Fifth Maine Regiment Museum
The Fifth Maine Regiment was assembled in the spring of 1861, just as the American Civil War was beginning. President Abraham Lincoln put out the call for troops and the men of Portland, Maine and the surrounding area answered. The soldiers of the Fifth Maine fought in many battles, including the Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg. After the war was over, a group of veterans built the Memorial Hall on Peaks Island, Maine, as a place for their families to gather and enjoy. Families vacationed there in the summertime for nearly sixty years. Today, the hall is maintained as a Civil War and local history museum as well as a community center for the residents of the small island.
Backstory and Context
The American Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861. President Abraham Lincoln issued an appeal for soldiers to fight for the Union side right away. More than one thousand men from Portland, Maine and the surrounding areas answered his call.
The group from Portland was nicknamed the “Forest City Regiment.” Portland was known as the “Forest City” in the mid-nineteenth century because of the amount of elms and other large trees which provided shade in the city. The Forest City Regiment left Portland for Washington D.C. and was assigned to the Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac. They fought in Oliver Otis Howard’s brigade at First Manassas, also known as the First Battle of Bull Run, in July 1861. The Fifth Maine also fought in other famous battles, such as the Second Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Antietam, and Gettysburg.
The members of the Fifth Regiment Maine Volunteer Infantry who remained after the end of the American Civil War constructed the Memorial Hall in 1888 as a headquarters and a memorial to their comrades who had been lost. Summers were spent enjoying the cottage and the ocean breezes. There were fifteen rooms in the cottage that could be rented to the families of the veterans. Their families continued to reunite in the hall for nearly sixty years after its construction.
Some of the most fascinating features of the Memorial Hall and the museum are the windows in the main hall, which are made from hand-blown flash glass and are engraved with the names of the men who served in the Fifth Maine Regiment. Also, there is a red cross above the doors on the ocean side of the hall. The red cross was the symbol of the Sixth Corps (the group that the Fifth joined when they first entered service at Washington D.C.).
Today, the Memorial Hall is maintained by the Fifth Maine Regiment Community Association as a Civil War and local history museum. It is also a center for the residents of the small Peaks Island community. The Fifth Maine Regiment Museum opens for the season on Memorial Day weekend and is open on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays from 11 AM until 4 PM through the end of June. On July 1st, it also opens weekdays from 12 PM to 4 PM through Labor Day. After Labor Day, it returns to the weekend-only hours (Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays from 11 AM - 4 PM) through Columbus Day.
The Regimental Hall. Fifth Maine Museum. Accessed December 02, 2017. https://www.fifthmainemuseum.org/index.php/2014-02-22-20-30-42/2014-02-22-21-15-31.
Swartz, Brian. Fifth Maine museum connects past and present. Bangor Daily News Blog: Maine at War. August 21, 2014. Accessed December 02, 2017. http://maineatwar.bangordailynews.com/2014/08/21/fifth-maine-museum-connects-past-and-present/.