Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. History Dept.


Elizabeth D. Leonard

Second Advisor

Daniel Tortora


Saturday, June 27, 1863, dawned brightly over Portland, Maine. As the city’s residents began to go about their weekend business, they suddenly realized that the Caleb Cushing, the United States Revenue Cutter (U.S.R.C.) which had been stationed in Portland Harbor on and off again since 1853, was missing. Rumors flew about a traitorous Southerner on board, the work of pirates on the coast, and more. Before the day was over, the revenue cutter would be destroyed and the Casco Bay area would be transformed forever, a victim of one of the northernmost events of the Civil War on the periphery.

Although the “Battle of Portland Harbor” was a minor and peripheral event in the larger course of the war, for the New Englanders who experienced it, it represented a moment just as terrifying and important as any could imagine on the front lines. Other events on the Civil War’s periphery, including the Saint Alban’s Raid and bank robbery in Vermont, inspired similar feelings of fear and a sense of significance for the civilians and home guardsmen who participated in them. This battle represents an example of this war on the periphery, the power of newspapers to stir up panic and generate anxiety on the Union home front, and the tense divide which existed during the Civil War between private citizens and business on the one hand and the military and federal government on the other.


Civil War, naval battles

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