This civilian clerk, raised in the Bangor Maine area, joined the military at the beginning of the US Civil War at the old age of 4I when most were under 20. But that did not stop him from repeatedly showing his bravery and leadership skills, raising a regiment 1,800 men strong, and in return gaining promotions from Private to full Colonel in very short order.
To set the stage for the Civil War battle, it should be remembered that the First Maine Heavies, acting as Infantry by this time, where relatively new on the battlefield. Not that long previously it was doing the patrolling and guarding of the nation's capital and other area forts. Its day to day activity saw it training in tactics, that by 1864 were long since proven, in many cases, to no longer be the best way to do battle.
Lessons learned by hard fought battles usually saw the veterans passing these down to the front line troops in a unit. But most in the Heavies.. did not have this experience to pass down. The generals did but apparently did not pass this down to the greenhorns. Greenhorns full of gusto and bravery, much suppressed by those already having gone before and having learned their lessons.
Now back to Petersburg ...
Chaplin's Heavies had about 900 men on the field that day. They were spread along a line of roadway that had a slight build up at its front so they could not see ahead, and the enemy, located between 3 and 500 yards to their front also could not see the Union troops.
Chaplin was actually slightly back of his unit as he was in temporary command of several units. He was near the Hare house shown above by the little black square.
Earlier in the day the Union tried to move forward and was driven back by the Confederates in dugouts along the treeline to Chaplin's front. These Confederate troops also consisted of fresh troops, and also had the aid of artillery already in command of the area that any advance by Union troops would have to cross.
Senior commanders ordered that another advance was to be made. The more experienced pleaded that it was a suicide mission as literally ever inch of the field to cross was covered by the enemy. A junior commander did not have the ability to convince the higher ups and the command was given to Charge and thus Chaplin was ordered to pass the command along.
Other more seasoned veterans were also given the command to charge but were not forced to do so by their commanders. So the First Maine Heavy Artillery, were forced to carry the entire burden of the battle, be the sole targets of the enemy and with no help from any backup units.
Within about 10 and 20 minutes, depending on sources consulted, figures again vary, but from 532 to 615 Union soldiers lay dead or dying on the field or went Missing in Action. These numbers have been recorded in history as being the highest casualties of any regiment of over 2000 in the Union Army during the war, to have been lost in one battle by a single unit.
The Confederates also had loses. Apparently only 25 of them!
After the battle, when Maj. General Birney rode up to Chaplin, he asked where all his men were. He was told that they were mostly all out there... pointing to the field of battle and noting they were dead or dying. He then apparently withdrew his sword, handed it to his boss.. blade first, and said that the General may keep it, as he had no further use for it. He then sat down at the side of the road and cried like a child at the loss of most of his men, and in such a needless, and worse yet... foolish charge.
A month later the First Maine found themselves at a place called Deep Bottom Va. , Chaplin with sword.
It was the 17 August of 1864 and Chaplin's men again were in a dugout position along the line. He stood up at its ridge to use his glass to inspect the enemy positions. Two shots rang out. One just missing, the other hitting him in the chest with a very serious wound.
On 30 March 1867, Secretary of War Stanton received the approval to posthumously promote Chaplin first to a Brig. General and then immediately to a Major General. Both promotions were to be back dated to August of 1864 when he was killed in action at Deep Bottom.
In the early 1860's several forts were completed and others started in the DC area in the event the war moved close to DC. One of these, with 12 gun emplacements but only one installed suggesting the fort was never completed, was named in honour of Daniel Chaplin. Here is the map showing its location, remnants of which are still visible to sharp eyes in DC.
Now, to completely throw you for a loop, here is a partial map of New Brunswick Canada.
While most sites will tell you that Daniel was raised in the Bangor area or close by in Maine, few tell you that before he was raised, he had to be born. And that happened at Red Bank New Brunswick. His parents had at least 12 children, the last 2 of these were born at Red Bank and Daniel was one of these.
Regular readers will recall me often mentioning that there are a number of Canadians who served as generals during the US Civil War. Many sites claim the number is around 5 or 6. My numbers are at 11. Some were born here, others have connections to Canada.
Since Daniel was born here he clearly joins these numbers. He ought to also join them as a Medal of Honor recipient, but that has not happened.
See you next week!