Windham Screens “The 16th Maine at Gettysburg”

About 30 people (including vets and children) turned out for a screening of The 16th Maine at Gettysburg at the Windham VFW Hall on a gorgeous, Saturday spring afternoon.


Part of the Local & Legendary activities in Windham, the event was organized by teacher Sabrina Nickerson, whose students have been studying the war this year, and raising money to purchase grave markers for local veterans’ graves.

VFW4Both filmmaker Dan Lambert and Maine State Archivist David Cheever, whose idea the film was, were there.

David provided historical background on Maine in the Civil War and answered audience questions. Dan answered questions on the development and process of making the film.


The event was captured in an article in the Windham Eagle, “Bringing History to the Youth of Windham and the Community.”

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Portland-Westbrook Local & Legendary Activities

by Janet Lyons, Local & Legendary project consultant, Maine Humanities Council

The Portland-Westbrook Local & Legendary team recently hosted two events in historic buildings in downtown Portland.

CascoBayHSOn April 8, 13 sophomores and their teacher from Casco Bay High School in Portland traveled to the Maine Masonic Civil War Library & Museum housed at the Portland Masonic Temple. Students came to do research as part of their new expedition focused on “hidden histories” within the Civil War.

The Library’s focus is on Maine Masons and non-Masons who fought in the Civil War. Jim Dufresne, director of the Maine Masonic Civil War Library and Museum, shared both primary source material, in the form of letters, and the Library’s rich collection of secondary source material with the students.

CBkids researchingStudents were assisted in their research by Local & Legendary team members Bob Riley, Jessica Siraco, and Lin Brown. Bob spoke to the students about the history and the construction of the “Our Lady of Victories” statue in Monument Square, whose dedication reads “Portland To Her Sons Who Died For The Union.”

A member of the Portland Masonic Temple gave a brief overview of Masonry and spoke about the role Masons played in giving comfort to their fellow Masons during the Civil War.

The following day, Jean Flahive, author of Billy Boy: The Sunday Soldier of the 17th Maine and Railroad to the Moon gave a noontime lecture at the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association’s Mechanic’s Hall on Congress Street. Jean shared how she used “historical realities to write a fictional story.”

Flahive TalkBilly Boy is based on the story of William Laird of Berwick, a private who served briefly in the 17th Regiment Infantry, Maine Volunteers, during the Civil War.

ButtonJean told how she was contacted recently by a man in New York who is the descendant of Pvt. Henry Frost, who was stationed at Fort Preble (the current campus of SMCC) when Billy was executed for desertion.

He sent Jean a copy of a letter that Pvt. Frost wrote to his parents describing the day. A photo of an actual button from Billy’s coat was enclosed in the letter.

In addition to reading the vivid account of the execution to the audience, Jean answered questions about Billy’s story, the process of writing, and the topic of desertion. It was an informational and emotional lunch hour.

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More Local & Legendary Activity in Windham

by Janet Lyons, Local & Legendary project consultant, Maine Humanities Council

Civil War-related activity in Windham has continued at a steady pace this spring as part of the community’s Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War project.

As reported in a previous post, Sabrina Nickerson, a teacher at the Manchester School in Windham, has been using The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick this year to teach the Civil War.

On Friday, March 14, author Carol Manchester (author of Joseph K. Manchester: Northern Son in the South, 1861-1863) visited the classroom and gave a wonderful presentation to 50 students and classroom guests.

student uniform2student uniformL Parker & C Manchester




Students had the opportunity to ask questions about the man who their school is named for and to try on pieces of a Civil War soldier’s uniform. Additionally, Local & Legendary team member Laurel Parker, Windham Public Library Children’s librarian, presented Ms Manchester with a pair of socks she had knit, similar to the socks that Joseph had requested be sent to him during the war.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg was also the topic of two separate discussions at the Windham Public Library on Tuesday, March 18.

WindhamBookDiscussionMar18In the afternoon Libby Bischof, Associate Professor of History at USM, facilitated a thoughtful and educational discussion for a mixed group of middle school students and adults.

Libby started the discussion with a description of what a historian does when reading historical fiction. She looks for: 1) what’s true, 2) what the author is saying, and 3) why it matters.

She then encouraged the students to share what they knew about the Civil War, which proved to be quite a bit. Discussion ensued around transportation (Homer used all four types of transportation available in the 1860s: his legs, horse, train, and steamship), and the 1850 Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Act (both of which are true parts of the book). Slavery, abolition, Quakers, choice and States rights were all touched on as Libby encouraged participants to think about the book and the choices various characters made.

As the discussion drew to a close Libby asked the students three thought provoking questions. Why does Homer tell lies? Would you be friends with Homer? Would you do what Homer did to help/save your sibling?

WindhamPMLater than evening, USM Professor of History Adam Tuchinsky led an informal and wide ranging discussion later with a small group of readers. One woman read the book because she had participated in the Maine Humanities Council’s “Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the Civil War” discussion group and wanted to read more about the Civil War.

