Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain answered his… nation’s call with extraordinary valor. His standing in the social circles of Maine could have won him a Colonel’s commission, but Chamberlain deferred- he wanted to learn the craft of soldiering before commanding troops. His training was hands-on and brutal. The 20th Maine’s baptism of fire was on the killing fields of Fredericksburg- Chamberlain and the men spent a miserable night on the battlefield between the lines;
“…the writhing concord broken by cries for help, some begging for a drop of water, some calling on God for pity; and some on friendly hands to finish what the enemy had so horribly begun; some with delirious, dreamy voices murmuring loved names, as if the dearest were bending over them; and underneath, all the time, the deep bass note from closed lips too hopeless, or too heroic to articulate their agony…It seemed best to bestow myself between two dead men among the many left there by earlier assaults, and to draw another crosswise for a pillow out of the trampled, blood-soaked sod, pulling the flap of his coat over my face to fend off the chilling winds, and still more chilling, the deep, many voiced moan that overspread the field.”
Commanding the regiment at Gettysburg… the following Summer, Chamberlain led his men to glory on the slopes of Little Round Top. The bayonet charge he ordered helped save the Union left- it also earned him the Medal of Honor;
The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 2 July 1863, while serving with 20th Maine Infantry, in action at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on the Great Round Top.
Gallantly leading his brigade in action… near Petersburg, Virginia on June 18, 1864, Chamberlain was struck down by a ball, leaving a wound surgeons believed mortal. Lt. Gen. US Grant finally granted Chamberlain the long overdue promotion to Brigadier General;
“Col. JL Chamberlain was wounded on the 18th- he was gallantly leading his brigade at the time, as he had been in habit of doing in all the engagements… on this occasion, however, I promoted him on the spot…”