In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, Chamberlain returned to Bowdoin College as a professor, and also spent time speaking around Maine about his war experiences. But, like many a returning veteran, he became restless and somewhat depressed, and it became clear to him that a college professorship was becoming too narrow and confining a role.

Then, it occurred to Republican party leaders in Maine that a man of Chamberlain's reputation--an educated, well-known and wounded war hero--would be attractive to the electorate as a candidate for governor. In those days, Maine elected its governors for only one-year terms. After much thought, Chamberlain allowed his name to be placed in nomination at the June 1866 state convention, and accepted when he was chosen by the delegates as their candidate.

A campaign poster for "the gallant Chamberlain!"

Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum, Brunswick, ME.

This I saw at Chamberlain's home in Brunswick. I don't know from which governor's campaign it comes from.

In September 1866, Chamberlain was elected Governor of Maine by the largest majority in the state's history, up to that time. He would eventually be elected to four consecutive one-year terms--1866, 1867, 1868 and 1869.

During his terms as Maine's Governor, Chamberlain undertook projects that were not just talked about, but instead were carried through. He organized a state War Claims Commission, putting former Governor Samuel Cony in charge. As a result, not only were debts owed to Maine for subsidizing troops during the Civil War paid off, but so were those dating back to the War of 1812.

Chamberlain also publicized the horrible conditions at the Hospital for the Insane, which became more crowded since the start of the Civil War. He pushed for the hospital's enlargement, saying in 1870:

"Cells and corridors and stone walks are dreary confines for minds broken under the weight of real or fancied wrongs...A brief treatment of a sane man in these crowded corridors would very soon give him a title to stay there."(1)

As a matter of course, Chamberlain was also an advocate for veterans of the Civil War, as well as for their widows and orphans. He told Maine taxpayers:

"Whatever means you provide for the care of these orphans, it is a duty too sacred to be slighted. The almshouse, the hovel, and the street are sad homes for the sons of martyrs...The widow should not be obliged to account to the government for her husband, but the government to the widow."(2)

In education, Chamberlain won public support for the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in Orono, which later became the University of Maine. He also addressed the problem of young Mainers leaving the state for better employment elsewhere. Referring to that, he said:

"We have been too long content with the doubtful compliment that 'Maine is a good state to go from'. She must be made a good state to come to, and stay in."(3)

With that in mind, he looked for ways to bring industry to Maine. Seeing that Maine's natural resources, particularly its waterways, was a great selling point in attracting industry, he ordered an in-depth survey of the state's major rivers; this hydrographic survey was completed while Chamberlain was still in office, and eventually attracted developers to southern Maine. He also succeeded in encouraging Scandinavian immigration to Maine. In that regard, he said, half-sarcastically:

"Maine is surely as good a state to migrate to as Minnesota".(4) 

Chamberlain's Governor's chair,

Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum, Brunswick, ME.

This is the chair used by Chamberlain while he was Governor of Maine. It was missing for a number of years, until it was discovered it was being used as a throne for the Homecoming Queen at the University of Maine at Orono--a school that was co-founded by Chamberlain, while he was governor!

Not all of his proposals and stands on state and national issues were this popular, however. During his terms as Governor, Chamberlain made many enemies within his own Republican party; instead of "toeing the line", Chamberlain instead followed his conscience and sense of justice, fully recognizing that his unpopular stands could ruin his political career. For instance, he opposed the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868. Mass meetings were held throughout Maine, urging and threatening Senator William Pitt Fessenden, who also opposed impeachment--and who had the support of Governor Chamberlain. In May of 1868, Fessenden and six other Republican senators voted with the Democrats, finding Johnson "not guilty" by one vote. The proceedings, known as "The Great American Farce", disgusted Chamberlain.

On the state level, Chamberlain faced opposition on two major fronts: the state Liquor Laws, and capital punishment.

