Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was born on September 8, 1828 in Brewer, ME. It was the oldest child of Joshua and Sarah Chamberlain. In order to attend Bowdoin College in 1848 he taught himself Greek. While attending Bowdoin College he listened to the readings of Harriet Beecher Stowe from the book that was published as" Uncle Tom's Cabin", in 1851, the same year he graduated from Bowdoin College. He continued his studies for three years at the Bangor Theological Seminary. After completing his three years he returned to Bowdoin as a teacher. The only subjects he did not teach were science and math at Bowdoin.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain married the daughter of a local clergyman Fanny Adams in 1855; they had five children and were together until her death in 1905. Three of their children died in infancy. In 1905 Chamberlain became a founding member of the Main Institution of the Blind due to Fannie's site deterioration.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlains' forefathers served in the American Revolution and the war of 1812. He wanted to enlist at the beginning of the Civil War however the Bowdoin administration said he was too valuable and prevented the enlistment. In 1862, Chamberlain was granted a leave of absence in order to study languages in Europe. At this time he volunteered his services to the governor of Maine. The governor offered him command of the 20th Maine infantry which he declined, becoming the Regiment Lt. Col., because he wanted to learn the position first. On August 20, 1862 Chamberlain and the 20th Maine under Col. Adelbert Ames were assigned to the V Corps of the Potomac serving at Antietam; however saw no action with that assignment. Later in the fall is regiment was part during the battle of Fredericksburg in the attack on Marye's Heights. The regiment received only light casualties; Chamberlain was forced to stay all night among the corpses of the cold battlefield for protection from Confederate fire. Due to a smallpox outbreak the regiment missed the fight at Chancellorsville. Shortly thereafter Ames was promoted and Chamberlain assumed command of the 20th Maine. On July 2, 1863, the Regiment was assigned to hold the round top at Gettysburg, under the command of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, where they beat off several attacks from the 15th Alabama. Chamberlain ordered a bayonet charge against the Confederates when his troops were getting low on ammunition, ending when his men routed and captured the enemy. This heroic defense earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor and everlasting fame for the Regiment. Part of his 20th ME were troops of the 2nd ME that were in chains for refusing to fight. During the battle and but two were released from chains and fought under the command of Lt. Thomas Chamberlin, Joshua's brother.
After Gettysburg, Chamberlain was temporarily suspended from duty due to malaria. He returned to the Army of Potomac and was promoted to brigade command in May 1864. On June 18 during the attack on Petersburg Chamberlain was shot to the right hip and groin continuing on he supported himself with his sword encouraging men before collapsing. Lieut. Gen. Ulysses S Grant believing Chamberlain's wound was fatal promoted him to Brigadier General. Barely clinging to life Chamberlain survived managed to recover from his wounds.
In November 1864 Chamberlain returned to duty for the remainder of the war. His brigade won the battle on March 29, 1865 against the union attack outside Peterson at the battle of Lewis Farm. Chamberlain was wounded again and for his gallantry and was temporary promoted otherwise known as brevetted to Major General. Chamberlain was advised on April 9 of the desire by the Confederates to surrender. On April 10 he was informed that of all the officers in the union Army he was selected for the Confederate surrender. Chamberlain presided over the ceremony on April 12 ordered his men, Sixth Corps, to attention and to present arms in respect of their vanquished rivals.
Chamberlain returned home to Maine after leaving the Army and served for four years as the greatest state governor. In 1871 after stepping down from the governmental position he was appointed president of Bowdoin. He held this position for the next 12 years updating its facilities and revolutionizing the school's curriculum. In 1883 he was forced to retire due to the aggravation of his war wounds. In 1898 he volunteered for the Spanish-American war however his request was denied leaving him bitterly disappointed.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain the highly respected and decorated union officer, also known as the Lion of Little Round Top died at the age of 85 on February 24, 1914 in Portland Maine. His death was a result from complications from the wounds he received in battle thus making him the last Civil War veteran who died from the wounds he received during that war. Chamberlain was cited for bravery four different times, six horses were shot from under him and six times he was wounded. He served in 20 battles and many other skirmishes and was responsible for the respect shown to the opposing side, at the April 12th surrender of The Army of Northern Virginia. Print
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