Charles A. Boutelle (February 9, 1839 – May 21, 1901) was an American seaman, shipmaster, naval officer, Civil War veteran, newspaper editor, publisher, conservative Republican politician, and nine-term Representative to the U.S. Congress from the 4th Congressional District of Maine. He remains the second longest-serving U.S. Representative from Maine, the first being his colleague Thomas Brackett Reed.
Charles Addison Boutelle was born February 9, 1839 to Charles and Lucy A. (Curtis) Boutelle in Damariscotta, Lincoln County, Maine. In 1848 his family moved from Damariscotta to Brunswick, Maine. He attended the public schools of Brunswick and later attended the Yarmouth Academy in 1850 and 1851.
His father was a shipmaster, and Charles himself went to sea at the age of fifteen. He spent the next eleven years as a sailor, becoming a shipmaster in his own right in 1860. Returning from a two-year voyage in 1862 to find the country at war, he volunteered his services to the Union Navy and was commissioned an Acting Master on April 5, 1862.
He saw service on the U.S. Gunboat John Paul Jones, a double-ended, sidewheeling, steam gunboat assigned to the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. During this assignment, the shallow-draft vessel was engaged in intelligence-gathering, patrolling the river outlets, and guarding against confederate river traffic attempting to run the blockade of the Georgia coastline.
His next assignment was aboard U.S.S. Sassacus, another double-ended, steam gunboat engaged in the blockades of Charleston and Wilmington. On May 5, 1864, while assigned to that vessel, his ship, along with other union vessels, saw action against the Confederate ironclad, C.S.S. Albermarle.
During that engagement, Sassacus rammed the ironclad as Albermarle attempted to escape. Sassacus took a direct hit to the starboard boiler and sustained significant damage when the boiler exploded. It was during that battle that Boutelle was cited “for gallant conduct,” resulting in his promotion to the rank of Volunteer Lieutenant, the highest rank granted volunteer officers not of the regular navy.
Lieutenant Boutelle was subsequently given command of the U.S.S. Nyanza, another of the shallow-draft and lightly-armored steam vessels known as 'tinclads'. During his command, Nyanza participated, under Admiral David Farragut, in the Battle of Mobile Bay, on August 5, 1864, where Lieutenant Boutelle was credited with receiving the surrender of the confederate fleet. Following the victory at Mobile, Boutelle was placed in command of Union naval forces in the Mississippi Sound.
Lieutenant Boutelle continued in naval service until the conclusion of the war when he voluntarily separated from service. He was granted an honorable discharge on January 14, 1866.
Soon after his departure from naval service, he married Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Hodsdon, daughter of attorney and Maine Adjutant General, John L. Hodsdon, on May 16, 1866 in Augusta, the bride’s home town. Together they had three daughters, Grace Hodsdon Boutelle, Elizabeth Boutelle, and Anne (Annie) Curtis Boutelle.
Newspaper editor and publisher
Following the war, Boutelle became the master of a steamer running between New York and Wilmington. He was associated briefly with a New York commission house, but, in 1870, he was recommended for the position of Editor-in-Chief of the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, a Republican newspaper. He took that position and moved his young family to Bangor in their home state of Maine, where they lived for the rest of his life.
Boutelle was a dynamic editor, and, under his leadership, the paper became one of the most influential in the northeastern United States. Upon the death of the owner, J.H. Lynde, Boutelle, along with a partner, B. A. Burr, purchased the Daily Whig and Courier on May 15, 1874. He continued active editorial control until failing health and growing competition finally forced him to sell the paper in March, 1900.
Boutelle’s robustly-conservative Republican editorial positions drew him further into both state and national politics. He was selected as a district delegate to the Republican National Convention at Cincinnati in 1876, and served as the president of the Maine (James G.) Blaine Club at the national convention of 1880. Gaining further prominence in the state Republican party, he was selected as the representative from Maine on the Republican National Committee at the national convention of 1884 that nominated James G. Blaine. He was both a delegate-at-large and chairman of the Maine delegation at the Republican national convention of 1888, during which he read to the convention the cablegram from Blaine refusing to be nominated. He was a member of the Maine Republican State Committee from 1875 to 1882.
