The focus of the research in the "New History Project" of the 13th Maine Infantry is discovering much more about all the men who served in the regiment, learning about their families, their communities, their fortunes and misfortunes, how they lived and how they died.
There were at least 1,132 individual soldiers who served in the 13th Maine Infantry Regiment, and there may have been as many as 1,153. In addition to those men on Lufkin's roster list who are confirmed by enlistment record index cards at the Maine State Archives, there are a number of men listed on the 1890 Federal Veteran's Census as having served in the 13th Maine, as well as, a few others listed in the records of the Chalmette and Togus National Cemeteries. A few, but not all, of these can be proven to be errors in record keeping. A few other uncertain ones were men who were recruited very near the end of the war and never actually joined the regiment in the field even though were officially assigned to the 13th Maine.
Who were they before the war?
Where did they come from? Because the companies were generally recruited by local leaders from a few communities and counties, most of then men knew each other well as family, friends and neighbors for years prior to their service together in the regiment. There was a great deal of pressure from peers and others urging men to enlist. This had a great deal of impact on their behavior during the war and relationships after the war in many cases. Some enlisted to preserve the union, some for adventure and others for economic reasons. Apparently, many parents urged their young sons to enlist in the 13th Maine because they believed that Neal Dow's fame and commitment to temperance and other moral issues would provide wiser guidance to impressionable boys. Although each company had a few men from outside the general recruitment area, even outside the United States like Ireland, most of the men shared a common community, race, language and culture.
When we learn who their parents were we find out that many of their ancestors were soldiers in the Mexican War, the War of 1812, the American Revolutionary War and other conflicts in North America.
By finding out who their parents and other ancestors were we also find that many men were related. Over 250 men of the 13th Maine were related as closely as twins (Irelands and Stuarts), brothers and father-sons to those identified as 5th cousins and various in-law relationships. We can just imagine the grief as brothers, fathers and sons, or old friends and neighbors, died in each other's arms or the joy when they returned home together.
Ages: Because records were not always accurate and many men, both young and old, were motivated to disguise their true age, we can't know for certain their ages. It appears that the oldest soldier probably was Musician Marshall Maxwell who was born in 1800 or 1801 and over 60 years old at enlistment. At least twenty other soldiers were over 50 at enlistment. Several boys appeared to have been no older than 13 at enlistment - especially a couple of the musicians.
Physical descriptions: All the men were Caucasians except the company cooks who were all Blacks. The shortest man at enlistment was Musician Charles L. Connor at 4' 6" tall, but he was only sixteen years old and may have grown some more. Sgt. Charles Anderson at 6' 5" was the tallest of the 105 men who were six feet tall or more. The median hsight was 5' 8". We see a large variety in beards from clean shaven to elaborate full beards. As was typical for the time, almost all the soldiers were slender - diet and activity prevented the obesity so common today.
Occupations: Most of the men were farmers and laborers, but since they were from Maine seamen, fishermen and lumbermen were well represented as well. Many were craftsmen and tradesmen of various skills including ship and house carpenters, masons, house painters, mechanics, wagon makers/painters, shoemakers, butchers, clerks. And most every profession was represented including engineers, lawyers, teachers, physicians, pharmacists, artists, musicians and clergymen. A few were government officials from local constables and clerks to mayors, Congressmen, one Ambassador (Alfred E. Buck) and one Presidential Candidate (Neal Dow). Some became very wealthy businessmen while others became destitute paupers.
We can imagine, because of the particular fame and focus of Col. Neal Dow as a nationally famous temperance leader, that temperance was an important issue of consideration and perhaps conflict within the regiment. We know that some men were caught with liquor against regimental rules.
What happened to them during the war?
At least 236 men died in service, mostly of disease, with only 16 killed immediately in action, with 38 more wounded and at least six of those dying shortly of their wounds. A few died of accidents like lightning and sunstroke. At least 284 were discharged for disability with at least 21 of them dying very shortly after. At least 120 were reported as deserters or missing in action but this was later corrected and at least four were killed. At least 24 were prisoners and at least six of those died in as prisoners.
At least 39 were promoted to commissions in the Corps d'Afrique, or regiments made up of Black soldiers. At least three died in that service.
At least 191 served in other regiments - either before or after their service in the 13th Maine.
At least 458 are confirmed as mustering out with either the 13th Maine or 30th Maine Infantry Regiments.
What happened to them after the war?
The largest part of the surviving soldiers returned to their families and home communities and resumed their lives as farmers, laborers and seamen, or re-established themselves in their farms, local businesses and economies. Sometimes they married sisters and daughters, even widows, of their fellow soldiers. At least one of the black cooks maintained friendships with his fellow soldiers and came to settle among them in Falmouth, Maine.
Most of the soldiers returned to their wives or married soon after and raised their children and saw their grandchildren grow. Because the war created so many widows and a shortage of men, we see veterans frequently marrying older women with property and children. Because of higher mortality rates in those days many men married multiple times and had many children. (A couple appear to have run off and become bigamists - but in some cases it may have been fraudulent widow pension applications by more than one woman claiming to be the surviving wife...)
However, many of the soldiers, after seeing so much of the world outside Maine, picked up roots and moved to new locations. Some went only to Massachusetts or New Hampshire while others moved farther away to New York businesses, West Virginia lumber mills, Kansas and Nebraska prairie farms, New Mexico ranches, Colorado and California mines, even to Australia!
Many died in the decades following the war. Of course, most men died of disease in those days - frequently of diseases and injuries they received in the war and never were able to recover fully. However, others met different ends - some died in accidents, a few were murdered and some just disappeared into the wilderness or sea without leaving any records we have found. Several men lived to be very old. At least 369 of the veterans lived until the 1890 Veteran Census and at least nine lived past 1930. The last confirmed death of a 13th Maine veteran was Corporal Otis L. Coffin who died in Freeport, Maine, on November 28, 1944, at 100 years of age.