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Maine Yankee Escapes Confederate South



As the Civil War loomed, a Maine machinist found himself trapped in Richmond, VA, unable to get his family across the battle lines. A "red hot Unionist", George Washington Frosst and his friend John Hancock were imprisoned in a POW camp, then Frosst struck out for the North. 



George Washington Frosst in Salisbury PrisonD

George Washington Frosst (1827-1904) was a Yankee patriot to the core. His grandfather fought alongside his namesake, Gen. George Washington, in the Revolution. His father was a Maine textile mechanic at the Portsmouth Manufacturing Company on the Quamphegan Falls in South Berwick. Although sickly as a boy, George survived the tuberculosis and smallpox epidemics that swept through the mills, wiping out most of the men in his family.

Despite the tragedy, George too became a machinist. After accidentally losing an eye in a nearby Rollinsford factory, he moved on to the massive mills of Lowell, Massachusetts. There George Washington Frosst befriended John Hancock, another mill worker. Seeking opportunity and a healthier climate, the two men moved to Virginia with Hancock’s brother Thomas, to found their own machine shop. Getting back home to Maine became the adventure of a lifetime.

Trapped in the South

In 1857 George Frosst married a southerner, Emma Elizabeth Sumpter of Richmomd, Virginia. Three years later, history swallowed them up. Abraham Lincoln was elected president and, upon his inauguration, Southern states began to secede from the Union, sparking the Civil War. In February 1862, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated at Richmond for a six year term as president of the Confederate States of America.

Within a month George Frosst was named as a potential Yankee spy and hauled before Richmond’s provost marshal. George would pledge his loyalty to the Confederacy, the marshal said, or "he would put me where the dogs would never think of looking for me." According to his own account, written decades later, George refused to take the oath. The marshal ("the old red-headed skunk") told George he "deserved to be shot" and threw him into prison with his partners John and Thomas Hancock and other "red hot Union men".


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