As to the former issue, Maine had at that time a Prohibition Law, making the sale, purchase and manufacture of intoxicating liquor illegal. This Prohibition Law was supported by another law, called the Constabulary Law, which gave law enforcement officers the right to enter and search private homes on suspicion of possession of liquor. The Republican party supported this law--but Chamberlain sided with the Democrats, believing this was not only an infringement on the constitutional rights of individuals, but afforded these officers a great opportunity to misuse their authority. He believed it was not the state's job to dictate virtues and that:

"...legislation upon what a man shall eat and drink, is certainly a pretty strong assertion of 'State Rights' over those of the individual."(5)

Because of this stand, Chamberlain received much criticism from his own party, as well as church groups and temperance advocates. The pressure to support this law intensified when he politely refused to be chairman of a temperance convention in Augusta. At the time, litigation on the Constabulary Law was pending, and Chamberlain believed it would be a conflict of interest if he attended--and particularly if he acted as chairman. It turned out to be the right stand to take--during his administration, both the Constabulary Law and the part of the Liquor Law requiring jail sentences for a first offense were repealed by the state Legislature.

The other major issue Chamberlain faced opposition on was capital punishment. On a personal level, Chamberlain favored it, feeling that without the threat of the death penalty, criminals were more likely to commit murder. Criminals found guilty of murder in the first degree in Maine were sentenced to be hanged--in accordance with that law, a year after the sentence was pronounced. It was the Governor's responsibility to sign the death warrant and set an execution date. When Chamberlain became Governor, he discovered that his predecessors (except for Governor Samuel Cony) had neglected to follow through with this duty, because the law put no time limit on when death warrants were issued.

With this in mind, Chamberlain approached the Legislature several times, asking to have capital punishment abolished altogether, or to put a time limit on when executions should take place. As he put it:

"If we cannot make our practice conform to our law, then make our law agree with our practice."(6)

When this appeal did not work, Chamberlain refused to follow his predecessors' example, and signed the death warrant on a rapist-murderer named Clifton Harris. Two things began to complicate matters: supposedly Harris had turned state's evidence, to implicate an accomplice. Because he did this, State Attorney General William Frye wanted the death sentence commuted to life imprisonment--but Frye had not protested Harris' death sentence until Chamberlain had signed the death warrant. But, Chamberlain pointed out, if Frye had promised Harris a lighter sentence in exchange for information, wouldn't that have given Harris an incentive to lie, and possibly implicate an innocent man, in order to save his own life? (As it turned out, Harris' supposed "evidence" wasn't enough for Frye to charge the accomplice.) Secondly, Harris was a black man, a former slave; his sympathizers cited this background as the reason for his violent behavior, and asked for mercy. Chamberlain didn't see it that way:

"However the experience of suffering may have affected my personal sympathies, the consideration of the public safety convinces me that this is not the time to soften penalties. Too much crime is abroad, and emboldened by the mildness and uncertainty of punishment...Mercy is indeed a heavenly grace, but it should not be shown to crime. It is the crime and not the man, at which the law strikes. It is not to prevent that man alone from repeating his offense, but to prevent others from so doing."(7)

Chamberlain did not budge from his position. The sentence of execution was carried out.

A closer view of the Maine State Capitol building, Augusta, ME.

Photo by David Lepkowski.

Do not use without his express written permission.

On top of all the controversies--and occasional death threats!--he faced as Governor, Chamberlain's marriage began to suffer at this time as well. His decision to enter politics after the war did not sit well with his wife Fannie. She enjoyed being a Bowdoin professor's wife, and resented his absences in the state capital at Augusta. (In all fairness to Fannie, there was no "Governor's Mansion" in Augusta at the time, and being Governor was not a "full-time" job.) She began to think her husband no longer cared about her, and in 1868 began talking to some "back-door" gossips about the possibility of divorce! In a letter to Fannie, written in November of 1868, Chamberlain begged her to consider the implications of such an action--not just for him, but especially for Fannie. The lot of a divorcee at that time, in Maine, would not have been a happy one:

"Augusta, November 20, 1868:

"Dear Fanny:

"In the whirl of all this uproar of obloquy now hurled at me by the friends of Harris & the rampant temperance men I find myself assailed by only one thing which distresses me.

"On arriving here last night sick & worn out, I had hoped that even if I could have no other care and nursing [I[ would at least have that of sleep.

"Things have now however come to that pass that I must trouble you by referring again to the suggestion I made to you some time since in regard to your making a confidant of untrustworthy persons. I have had abundant & concurrent testimony from many -- all as much your friends as mine -- that you were complaining to everyone who came into the house of my conduct & treatment of you. I have passed that over for a long time not thinking it worthwhile to notice it. When I found that you were still disposed to do this & in the last instance in a direction that would do you more harm than me, I ventured to give you the warning I did some time since. You received it with apparent kindness & I was satisfied. I then referred to it again just before I came away & you spoke in a way that made me nearly happy.

