Civil War Veterans of Calais Highlighted

 

Photo Local veterans of the Civil War joined the Grand Army of the Republic upon returning home to Calais. They are seen here gathered at the bottom of Calais Avenue by the recently demolished Methodist Church.

 By Lura Jackson

 Four stories from local veterans of the Civil War were the featured highlight at a meeting of the St. Croix Historical Society on Monday, May 1st. Among the stories were Frank Holmes, Isabella Fogg, Frank E. Aylward, and Martin Cone.

Frank Holmes was the son of Job and Vesta Holmes. Job Holmes was the third practicing doctor in Calais; he would later requisition the Holmested to be built by architect Asher Bassford. 

It was 154 years ago today that 19-year old Frank Holmes was waiting to do battle at Fredericksburg, Virginia, in 1963. The battle was typical for those held during the Civil War. There were 20,000 Union troops and 10,000 Confederates, but the Confederates had the high ground. In the early morning on May 3rd, they assaulted the Confederate position but were rebuffed. 

“About this time, Frank is probably thinking ‘This is pretty scary’,” said presenter Fred Becker. 

A weakness was noticed in the center of the line and the Union forces went for a three-pronged attacked that succeeded – but at a high cost. There were 1,100 Union troops and 465 Confederate troops lost in that single attack. As many as 6 of those killed were from Calais, and many others were severely wounded. Frank’s folks were living in the Holmestead at that time. “It was a very grieving household,” Becker said.

The second veteran featured was Isabella Fogg. Born in 1823 to Scottish immigrants that settled in Scotch Ridges just outside of St. Stephen, Isabella Fogg was only 13 when she married William Fogg of Calais. Together they had three children, one of which was Hugh Fogg. 

Just after the Civil War began in 1861, 19-year old Hugh Fogg enlisted in the Sixth Maine, Calais Company D. At the time, Isabella was 38 and a widow, with her husband having died or abandoned her years before. She was living in a boarding home in Calais and working as a seamstress - conditions that may have influenced her decision to follow her son and volunteer as a nurse to assist the Union forces. She went down to Washington, D.C. and was assigned to the U.S. Army Hospital at Annapolis. There, she volunteered to work in the contagious Spotted Fever ward of the hospital.

In 1862, Isabella was assigned to work on the hospital boats on the York and James Rivers. A short time later she was stationed at Savage Station, being a transportation base. While there, Isabella faced her most intensive work as a nurse, assisting soldiers that had been wounded just a few hours before. Her son Hugh came to visit her, and together they went to the frontlines to bring supplies to the camp of the Sixth Maine. 

Isabella saw firsthand the devastation of war; the camp was filled with gravely wounded men, many of whom suffered from chronic diarrhea and unending fever. The sanitary conditions were deplorable and the men - accustomed to Maine summers - had little shelter to protect themselves from the heat. Isabella quickly set to work cooking food and distributing supplies to the men. 

At one point, Isabella came within inches of death herself. It was after two straight days of caring for wounded soldiers; Isabella went up to the attic of a house that had been converted to a field hospital. Minutes after laying down to rest, an artillery shell hit the attic, sending shrapnel ricocheting everywhere. The soldiers and nurses in the attic scattered to escape it, but Isabella noticed a soldier that had to have his wounds dressed before he could move. She quickly did so, but just after finishing the dressing the attic was rocked again by a second artillery blast. The soldier died from the impact but Isabella was able to escape. 

In 1864, Isabella returned to Bangor to raise money for supplies. While there, she learned that her son Hugh had been wounded and his leg was amputated. She immediately traveled to Baltimore to care for him. Hugh did recover, but the stress of the preceded months briefly overwhelmed Isabella and she was hospitalized for a month herself.

Isabella would have doubtless continued on in her efforts as a nurse but for an injury that left her severely wounded. It occurred when she was working on a hospital boat on the Ohio River. Isabella was walking across the deck of the boat to get supplies when she walked directly over an open hatch and fell through. Her spine was badly affected and she would spend the next two years confined to a bed. Five years later she passed away in Washington, D.C.; she is now buried in South Portland. 

Next to be featured was Frank E. Aylward. Aylward was a former resident of Calais that remembers growing up on Tin Pail Alley (being the lower part of Hinckley Hill). He served in the Navy during the Civil War and returned to Calais decades later in 1908. He wrote a poignant piece for the Calais Advertiser at the time, which includes this perspective of the then-newly erected Soldiers Monument in Memorial Park:

“One feature of your city which is new to me is the little park on which stands the soldiers' monument, on the grounds of what I remember as the Deacon Kelly place. I think no fitter place could have been found in Calais for her monument to her soldiers and sailors of the Civil War than where it stands, for none of her citizens, either old or young, in passing from north to south or from south to north can help being reminded of those dark days of the Civil War when, Calais at the first cry of the nation for help, so nobly responded. And ever afterwards while that war lasted giving to the nation freely her bravest and her vest. And standing there beside that monument my memory went back to the those days, and I thought of so many that I knew in my school days, so many that are now sleeping in the nation's cities for its heroic dead, so many that came back crippled by cruel wounds, or bodily and mentally disabled by disease or confinement in some southern prison pen, and so many of them who have in the past thirty years obeyed the Great Commander's call and joined That great Grand Army of their comrades above.”

The final veteran featured was Martin Cone. Cone originally came to Calais by way of Houlton; he was among the first stage drivers that navigated the Airline road between Bangor and Calais. In 1862, he joined Company F of the 22nd Maine Civil War infantry, which was a 9-month term. He was 27 at the time.

Martin and his fellows were sent down to Louisiana, where the heat and humidity was certainly a shock. They were to assault Port Hudson on the Mississippi River. The Union forces brought giant gunboats to dislodge the Confederates, but the Confederates held their position with the aid of artillery. Having failed with their water-based attack, the Union forces attempted a ground-based attack, but that was similarly ill-fated. The Union troops proceeded to surround and siege the fort for two months, eventually starving out the Confederates. 

Martin returned to Calais and opened Cone and Haycock Livery Stable. He and his friend Weston Haycock put in unsuccessful bids for the mail routes - one of which was a 6-hour one-way trip to Eastport. “It took forever to get anywhere in those days,” remarked SCHS President Al Churchill. In 1870, the stables burned down in the Great Fire of Calais; Martin would rebuild the business as M. Cone Livery Stable. When the horseless carriages arrived, Martin’s business would be closed.

To learn more about Calais’s role in the Civil War, the SCHS offers Washington County, Maine in the Civil War: 1861-1866, available now on Amazon and locally at the Calais Bookshop. 

Isabella Fogg, born just outside of St. Stephen, was recognized for her role in the Civil War as a nurse on the frontlines of battle. At 38, she accompanied her son to the war and was instrumental in delivering much-needed supplies and solace. She was the only woman to receive a pension from the federal government during the Civil War.