Chamberlain (Joshua Lawrence) Papers, 1862-1863, 1902
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Copyright: The copyright of these letters is held by Navarro College Archives, Navarro College, 3200 W. 7th Ave., Corsicana, Texas. Internet:

Cite As:Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Papers, 1862-1863 and 1902, Pearce Civil War Collection, Navarro College, Corsicana, Texas

Forms Part of: Pearce Civil War Collection

Location: 1-S10

Transcription(s): Yes

Scanned Copies on File: No

Accession Number: 2001.003b; 1995.003; 2005.050

Processed by: Emily Brickhouse June 2002, updated, Rosalie Meier, May 2005

Reproductions of original materials and transcriptions may be available. Please contact the archivist for further information.

Abstract: Two letters written by Chamberlain to his wife Fannie during his time with the Army of the Potomac. The first letter (September 21, 1862; 8 pages) describes Chamberlain’s experiences in the battle of Antietam. The second letter (July 28, 1863; 2 pages) was written two weeks after Gettysburg while the Union Army was in pursuit of Lee’s army.

The last document is a typewritten letter dated May 12th 1902 written by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the 20th Maine to Mr. J. F. Cole in response to Mr. Cole’s inquiry about the final surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox Court House.

Biographical/Historical Sketch

Born September 8, 1828 in Brewer Maine, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a professor of rhetoric, languages and religion at Bowdoin College and the father of two when he joined the Union army in 1862. He was made lieutenant colonel of the 20th Maine. With his regiment Chamberlain fought in the battles of Antietam, Shepherdstown Ford, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Cold Harbor and Petersburg. He was wounded at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg and Petersburg. Chamberlain received the Congressional Medal of Honor at Gettysburg for his leadership and success in holding the left flank on Little Round Top. At Petersburg, Chamberlain was promoted to brigadier general by Grant and was given the honor of commanding the troops who accepted the surrender of Lee at Appomattox. After the war, Chamberlain returned to Maine where he continued on at Bowdoin College until he was elected to four terms as governor. After the governorship, Chamberlain became president of Bowdoin College and wrote several books about Maine and the Civil War. He died of complications of his wounds on February 24, 1914 in Portland, Maine at the age of 86.

Scope and Content Note

Three letters detailing the Civil War experiences of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

The first letter dated Sunday, September 21, 1862 written to Chamberlain’s wife Fanny describes his actions in the crossing of Antietam Creek and Sharpsburg and as he writes he is on the bank of the Potomac River on picket. “I am lying in a hollow where I am not much exposed, & really not at all disturbed…I can see plenty of dead & wounded men lying around, from where I sit. As soon as it can be done we are going to rescue some wounded who are calling to us from the rebel shore.” Some of the letter was written directly after the battle and the rest on the 21st of September, a few days later.

Another letter was written on July 28, 1863, again to Chamberlain’s wife Fanny. The Army of the Potomac, under the command of Meade had pursued Lee’s army out of Maryland and into Virginia after Gettysburg and paused to rest for several days. “We are halting here for a day or two & I find that the rest gives me opportunity to discover that I am not so well as I imagined when bugles were sounding the ‘forward’, & we were charging through forests & up mountain sides to clear the enemy out, as has been our daily experience for a month. I have sent up an application for ‘sick leave.’” In November of that year Chamberlain was sent to Washington for treatment of malaria.

The last letter was written on May 12th 1902, long after the end of the Civil War. Chamberlain received an inquiry about the final surrender of arms and colors of General Lee’s army at Appomattox Court House from J. K. Cole. In response, Chamberlain indicates that he consulted his “war papers” and “contemporaneous memoranda” as well as “collateral testimony.” He proceeds to describe events leading to Chamberlain’s receipt of the flag of truce from Lee which he then sent on to his superiors and hostilities ceased. Once the announcement of Lee’s surrender was made the troops went into bivouac while preparations were made for the formal surrender. On April 13 the formal surrender ceremony took place. Chamberlain ordered his Colonels to have the troops come from “order arms” to the marching salute of “carry arms” as the Confederate troops marched by. General Gordon, seeing this ordered his troops to do the same in passing the Union line. According to Chamberlain the stacking of arms and laying down of colors took all day. In the evening the broken cartridges which were left in the street were burned and “by this lurid light the last of Lee’s army passes from history.”

The copyright of these materials is managed by the Navarro College Archives on behalf of the Navarro College Foundation, 3100 W. Collin St., Corsicana, Texas 75110. Phone: 903-875-7438. Internet: