By Carla Charter
PORTLAND, ME.- A Civil War flag carried by Co. B, 15th Maine Regiment and the first Union Flag to fly over Texas, has come home to Maine once again. The flag is seven and a half feet tall and five and a half feet wide with 35 stars
The original owner of the flag was Major James H. Whitmore who was born in Bowdoinham, Me. In 1861 war was declared and Co. B 15th Maine regiment came into existence, with the regiment soon joining regiments from Aroostock County and Augusta.
The entire regiment left Maine in January 1862, traveling to South Florida and Louisiana. In November 1863 Co. B went into Texas and were the first Union soldiers to touch Texas soil,” according to Lee Humiston, Curator, Director of the Maine Military Museum. After leaving Texas, Co. B traveled 700 miles north and fought in different battles including the Wilderness campaign in Virginia. The Company arrived back home in Maine in 1866. Whitmore brought the flag home to Bowdoinham with him.
“Five Company B soldiers were killed in battle during the war and 340 of these soldiers were lost to disease. There were almost 1,000 men in the company. Over one third died of disease,” Humiston said.
“At sometime, Whitmore met a girl and they moved to Lynn, Ma. where he is buried. The family kept the flag and it went to his daughter then through two more generations, to George Meshko who wanted the flag to come home to Maine. When he passed away, his wife Nancy she honored his wishes. The framed flag was crated and shipped by their son-in-law, William Ottenwieller. The family absorbed the cost. It was that important to them that the flag came home to Maine. They wanted it to come home to the Maine Military Museum,” Humiston said. Along with the flag, a portrait of Major Whitmore is on display.
The Maine Military Museum houses other links to Maine’s military history as well. “We have over 12,000 items in the museum including 500 uniforms alone. We have items from the Revolutionary War all the way to Iraq and Afghanistan. Every single piece is donated, Humiston said. The museum also accepts donations of items as well and Humiston said “the museum is one of only two museums where nothing is sold or traded, the donated items stay at the Maine museum.”
More information on the Maine Military Museum can be found at www.mainemilitarymuseum.org.