"Now last night after I had gone to bed, Mr. Johnson came in with a very distressed demeanor & begged me not to be angry with him but he saw such grief & ruin impending that he must tell me. Miss Courlaender {NOTE: a Brunswick schoolteacher} it seems is freely telling people that "you told her (and Mrs. Dunning as well as everybody else) that I abused you beyond endurance -- pulling your hair, striking, beating & otherwise personally maltreating you, & that you were gathering up everything you could find against me to sue for a divorce." Mr. Johnson says this is doing immense harm. Whether the fact is so or not & the bitter enemies who now assail me on public grounds will soon get hold of this & will ruin me. He is in great distress & begs me to do something -- what he does not know.

"You must be aware that if it were not you who were so clearly implicated in this business, I should make quick work of these calumniators. I fear nothing for myself. But you must see that whatever come upon me, comes upon you too with even more effect & for your sake I must again offer the suggestion that you act with wisdom and discretion.

"If it is true (as Mr. Johnson seems to think there is a chance of its being) that you are preparing for an action against me, you need not give yourself all this trouble. I should think we had skill enough to adjust the terms of a separation without the wretchedness to all our family which these low people to whom it would seem that you confide your grievances & plans will certainly bring about.

"You never take my advice, I am aware. But if you do not stop this at once, it will end up in hell.

"I am sorry to say this to you, when I have so entirely confided in you & have been so reassured of late in this confidence, as my interest in your matters & in your friends must convince you. Of course this has given me a troubled night & I am taking up the duties of the day wholly unfitted for them.

"The thing come[s] to this, if you are contemplating any such things as Mr. Johnson says -- there is a better way to do it. If you are not, you must see the gulf of misery to which this confidence with unworthy people tends. You have this advantage of me, that I never spoke unkindly of you to any person. I shall not now do so to you. But it is a very great trial to me -- more than all things else put together -- wounds, pains, toils, wrongs & hatreds of eager enemies". (7A)

. Fortunately, the crisis passed, and no legal action was taken. In fact, after the stress of his political career, Chamberlain began to look more favorably on return to academic life--which naturally would please Fannie.

One very interesting -- and unusual, to me -- thing happened during Chamberlain's tenure as Governor. In the midst of all the resultant controversies, both political and professional, he got so frustrated with everything that he considered offering his military skills to -- of all people -- William, King of Prussia! At that time, Prussia was becoming the dominant military force in central Europe, and was slowly unifying the country we now know today as Germany. In 1870, Prussia was involved in a war with neighboring France, which was led by Emperor Napoleon III--and was kicking the stuffing out of the French!

In this unusual letter, written in July of 1870, and referring to himself in the third person, Chamberlain goes as far as to think about offering his resignation, as Governor of Maine:

"Augusta, July 20, 1870

To His Majesty

William, King of Prussia


"The undersigned respectfully presents to your Majesty the tender of his services in the war now opening in Europe. He has the honor to refer to the fact that he has served through all grades from field officer to that of General of Division. His last two promotions were made in the field of battle under circumstances which warrant him in referring to them as testimony of his capacity. The office he now holds of Governor of the State of Maine he proposes to resign in case your Majesty shall be pleased to accept his service.

"While no great principle of international right is involved in the present impending war, the honor of manhood is a point in which a soldier may well be sensitive. In this feeling & sympathizing with your Majesty's political & personal attitude, well acquainted with your language & admiring your people, I tender the best service of my sword.

"Your Majesty's most obedient servant,

Joshua L. Chamberlain

late Major Genl, Bt. U.S. Army

Gov. & Comdr. in Chief of State of Maine". (8A)

My question is: would Chamberlain have actually gone through with this idea? And what would both his family, and the citizens of Maine, have thought of their Governor offering his military experience to a foreign power? Interesting to speculate on what might have happened.


President Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain,

Hubbard Hall, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME.

