One of the lingering indignities the 15th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment suffer under the command of Colonel John McClusky involves the regiment’s flag. Made especially for them and presented by the "Ladies of Aroostook," the ensign sparks controversy within the regiment between the Protestant and Catholic volunteers.
In March, while being transported by steamship to the war front, Col. McClusky took matters into – and away from – his own hands. Angered by the on-going dispute about the flag, McClusky pitches it overboard. (See Colonel Neal Dow’s letter: "Drunks and Ben Butler" Part I, 1862-5-5.)
Rather than calm the situation, however, the Colonel’s action stirs the controversy further. Suspicions by the men that their commander and several of the 15th’s other officers abuse alcohol only add to the problem.
McClusky remains in command through mid-1862, and but continues to rankle his men with his behavior. During this time, several officers attempt to be transferred.
Captain Laurens Joyce, of Company F, writes to Maine Governor Israel Washburn that he wants to escape "these pernicious influences which have so deeply humiliated and disenheartened the better part of this Regiment."
"The 15th is a disgrace to Maine and the laughing-stock of all around!" complains Captain Franklin Drew, of Company G.
Drew does not want to resign his Commission, but that is his only alternative to a transfer.
The families at home are aware of the situation. S. B. Pattee, of Fort Fairfield, tries to have his son transferred to "any other regiment," adding that, "It is a disgrace to any man to belong to the 15th Regiment …. I am willing to sacrifice my son if need be for our country, but not to a miserable drunken Colonel!"
John McClusky resigns, effective August 27, and a Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Dyer then writes to Gov. Washburn: "We should like a flag very much. We have been without any since ours was thrown overboard. Are we not entitled to one? I am anxious that the stigma that rests upon the 15th shall be wiped out if it can be."
On November 11, Brigadier General Neal Dow presents a new State of Maine flag to the 15th Maine.
Isaac Dyer notes: "I think the 15th Regiment will yet redeem itself and take a respectable stand in the world."
- How might a new flag help to restore the 15th Maine’s sense of honor and wipe out their perceived disgrace?