At the time of this publication, Philip Banfield was an inmate in the Soldiers Home out in Milwaukee [1890 Vet. Sch: NW Branch Nat'l Home, pg 85], living there since March 1884. He had been transferred there from the Hampton, Virginia (Southern) Branch, first admitted into the system in Sept 1881. He returned to Maine in July of 1891, when he was transferred over to Togus. There were no furloughs mentioned in the paperwork from the earlier facilities, which may have shown him traveling to Maine, or in the vicinity of.
..."a reward for his patriotism in remaining behind in Washington"
However, Pvt Banfield was NOT on the list of those men who stayed behind in Washington, so this medal would have been one of the 500+ extras not distributed by Col. Mark Wentworth. As mentioned in "A Shower of Stars" [pgs 129-130: Erastus Moulton's 1904 letter], the undistributed medals were returned to Augusta, Maine, where they sat in City Hall, until the building was remodeled, and the medals were sent back to Wentworth in Kittery.
It has been stated that (as Moulton's letter continued), while having a 27th Maine Regimental Reunion in Kittery, some of the attendees went into the Colonel's stable and grabbed some of the medals, later offering them to those whose names were written on them (though many did not accept them). The date of this incident was most likely either 12 Sept 1888 or 27 Aug '89, as Wentworth berated many of the men who showed up "at a reunion in Biddeford" [the 27th of Aug 1891 being the only time a reunion was held there] wearing these unearned medals.
How did this medal end up on a beach in Wells?
Was Banfield's medal one of those stolen from Wentworth's stable and, since this soldier was probably not in attendance at the reunion (him being in the Milwaukee Soldiers Home in 1888-1889), his medal was just discarded? It is even possible, considering the inscription is on the back side of the medal, that someone else had been wearing his medal and tossed it out after one of the Kittery reunions.
There was never a follow-up article about this in the newspaper. "Joseph Fountain of Great Falls, NH", himself a Civil War veteran (with the 6th NH Inf), died in 1895. I wonder what ever became of this medal.
Philip Banfield (his bio page)