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg was used as a jumping off point to discuss history and change. When discussing the boats that Homer saw in Portland Harbor, a woman wondered what a “wherry” was. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology the group was able to quickly find the definition: a long light rowboat made sharp at both ends and used to transport passengers on rivers and about harbors. This lead to a discussion of the evolution of transportation and its impact on multiple levels, how it can change our perception of distance and our world view, and in the case of the Civil War, how access to rail travel increased the mobility of northern troops.

Journal writing, letter writing, the postal service, newspapers, and the telegraph were all touched on for their impact on communication during the Civil War and our study of the war. This discussion was a marvelous example of how a youth, or young adult, book can be used to stimulate discussion of complex ideas among adults.

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Local & Legendary Activities in Portland & Westbrook

by Janet Lyons, Local & Legendary project consultant, Maine Humanities Council

On Wednesday, March 6, about two-dozen people gathered at the Walker Memorial Library in Westbrook for a screening and discussion of the 30-minute Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) documentary, Sixteenth Maine at Gettysburg.

Westbrook3.6.14This documentary, directed and produced by Dan Lambert, documents what happened on July, 1, 1863, when Union commanders realized they needed to retreat to Cemetery Ridge if they had any hope of winning. Gen. John C. Robinson ordered the 16th Maine to position itself as a rear guard to slow the Confederate advance. Of the 275 men from the Sixteenth Maine who fought the first day at Gettysburg, 11 were killed, 59 were wounded, and 164 were taken prisoner.

Lambert answered questions from the audience of Civil War enthusiasts. Lin Brown, from Friends of Evergreen, encouraged the audience to visit Evergreen Cemetery in Portland where some of these men are buried.


Nine students who attend the afterschool program at My Place Teen Center in Westbrook gathered at Walker Memorial Library on Wednesday, March 12, for pizza and a lively discussion of the book, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.

The discussion started with a girl loudly exclaiming, “I don’t like history and I did not like the book.” USM Professor Adam Tuchinsky took this in stride and told the teens that “history isn’t just learning about the past, it’s about how change happens and turning points.”

MPTC 3.12.14Students were asked to share a turning point in their lives which led to a short discussion about why the Civil War was a turning point in our history.  Students then broke into teams to gauge their Civil War knowledge. Teens were engaged by questions such as: “How many Americans died during the Civil War? and “What were some important similarities and differences between the North and the South during the Civil War?”

Teens discussed which states left the Union and why they left. One boy wondered what it would be like to fight on the opposite side of the conflict from your family members. The discussion jumped from topic to topic as teens talked about Civil War weapons and medicine, the age of soldiers, and Jim Crow laws.

As the discussion was winding up the girl who did not like the book explained why she did not like it. She thought the book was predictable and she illustrated her point with several examples from the book. Her examples were solid, and showed that she had read the book and thought about it. If the point of a book discussion is to get people talking about a book and the ideas in it, then these teens surely accomplished that.

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Civil War Book Discussions in Presque Isle

by Janet Lyons, Local & Legendary project consultant, Maine Humanities Council

On February 12, 28 students, veterans, and community members met in Bill Guerrette’s grade 8 classroom at Presque Isle Middle School to discuss Soldier’s Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers by Gary Paulsen.

PI Soldier's HeartAs part of the “One Book” portion of Presque Isle’s Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War grant project, students in Bill’s class have been studying the Civil War and reading Soldier’s Heart. They welcomed the opportunity to hear what veterans thought about the book, the Civil War, and war in general. The seven veterans, who between them served in WWII up to the present day, brought a wealth of firsthand experience to the discussion.

Community members included a Civil War re-enactor, a Civil War scholar, and participants from the January Book discussion of The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg who were looking for another book to read and discuss.

Discussion facilitator Jan Grieco led a wide-ranging and inclusive discussion. Topics included how military life today is the same (endless drilling) and different from the Civil War (weapons, food, medicine); why we fight; why kids today think that they are younger than Charlie was at 15; communication between the home front and soldiers; and why the war was fought.

After an hour and fifteen minutes, the final question of the evening came from a student who asked the veterans, “If you had to do it again would you still enlist?” The overwhelming answer was yes, but one older veteran told them to get an education first. When asked to write a reflection in class about the book discussion all the students mentioned that they were glad that the veterans came and shared their experiences.

3.5.14PI This Republic of SufferingThree weeks later students from Northern Maine Community College, Presque Isle Historical Society members, and Civil War aficionados gathered at The Aroostook Medical Center on a frigidly cold evening for a book talk led by Lynne Nelson Manion, another activity under the “One Book” umbrella.

Students read passages from This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust to introduce discussion points. Discussion focused on Christian faith, the number of people touched by death, medical changes, and the concept of a “good death.” To wrap up the evening a gentleman shared some family letters and telegrams which vividly illustrated the concept of a “good death.”

