August 27, 1862
Maine soldiers serving in Louisiana under Major General Benjamin Butler were convinced that Butler did not like them.
Isaac Dyer, Lieutenant Colonel of the 15th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, writes as much to Maine Governor Israel Washburn.
"Why it is that Maine has to be made last and least in everything I can’t understand," Dyer writes. "It seems that we were considered the filth and outscouring of all creation."
Part of the problem for the 15th Regiment has less to do with Dyer than it does with the unit’s Colonel, John McClusky, of Houlton. McClusky and a number of men in his command earn a reputation for excessive drinking, but complaints about their behavior bring no immediate improvement. Col. McClusky withstands a court martial about his behavior, and Gov. Washburn presses Gen. Butler to remove McClusky from regimental command. Butler declines.
Dyer suspects that the General is punishing the Maine men, especially when he leaves their regiments to languish on Ship Island after many other Union regiments advance inland to Louisiana. (See Captain Wilson’s letter: 1862-5-16)
Eventually, McClusky resigns. Dyer, as second-in-command, almost automatically should have been named Colonel of the 15th Maine. The promotion is slow, and Dyer fears that "a movement is afoot" whereby Butler will replace McClusky with someone from Butler’s home state of Massachusetts.
Dyer, a druggist from Skowhegan before the war, also faces competition from within the Maine contingent. Major Benjamin Hawes, of Ashland, the last remaining member of Col. McClusky’s circle, circulates a petition to have himself commissioned as Colonel. Though outranking Hawes, Dyer believes that "the major is on the rise again."
With a distrust of Gen. Butler and a cause for concern closer to home, Dyer senses that he is caught "between two fires."
He need not have worried.
On the day Dyer writes to Gov. Washburn, August 27, 1862, the Governor signs Dyer’s commission as Colonel of the 15th Regiment, Maine Volunteers.
Fifteen days later, Major Hawes resigns.
- One problem for Maine regiments stationed in Louisiana was the infrequency of communications to and from Maine. By what sea and/or land routes would letters have to travel?
- Was it possible to telegraph?