Sea Captains in the Civil War
The Civil War affected Searsport captains in different ways, both at sea and on land.
Captain Clifton Henry Havener (1832– 1906) first went to sea at the age of 13, and retired at age 58. His wife, Jane, sailed with him for 30 years. During the Civil War, while Captain Havener was in command of the brig Mary E. Thompson on a passage from New York to Pensacola, Florida with supplies for the Union Army, he was captured by the Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis. A lieutenant was sent on board to take possession of the prize. While looking through Captain Havener’s papers, the Confederate officer came across books of the Masonic OrderMasonic Order Masons
An organization formally called the Free and Accepted Masons, an international fraternal and charitable group with secret rites, rituals and signs.. Being a Mason himself, the officer exchanged grips and passwords with Captain Havener. Concluding that Havener was a fine Mason, the officer withdrew his men and permitted the vessel to go free. See More about Masons
Captain Freeman McGilvery (1823 – 1864) who commanded two ships prior to the Civil War, gave up command of the Wellfleet (later called the Senator Weber) in 1861 to offer his services to the Governor of Maine. He was assigned to command the 6th Maine Battery. During 1862, this battery participated in the West Virginia and Virginia battles of Cedar Mountain, White Sulphur Springs, Bull Run, Chantilly, and Antietam. McGilvery was then promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to command the reserve artillery brigade of the Army of the Potomac. In the battle of Gettysburg his skillful handling of artillery contributed to the success of the army. He was promoted to colonel.
In a subsequent engagement, Col. McGilvery was wounded in the forefinger by a sharpshooter’s bullet. He neglected treatment, and the wound became infected, requiring amputation of his finger. McGilvery was given chloroformChloroform
A colorless, volatile, nonflammable, slightly water-soluble, pungent, sweet-tasting liquid, CHCl 3 , usually derived from acetone, acetaldehyde, or ethyl alcohol by the reaction of chloride of lime. Used chiefly in medicine as a solvent, formerly used as an anesthetic. for the operation and never regained consciousness. He was 41 years old when he died. His wife, Hannah Thurston, was the daughter of the Rev. Stephen Thurston of the First Congregational Church of Searsport. They had no children. The Searsport Grand Army Post is named in honor of Col. Freeman McGilvery.
Freeman McGilvery’s brother, Captain William McGilvery (1814 – 1876) commanded six vessels. In 1847, during the Irish potato famineIrish Potato Famine Potato Famine
In 1845 the Irish potato crop contracted a fungus (phytophthera infestans) that caused the potato plants to rot. The Irish lived largely on potatoes, while exporting their other crops, such as wheat, to England in order to pay the rent on their farms. When the potato failed, there was devastating starvation and disease among the Irish peasants.
Read more, he carried a load of grain to Ireland in the bark Henrietta. In 1859 he formed a partnership with Captain Daniel S. Goodell Sr. at Mack’s PointMack Point Mack's Point
Site of a deep water port in Searsport, Maine, and home to Searsport's industrial district. The correct spelling is Mack Point. Mack Point is on the mainland directly across from Sears Island. (sic) and built vessels there until 1865.
In the early days of the Civil War, Captain William McGilvery had a telegraph installed in Miss Lucy Edwards’ millineryMillinery Millinery shop, milliner
The making and selling of hats. and dry goodsDry goods
Textiles, fabrics, and related goods, not including hardware or food. store in Searsport. Miss Edwards learned to operate the instrument, and received the daily war news, which was read to the public from the front door of her store.
Captain Francis Asbury (Frank) Curtis (1842 – 1911) went west shortly before the Civil War and shipped on the Great Lakes. He enlisted in the 14th Illinois Calvary, was captured, and spent time in AndersonvilleAndersonville Andersonville Prison
In 1864, Andersonville Prison was opened in Georgia. In just one year it contained more than 49,000 Union soldiers. Andersonville was an open stockade, with tents inside for the prisoners, and was known for terrible conditions and a high death rate. Today it is the site of the National Prisoner of War Museum. and other Confederate prisons. While being transferred between prisons, he escaped by jumping from a train. Curtis wandered the countryside for days, but was eventually forced to surrender. After the War, he returned to the sea until 1892, with the exception of the years between 1878 and 1882, when he operated a grocery store on Searsport’s Main Street.
In 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, Captain James N. Nickels (1828 – 1889) commanded the brig Waccamaw and sailed her into Searsport harbor from Bucksville, South CarolinaBucksville, South Carolina
The town of Bucksville was established by Henry Buck, also founder of Bucksport, Maine. Buck moved to South Carolina in the 1820s to start lumber mills near the vast sources of cypress, pine and hardwoods.
Read more The Waccamaw was flying the confederate flag, her papers having been taken from her by the Collector of Customs at Georgetown, SC. She is probably the only vessel ever to fly the Confederate flag in Penobscot Bay.
In 1889 Captain Nickels came to Portland, Maine, after his son-in-law died in a Maine hospital. After making the necessary arrangements for transporting the body to Searsport, Nickels went to a nearby restaurant for dinner, where he had a sudden heart attack and died. The bodies of Captain Nickels and his son-in-law were taken to Searsport together.