Chamberlain’s Influence Essay

Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a college professor, Governor of Maine, and a Civil War hero in the battle of Gettysburg, Chamberlain impacted local, state, and national levels of the United States, most notably at the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain was born in Brewer, Maine on September 8th 1828 (“Joshua Chamberlain” 1 ). His parents were Joshua and Sarah Bratow Chamberlain (“Joshua Chamberlain” 1). He was the first of five siblings, his brother Thomas also served in the Civil War.

His mother instilled a sense of religion, while his father taught, influenced his taste in military. When he was in his twenties, Chamberlain worked in the brickyard and the timber industry before setting his sights towards teaching. He studied Greek, Latin, and rhetoric. Chamberlain graduated in 1852 from Bowdoin College (“Joshua Lawerence Chamberlain” 1). Three years later after going to Bangor Theological Seminary, Chamberlain returned to Bowdoin College to teach languages and rhetoric. (“Joshua Lawerence Chamberlain” 1) Later that year he married Frances Caroline “Fanny” Adams (Desjardin 17).

They bought a house near his workplace and had four children, but two died in infancy (Desjardin 17). Once the Civil War came Chamberlain used this as an excuse, telling his parents he was headed to Europe for his studies, when in reality he had joined the 20th Maine Division (“Joshua Chamberlain” americancivilwarstory. com 1). He was upset at the Southern States’ secession from the United States and felt compelled to fight. His wife nor Bowdoin College wanted him to join the effort. He did just that on August 8, 1862 and was appointed Lieutenant Colonel (“Joshua Chamberlain-Military History” 1).

In a letter to his wife after he volunteered, he expressed his dispair over the war, “I declare it almost weakened me to think what this nation is now doing, wholly devoted to mutual destruction! But there is no way and there are things worth more than life and peace. Nationality-the Law of Liberty, public and private honor are worth far more… I could not live or die for a better cause… ” (Desjardin “General Chamberlain Revels… ‘). With the 20th Maine Division, he fought in both the battles of Gettysburg, and Fredericksburg.

He eventually was promoted to the rank of Colonel and lead the 20th Maine in the defense of Little Round Top in the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain’s military career started in Antitetam, lead to Fredricksburg, and continued at what became his most important military performance in the battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain is most remembered for his heroic defense of Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg in which he defended the position against the Confederates. By holding this key high ground he and the 20th Maine greatly contributed to the victory at Gettysburg.

Chamberlain’s orders were to hold the Union line otherwise the whole Union line would be crushed. If they failed, ultimately the whole Union line would collapse (“Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain” 1). If they retreated, the Union would lose the Battle of Gettysburg (“Towards Gettysburg” 1). He had his troops well supplied, and constantly provided the morale and confidence boosts the regiment needed throughout the battle. He also would put his life on the line to push back against the 15th Alabama for Little Round Top.

Another huge part of winning the Battle of Little Round Top was Chamberlain’s vision and decision making. When the 15th Alabama tried to flank their left side Chamberlain and his men were able to maneuver around to the left to defend the attack. After many attacks on Chamberlain and his men there were many in the 20th Maine who were dead or wounded. Realizing there was little to no chance of surviving another assault from Confederate forces, Chamberlain orders his regiment to fix bayonets and prepare to charge down the hill, knowing they had the advantage of the high ground.

They charged and forced the 15th Alabama to surrender (Shaara 228-229). They took many prisoners, and Chamberlain’s heroics in the battle earned him the Medal of Honor. Chamberlain’s role in the Battle of Gettysburg is arguably the most important, for his defense of Little Round Top provided and anchored protection of the Union line. Before he and the 20th Maine ventured towards the advancing Confederate unit, he was personally ordered to hold the Union line.

Colonel Vincent Strong telling him “hold this place at all hazards” and without him and the 20th Maine, the Union line would fall, and the Union would lose the Battle of Gettysburg. (Desjardin 57-58) Historians often link the Battle of Little Round Top to ultimately winning the battle of Gettysburg. Historians claim that Chamberlain’s charge and defense of Little Round Top was the biggest reason for the Union win at Gettysburg. Chamberlain’s quick thinking and trust in his men helped the Union win the biggest battle of the Civil War.

In Chamberlain’s report, he wrote that “In such an engagement there were many incidents of heroism and noble character which should have place even in an official report, but, under the present circumstances, I am unable to do justice to them. I will say of that regiment that the resolution, courage, and heroic fortitude which enabled us to withstand so formidable an attack have happily led to so conspicuous a result that they may safely trust to history to record their merits” (“Colonel Joshua Lawrence ChamberlainGettysburg” 1).

History has not forgotten Chamberlain’s role in Gettysburg nor the significance of this battle as the turning point of the Civil War. Joshua L. Chamberlain’s impact stretched much farther than his service in the Civil War, Chamberlain was the Governor of Maine, President and teacher at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and possibly the most prominent leader to ever be born in the state of Maine.

After Chamberlain returned home from his time in the Civil War, he immediately began to help the state in a number of ways. He served as 32nd Governor of Maine from January 2nd, 1867 until January 4th, 1871. (“Chamberlain, Joshua L. ” 1) His work as governor was focused on the expansion of industrial and intellectual strength he resigned and accepted the job of President at Bowdoin College (Desjardin 89). He then returned to his alma mater at Bowdoin College and served there from 1871 to 1883 (Desjardin 90-91).

During his time as president, Chamberlain continued to keep the standards of prior college presidents for the twelve years he served the college and was said to make the school the most welcoming it had been in years (Desjardin 90). His time working in office as governor, helped to found Maine University. Ten years after he resigned as President of Bowdoin College he was given the Congressional Medal of Honor for his defense of Little Round Top it was given to him by President Grover Cleveland.

His everlasting impact in the towns of Brewer and Brunswick still exist today. The museum in Brunswick, Maine was made to commemorate what he did for the United States and for the state of Maine. Statues of him stand all across the state and remind people how big of an impact he really made. In conclusion, Joshua I. Chamberlain was a leader, governor, president and professor at Bowdoin College, and most important of all, the hero of the Union army in the Battle of Gettysburg