George W. Bartlett


George W. Bartlett, despite being a man of great courage, ability and achievement, has remained virtually unknown among the many sons born to Litchfield families. His parents were William and Dorothy (Merrill) Bartlett who owned a farm just south of the Old Town House. His early years were spent working on the farm and attending one of Litchfield several one room schools. He obviously developed a love of learning as he set his sights on an education at Bowdoin College. Much of the information required for the entrance examinations must have been self taught, (becoming competent in the Classical Greek language, for example.) His greatest obstacle in attaining a Bowdoin education, however, was his lack of money. Like many young men of his day, he determined that the quickest way to acquire wealth would be to go to the California gold fields. Fortunately, he failed to realize that odds of an inexperienced farm boy finding gold and returning home safely with his bounty were very slim.

We know nothing of his experience in California, but he did manage to get accepted to Bowdoin College and to graduate. His next move was to Harvard College’s Divinity School where he became an ordained Unitarian Minister. He returned to Maine and became the pastor of the Unitarian Church in Augusta. When the War of the Rebellion broke out, George W. joined the Union army as a chaplain. His unit went south to Louisiana where it became engaged in combat with the Confederate army. In one skirmish all the line officers in his unit were killed or wounded and the ordained minister stepped in and led the troops in battle. He was later commended for his courage and capable leadership. Soon after, like many of his fellow soldiers, Bartlett contracted malaria and was sent home to recuperate.

Upon recovery from his illness, the Rev. Bartlett determined that he wanted to re enter the Union army as a line officer. The army refused his request and he rejoined the army as a chaplain with the First Maine Cavalry. He met his unit in Virginia where his brother, Cushing, and his brother in law, George T. Stockham, had recently been killed at Laurel hill. The First Maine Cavalry shortly found themselves engaged in the battle at Cold Harbor. This battle on June 2, 1864, so brutal that General Grant later said it was the one battle that he regretted starting, saw several thousand soldiers die in the early morning hours. Among them was George W. Bartlett, cut down by Confederate artillery at the age of thirty seven. Men such as this should not be forgotten.


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