We had a great turn out of members and friends at our March meeting for Brandon Bies’ discussion of “Broken Lives and Shattered Bones: Discovering a Field Hospital at Manassas Battlefield.” The program was, in a word, fascinating. Brandon outlined the unexpected discovery of a field hospital surgeon’s pit during a trench excavation at Manassas National Battlefield Park. He expertly described the challenges associated with the excavation and analysis of the nearly complete remains of two Union soldiers who were comingled with other amputated limbs. The discussion was wide-ranging, including the techniques and limitations associated with that type of battlefield discovery, the methods used to examine the remains, determinations made and hypotheses drawn from the examinations, the limitations of Civil War-era surgical techniques, the collaboration between the National Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and the United States Army, attempts to identify the remains, and a general discussion of surgical interventions associated with various battlefield wounds. Brandon’s presentation was, simultaneously, sobering, revealing, and much appreciated by all.
Following a recent round table meeting I had the pleasure of talking with one of our long-time CWRT members, Steve Bunker. As most of us know, Steve has long been a student of the Civil War, particularly with respect to maritime activities and all things cavalry. Participating in many reenactments, he is an experienced “cavalryman” who, you may recall, recently spearheaded the effort to create and place a monument memorializing the 1st Maine Cavalry in Middleburg, Virginia. While discussing some Civil War trivia, Steve pointed out an interesting detail. Although it is widely accepted that the Battle of Palmito Ranch (Texas, May 12-13, 1865) was the final engagement of the Civil War, Steve convincingly argued that it is more likely that last engagement of the war was the cavalry skirmish at Hobdy’s Bridge near Eufaula, Alabama, on May 19, 1865. Thus, Corporal John W. Skinner of Company C, 1st Florida Cavalry (U.S.) was actually the last soldier killed in action during the war. Interesting, as always!
Long-time round table member and board member Carol Manchester has discovered a real “find.” It is a new work of historical fiction, centered on the Booth family. (Booth, by Karen Joy Fowler. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2022.) Carol is a Civil War explorer and author who enjoys a great read and the theater, so she knows of what she speaks. Her impression is that this novel (as with any good historical fiction) is steeped in research, including diaries, newspaper accounts, playbills, letters, other documents, dates, and actual historical events. Its imagined descriptive details create a true sense of reader intimacy. She thoroughly enjoyed Fowler’s portrayals of the many complicated and peculiar aspects of the Booth family, which were only complicated by financial and mental instability and family guilt. The novel has several surprises for family members, and ultimately for the reader. She really enjoyed this book . . . immensely.
On February 9th the round table enjoyed a superb program featuring Jared Peatman’s examination of “Dirigo’s Sons: The Twentieth Maine, Joshua Chamberlain, and Little Round Top.” Jared’s analysis clearly and concisely addressed the many and varied circumstances that surrounded what he characterized as “the pinnacle moment for the Twentieth Maine and Joshua Chamberlain.” An important aspect of the presentation were various tactical considerations, both Union and Confederate, that significantly impacted the events of July 2, 1863. Human interest factors lent a large measure of authenticity to Jared’s historical account as did his balanced, well-presented appraisal of some of the still controversial aspects of the battle. It was clear from the question-and-answer segment and post-program conversation that Jared’s extensive grasp of the subject was both enjoyable and interesting for the members and friends present. It was a truly pleasant evening.
LEVI TOOTHAKER JR. STAINED GLASS WINDOW
In December my wife Lucy and I attended a concert performed by the Greater Freeport Community Chorus at the Brunswick United Methodist Church. The church is located on Church Road in Brunswick. During the intermission I noticed the stained-glass window pictured here. When I saw it, I thought that Levi must have died in 1864 and the church had dedicated a window in his memory. After some investigation I found that my assumption was wrong.
My curiosity took me to the “Find a Grave” website where I learned that Levi not only survived the war, but lived to be 70 years old, dying on January 6, 1910. According to the “Find a Grave” website, he was born in Brunswick, where he lived nearly all his life. After the war he was engaged in the livery stable business at several locations in town. He sold the business in 1892 but, sadly, during the last several years of his life he became increasingly disabled.
As to why there is a stained-glass window bearing his name, I learned that Levi was an active member the Brunswick Methodist Church and, shortly before he died, Levi donated the window to the church. So, as it turned out, the dates “1861-1864” reflect the dates of his military service, having enlisted in Company F, 1st Maine Cavalry, on October 19, 1861, and mustered out on November 25, 1864.
Levi is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Brunswick which is the same cemetery where Joshua Chamberlain is buried.
Note: The “Find a Grave” reference can be viewed at:
Thirty-one members and friends of the Chamberlain Civil War Round Table braved challenging January Maine weather conditions to enjoy long-time round table member and Ulysses S. Grant authority Noma Petroff present “Ulysses S. Grant: Vera Cruz to Vicksburg, A Watchful Quartermaster Learns Some Lessons.” Noma’s presentation focused on how lessons learned during the Mexican War heavily influenced the personalities and operational considerations employed during the Civil War. Supported by interesting and informative PowerPoint slides, Noma emphasized the development and implementation of joint army-navy operations, the challenges inherent in logistics and supply, the development and utilization of feint and diversion as a tool to gain tactical advantage, and related subjects. Many thanks to Noma for putting together such an informative and well received presentation.