Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

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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 army.


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....

©1996 Jeff Shaara

Robert E. Lee | Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson
Winfield Scott Hancock

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