One of the several Maine citizens who distinguished themselves in military service during the American Civil War, the ultimate fate of Searsport, Maine ship’s master come Union Army Colonel and Brigade Commander, Freeman McGilvery is best set forward in excerpts from the letter penned by the late Colonel’s friend and fellow officer from Headquarters Artillery Brigade 10th Army Corps, before Petersburg to Mrs. Col. Freeman McGilvery at home in Searsport Maine:
Sept. 3rd 1864
Mrs. Colonel McGilvery
Long ere this reaches you will have received my telegram announcing the death of your husband Col. Freeman McGilvery. I think I can fully understand the great anxiety you will naturally feel to learn all the particulars of the Colonel’s death. ——— The Colonel had decided to have an operation performed upon the finger which was struck at Deep Bottom two weeks ago, as there was little prospect of it’s healing in it’s present state. As the operation was likely to be a very painful one he advised with Assistant Surgeon Hayward and Surgeon Clark, medical director and concluded to be put under the influence of chloroform, unhappy decision it cost him his life. ——— Yesterday about 4:30 P.M. the surgeon came and made all preparations for the operation. Chloroform was administered and after a little incoherent talking the Colonel dropped seemingly into a deep sleep – his breathing was regular and natural, his pulse as steady and strong as ever. Just as Dr. Hayward had removed the bandages he was stopped by an exclamation from Dr. Clark. The Colonel’s breathing had suddenly ceased. Artificial respiration was at once performed and all the usual restorations resorted to but in vain, life had fled forever. Every effort that could possibly be made Drs. Clark and Hayward made. I assure you Madam that nothing was left undone that could possibly effect a change for the better. Both the Surgeons and the members of the Colonel’s staff made every exertion.
The writer pens the grief experienced by the Colonel’s military family and extols the untiring zeal and cool gallantry of their commander before addressing the necessary practicalities of the circumstance. The writer advises that upon the Colonel’s passing he sent for Lt. Rogers of the 6th Maine Battery (see photo) whereupon personal effects were packed and his remains taken to the embalmer. Tonight the body will be sent to you by express. Lt. Rogers will write you and give a full account of the Col’s personal property. Efforts were made to have one of the members of the staff accompany the corpse but failed. The Adjutant offers his heartiest sympathies once more for the widow’s great bereavement and closes his letter.
Those familiar with costal Maine will recognize this magnificent old place which still stands on the North side of U.S. Rt.1 in the McGilvery’s identifies the place as the McGilvery House. It was the home of Freeman McGilvery’s very successful shipbuilder brother William.