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Chamberlain was immortalized by his critical role in the Battle of Gettysburg,
where his courageous leadership of a handful of men on Little Round Top
saved the day for the Union army. But unlike Lee, Jackson, and Hancock,
he was no professional soldier. When the war broke out, he was Professor
of Natural and Revealed Religion at Bowdoin College in Maine, and spoke
five languages. Author Jeff Shaara brings to life
the difficulty Chamberlain faced in assuming a very different role in the
There were tents lined up in neat rows at the far end of the grounds, and
he began to move that way, lugging a heavy cloth bag over his shoulder.
He had thought of bringing his usual small trunk, then decided it would
be too conspicuous. He did not want to appear to be too green. At least
make a good first impression, he thought. He walked past the groups of men,
heard conversations, most about where they had just come from, what was
left behind, a few comments about the war, where they might go next. He
heard a few accents, Irish, Scottish, but clearly, they were all Maine men,
and they did not yet know that he would lead them.
He reached the tents, saw a man, an officer, the only uniform he had seen
so far, sitting at a small table. The man was writing on a long sheet of
paper, and Chamberlain said, "Excuse me, I'm looking for my tent. I'm
Lieutenant Colonel Chamberlain."
The man looked up, glanced him up and down quickly, then stood, saluted...."Begging your pardon, sir, yes, you are over there...that large one,
with the open flaps."
"Thank you, Major." He began to move that way, felt a childlike
excitement, his own tent, sleeping right out there, on the ground, then
he felt silly, forced himself not to smile. He leaned over, into the empty
tent, saw only one small cot. He threw his bag toward the back, then gazed
at the camp again, thought, Maybe I should walk among the men, introduce
myself, get to know them. Then he thought, Well, no, maybe a commander shouldn't
do that. But the officers...I should find the officers....