by Karen Horne
As we commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, it seems appropriate to reflect on the leadership and courage of Joshua Chamberlain without whom the South may have very well won the battle of Gettysburg and consequently the war.
On July 2, 1863 Colonel Chamberlain with his 20th Maine Regiment was positioned at the end of the Union line. He was informed that a “desperate attack” was expected to commence on that position at any moment and was told to: “Hold that ground at all hazards.” As the battle wore on his regiment ran out of ammunition. Remembering those words, “hold that ground at all hazards,” Chamberlain had his men fix their bayonets and charge the enemy stopping their assault on that position and denying them the opportunity to place themselves behind the Union line and its supplies and ammunition.
He continued to serve well during the Civil War. Wounded several times during the war, the most severe was at Petersburg, Virginia, where it was thought he would not survive. He had been leading an attack when wounded. Fearing that his men would fall back if they saw him fall, he stuck his saber in the ground to hold himself upright.
After a long recovery period he returned to the Army of the Potomac and was chosen by General Grant to accept the arms and colors of Lee’s defeated army at Appomattox. When the Confederate soldiers marched by, Chamberlain had his men salute them as a show of respect.
After the war he returned to teaching at Bowdoin College for a brief time and then went on to serve as Governor of Maine for four terms.
You can learn more about this incredible man by reading In the Hands of Providence by Alice Rains Trulock.
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In the Hands of Providence is a masterful biography of Chamberlain, one of the foremost Americans of the nineteenth century, and certainly one of the most heroic and hardest fighting U.S. Army officers of all time. The author of In the Hands of Providence, the late Alice Rains Trulock, presents a well researched, meticulously documented, and detailed portrait of this brilliant and courageous man.