This April marks 156 years since the start of the American Civil War. The 8th Maine Regiment Association is interestingly linked to the Arthur MacArthur family of Limington, Maine. Two brothers, Arthur, Jr., and William M. MacArthur, both Bowdoin College graduates, are the only known alumni to have fought on the opposite sides of the Civil War. Arthur, class of 1850, served as a major in the 6th Louisiana Infantry Regiment. His younger brother William, class of 1853, was first a captain and later a colonel of the 8th Maine Infantry Regiment.
Arthur MacArthur, Sr., and his wife Sarah had five sons and a daughter. After Arthur Jr., and William, a third son, Malcom, attended West Point, and later served in the Army in South Dakota under the command of Major Reno at the Battle of Little Bighorn. A fourth son Charles moved and lived in California after the Civil War. A fifth son, died at sea on a return trip from Africa. Daughter Catherine became a school teacher and died young.
Arthur Jr., while at N. Yarmouth Academy in Yarmouth, Maine, roomed with Oliver Otis Howard, and both later became Bowdoin classmates. Howard, born in Leeds, Maine, later became the Union Army XI Corp Commander at the Chancellorsville and Gettysburg battles.
Arthur Jr., had a problem with alcohol, which brought untold consternation to his father, who was a temperance movement leader in Maine. After graduation from Bowdoin, Arthur Jr., moved away from Maine, either to live down the history of his personal conduct, or because hometown expectations were too burdensome. He settled in Sabine Parish, Louisiana and soon adopted many local attitudes, including acceptance of slavery and secession. He became a teacher, lawyer and a respected citizen. After Sumter in 1861, he wrote a letter to his father addressed from the "Confederate States of America, Nashboro Sabine Parish, Louisiana." He related to his father how he had become a strong supporter of John C. Breckenridge, the losing Democratic candidate in the 1860 presidential election. He continued in his letter that "the Confederate States of America are destined to be the most powerful, richest and most glorious nation in the Western Hemisphere." He then told his father that he had been made a captain in the Louisiana Union and Sabine Rifles. He ended his letter, "my love to all, I am your affectionate son, Arthur."
Arthur's regiment joined Stonewall Jackson's army in the Shenandoah Valley in the spring of 1862. On May 25, in the first battle of Winchester in Virginia, Arthur was shot and killed leading a charge.
William created no scandal nor seemed adventurous. He was studious and quiet. After graduation he was admitted to the Maine bar and started a law practice in Limington, half-heartedly apparently, because he did not serious pursue a law practice later in life. When the war broke out, he received a captain's commission and helped organize the 8th Maine Infantry Regiment. He rose through the ranks, fought at Fort Pulaski, S.C., Cold Harbor, Fair Oaks, Petersburg (where he was wounded) and Appomattox Court House, Virginia. At the end of the war he had attained the rank of a brevetted brigadier general. The soldiers of the 8th Maine are on record as expressing love and respect for the last officer to lead the regiment.
After the war, William became a pension agent and postmaster, ran the family farm, and later served in the Maine Senate and House. He remained a bachelor his entire life. In 1885, in a historical piece of irony, he won $75,000 in the Louisiana State Lottery and used some of the money to buy land and build the 8th Maine Regiment Memorial Lodge, which opened in 1891. William died in 1917 in the gambled-roofed homestead where he was born.
Today, the descendants of the original 8th Maine soldiers still operate the facility, a National Historic Place. It invites guests from around the world to come and stay in one of 14 rooms in the Lodge. The 8th Maine Regiment Memorial Association, Inc., also displays authentic artifacts and historical documents from the Civil War in the Lodge.