(Editor’s note: Samuel L. Miller was the founder of another newspaper by the same name, The Lincoln County News, published in Waldoboro from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.)
Samuel L. Miller, founder, editor, and publisher of The Lincoln County News, served as a private, sergeant, and lieutenant in the legendary 20th Maine regiment of Gettysburg fame. In 1876, 11 years after the Civil War ended, Mr. Miller and his comrades established the 20th Maine Regimental Association and in 1882 held their second annual reunion in Portland. (Other reunions were held in subsequent years in various places, including Waldoboro in 1896.) Mr. Miller became historian of the group and a driving force behind these reunions.
In the summer of 1882, some of the members of the regiment traveled back to Gettysburg and noticed that a number of units had placed monuments to mark where they had been involved in the battle. When they returned home, they proposed the idea of a marker on the spur at Little Round Top where their most famous event had occurred.
Not long after that, masons in Hallowell fashioned a block of granite 4 feet square and 5 feet high into a memorial. Chamberlain, second commander of the group, and many others usually attended these reunions and often reiterated the growing legend of their exploits.
(Recently my wife and I made our first trip to the Gettysburg area and spent two awesome days exploring the 25-square-mile battlefield and museums. We climbed Little Round Top and lingered a long time at the 20th Maine monument thinking much about the brave Maine boys – including 18 from Waldoboro – on that day, July 2, 1863.)
In the summer of 1862, Capt. Atherton Clark (called “Pap” by his men because of his age – 36) had organized 50 young men from Waldoboro, along with 30 from Bristol and 20 from Union, into Company E. In Rockland that summer, Company E, along with Companies A, B, C, D, F, G, H, I, J, and K, were drilled “unmercifully hard” (many said) by the commanding officer, Col. Adelbert Ames.
This group became the 20th Maine and, after learning the ropes, went off to war, appearing in many famous battles, from Antietam to Appomattox. Beginning with about 1,000 men, their numbers were soon lessened to less than half of that because of death, wounds, disease, and desertions.
By June of 1863, the war was not going well for the North. The Maine boys found themselves, instead of heading for Richmond to conquer the Rebels and win the war, as they had always imagined they would, marching north, through Virginia and Maryland and into Pennsylvania, preparing to defend their capital city, Washington, against Robert E. Lee’s seemingly invincible forces. In fact, one more convincing victory by Lee and his gray-and-brown-clad warriors over a much better equipped and supplied Union army – particularly if it were on Northern soil – might force the latter to sue for peace.
But on July 2 and 3, all Southern hopes for victory and independence came to an end at Gettysburg. The two armies had drawn up facing each other in two thin, 5-mile-long lines – the North set on the defense, holding higher ground and facing west, the South facing east and needing to destroy in order to move toward Washington and victory.
High ground was extraordinarily important – cannons firing down the lines would wreak havoc. One of the hills, Little Round Top, lightly controlled by Northern signalmen, was spotted at about the same time by Col. Strong Vincent, who ordered his brigade, including the 20th Maine, to “Rush and hold the summit!” At nearly the same moment, Col. William C. Oates, of the 15th Alabama, was sent an identical order by his commander, Brig. Gen. E. McIver Law.
Strong’s men reached the top just minutes ahead of the Alabamians and managed to hurl back their determined challenges up the slopes all afternoon. Toward the end of the day the Rebels, out of water and even more exhausted than the Union men because of continually running uphill, started up once again.
Chamberlain and the Maine men, with Company E on the far right of the line, in desperation fixed bayonets and charged down on the Alabamans, surprising them and forcing them to panic, surrender, or flee. Many were captured. Little Round Top’s advantage was retained.
Other Southern attacks were blunted. The 20th Maine had been an important part of the success, and its veterans and Col. Chamberlain, ex-Bowdoin College professor and later to be a Maine governor, the heroes of a growing legend.
The next day, July 3, 1863, saw Robert E. Lee’s final attempt to break the Northern defensive line. In the afternoon he sent George Pickett and his Virginians as a spearhead to an all-out charge at the middle of the Northern lines. In one hour it was over, with the 12,500-man rush cut to pieces. The Southern high tide of success would now recede. (On this day the 20th Maine, including Company E, was placed as part of a secondary defensive line and a help against the remnants of the Confederate advance.)
As stated, Company E and the 20th Maine served through the Appomattox surrender of Robert E. Lee in April of 1865. (Chamberlain himself, now a general, was chosen to receive Lee’s sword in the ceremony.) Atherton Clark, the original captain of Company E, was Waldoboro’s most decorated soldier and finished his duty as a lieutenant colonel. Despite the fact that every member of the company was “hit” at some time on July 2, only one man from Waldoboro, Pvt. Orchard Mink, was actually listed in the ranks of the wounded.