Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain


Who: Born Lawrence Joshua Chamberlain

What: College professor, decorated Union officer, recipient of the Medal of Honor

Where: Born Brewer, Maine; died Portland, Maine

Why: Recipient of the Medal of Honor for his famous defence of Little Round Top at Gettysburg

When: Born September 8, 1828; died February 24, 1914

“I long to be in the Field again, doing my part to keep the old flag up, with all its stars” – Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a hugely intelligent man. He was fluent in nine languages other than English, graduated from Bowdoin College in 1852, and became a professor of rhetoric, teaching every subject in the curriculum except science and mathematics. On the outbreak of war, he asked the college to allow him time off to enlist, they refused. He then took a sabbatical, ostensibly to study languages in Europe, and enlisted anyway. Offered the colonelcy of the 20th Maine, he declined in order to ‘start a little lower and learn the business first’. He fought with the 20th Maine in the Battle of Fredericksburg, spending a night stuck out in the open in the freezing cold, using the bodies of the dead for shelter. In July 1863, they were on a hill named Little Round Top in the Battle of Gettysburg at the far left of the Union line. Absorbing repeated assaults until they ran out of ammunition, Chamberlain ordered a bayonet charge and routed the rebel attack. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism. At the Siege of Petersburg on June 18, 1864, Chamberlain was shot through the right hip, the bullet exiting his left. He stuck his sword in the ground to stay upright until he fell unconscious from blood loss. The wound was considered mortal and his death in battle was recorded, but against all odds he recovered. He was later present at Appomattox, when Robert E Lee surrendered the Confederate forces to Ulysses S Grant. He served as Governor of Maine four times, dying of his lingering war wounds in 1914 at 85. Throughout the war, Chamberlain was present in 20 battles, numerous skirmishes, was cited for bravery four times, had six horses shot out from under him and was wounded six times.

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