Tribute to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Something for the weekend.  A stirring tribute to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who, with his boys of the 20th Maine, quite possibly saved the Union at Little Round Top on July 2, 1863.  A professor who volunteered to fight, Chamberlain was typical of those who stepped forward, North and South, and risked their lives for love of their country, at a time when the question of what that country consisted of was being decided on the battlefield.

Chamberlain helped begin the healing of the dreadful wounds to the nation caused by the War  at Appomattox.  He was chosen to oversee the Confederates as they marched out to surrender. As the Confederates passed by, Chamberlain ordered a salute to them by the Union troops. He explained why he did this:

“I resolved to mark it by some token of recognition, which could be no other than a salute of arms. Well aware of the responsibility assumed, and of the criticisms that would follow, as the sequel proved, nothing of that kind could move me in the least. The act could be defended, if needful, by the suggestion that such a salute was not to the cause for which the flag of the Confederacy stood, but to its going down before the flag of the Union. My main reason, however, was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness. Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood: men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond;–was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?”

The wounds he received in the War never fully healed, caused him great pain throughout the remainder of his life, and ultimately led to his death at 85 on February 24, 1914.

Published in: on February 5, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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  1. I have read bits and pieces of this man’s life. Do you know if a true biography or autobiography exists for Chamberlain?
    Thank you,
    In Christ
    Dennis McCutcheon

  2. Chamberlain wrote frequently about the War Dennis. His Passing of the Armies is a first rate study of the last campaign of the Army of the Potomac. Many of his other post war speeches and articles about the War have been compiled into books. There are scads of first rate biographies of him. Go to the link below to get a taste of how much is out there about this fascinating warrior-scholar.

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