Last week I had the honor of delivering the annual Joshua L. Chamberlain Memorial Lecture at the Pejepscot History Center in Brunswick, Maine. We had an incredible turnout of around 100 people for my talk on the history and controversy surrounding Civil War monuments.
Raising my hand, too. But I also read a couple of biographies of Chamberlain and his book, The Passing of the Armies.
Wish I could have heard your talk. The statue of Chamberlain at Bowdoin looks a lot like Daniels to me, but he did resemble Chamberlain a bit, and had a very convincing moustache that he used in his performance. (When he was scared, he blew through it.)
The book I was referring to is "The 20th Main, A Volunteer Regiment in the Civil War" by John Cullen published in 1957.
I got my older sister to read this to me when I was in first grade, I don't think she like it and I don't remember much about it.
At the risk of extending what appears to be an expiring conversation I am going to add; whether or not you think Chamberlain deserves the attention he gets depends in part on whether you think the defense of Little Round Top was as important to the United States victory at Gettysburg as is usually portrayed.
Outside of my studies in history the first time I encountered Chamberlain was in company grade office PME in the 1980s. The Army was using story telling, specifically biography, to teach lessons about officer development. As I remember this stuff was professionally done by one of the departments in the school at Ft Leavenworth. Chamberlain was presented as the quintessential citizen soldier leader. Someone not trained in the military art but intelligent and analytic and able to make decisions. In reality there was probably more to the Chamberlain lesson but this was all a long time ago. Much of his story focused of course on Gettysburg. I don’t remember anything being said about his post-war career other than a very superficial overview. The Gettysburg movie and subsequent issues over the Little Round Top fight prompted me to go back many years latter and look more deeply at Chamberlain
I really found this article interesting. Chamberlain’s story is inspiring, and as you noted led to a renewed interest in the Battle of Gettysburg, and in work on keep up the National Military Park, for which we have the Incredible Scoundrel, Dan Sickles to thank. But anyway, back to Chamberlain and military autobiography in general. Chamberlain has always been on of my favorite characters, not simply because of his service, but because of what I learned of his struggles following the war and his marriage issues, which are so common to men and women returning traumatized from war. I did a lot of biography in my Gettysburg Staff Ride Text while on faculty at the Joint Forces Staff College.
I remember reading The Killer Angels in my Army Officer Basic Course in 1983, I still have the original Pocket Book Edition. I also remember reading Chamberlain’s account of Little Round Top in the Army Leadership manual of the time. 40 years and much reading, study, research, and writing later I come to view most military autobiography with a bit of skepticism until I check them with other sources, Chamberlain’s included.
I do find that all of us who served in war don’t always remember things as they really were, me included. In the Navy they are called “Sea Stories.” Thus, when I was driving to work listening to Jimmy Buffett’s song “A Semi-True Story” I laughed at the words because of their eternal truth:
It's a semi-true story
believe it or not
I made up a few things
and there's some I forgot
But the life and the telling
are both real to me
and they all run together
and turn out to be
a semi-true story
That will be my autobiography.
I thought a lot about the vagaries of historical memory, too, when I wrote Delivered Under Fire. Even now, it’s hard for me to understand how Absalom Markland has been essentially wiped from the historical record despite his close relationship with Grant and Sherman. It makes me want to look more closely at those who are on the perimeters of “great man” history.
I agree with Chamberlain being made more well known thanks to The Killer Angels/Gettysburg. In addition to Michael Shaara and Ron Maxwell, I think Ken Burns deserves some credit for bringing attention to Chamberlain due to him being prominently featured in Burns' documentary series.