Corporal William B. Perkins

Small stories are often lost and forgotten in history. In a quiet country cemetery in the village of Sheepscot, sits the gravestone of Corp. WIlliam B. Perkins, Co. E, 4th Maine Infantry Volunteers. According to Cushman's History of Ancient Sheepscot, William Perkins was born in Damariscotta but moved to Newcastle when he married Hannah M. Kennedy in 1852. Enlistment records have him as single in 1861, presumably Hannah was deceased. Perkins was 31 when he mustered into service on June 15, 1861 and was already a veteran of many Civil War battles by the time he reached Gettysburg.

Perkins


Gettysburg, on July 2, 1863, was almost the death of Perkins. Twenty two of his fellow 4th Mainers did die, Perkins was one of 38 wounded, and, in the immediate aftermath at least 56 were missing. After an anxious night on picket duty near the Emmitsville Road, the 4th Maine moved into position on the extreme left of the Union line, angled between Devil's Den and the Peach Orchard. Their position was just down hill from, as yet unoccupied, Little Round Top where the 20th Maine would stave off the Confederacy's flankers a short time later. The 4th themselves fought desperately to prevent those flankers from beating back their lines and moving up to that key position on Little Round Top. Fighting in the area of Devil's Den was touch and go but eventually Union troops held the area. The rebel flankers lost their advantage of time and were pushed a little further out of their way in their approach to Little Round Top where the 20th now waited.
At some point during the fighting Perkins was shot in the leg. Fortunately the wound did not require amputation, and he returned to duty with the 4th. Unfortunately, he was killed by a exploding shell a year later on May 23, 1864 near the Telegraph Road at the Battle of the North Anna River during US Grant's relentless pursuit of Robert E. Lee's Confederates on the road to Richmond. Perhaps Perkins body lies somewhere down south in Virginia or maybe he was returned home to Sheepscot and lies under this stone. Surprisingly the stone records his age as 30, a rare case of war experiences not aging a man but making him younger.

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