Cheryl took me to Hubbard Hall, Bowdoin College's main administration building. On the second floor is a portrait gallery of past Bowdoin College presidents, including Chamberlain. This was painted from life in 1908, and presented to Chamberlain at Bowdoin's 103rd Commencement. I found it to be a very striking portrait, indeed.

In early 1871, Chamberlain was unanimously elected as Bowdoin's president. He took the position, on condition that he would be given the freedom and flexibility to make changes at the college. He knew that Bowdoin not only had to reform parts of its curriculum, but its attitude toward education as well. He had three areas of reform in mind: a loosening of discipline, with a view to treating students as adults; curriculum revision with a greater emphasis on science and modern languages as well as the inception of a graduate program leading to the Master of Arts degree; and the introduction of military drill.

Massachusetts Hall, Bowdoin College. It's the oldest building on campus. Chamberlain's office was located here.

Photo by David Williamson.

Do not use without his express written permission.

Changes in the first area were probably not too difficult to take. Formal morning prayers before breakfast were eliminated; prayers were held after breakfast at 8:30, with all classes for the day to follow at half-hour intervals. Evening prayers, with the exception of Sunday, were abolished altogether, as were Saturday classes and the long winter vacation. Commencement was to occur in June. Library hours were extended, and scholarship alone was now to determine the award of college honors--before that, irregularities in conduct or in attendance at college exercises had figured in the awards.

Curriculum revision, however, was a tougher nut to crack. Chamberlain's idea to add a science department, for example, was felt by some of the older professors as a threat to Bowdoin's traditional course of study, which was to prepare students for the Congregationalist ministry. Besides the addition of a science department, Chamberlain also wanted to establish an engineering course, and he also placed an emphasis on the modern languages of French and German (instead of Greek and Latin), for those students taking the science course. To make matters "worse" (in some of the more conservative faculty's eyes), Chamberlain believed WOMEN should have rights to higher education:

"Women too should have part in this high calling. Because in this sphere of things her 'rights', her capacities, her offices, her destiny, are equal to those of man."(8)

Chamberlain further rattled Bowdoin's academic cages in his first address as President in July 1872. Among other things, he deplored the spirit of the monastery, with its

"...tendency away from life; the natural affection rebuked; the social instincts chilled; the body despised and so dishonored; woman banished and hence degraded, so that to admit her to a place in higher education is thought to degrade a college. The inmates separate, secluded, grown abnormal and provincial, came out into the world strangers to it...Now that is not what the college wants to make of men."(9)

This was Chamberlain's challenge to Bowdoin: adapt to the outside world, or die from within. And Chamberlain was bound and determined to drag Bowdoin College kicking and screaming, if necessary, into the 19th century!

Memorial Hall, Bowdoin College. Here, on the ground floor walls, are listed the names of Bowdoin College graduates, who served in the Civil War.

Photo by David Williamson.

Do not use without his express written permission.

In the area of the military drill, the Federal government at the time was concerned that, if the country ever entered another war, it would not be caught unprepared to fight, as it was in 1861. Therefore, it encouraged colleges and universities to develop military units, and Chamberlain wanted one at Bowdoin. He made the recommendation to the Boards in January 1872, and it was approved, and he selected Major Joseph Sanger to organize this unit.

At first the students took their military duties seriously--four infantry companies were organized, numbering nearly 200 student privates, non-commissioned officers, and officers; as well as an artillery unit. But, as time went on, the novelty of drilling began to wear off. For one thing, the students resented the study time lost to the drill, not to mention the fact they had to purchase their own uniforms! In November 1873, the students decided to bypass Chamberlain and approach the Boards directly, presenting a petition to abolish the drill altogether. Negotiations between the students and the college failed, and in May 1874, the students were given an ultimatum: resume drilling, or go home. The students went home. Letters from the college followed, telling parents that their sons had to return to school within ten days to comply with the laws of the college--including military drill--or be expelled. Thankfully, all but three returned by the expected time (and even those three ultimately came back to the fold).

Hubbard Hall, Bowdoin College.

Here is where the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum (Peary was a Bowdoin graduate of Chamberlain's science program), as well as the college's History, Economics and Government departments, are located.

Photo by David Williamson.

Do not use without his express written permission.

