General Joshua L. Chamberlain between 1860 and 1865 Source Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
General Joshua L. Chamberlain between 1860 and 1865 Source Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828–1914)

U.S. Army General, Medal of Honor Recipient, Governor of Maine

A sensitive classical scholar, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain seemed an unlikely military hero. Fluent in many languages, he was a graduate of Bowdoin College and returned there to teach after studying at Bangor Theological Seminary. A passionate supporter of the Union cause, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and in 1862 was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 20th Maine Regiment, seeing action with his men at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Soon promoted to colonel, he commanded the 20th Maine at Gettysburg, On the second day of battle, he and his men aided in the defense of Little Round Top, on the left flank of the Union line, under a withering Confederate assault. He ordered a bayonet charge and led his men in executing an ingenious military maneuver that swept the enemy from the hill. For his actions that day he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was later seriously wounded at Petersburg, but he recovered soon enough to be present at Appomattox Court House for the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 12, 1865. Chamberlain served as governor of Maine from 1867 to 1871, after which he became president of his beloved Bowdoin College for a dozen years. He died at age 85, six months before the outbreak of the First World War, his wartime wounds having finally taken their toll.