Joshua Chamberlain of Maine forged an incredible career during the Civil War. An academic and theologian by training, this modest young professor left Bowdoin College to accept a commission as lieutenant colonel of the Twentieth Maine. He fought at Antietam and Fredericksburg, then led his regiment to glory at Gettysburg, where he ordered the brilliant charge that saved Little Round Top. Promoted to brigade command, Chamberlain won a battlefield promotion to brigadier general from Ulysses S. Grant for his distinguished conduct in the assaults against Petersburg. He was held in such high esteem by his superior officers that Grant accorded him the honor of receiving the formal Confederate surrender at Appomattox. There Chamberlain endeared himself to succeeding generations with his unforgettable salute to Robert E. Lee’s defeated army.
After the war, he went on to serve four terms as governor of his home state and later became president of Bowdoin College. He wrote prolifically about the war, including The Passing of the Armies, a classic account of the final campaign of the Army of the Potomac. This remarkable biography traces his life and times.
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The right man at the right place, at the critical right time.
If he had done nothing more than save the Union almost single-handed, that would been enough to rank Joshua Chamberlain one of the 100 Greatest Americans of All-time. But what this book makes clear, is that time and time again, he was the right guy in the right place to turn a battle, to thwart a defeat, to heal the nation early. He was an exceptional individual. I wish we had one person, just one, person in authority like him today. Though, if you added all our leaders together, they'd be no more valuable than his hip wound. Why did I deduct one star? There was a lot of redundancy with other Civil War books. The author had access to his writings and his granddaughter, I would have liked more of what made the guy and what he did after the war; I knew the history already. Still, the history seemed very accurate (although the criticism of Sheridan seemed harsh from my understanding). So if you don't know the Civil War well and you want to meet one of the KBMC Top 100, I'm sure you'll find it a 5-star book.