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I had a few days off from work and spent part of my mini vacation photographing a few unique roadside bits of Maine. I shot two of my favorite old buildings and the state’s most unique Civil War monumentwith my mobile wet plate collodion setup.
Brownfield is a small, flat, sandy, valley town of about 1,600 souls lying along the Saco River in western Maine. There’s no detectable downtown, one convenience store with a beer cave, a couple of small diners and one of Maine best — and tiniest — concert venues.
The town also hosts a Civil War monument unlike any other in the state.
Maine has around 150 monuments dedicated to the soldiers and sailors who fought and died preserving the Union in the nation’s bloodiest conflict. Most take the shape of brass tablets or granite obelisks.
More than a few depict, mustached soldiers leaning on bayoneted rifles. The same generic statues are found all over the northeastern states. The creation of such sculpted images was a big industry in the late 19th century.
Maine has a few more unique statues, too. Portland’s Monument Square sports a huge, female victory figure with a laurel-topped head and large sword. Saco’s Civil War monument shows victory crowning a kneeling soldier.
But little Brownfield’s monument is different from all the rest.
It shows a young, clean-shaven, fresh-faced soldier raising his right hand, taking his oath to defend the Constitution. The unarmed youth holds no gun — but he does have a name: Daniel Augustine Bean.
It’s the only Civil War monument in Maine depicting an individual soldier who fought in the conflict.
Bean’s father was Maj. Sylvanus B. Bean. In October 1861, he raised a company of 21 local soldiers for the war effort. Among the recruits was his own, 15-year-old son, Daniel Bean. On Nov. 2, 1861, Daniel Bean enlisted in Company A of the 11th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, along with his friend Elias P. Morton.
Daniel Bean was wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862. After recuperating, he returned to service and but wounded again on June 1, 1864 during a picket skirmish at the end of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, outside Richmond, Virginia. Then, on his way to a hospital, another musket ball slammed into his body during in a separate skirmish.
Daniel Bean, 18, died in hospital, five days later, on June 6, 1864. He is buried in Plot D, grave 2820 at Hampton National Cemetery in City of Hampton, Virginia. His father, Sylvanus Bean, survived the war and served as postmaster in Brownfield. He died at 79 in 1894 and buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, less than a quarter mile from Daniel Bean’s statue.
Daniel Bean’s friend, Elias Morton, also survived the war and became a successful Massachusetts linen factory bookkeeper and agent. He raised the money to have Boston artist John A. Wilson sculpt his old friend back to life from a photograph and then donated the statue to the people of Brownfield. Brownfield dedicated the monument on Tuesday Sept. 26, 1911.
I can’t find Morton’s burial records.
In 1913, Wilson, the sculptor, also created a Confederate monument, later known as Silent Sam, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Racial justice protestors tore the statue down in August 2018.
Today, Daniel Bean’s statue still stands at a v-shaped crossroads on Route 160 in Brownfield. Locals later added monuments to other wars, but the towering statue remains the out-of-the-way park’s focal point.
When I visited this month, no flag flew on the adjacent pole. The flowerbeds were weedy and unkempt. But the statue retains its innocent power. Both impressive and moving, it’s difficult to look directly at Daniel Bean’s hopeful face, knwing his ultimate fate. He’s not a grizzled veteran, like most of the state’s other Civil War statuary, just a boy who ended up dead and buried far from home, a teenager forever.