Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain — Facts and APUSH Notes

September 8, 1828–February 24, 1914

APUSH Definition — Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (1828–1914) was an officer in the United States Army during the Civil War. He earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroics at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Civil War General

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was immortalized in Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Killer Angels, and in the movie Gettysburg, which was based upon that novel.  Image Source: Library of Congress.

Who was Civil War officer Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain?

In 1862, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain enlisted as a lieutenant colonel in the 20th Maine Regiment, which was a part of the Army of the Potomac throughout the American Civil War. Lacking any formal military education, Chamberlain learned from books on the subject and his battlefield experience. Chamberlain was present at the Battle of Antietam, but his first real taste of combat came at the Battle of Fredericksburg. In June 1863, Chamberlain attained the rank of colonel.

Chamberlain achieved everlasting fame at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, for his defense of a strategically important hill named Little Round Top. After withstanding several Confederate assaults, Chamberlain’s troops, out of ammunition, fixed bayonets and beat back the Rebels with a heroic charge. Their actions prevented the Union army from being flanked, possibly winning the battle and perhaps even the war for the North. For his gallantry and leadership, Congress awarded Chamberlain the Medal of Honor thirty years after the battle.

Following Gettysburg, Chamberlain contracted malaria in 1863 and did not resume active duty until April 1864. Upon returning to duty, Chamberlain was severely wounded during the Second Battle of Petersburg. Expecting Chamberlain to die from his wound, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant gave him a battlefield promotion to brigadier general. Despite his grave prognosis, Chamberlain recovered and returned to the line in November. In March 1865, he was wounded during the Battle of Lewis’s Farm. His injuries were two of six wounds he received during the war. The courage and leadership he displayed during the battle prompted President Lincoln to brevet Chamberlain to the rank of major general in 1865.

On the morning of April 9, 1865, Chamberlain received the request from Confederate General Robert E. Lee for a cessation of hostilities, as a prelude to surrender talks at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. General Grant selected Chamberlain to preside over the official surrender review on April 12, 1865.

Following the war, Chamberlain mustered out of the volunteer army in 1866 and declined an offer of a colonelcy in the regular army. Chamberlain, instead, returned to Maine where he entered the political arena. Chamberlain won election to the first of four one-year terms as Governor of Maine in 1866. In 1871, Chamberlain retired from politics and became the president of Bowdoin College. Ill health caused by his Civil War wounds forced him to resign from that position in 1883. During his later years, Chamberlain suffered from severe pain and repeated infections resulting from his wound at Petersburg. From 1884 to 1889, Chamberlain spent much of his time in Florida, where the warm weather benefited his health. In 1900, President William McKinley appointed Chamberlain as Surveyor of the Port of Portland, Maine, a position he held until his death. Chamberlain died on February 24, 1914, in Portland, Maine. Attending physicians attributed his death to an infection of the wound he received at Petersburg nearly fifty years earlier. Chamberlain’s final resting place is in Pine Grove Cemetery, Brunswick, Maine.

Battle of Gettysburg, Little Round Top
Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Image Source: Library of Congress.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Facts for APUSH

Birth and Early Life

  • Full Name: His full name was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.
  • Parents: His parents were Joshua and Sarah “Sally” (Brastow) Chamberlain.
  • Date of Birth: He was born on September 8, 1828.
  • Birthplace: He was born in Brewer, Maine.

Family Tree

  • Spouse: His spouse was Frances “Fannie” Caroline Adams. They were married in 1855.

Death

  • Death: He died on February 24, 1914.
  • Place of Death: He died in Portland, Maine.
  • Burial: He is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Brunswick, Maine.

Education

He attended Bowdoin College and graduated in 1852.

Career

He worked as a college professor, military officer, and politician.

Career Summary

He was a Brigadier General (USVA), Brevet Major General (USVA), Governor of Maine, and President of Bowdoin College.

Nickname

He was known as the Lion of the Round Top and Bloody Chamberlain.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain — Summary of His Life and Accomplishments APUSH

  • Chamberlain’s parents were Joshua and Sarah “Sally” (Brastow) Chamberlain.
  • Chamberlain entered Bowdoin College in 1848 and graduated in 1852.
  • Chamberlain met and became friends with Harriet Beecher Stowe while attending Bowdoin College.
  • In 1855, Chamberlain earned a bachelor’s degree in divinity at Bangor Theological Seminary.
  • Chamberlain married Frances “Fannie” Caroline Adams on December 7, 1855.
  • From 1855 to 1862, Chamberlain was a professor at Bowdoin College.
  • Chamberlain was fluent in 10 languages.
  • In 1862, Chamberlain enlisted in the 20th Maine Regiment, a part of the Army of the Potomac.
  • Chamberlain fought at the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11 -15, 1862).
  • Chamberlain was promoted to the rank of colonel in June 1863.
  • Chamberlain became famous at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – July 3, 1863) for his defense of a hill named Little Round Top.
  • Chamberlain acquired the nickname, “the Lion of the Round Top,” for his actions at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – July 3, 1863).
  • Chamberlain was stricken with malaria in 1863 and removed from active duty until April 1864.
  • Chamberlain was seriously wounded by a gunshot to the leg and groin during the Second Battle of Petersburg on June 18, 1864.
  • Expecting Chamberlain to die from his wounds at Petersburg, Ulysses S. Grant gave him a battlefield promotion to brigadier general on June 19, 1864.
  • Chamberlain recovered from his wounds at Petersburg and returned to active duty in November 1864.
  • Chamberlain was wounded in the arm and chest at the Battle of Lewis’s Farm (March 29, 1865).
  • President Abraham Lincoln brevetted Chamberlain to the rank of major general following the Battle of Lewis’s Farm (March 29, 1865).
  • On the morning of April 9, 1865, Chamberlain officially received Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s request for a cessation of hostilities, to arrange for surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
  • Chamberlain presided over the surrender of the Confederate infantry at Appomattox Court House on April 12, 1865.
  • Chamberlain is remembered for the dignity and respect he accorded the defeated Confederate troops during the surrender ceremonies at Appomattox Court House.
  • During the Civil War, Chamberlain was wounded six times.
  • In 1866, Chamberlain was elected to the first of four one-year terms as Governor of Maine.
  • In 1871, Chamberlain was appointed as president of Bowdoin College.
  • In 1883, Chamberlain was forced to resign from his position at Bowdoin College due to ill health caused by his Civil War wounds.
  • In 1893, Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroics at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1 – 3, 1863) thirty years earlier.
  • Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain died on February 24, 1914, at Portland, Maine.
  • Chamberlain is buried at Pine Grove Cemetery in Brunswick, Maine.
  • Chamberlain’s memoirs, entitled The Passing of Armies, was published in 1915, one year after his death.
  • He was immortalized in Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Killer Angels, and in the movie Gettysburg, which was based upon that novel.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain — Facts and APUSH Notes
  • Date September 8, 1828–February 24, 1914
  • Author
  • Keywords joshua lawrence chamberlain
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date February 27, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 12, 2024

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