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Local & Legendary Activities in Gorham/Windham

by Janet Lyons, Local & Legendary project consultant, Maine Humanities Council

Over the past few months, Civil War events and talks have been popping up all over Gorham and Windham, a two-town team participating in the Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War community grant program. Here are the highlights:

  • The Civil War was the theme of last November’s Veterans Day observance in Gorham and the Veterans Day ceremony included a special presentation on the town’s Civil War connections. A variety of presentations, talks and book signings took place in Windham, Gorham, and North Gorham. Presenters included Don Wescott, steward for the Gambo Gunpowder Mill site, and Maurice Whitten, author of The Gunpowder Mills of Maine.


  • Carol Manchester, holding her book. Portland Press Herald photograph for 9/23/13 article.

    Carol Manchester, holding her book. Portland Press Herald photograph for 9/23/13 article.

    Also in November, young people participated in a printmaking and lithography workshop in Gorham, where they had the opportunity to explore the history of stone lithography and its use during the Civil War. Participants then had the opportunity to create their own drawings on litho plates.

  • Author Carol Manchester (Joseph K. Manchester: Northern Son in the South, 1861-1863) has given two well attended talks about her recent book based on her ancestor’s letters home during the Civil War.
  • Vast ArmyDespite a raw, rainy, foggy evening, 15 people turned out to hear Lynda L. Sudlow (A Vast Army of Women: Maine’s Uncounted Forces in the American Civil War) speak at the North Gorham Library. Lynda highlighted the contributions of the bold women from the Gorham-Windham area who contributed to the war effort.
  • In January Libby Bischof, history professor at USM spoke to a an interested group of photography and Civil War buffs about photography during the Civil War. Her presentation included information about well-known Civil War photographers Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, and T.H. O’Sullivan among some lesser-known image makers.

Local & Legendary team teacher Sabrina Nickerson’s fifth graders at Manchester School in Windham. (Lakes Region weekly staff photo, 12/26/13)

  • The fifth-grade students in Manchester School teacher Sabrina Nickerson’s class are saving their pennies to purchase Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) markers for local Civil War soldiers whose graves are missing them. Sabrina, a member of the Local & Legendary team, has been doing a series of Civil War activities with her students using the team’s community read choice, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.
  • Most recently, on February 8, an intergenerational group in Windham had the opportunity to learn how to turn a piece of fabric into a useful pouch. Civil War soldiers used these pouches to carry small treasures and sewing supplies.



20140208_103737_resizedFor more on what the Gorham and Windham folks are up to over the next couple of months, follow their Facebook page or visit their project website.

Thanks to Local & Legendary Maine Humanities Council project consultant, Janet Lyons, for this update.

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Local & Legendary Activity in Belfast

Megan warming up crowd for P Dalton

Megan Pinette warms up the crowd for the November 4 Peter Dalton talk on the 4th Maine at Gettysburg.

Belfast has had a busy fall and winter with monthly Civil War presentations at the Belfast Free Library, family book discussions, and other activities as part of their Local & Legendary: Maine in the Civil War project.

Additionally, Belfast Historical Society and Museum president Megan Pinette is co-teaching a course for the Senior College at Belfast on “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the Civil War” based on the acclaimed book of the same title by Drew Gilpin Faust.

On October 7, 2013, the Family Book Discussion Group, comprised of young girls and their moms, paid a visit to the Belfast Museum to see the 1864 Flag Quilt and the Civil War exhibit. The group was lead by Jane Thompson, Belfast Free Library’s Youth Services Director.

QuiltSquaresAs part of the “Local and Legendary: Belfast in the Civil War,” they are reading several books with Civil War themes and doing projects to coincide with the readings. One book, The Patchwork Quilt: A Quilt Map to Freedom, by Bettye Stroud, prompted the visit and the creation of the flag-inspired quilt squares.

On November 4, Peter Dalton of Northport presented the program “4th Maine at Gettysburg.” The 4th Maine, which mustered in Rockland, included companies from Knox and Waldo counties. Dalton’s talk explored the participation of the 4th Maine in the Battle of Gettysburg and their influence on the outcome of the battle.  He has authored two books about the 4th Maine, With Our Faces to the Foe, and, with his wife Cyndi, Into the Valley of Death.

The Richardson’s Civil War Round Table discussed topics related to Belfast during the Civil War on December 2. Round Table members gave short talks on local Belfast Civil War soldiers and the women at home and their contributions to the war effort. The program was taped and is available through the generosity of the Belfast Historical Society.

Zouave- MaynardCivil War re-enactor Rob “Maynard” Kufrovich presented “Who Were The Zouaves?” on Monday, January 13, 2014, in the Abbott Room of the Belfast Free Library. Wearing his 114th Pennsylvania Infantry uniform, he discussed the life of a Zouave, a particular style of soldier known not only for his fighting skills, but for his unique uniform. The colorful Zouave uniform was based on the North African-styled uniforms worn by Zouave units of the French army during the Crimean War. Kufovich told the audience that, “The Zouaves were considered light infantry,” and “one out of every ten soldiers at the start of the war was a Zouave.”

To learn more about the Belfast team and upcoming events through May, “like” the Local & Legendary: Belfast in the Civil War Facebook page.

Thanks to Local & Legendary Maine Humanities Council project consultant, Janet Lyons, for this update.

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