Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: A volunteer officer in the Civil War
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Type of Work220 pages
SubjectsJoshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828-1914)
People of Maine in the American Civil War
United States Army Medal of Honor recipients
Union Army generals
In 1862, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain accepted the lieutenant-colonelcy of the Twentieth Maine regiment. As a volunteer officer, Chamberlain emerged as one of the Civil War's outstanding fighting generals. rising far above everyone's expectations except his own. His combination of extraordinary talents--courage, intellect, discipline--coupled with service under some of the Fifth Corps' finest officers. enabled the former minister and professor to become the Union army's quintessential volunteer officer. Chamberlain developed rapidly as an officer during his first year of service. He first came under Rebel fire soon after the battle of Antietam, along the Potomac River at Shepherdstown. Taking part in his first major campaign at Frederictsburg, Chamberlain displayed both leadership and compassion on the field. During the battle of Fredericksburg, Chamberlain personally led a portion of the Twentieth Maine into action. suffering himself a slight wound to the face. It "Was not until Gettysburg that Chamberlain fully demonstrated his talents as an officer. During the action on Little Round Top, Chamberlain held the Army of the Potomac's extreme left flank. repulsing several Confederate assualts. To thwart a last possible attack by the Rebels. Chamberlain turned to the offensive and charged. forcing the enemy to flee. Chamberlain's composure and heroism throughout the battle earned him lasting fame and later. a medal of honor. After the Gettysburg campaign. Colonel Chamberlain received the command of a brigade. Unfortunately. he spent most of the fall and "Winter of 1863-64 recovering from malaria and pneumonia in an army hospital. It was not until late May, with General U. S. Grant now in the East. that Chamberlain returned to action. On 18 June. leading his brigade upon the Rebel works at Rives' Salient. Chamberlain was seriously wounded. the bullet passing through his hip. Near death. the colonel was given an immediate promotion for his gallant action by Grant. Unbelievably. General Chamberlain survived his wound and returned to duty. And in the closing days of the war, Chamberlain played a vital role in forcing General R. E. Lee's army out of its works at Petersburg. and finally its surrender. Chamberlain fought brilliantly at Quaker Road, White Oak Road, Five Forks and Appomattox. To honor the unselfish general, Chamberlain was given the command of troops by his superiors during the Army of Northern Virginia's surrendering of arms. Chamberlain exhibited magnamity in victory by ordering his men to shoulder arms and salute the defeated Southern army. By the end of the Civil War, General Chamberlain's talent as a volunteer army officer was widely known. He was respected by both friend and foe alike. After the war, he returned home to Maine and became governor of the state during the Reconstruction period. But he always remembered fondly his days of service to his beloved Union, confident that he had done his duty to the best of his ability.