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A look back at when former Maine Governor Joshua Chamberlain calmed down so-called mob in 1880

Former Maine Governor Joshua Chamberlain was called to Augusta in 1880 after there was a dispute about who was the newly-elected governor.

AUGUSTA, Maine — As the country comes to terms with what happened at the U.S. Capitol earlier this week, it's time to go back in history, to when there was a struggle at the Maine Capitol.

"The count out crisis happened very similar to what's going on today," Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum Site Manager Troy Ancona said. 

Former Maine Governor Joshua Chamberlain was called to Augusta in 1880 after there was a dispute about who was the newly-elected governor.

"This caused an uproar in Augusta. They couldn't solve it quick enough. The government of Augusta basically dissolved," Ancona said. 

Ancona said Chamberlain—who was the commander of the Maine Militia at the time—was asked to take charge and calm down the so-called mob that had formed at the state capitol.

"He took his responsibilities of protecting the assets of the government and for 12 days was in a sense the interim military governor, is what some authors have called him," Ancona said. "Twelve days later, things were really starting to heat up. There were threats on his life and various other people in government."

Larissa Vigue Picard, the executive director of the Pejumpscot History Center, said Chamberlain received a letter from U.S. Senator James Blaine asking him to bring in the Maine Militia.

"Chamberlain wrote back to him and said 'Let's put the brakes on. Put your trust in me. I'm going to try and keep the peace,'" Vigue Picard said.

Both she and Ancona said that's exactly what Chamberlain did.

"He came out melodramatic. 'You have to take this for what it's worth.' He unbuttoned his coat and said, 'I'd given my life before, I'm going to give my life now. I'm going to see this thing through and make sure it's done right. So if you are going to kill me, kill me now.' Supposedly there were veterans in the crowd. One of them went to his defense and the situation diffused and the crowd melted away," Ancona said.

The Supreme Court made a decision on the election. Vigue Picard said if Chamberlain knew what happened at the U.S. Capitol, she said he would be horrified.

Vigue Picard said, "Obviously as someone who was protecting the statehouse during this crisis in 1880, he felt it was very important to uphold the rule of law. To be calm, to talk with one another and not take up arms immediately."

Credit: Pejepscot History Center