Antietam National Cemetery
State by State - Maine


Maine On March 15, 1820, Maine separated from Massachusetts and entered the Union as a free state when Congress accepted the Missouri Compromise. Separatists had argued that statehood would bring more equitable taxation and lower government expenses. However, the larger national issue of expanding slavery into western states complicated their bid for statehood. Southern congressmen would not allow Maine to enter the Union unless Congress admitted as a slave state. A joint congressional committee crafted the Missouri Compromise, which admitted Missouri into the Union as a slave state and Maine in as a free state. This law would also prohibit the expansion of slavery in the Louisiana Territory north of the 36° 30´ latitude line. All seven delegates from Maine declined the compromise, because it meant the expansion of slavery, to which they were opposed. Thirty-four years later, the Missouri Compromise was repealed by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed the spread of slavery through “popular sovereignty.” Three years later, the Supreme Courtvalidated this repeal with the declaration that Congress did not have the authority to prohibit slavery in the territories in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford.

 With their opposition to slavery, the Republican Party took hold in Maine in 1856, following several years of reform movements, including temperance and anti-slavery. Massachusetts politicians held high positions in Lincoln’s administration. Maine Senator Hannibal Hamlin was Lincoln’s first Vice President, and Senator William Pitt Fessenden served as Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury in 1864.

Approximately 73,000 men from Maine served in the Union army and navy during the war.  The state contributed the highest proportion of men relative to its population out of all the states in the Union. Following the attack on Fort Sumter, the state governor raised ten regiments of volunteer infantry and three state militia regiments—a sum of about 10,000 men. The state raised an additional 31 infantry regiments, three cavalry regiments, and one heavy artillery regiment. An additional 6,000 men served as sailors in the Navy.

The women of Maine also distinguished themselves during the war, including Dorothea Dix Hamden, who served as a superintendent of nurses, and Amy Bradley, who supervised the Soldier’s Home in Washington.  Other women helped coordinate the Sanitary Commission while others joined the Soldiers’ Aid Society. They worked doubly hard to maintain their homes, farms, and businesses, with their husbands, sons, and brothers away.

During the war, there was still a contingent of southern sympathizers in Maine. Democratic newspapers criticized the war and Republican decisions. The passage of the federal draft law prompted a large peace demonstration in Dexter, Maine. Draft dodgers took to the border, especially in the forests of Arastook County. All the male citizens in Winter Habor left together for Canada. Confederate privateers also took advantage of Maine’s unprotected coast.

The Civil War had a tremendous impact on the state’s maritime and agricultural economy. Prior to the war, Maine’s shipping industry faced rising prices and a general decline in cargo shipping. However, while foreign trade declined in other northern ports during the war, it nearly tripled in Maine because of its commercial ties with Canada. Many Maine commercial vessels were sunk by Confederate raiders during the war. The CSS Alabama alone sunk eleven Main vessels. Federal cutters also captured several Maine vessels that tried to run the Southern blockade. The war also encouraged businesses to shift from merchant activities to establish an emerging industrial base by creating manufacturing centers. Farmers, too, were encouraged to mechanize and invest in labor-saving technology. After the war, Maine was one of only two states that saw a net loss in population.

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