Old Jacks

Nathaniel Jackson

Colonel Nathaniel Jackson (Library of Congress).

When war broke out in April 1861, patriotic Mainers rushed to enlist in the effort to end the rebellion. The 1st Regiment, Maine’s initial contribution to the conflict, was organized 16 days after Sumter’s surrender, with Col. Nathaniel Jackson of Lewiston in command. It was a 90-day regiment and never saw combat, although some of its soldiers reenlisted in the 10th Maine and later the 29th. One of its soldiers was John Mead Gould, a bank teller in Portland who wrote a history of the regiments.

Delayed by measles (which meant the 2nd ME left the state before the 1st did), the green soldiers departed from Portland on June 1 for a leisurely trip south, with stops for celebrations in Newburyport, Massachusetts (the birthplace of their colonel), Boston, and New York. Gould later wrote a very droll account of Col. Jackson’s “speech” in New York. Jim the adjutant was James Fillebrown, later the lieutenant colonel of the 10th ME. The “speech” became the subject of recurring humor in the regiment, where a cry of “Jim!” was certain to create hilarity.

Before leaving the Park, and while we were formed as a square, the Colonel delivered that famous speech which no man who heard will ever forget. It was entirely extempore and had the merit of brevity, and it made, not the orator, but the one addressed famous ever afterward. The Adjutant was hastening toward the opposite side of the square when the Colonel called him. The Adjutant did not hear—the only man in the regiment that did not, by the way. He called again and still no attention except from the 700 men and seven times 700 spectators who were all attention. Therefore he roused himself for his effort, and delivered the speech, which was taken down in short hand or some other way, and is recorded as follows:

SPEECH OF “OLD JACKS”,
Sunday, June 2, 1861, In Front Of City Hall, New York.

“Jim!—Ho! JIM!!”

Moved by his eloquence the great assemblage of soldiers and citizens burst into one grand responsive echo—“JIM!” “JIM!” “JIM!” “JIM!” “JIM!” &c., which they kept up for a long time, and indeed, as far as the soldiers were concerned, they haven’t quite quit it yet.

From Gould, John Mead and Jordan, Leonard G. History of the First—Tenth—Twenty-ninth Maine Regiment: In Service of the United States from May 3, 1861, to June 21, 1866. Portland, ME: Stephen Berry, 1871.

 

 

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