Our Proud Military History
Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Original artwork by Ken Hendrickson, a native Maine artist. Mixed media. Oils on canvas and 20th Maine Flag photograph. http://www.civilwarartist.com
The Maine Army National Guard has a long and proud tradition going back to the years before American independence. During the 1500s and early 1600s, several settlements were attempted along the Maine coast by both the English and the French. The French tended to settle in what is now Acadia and in the Castine area, and would be a constant threat to the colonists in Maine. The English were most successful in the colonies founded in southern Maine, from Kittery up to what is now Portland. As these colonies drew in more families seeking new lives in the New England frontier, they began to band together to protect themselves from attacks from the French and their native allies. These first musters of militia in small towns like York and Falmouth (now Portland) are the true beginnings of the Maine Guard: fathers, sons, and brothers coming together to protect their families from outside threats. The militia system called for all able-bodied males of suitable age to keep a weapon in their home and be ready to react when danger approached. The militia system lasted through the 19th century and is the foundation for the Army National Guard.
The courage and determination of the Maine militia was put to the test almost immediately, as conflict with native tribes and European colonists put the newcomers in jeopardy. Communities fought off local attacks and assembled together for muster days during the year to drill and train. The Province of Maine was absorbed into the Colony of Massachusetts by the Puritan leadership in Boston who grew suspicious of the Anglican leadership in Maine. Full control of Maine went to Massachusetts in 1692. As part of the agreement, Massachusetts was now supposed to provide protection for the residents of Maine. In 1689, new fighting broke out again between England and France. Hundreds of French and Indians struck out at the English frontier. Militia from Maine and Massachusetts rushed to meet the largest force outside Falmouth, and defeated them in a pitched battle. However, they were not so lucky a year later when Massachusetts did not send troops to defend against another impending attack. Over 200 Maine militiamen and their families were holed up in Fort Loyall and kept off a superior force of French and Indians for four days. When the fort’s garrison attempted to surrender honorably, the French commander ordered everyone in Fort Loyall put to death. Falmouth and the hamlets around it were deserted for years but Mainers were determined and came back. Maine milita would defend their homes again in between 1710-23 when more European warfare spilled over to the colonies. This time Maine militia were better prepared and fought off the attacking French. Maine would again go to war in the 1740s, sending off soldiers to assist in the taking of French fortress of Louisburg, one of the most incredible military feats of the century. A decade later, Maine militia marched against Canada during the Seven Years’ War, providing valuable aid to the British army in the form of engineering and supply support. By the end of the war in 1763, Canada was in the hands of the British and the constant threat of French invasion was at an end. Maine militia members had defended their homes for 150 years and through their steadfastness were now safe to enjoy their freedom as British citizens.
Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management
Military Bureau — ATTN: Historian
Headquarters Maine Army National Guard
Camp Keyes, Augusta, Maine 04333-0033
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