Union 1st Maine Heavy Artillery

  • American Civil War
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

Perhaps no American Civil Civil War Unit was as more unique, ''storied'' and sadly overlooked in History, than that of The 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment. Formed in Bangor, Maine in 1862 The Regiment was a (10) Company, 900-Man ''Infantry Regiment'' officially identified as The 18th Maine Volunteer Infantry. The Regiment was trained as Infantrymen and immediately deployed to the Forts that surrounded the outskirts of The Nation's Capital – Washington DC.


Washington DC in the mid-19th Century was an ''Urban Center'', which still featured ''dirt roads'' and ''wide open spaces''. The land (once a swamp), had been drained and filled in over the last 100-years to produce ''solid'' earth. The District was still surrounded by dense trees and woodlands in it's suburbs. With the start of The American Civil War of 1861 – and owing to the proximity between a Confederate Virginia (several miles in some cases), a massive patchwork of Fortifications were hewn and erected around Washington's Southern Perimeter. These Forts were connected by a series of often miles long trenches and raised, earthen positions. The 18th Maine was assigned to not only ''Garrison Duty'', but a very different vocation – that of ''Artillerymen''.


Redesignated The 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment (1863) – these soldiers were retrained as Artillerymen to man heavy cannon such as The Columbiad, and Armstrong Gun. Some were also trained in the deployment of The 10 and 13-inch Mortar. They (like other Garrisoned Units), were the ''first line of Defense'' if a Confederate Army tried to move against The National Capital.


In 1864, The Union Army was sorely depleted of replacements and – owing to The 1st Maine and it's former Infantry training, were redeployed from The Forts to The Army of The Potomac – as Infantrymen! They refused to change their Uniforms or Regimental marking of Artillery, and marched into active service as “Artillerymen'', even keeping their designator of ''Heavy Artillery''.


Their first combat was at Spotsylvania Court House (Virginia), in which The Regiment made it's charge against Confederate Lines, only to suffer 300 wounded in the withering fire. The 1st Maine charged into History at The Siege of Petersburg, when (reconstituted by Reserved to roughly 800 Men), The Regiment charged heavily defended Confederate cannon in a charge that would have been the ''envy'' of Lord Cardigan's Charge at Balaclava Heights during The Crimean War. They lost 67% casualties, considered the highest suffered by a single Union Army Unit in The War. Only 200 Officers and Men survived The War with The Confederacy's Surrender in 1865. They were mustered out of Federal Service that year.


As stated The Regiment maintained it's Artillery Red Facings on their standard Federal Blue Frock Coat Uniform, with ''Kersey'' Blue Trousers. Their Regimental Colors were also unique and unlike traditional Federal Artillery Batteries. It featured a Yellow Field with a pair of Crossed Cannon Barrel in Gold – centered. A Red Banneroll was present at the Top and Bottom of The Colors which identified the Regiment as ''1st Maine Heavy Artillery''.