Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a Civil War hero for the North. He was an unassuming man who taught at the university before he joined the Northern war efforts. The thing that fascinates me about his story is that this quiet man became the focal point for bringing the war to an end.
Colonel Chamberlain had been given the task of protecting Little Round Top. This was the North’s most vulnerable point and was to be protected “at all costs.” When the South advanced on the mountain, the North began a furious fight with cannons and rifles.
Eventually as the fight ensued, the ammo for the North became scarce and a decision had to be made. Should they retreat or should they hold the position as ordered? Chamberlain made a decision not to just hold their position, but to fix bayonets and charge the enemy! The sound of a regiment of men fixing bayonets and charging down the hill put the South in a state of panic and confusion.
The North ended up winning the battle because of this bold move by Colonel Chamberlain. That battle turned the tide in the war from which the South never fully recovered. It was indeed the turning point in the war…and was accomplished by a man who understood that perseverance and a little luck can be the things that literally change history for everyone.
As a side note, Chamberlain survived being killed by two Confederate soldiers. One had him in his sights and did not pull the trigger because he did not want to be the one to kill the brave Colonel. The other Confederate soldier tried to shoot him but his pistol misfired and the bullet just missed Chamberlain’s face.
At several points during the battle the South could have won and yet it was the North who endured to the end. It was Chamberlain and his brave soldiers who faced their fears and helped win the war for the North (with the assistance from the 2nd Maine Infantry, Andrew J. Tozier, Company B and Holman Melcher).
Victory in this case was not so much sweet as it was a relief for a nation that was torn in two.