Saturday, August 10, 2013

And Another Hero of Mine...

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
20th Maine Regiment
1828 - 1914
From Wikipedia:
On the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Union forces were recovering from initial defeats and hastily regrouping into defensive positions on a line of hills south of the town. Sensing the momentary vulnerability of the Union forces, the Confederates began an attack against the Union left flank. Sent to defend the southern slope of Little Round Top by Col. Strong Vincent, Chamberlain found himself and the 20th Maine at the far left end of the entire Union line. He quickly understood the strategic significance of the small hill, and the need for the 20th Maine to hold the Union left at all costs. The men from Maine waited until troops from the 15th Alabama Infantry regiment, under Col. William C. Oates, charged up the hill, attempting to flank the Union position. Time and time again the Confederates struck, until the 20th Maine was almost doubled back upon itself. With many casualties and ammunition running low, Col. Chamberlain recognized the dire circumstances and ordered his left wing (which was now looking southeast, compared to the rest of the regiment, which was facing west) to initiate a bayonet charge. From his report of the day: "At that crisis, I ordered the bayonet. The word was enough." While battlefield conditions make it unlikely that many men heard Chamberlain's order, most historians believe he initiated the charge.

The 20th Maine charged down the hill, with the left wing wheeling continually to make the charging line swing like a hinge, thus creating a simultaneous frontal assault and flanking maneuver, capturing 101 of the Confederate soldiers and successfully saving the flank. This version of the battle was popularized by the book The Killer Angels and the movie, Gettysburg and there is a historical debate on the validity of this account. Chamberlain sustained two slight wounds in the battle, one when a shot hit his sword scabbard and bruised his thigh, and another when his right foot was hit by a spent bullet or piece of shrapnel. For his tenacity at defending Little Round Top, he was known by the sobriquet Lion of the Round Top. Prior to the Battle, Chamberlain was quite ill, developing malaria and dysentery. Later, due to this illness, he was taken off active duty until he recovered.

For his "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", Chamberlain was awarded the Medal of Honor.
 Truly a warrior for the ages.

19 comments:

  1. And a great warrior he was.
    My Gr. gr. grandfather fought at Little Round Top. Except he was in Co. E, 15th Ala. Inf.
    In his memior, Col. Oates recounts that he sent a detail of two men from each company to gather all canteens and fill them at a creek in the area. The detail was captured and the 15th went into battle on that hot July day with no water. Had the detail not been captured, would the outcome have been different? One of the great ponderances of history.

    Love your blog.
    Another old afsarge.

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    1. Those fellas in the 15th Alabama were damn fine warriors themselves.

      Few folks realize just how hot it was in Gettysburg for that battle. And wearing wool clothing. No, water? I'd say if those guys had had water, outcome might have been different.

      Thanks for the kudos. Us old AF sergeants need to stick together. Love your handle "bayouwulf", might you be a Louisiana man?

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    2. Thanks. Close to La. An ex NW Fla native (of Norse decent) now living in the shadow of the Smoky Mountains. "Bayou" for my birth land. "Wulf" as a play on the Norse warrior of mythology, Beowulf. In fact, I was born on Eglin AFB and I was a TACP in the USAF. Det 2, 507th Tatical Air Control Wing.

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    3. I do like the play on words.

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Seriously son, you come into my place and insult one of my heros?

      You sir, are no gentleman. And y'all ain't welcome here.

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  3. On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word, nor whisper or vain-glorying, nor motion of man, but an awed stillness rather, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead.
    -Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, (Confederate surrender at Appomattox)

    http://www.namsouth.com/viewtopic.php?t=4076&highlight=chamberlain

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    1. Well said Brock. The man had a great deal of respect for his opponents.

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    2. That's a very good link by the way. Thanks!

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    3. I'll second your comment on the link, especially #25 therein. Booker T. was prescient.

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    4. I'm sure Jesse and Al would not like to be reminded of that!

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  4. Not that I've ever had malaria and dysentery, but I imagine it is quite hard to fight while under their spell. . . (And congrats on the troll. It is part of blogging to have punks roll into your place and leave one on the carpet. You've hit the big time!)

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    1. I can't imagine having to march, lead and fight while that sick. Also in that heat and humidity and wearing a wool uniform!

      As to the troll? C'est la guerre.

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  5. Now you got me looking for his book, "The Passing of the Armies". It's bound to be out there.

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    1. Another book I have wanted to read, and keep forgetting about.

      Let us know where you find it, if you would be so kind.

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  6. Went to Gettysburg with my son on a school field trip while serving in the 5 sided Puzzle Palace. Standing on top of Little Round Top, even this jet jockey could see the importance of holding that position. Had read and seen Killer Angels and studied the battle while at Army Command and Staff (purple doncha know), but never really understood until that instant. Agree that Gen Chamberlain qualifies as a hero and arguably saved the Union.

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    1. Seeing the ground always drives home the reading and the study.

      Until you've seen the ground, you don't have a full grasp. I know that from having walked the battlefield of Waterloo, the Ardennes and the Huertgen Forest.

      To get a fuller experience, throw in the weather conditions prevailing at the time. Then you start to get a feeling for what those troops endured. (And that's without someone shooting at you...)

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  7. I should mention that Shipyard Brewing of Portland, ME produces a Chamberlain Pale Ale complete w/ a picture of himself on the label. Tasty beverage and comes in a handy quart sized Bottle.

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    1. Hhhmm, I've got kin up Portland way. I'm thinking she needs to go shopping for me.

      Or I could go up to Portland, I haven't been to Maine in a while.

      Worth the trip for a good pale ale. I also like the idea of the handy quart bottle!

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