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Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Major General, U.S. Army - 05799

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Major General, U.S. Army - 05799

Lt. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain had to make a decision - fast. His commanding officer, Colonel Strong Vincent of the 3rd Brigade was dead. Vincent had ordered that the Union's ground was to be held at all costs and not to retreat. Confederate John Bell Hood's brigades were advancing up Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg. Learning that his men's ammunition was essentially gone, Chamberlain yelled, "Bayonet", and lead the charge down the hill. The Union's position was saved while capturing 101 of the Confederate soldiers.

Years later, Chamberlain, the "Lion of Round Top" was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor "for extraordinary heroism on 2 July 1863, while serving with 20th Maine Infantry, in action at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for 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."

In all, college professor and future Governor of Maine, Joshua Chamberlain, served in 20 battles and numerous skirmishes, was cited for bravery four times, had six horses shot from under him, and was wounded six times.

On April 9, 1865, Chamberlain was approached by Confederate General Gordon to arrange for General Lee to hear from General Grant as to the proposed surrender. The next day, Chamberlain was selected to preside over the parade of the Confederate infantry as part of their formal surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 12.

Thus Chamberlain was responsible for one of the most poignant scenes of the American Civil War. As the Confederate soldiers marched down the road to surrender their arms and colors, Chamberlain, on his own initiative, ordered his men to come to attention and "carry arms" as a show of respect. Chamberlain described in his memoirs, The Passing of the Armies, what happened next:

Gordon, at the head of the marching column, outdoes us in courtesy. He was riding with downcast eyes and more than pensive look; but at this clatter of arms he raises his eyes and instantly catching the significance, wheels his horse with that superb grace of which he is master, drops the point of his sword to his stirrup, gives a command, at which the great Confederate ensign following him is dipped and his decimated brigades, as they reach our right, respond to the 'carry.' All the while on our part not a sound of trumpet or drum, not a cheer, nor a word nor motion of man, but awful stillness as if it were the passing of the dead.
Many years later, Gordon, in his own memoirs, called Chamberlain "one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal Army." Gordon never mentioned the anecdote until after he read Chamberlain's account, more than 40 years later.