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 Home    Documentary Heritage of the Civil War    Part 5, 2015: "At War's End: A Nation Mourns and Rebuilds"    Civil War letters of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 1862-1865, 1902

Civil War letters of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 1862-1865, 1902

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Portrait of Maj. Gen. (as of Mar. 29, 1865) Joshua L. Chamberlain

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

McLean's House, Appomattox Court-House (April 1865)

McLean's House, Appomattox Court-House (April 1865).

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Location
Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Tex. External Link
Background
Lieutenant colonel of the 20th Maine Regiment; promoted to brigadier general (1864); given the honor of commanding the troops who accepted the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox; governor of Maine (1866-1870); professor and president (1870-1883) of Bowdoin College; and author of several books about Maine and the Civil War.
Contents
The first letter (September 21, 1862) written to Chamberlain's wife Fanny, describes his actions in the crossing of Antietam Creek and Sharpsburg and as he writes he is on the bank of the Potomac River on picket.

"I am lying in a hollow where I am not much exposed, & really not at all disturbed … I can see plenty of dead & wounded men lying around, from where I sit. As soon as it can be done we are going to rescue some wounded who are calling to us from the rebel shore."

Another letter was written on July 28, 1863, again to Chamberlain's wife Fanny. The Army of the Potomac, under the command of Meade had pursued Lee's army out of Maryland and into Virginia after Gettysburg and paused to rest for several days.

"We are halting here for a day or two & I find that the rest gives me opportunity to discover that I am not so well as I imagined when bugles were sounding the 'forward', & we were charging through forests & up mountain sides to clear the enemy out, as has been our daily experience for a month. I have sent up an application for 'sick leave.'"

In November of that year Chamberlain was sent to Washington for treatment of malaria. The last letter was written on May 12, 1902, long after the end of the Civil War. Chamberlain received an inquiry about the final surrender of arms and colors of General Lee's army at Appomattox Court House from J.K. Cole. In response, Chamberlain indicates that he consulted his "war papers" and "contemporaneous memoranda" as well as "collateral testimony." He proceeds to describe events leading to Chamberlain's receipt of the flag of truce from Lee which he then sent on to his superiors and hostilities ceased. Once the announcement of Lee's surrender was made the troops went into bivouac while preparations were made for the formal surrender. On April 13 the formal surrender ceremony took place. Chamberlain ordered his Colonels to have the troops come from "order arms" to the marching salute of "carry arms" as the Confederate troops marched by, General Gordon, seeing this, ordered his troops to do the same in passing the Union line. According to Chamberlain the stacking of arms and laying down of colors took all day. In the evening the broken cartridges which were left in the street were burned and,

"by this lurid light the last of Lee's army passes from history."

(See the NUCMC catalog record)

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 Home    Documentary Heritage of the Civil War    Part 5, 2015: "At War's End: A Nation Mourns and Rebuilds"    Civil War letters of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 1862-1865, 1902
  The Library of Congress >> Cataloging, Acquisitions
   February 18, 2015
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