Foursome finds 50 new names for Andover Civil War plaque
Three years ago, four men set out to correct the list of names on Andover’s Civil War monument.
After hundreds of hours of research, they believe they have accomplished their goal. They have also learned much about the hardships of life in mid-19th century rural Maine – which in many cases left men ineligible to serve in the Union Army.
Steve Hall, Bob Spidell, John Fox and Len Greaney presented their research at a public meeting last Thursday.
An Andover native, Spidell maintains a website on town history, which included the names of the town’s war veterans that are listed on several monuments on the town common.
But several years ago he began getting feedback that some Civil War names were not on the monument’s plaque.
In a 2007 conversation among Hall, Spidell and Fox, the three seasonal residents agreed that names needed to be added, and that they should verify the military records of those who were listed. They asked Greaney, a Rumford Center resident who had done previous research on Oxford County veterans, to help.
Hall then asked for and received permission from the Andover selectmen to do the project.
Thus began three years of painstaking research. Hall, who spends the most time in Andover, spearheaded the effort. The men pored over draft records, census records, documents from the Civil War Grand Army of the Republic Post in Rumford, documents from the Maine Adjutant General’s Civil War reports and correspondence between Andover selectmen and the Adjutant General, as well as cemetery stones.
They cross-referenced the sources, looking for agreement among them as to whether a particular man had served.
The result: they are recommending that 22 of the 72 names on the monument be deleted, and approximately 50 be added.
Fox, who researched draft records at the Regional National Archives in Massachusetts, noted a distinction that may have led in part to the erroneous inclusion of nearly two dozen men: the definition of “draft” in those days has a different meaning than it does today.
In Civil War times, he said, “’Drafted’ simply meant a man had been named as a possible candidate for military service, and was called for a medical exam. Almost half were found to be ineligible. It was a very sobering experience to read about why they were rejected.”
Fox said that before the project, he had had a naïve and romantic impression of life on a rural farm.
“Well, it wasn’t,” he said. “Men lost arms, legs and fingers … most of the men who were ineligible were because they were injured.”
Hall noted, for example, one man who was listed as ineligible because of the “contraction of the toes of the left foot,” and another who lost a thumb.
As for the men who passed the physical, Hall offered examples of their war experiences.
One man, by the last name of Newton, was listed as having participated in many battles. He was also present at Appomattox, Va., for the Confederate surrender.
“He had an illustrious career,” said Hall. “He was wounded, but made it through the war.”
But then there was Pvt. David Cutting, 30, who enlisted in August of 1862 and served with the 20th Maine Regiment.
Examining Cutting’s gravestone, Hall found that his wife had died that year and left him with two very young children.
“I think he went into the military to get $300,” said Hall. “If he was in three years, he’d get $300, which was a lot of money in 1862.”
But it wasn’t to be. Cutting died in early 1863 in Washington, D.C.
Criteria for inclusion
In addition to determining whether men had actually served in the war, the researchers also set criteria for deciding which veterans should be considered residents of Andover for the purpose of inclusion on the monument.
A veteran would be included if he met any of the following criteria: born in Andover; lived in Andover before the war; enlisted or was drafted in Andover; or lived in Andover after the war and died and is buried in town.
“Quite a few men came here after the war, but they lived here the rest of the time and they died and were buried here,” said Hall.
He also said the research team found that many Andover veterans served in military units from other states.
Leaning toward inclusion, the four men added about 50 names to Andover’s veteran list, resulting in a total of about 100 names to be recommended for an updated plaque.
“This is 150 years ago. It’s very difficult to pin somebody down as to their residence and whereabouts during and before the Civil War,” he said.
After last Thursday’s presentation, Andover selectman Keith Farrington said the board would likely approve changing the information on the plaque. (The researchers made a similar presentation to selectmen earlier in the week.)
The new list will also include the names of several men who served in the Andover militia during the war.
Spidell said he and Fox had agreed to pay for the change, at no cost to the town. The current plaque might be melted down to reuse, he said.
They expect the updated plaque to be placed on the monument this fall.
Anyone with old photos or documents that might be helpful to Andover Civil War history may contact Hall at (404) 374-0775.
A copy of the research on the veterans will be available at the Andover Library and at the Historical Society.