Tuesday, November 3, 2020
David Barker Civil War Poem about Returning Maine Soldiers, "The Lumbermen of Maine"
The Lumbermen of Maine is a poem presumably by David Barker (1816-1874) about Civil War soldiers returning to Maine. It was found in a clipping pasted in a mid 19th century scrapbook.
The poem depicts the return of Maine men from service in the Civil War to a place with a double tide, possibly tidal Augusta, Maine, on the Kennebec River, where many Maine men mustered out.
David Barker was born in Exeter, Maine, on 9 September 1816, the son of Nathaniel Barker and Sarah (Pease) Barker.
From the biography included in Poems, an anthology of Barker's poems published after his death by his wife and children in 1876:
Nathaniel Barker's accidental death in 1823 in Bangor, Maine, left the family in difficult circumstances. David managed to enroll at Foxcroft Academy, where his merit brought him a position as an assistant there. He then taught in various places, even as far away as Eastport, Maine, before taking up the study of law in the Exeter office of Samuel Cony, later a governor of Maine.
After passing the Bar, David Barker started his own practice in Exeter, which he would maintain until ill health in the 1870s. In 1854, he married Susan Rebeckah Chase (1827-1892) of Belfast, Maine. They had at least two children, their son dying relatively young and their daughter living to nearly the century mark.
David Barker died at Bangor, Maine, in 1874 and is buried in the Exeter Center Cemetery at Exeter, Maine, with other relatives. Susan is buried in Belfast, Maine, with their son Walter and other relatives.
For some reason the poem The Lumbermen of Maine is not included in the book mentioned above. I first came across the poem in a mid 19th century scrapbook and was able to find it in several places online, including in the April 2, 1898 issue of the Hallowell Register [scroll to the bottom] where the poem is attributed to David Barker. Hopefully, that is truly the case.
Transcription of the Poem
The LUMBERMEN OF MAINE
There were shouts in the crowded street,
And a martial music-strain,
And banners waved, and loud drums beat,
As the men of the city came out to greet
The lumbermen of Maine.
A thousand strong and more
From the woods and streams came they;
From where the Kennebec's fountains roar,
And the swift Penobscot twists the oar,
and Passamaquoddy Bay.
Strong knights of the axe and pole,
Kings of the raft and saw,
In brawny limb and dauntless soul,
By the breath of the forest air made whole
And the use of nature's law.
They marched with a steady tread
Toward the front of death and pain,
Where the splintered stumps of the trees were red,
And the rivers waited to raft the dead
Of the lumbermen of Maine.
And a thousand more forsook
The axe and the setting-pole,
And the forest camp by the swollen brook,
And in squads the vacant places took
To keep the torn ranks whole.
Dusty and hot and worn
The regiment came today,
With a battle-flag all soiled and torn,
And a dozen footless heroes borne
Behind on a rumbling dray.
Through the city's double tide
Slowly they marched again,
With a look of modest, manly pride
That made them tall as they marched beside
The throng of common men.
But a hundred strong and three
They came from the battle-plain;
The others will never fell the tree,
Or sing and dance, when the raft floats free
With the lumbermen of Maine.