Concord’s Calvin Bates, 20th Maine

In the early 1830’s, the family of Warren and Elizabeth Bates left the town of Whitefield for a new home in Concord, where brother Rev. David Bates also settled along the Jackson Pond Road. They had eight children, several of whom were born in Concord. They moved on to Waldoboro by 1840, and afterward to Piscataquis County, selling the last of their Concord property in 1841. Five of their sons served in the Civil War.

Concord Map,

Map showing the area where Bates Families settled in Concord. Chace, 1860, detail.

According to an article in The Maine Bugle, son Sergeant Elijah Townsend Bates was shot through the head at the Battle of Winchester in 1864; son Thomas J. Bates died of disease in the hospital at Fort Monroe in 1862; son Oliver W. Bates “had his leg shot off in a charge at Richmond a few days before its capture, April 1st, 1865.”; and son Warren Bates, Jr. enlisted but did not leave the state of Maine during the war.

A fifth son, Corporal Calvin Bates, whose death certificate indicates that he was born in Concord in 1833,* served in the 20th Maine, a unit well known for its role in the Battle of Gettysburg under the leadership of Joshua Chamberlain.

Calvin was captured at the Battle of Wilderness, Virginia in 1864 and taken to Andersonville Prison. He gave the following deposition about his experience there.

County of Westchester §§
State of New York

Calvin Bates, a Corporal in Company E, 20th Regt. Me. Vols, being duly sworn doth depose that he was mustered into the service of the United States in said company and regiment August 29, 1862; was taken prisoner at “Wilderness,” Va., May 5, 1864; and was in Andersonville military prison, Ga., from the 23d May 1864 to Sept. 12, 1864. And this deponent further says that he and his fellow prisoners were totally unprovided with any shelter from the inclemency of the weather except such as they could make for themselves by partially burrowing in the ground, and by reason of such exposure and other inhumanities practiced upon him at said prison, his feet decayed so that both of them have since been cut off at the ankle with scissors, by Dr. A. J. Smith, six weeks subsequently the bones protruding, amputation was performed, and that previous to said imprisonment at Andersonville he was a well healthy man, and further this deponent saith not.
Subscribed and sworn before me
This 28th day of April, 1865.
Thos. P. How, Notary Public.

Calvin became a symbol of the extreme conditions at Andersonville when a photograph of him with his doctors was rendered as a sketch and included in a poster about the horrors of Andersonville titled “Let us Forgive. But not Forget.” The graphic real photograph is in the collection of the Library of Congress.


Calvin Bates, Civil War Veteran and Andersonville Prisoner

According to an article in the New York Times, Calvin participated in an exhibition of the use of artificial limbs at the Fair of the American Institute in October 1865. He walked 500 feet in three minutes on artificial legs in front of a large crowd as one of three “contestants.”

In 1866, Calvin married widow Elizabeth (Corey) Kelso, born in Houlton, whose husband had died of disease during the Civil War. They lived in New Boston, New Hampshire, where Calvin farmed until he died in 1889 in Manchester. They had no children together, but raised her son, Charles Edgar Kelso.

Though Calvin moved with his family to Waldoboro in his youth, he was a soldier and son of Concord who endured extreme hardship—not to be forgotten.


*Certain other records indicate that Calvin was born in Whitefield. However, Warren Bates bought his Concord property in December of 1832, and the deed indicates that he was then “of Concord.” Calvin was born in October 1833.


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