoke from 21-gun salutes broke the silence Saturday morning at Riverview Cemetery in Clinton, marking the rededication of a Civil War monument and the gravesite of Clinton resident Capt. Charles W. Billings, who died of a wound inflicted at the Battle of Gettysburg.

A seven-member color guard, all dressed in period uniforms and bearing black-powder Enfield rifle muskets, marched Saturday under an American flag of 34 stars. They were joined in the ceremony by women in period dress wearing bonnets and long skirts and dresses.

Billings was a 37-year-old Union soldier who fought for the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment and died from a leg wound he suffered while fighting at Little Round Top under Col. Joshua Chamberlain on the second day of the pivotal Civil War battle.

Billings’ descendant Matthew Bailey, a Clinton native now living in Lexington, Virginia, along with his niece and two daughters, attended the ceremony Saturday and laid a wreath on the Billings monument, where Billings and his wife, Ellen Hunter Billings, are buried. Ellen Billings died at the age of 90 in April 1924, according to the inscription on the monument.

Saturday’s events commemorate the 150th anniversary of the end of the war, which concluded on April 9, 1865, with the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia to Union Forces at Appomattox Court House, Virgina.

“Close to 2 percent of the United States population back then was lost, the equivalent of 6 million people today,” Cheryl Dickey-Whitish, director of Clinton’s Brown Memorial Library, which co-hosted the events, said during the opening ceremony, dressed in a black period dress of mourning. “Four of my direct ancestors served in the war; only two came home. In remembering my ancestors and Capt. Billings of the 20th Maine and all the other soldiers that served, whether or not they came home, we must realize that by 1865, for many people, the world had irreversibly changed.”


Dickey-Whitish’s comments were followed by words from Assistant Library Director Cindy Lowell and Buddy Frost, president of the Clinton Historical Society.

“Nearly 50 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, Joshua Chamberlain revisited Little Round Top,” Frost told the assembly Saturday under a sunny sky. “As he sat amongst the rocks, he said, ‘One of the faces that really appear to me most belongs to Charles W. Billings, of Company C, the valor of whose onlooking eyes, not death itself could quench.'”

The Battle of Gettysburg, with its clashes at Little Round Top, Cemetery Ridge, the Peach Orchard and Trostle Farm, was a turning point in the war. After Gettysburg, the tide of the war had turned decidedly against the South.

Frost said Billings sent three letters home to his father and his family in 1863.

In one letter he asked: “Who would not jump to serve his country now that everything is promising? It must and it will be done. The cause of God and humanity demand it. We must either conquer or be conquered; no other alternative is presented.”

Billings, a captain with the 20th Maine, was mortally wounded less than two months later.


It was July 2, 1863, when his Company C fought at Little Round Top, the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Billings died July 15 in a barn converted into a field hospital, as his wife and brother John made their way to see him, knowing he had been wounded. They were too late.

During the battle, the 20th Maine turned aside a Confederate force after running out of ammunition, an effort that has been made famous through movies and books.

Billings was one of 252 men who enlisted in Clinton to fight in the war, and 32 of them died, according to Bruce Keezer, president of Friends of Brown Memorial Library. The population of Clinton in those days was 1,600, he said. The town was incorporated in 1795.

Billings is the highest-ranking of Clinton soldiers who are memorialized in the historical society’s museum at the Clinton Fairgrounds, where a Civil War encampment will remain in place until 11 a.m. Sunday.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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