Private Eben F. Manchester
Company C, 20th Regiment Maine Infantry
Eben F. Manchester was born in North Windham Maine on March 3, 1832. He was the oldest of eight children born to Nahum and Lydia (Austin) Manchester. Eben grew up on the family farm in a house built in 1781 by his great-great grandfather, Stephen Manchester. Eben was one of my third-great uncles; the oldest brother of Seward Manchester, my great-great grandfather.
At the age of 27, Eben married Maria Varney, age 17. They had two sons, Henry and Elmer, prior to his enlistment in the 20th Maine. Four additional children, Grace May, Harlon, Howard and Babe, were born after he returned from his three year enlistment.
Eben Manchester enlisted August 11, 1862 at Windham, ME. His military record indicates that he was 30 years of age, 6 feet tall, light complexion, brown hair and brown eyes. He mustered in to Company I, 20th Maine Regiment on August 29, 1862. He was paid a $25 enlistment bounty. Eben was transferred to Company C, 20th Maine on April 1, 1864 as a wagoner. Eben was mustered out at the end of his three year enlistment on June 4, 1865 after marching to Washington DC and participating in the Grand Review.
Eben was not the first of Lydia’s sons to enlist in the Union Army. His younger brother Joseph mustered in to the 9th Maine on September 22, 1861 and was mortally wounded during the assault of Fort Wagner, Morris Island/Charleston, SC. Joseph wrote the following about Eben’s enlistment in a letter to their sister Rebecca dated November 12, 1862:
“Eben wrote me one little note before he went off; he did not let me know he had enlisted. Maria feels very bad about it. I know by the letter she wrote me. She must cheer up, do the best she can now he has gone. He is only doing his duty, the duty of every man in the north. If I was at home today I would enlist again. It is no use to hang back and wait for others to go and do the fighting for them. If the men had enlisted last spring half the number they have got now would have put a stop to this war.”
Mustered with over 1,600 troops on July 2, 1862, after Lincoln’s second call for volunteers, the 20th Maine was reduced to under 300 by the time they arrived at Gettysburg. The 20th Maine and Private Manchester participated in the following battles and events:
Battle of Antietam, Battle of Fredericksburg, Battle of Chancellorsville, Battle of Gettysburg, Bristoe Campaign, Rappahannock Station, Mine Run Campaign, Battle of the Wilderness, Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, North Anna River, Totopotomoy, Battle of Cold Harbor, First Assault on Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, Battle of Peebles Farm, Battle of Boydton Plank Road, Hicksford Raid, Hatcher’s Run, Battle of White Oak Road, Battle of Lewis’s Farm, Battle of Boydton Road, Battle of Five Forks, Battle of Amelia Springs, Battle of High Bridge, Lee’s Surrender at Appomattox.
During the Battle of the Wilderness, Private Manchester served in the 5th Corps (MG G.K. Warren), 1st Division (BG C.Griffith), 3rd Brigade (BG J. Bartlett), 20th Maine Regiment (Maj E. Spears). As Eben was a wagoner, it is not known if he got close to the fierce fighting at Saunders Field on May 5. It is most likely that he was located in the rear near Fifth Corp headquarters at Ellwood Manor.
Eben returned to Maine following the war and spent the rest of his life as a farmer in Windham and Gorham, ME. He passed away on June 20, 1911 at the age of 79. He is buried next to his wife Maria in the North Gorham Cemetery.