An obvious choice for U.S. Congress, he first stood as the Republican candidate for the 4th Maine Congressional District (comprising Aroostook, Penobscot, Piscataquis and Washington counties) on June 24, 1880, but was narrowly defeated (by 855 votes) by the incubent, Dr. George W. Ladd of the Greenback Party. He was elected Maine representative-at-large to the 48th Congress by a substantial majority in the 1882 election, and he was subsequently elected 4th District Representative in every election after that, until his resignation in 1901.
Congressman Boutelle drew on his maritime background, serving as the Chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee in the 51st, 54th, 55th, and 56th Congresses. During his tenure in that position, he provided powerful leadership in modernizing the navy and was instrumental in the development of the first steel battleships, along with the industries that supported their construction and outfitting. The growth of the Bath Iron Works can be partly attributed to his leadership position.
No less charismatic a speaker than he was a writer, Congressman Boutelle was relentless in his support of Republican positions in the great debates of his time. He is especially remembered for speeches on the question of Hawaiian annexation (53rd Congress) and the border dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela (54th Congress); these were the two great foreign policy issues of the second Democratic administration of President Grover Cleveland (1892–1896).
Boutelle was at the peak of his political popularity when, on December 21, 1899, he suffered an apparent seizure during a stay in a Boston hotel; the seizure left him unconscious. He was treated briefly at his home in Bangor, but he was soon moved to the McLean Asylum in the Waverley section of Belmont, Massachusetts. Under the care of the superintendent, Dr. Edward Cowles, he was diagnosed with “brain trouble” arising from the seizure, as well as underlying renal and cardiac disease.
Although he made slow progress toward recovery, he never again fully regained his faculties and remained hospitalized for the rest of his life. Despite this, however, the loyalty he commanded from the voters of his district, as well as the state party chiefs, was so great that he was again nominated, and elected, to the 57th Congress.
In addition to his poor health, his last years were plagued with financial troubles. In response to his situation, as well as in tribute to his long service to the nation, the Maine Republican delegation led a joint resolution of Congress January 16, 1901 naming him to the Naval Retired List with the rank of Captain, entitling him to half-pay at that rank for life. He resigned from Congress on 3 March 1901 prior to the commencement of the 57th Congress.
Suffering from a sudden case of pneumonia while hospitalized in Massachusetts, Charles Addison Boutelle died on May 21, 1901 and was interred in Mt. Hope Cemetery, Bangor, Maine.
"Boutelle Road", a street in the Fairmount Park neighborhood of Bangor, memorializes the Congressman.
- A National Register of the Society, Sons of the American Revolution. Compiled by Louis Henry Cornish. New York: Press of A. H. Kellogg, 1902.
- Appleton’s Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events for the Year 1901. D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1902.
- New Yarmouth Academy Alumni News Archive for 2005. Entry by Andy Savage, Class of 1988, Summer, 2005. (See External Links, 1, below)
- Representative Men of Maine: A Collection of Biographical Sketches. Ed. Henry Chase. Portland, ME: The Lakeside Press, 1893. (See External links, 3, below)
- List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and the Marine Corps from 1775 to 1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generation Netw Inc., 2007.
- Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. Department of the Navy, Navy Historical Center. Washington, D.C. (See External Links, 2, below)
- A Salute to the Navy and All the Ships at Sea. Maine State Archives, Office of the Secretary of State of Maine. (See External Links, 4, below)
- Ironclads and Blockade Runners of the Civil War. Mark F. Jenkins. See External Links, 5, below
- Maine Bride and Groom Card Indices, Maine State Archives.
- The Press of Penobscot County, Maine. Hon. John E. Godfrey. Bangor, ME., 1872. The New England Old Newspaper Index Project of Maine. (See External Links, 6, below) and Androscoggin Historical Society. Danville, ME. (See External Links, 7, below)
- Breaking into a two-paper town. Richard R. Shaw. The Bangor Daily News. 17–18 June 1989.
- Congressional Directory of the 54th Congress (Second Session). Ed: Pitman Pulsifer. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1896.
- New York Times, Sunday, 15 December 1900.
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress 1774-Present. (See External Links, 8, below)
- Boston Globe, Tuesday, 21 May 1901.
- Alumni News--2005 Archive at www.nya.org
- Bio of Charles A. Boutelle at history.rays-place.com
- Maine's Maritime Experience During the Civil War at www.maine.gov
- Tinclads at www.wideopenwest.com
- ANDROSCOGGIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY at www.rootsweb.com
- Charles A. Boutelle at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
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