A majority of the enlisted men of the Twentieth Massachusetts Regiment drafted a petition to Massachusetts Governor John Andrew to have Second Lieutenant Sumner Paine removed from command. Eighteen-year old Paine, who had recently been commissioned from civilian life, was inexperienced as a leader and had taken extreme measures to discipline the enlisted men. The severity of the discipline resulted in dissention among the enlisted and the formation of the petition to Governor Andrew.
The body of the petition reads as follows:
Falmouth June 12, 1863
To his Excellency John A. Andrew, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Greeting[s].
The undersigned noncommissioned officers and privates of the 20th Regt. Mass. Vols. would respectfully present to your Excellency the following facts:
It has long been the boast of Massachusetts that whatever other states might do Massachusetts should ever be the home of the free, an asylum for the oppressed. And while this is her proud boast shall it be said that her soldiers who have periled their lives in defense of the Union, cemented by the blood of our fathers, have been subjected to a tyranny worse than African slavery? Many of us have left happy homes, loving wives and prattling babes – perhaps never more to see those loved ones again – and have placed ourselves between our country and her foes that we might leave to generations yet to come a heritage of freedom. Freely have we periled our lives – with the assurance that merit should receive a just reward, and he who was valorous on the battlefield should be promoted. Has that pledge been redeemed?
What are the qualifications that caused a civilian to receive the title of Lieut. and to be promoted to command over “veterans” from many a bloody field?
Was it because he was superior to us in military science that he was thus preferred? We answer, No. Was it not rather from partisan influence, or family connection, that Lieut. Paine was promoted to a command as second Lieut. In the 20th Massachusetts regiment?
But what has been his record during the few – weeks he has been connected with this regt.?
For the most trifling causes soldiers have been incarcerated in the guard house, suspended to trees, tied in the stocks, or elevated on instruments of torture, thereby crippling their energies and tending to destroy their manhood. And while we believe that such a course is detrimental to our glorious cause we would most respectfully request your Excellency to cause the said Lieut. Paine to be removed from all command in the 20th Massachusetts regiment. All of which is respectfully submitted.
The petition concludes with "the written document is approved by every member of the regt. but as the said Lieut. Paine is in command of Co. G we do not deem it advisable to have them sign it, it being signed by more than ¾ of the regt."
The rapid departure of the Second Corps from Falmouth on June 15 in pursuit of the Confederate Army precluded any timely action to remove Sumner Paine from command.
Among the signatures on the petition was Private O.S. Bates of Company A.1
1Petition to Governor John Andrew from the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 12 June 1863, Massachusetts State Archives.