Born in Warren Maine in 1834, Ellis Spear graduated from Bowdoin College in 1858 and was studing for the bar and teaching school in Wiscasset Maine at the outbreak of the Civil War. In the fall of 1862 President Lincoln called for 300,000 more volunteers to help put down the rebellion. Spear began recruiting a company of men from Wiscasset, his hometown of Warren and the neighboring areas of Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties. The company of 87 men was assigned to the 20th Maine Regiment and designated Company G. Spear, now commissioned a Capt., served as the commanding officer of Co. G. until just before the Battle of Gettysburg, in July of 1863, when he was named acting Major of the regiment. His character is featured in early parts of the movie "Gettysburg" and he in fact commanded the left of the regiment during the famous battle of “Little Round Top” on July 2, 1863 under Lt. Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain. After Gettysburg he assumed command of the 20th Maine Regiment for most of the war. He later commanded a brigade under Gen. Bartlett. He was commissioned Lt. Col., Brevetted Col. and finally Brevet. Brig. General for his brave service during the final Appomattox campaign.
After the war he was a successful patent lawyer in Washington D.C., served as Commissioner of Patents for the United States, remained active in the 20th Maine Association and designed the monument to the regiment at Gettysburg. He wrote and published his own account of the Battle of Fredericksburg. His wartime diaries, and recollections have been published by his late grandson Abbott Spear of Maine in a book entitled, "The Civil War Recollections of General Ellis Spear".
His diaries and recollections portray an educated man with a wonderful dry whit, who hated war, valued life and loved his country. He saw the war not as an opportunity for glory but as "the work" needed to preserve the Union. He cared not for rank or personal gain. Instead he cared about the men that he recruited and lead. He nursed them when they were sick with what food he could find and buried them when they died. After the war his wife Susan died. He married Sarah Keene, the widow of his good friend Sam Keene, who had died in his arms in front of the trenches at Petersburg. He lived to the age of 80 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. In addition to his grandson Abbott's work on the "Recollections" and "Fredericksburg", members of the Spear family have preserved his valuable papers and correspondence and are working now to have more of them published.