Born in Bangor, Maine, John Francis Appleton was the oldest son of
Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice John Appleton. A graduate of
Bowdoin College in 1860, upon the outbreak of the Civil War the
young lawyer quickly set about raising a company of recruits of the
12th Maine Volunteer Infantry and was commissioned as Captain on
November 15, 1861 in command of Co. H of the 12th Maine.
Written by a fellow officer in a published account of action at the
Battle of Port Hudson, it was said that Capt. Appleton alone, among
ten thousand men who fought that day, mounted the Rebel parapet
and stood there facing the whole Rebel Army, a mark for a thousand
rifles. A Confederate officer told me, after the surrender, that as he
saw that young man standing there so calm and brave, he could not
bear to see him die, and he told his men not to fire upon him. For
this and other notable acts Capt. Appleton was commended by Gen.
Butler. He would be promoted to the Colonelcy of the 9th Regiment
of Infantry, Corps d’Afrique in June of 1863 and assigned command
of a brigade of free Blacks. The 9th was reorganized to become the
81st United States Colored Troops in 1864. Col. Appleton was
brevetted Brigadier General, US Volunteers on March 13, 1865,
joining the ranks of another Union general from Bangor serving in
Louisiana, Cyrus Hamlin, the son of Vice President Hannibal Hamlin.
Members of the JOHN F. APPLETON G.A.R. POST No. 25 relax in
front of their headquarters at the 1929, 63rd G.A.R. National
Encampment in Portland, Maine.