This "Drill Revolt" ultimately doomed Chamberlain's military program. In June 1873, the Boards voted to make it optional; in 1883, it was abolished altogether. Chamberlain was also being attacked by those who criticized the science program--not only by those who opposed his de-emphasis on religion, but also by those who felt he'd not gone far enough. Unfortunately, the program encountered many financial difficulties; in those days, colleges were still pretty much dependent on students' tuition to meet expenses. With limited building expansion, inadequate facilities, and low salaries (and competition from both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Maine State Agricultural College at Orono), Chamberlain finally admitted failure in 1878.

"We may console ourselves with having made an earnest effort to meet what was a demand of the times, with having done good work and earned a good fame...."(10)

In 1880 and 1881, the Boards discontinued both the scientific and engineering programs respectively. At the time, some of Chamberlain's academic ideas were considered too radical. But in the end, some of them would be permanently established: in 1892, a new science department was introduced; and in 1971, Bowdoin would finally open its doors to women.

During his years as Bowdoin's president, Chamberlain also kept up a strenuous outside schedule. Frequent addresses at town festivals, meetings of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States; an appearance as Maine's representative at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia; serving as United States Commissioner at the 1878 Paris Exposition (where he wrote a 165-page report for the U.S. government appraising European education, with an emphasis on systems being utilized in France--and for which he would receive a bronze medal from the French government), among other things.

But ill health, caused by the Petersburg wound, would continue to dog him, and in September 1883, he resigned as Bowdoin's president, although the Boards asked him to lecture for the time being, in political economy and in constitutional and international law. In 1885, in ill health again, he resigned even this position, although he would continue to serve on the Boards until his death. But it was quite a remarkable record of service: from 1855 to 1885, Chamberlain would teach every subject at Bowdoin, except mathematics and physical science.

Here is a beautiful evening photo of the Joshua Chamberlain statue, which stands just beyond the Bowdoin College campus.

Photo by David Williamson.

Do not use without his express written permission.


Portrait of Governor Joshua L. Chamberlain,

State Capitol Building, Augusta, ME.

Photo by Cheryl Pula.

Cheryl and I found this wonderful portrait of Chamberlain in the "Governor's Gallery" at the State Capitol building in Augusta. I believe it was painted after Chamberlain left office, but I still think it looks very striking.

While Chamberlain was still Bowdoin's president, he became embroiled in a very serious political crisis in Maine--one which came very close to plunging the state into civil war. It became known as the "Twelve Days".

In the fall 1879 election, none of the candidates running for Governor won a majority of the popular vote, which meant that the Legislature would elect the new Governor. The Republicans had just won the majority of seats in both the House and state Senate, so their candidate, Daniel Davis, was favored to win over Greenback candidate Joseph Smith, and Democratic candidate (and current Governor) Dr. Alonzo Garcelon. But before it came to a vote, Greenbackers and Democrats began to accuse Republican legislators of using bribery and fraud to win their positions--which became front page news. Governor Garcelon and his Council conducted an investigation into the election returns--and the power shifted. Now the Republicans were in the minority, and they began to cry foul! They claimed the returns had been tampered with by the Governor and his Council, and that the constitutional rights of those newly-elected legislators, whose seats were lost in the recount, had been violated. Former Maine Governor and Senator Lot M. Morrill urged Governor Garcelon to let the State Supreme Court decide who was right in these conflicting claims. The whole problem might have been solved peacefully, but for one man: a very influential Republican senator named James G. Blaine.

Determined to "rescue" his party, Blaine set up an armed camp of Republicans at his home, next to the Capitol building. Answering show of force by show of force, Governor Garcelon placed nearly 100 hired men in and around the Capitol, armed to the teeth. Democrats and Greenbackers joined forces and raised their own army in turn, with headquarters in a downtown Augusta hotel.

In late 1897, Chamberlain wrote this impassioned letter to Blaine, virtually begging him to not aggravate the situation any further than it already was:

"Brunswick Dec. 29, 1897

Hon. James G. Blaine

"My dear Sir--

"I telegraphed Governor Garcelon the day Governor Morrill's letter appeared, urging him as earnestly as I could to submit the disputed questions to the Court. I afterwards wrote him a letter to the same effect.

"As to the indignation meeting proposed here, it was my opinion that demonstrations of that sort had already been sufficient to impress upon the Governor the state of public feeling, and that what we now need to do is not to add to popular excitement which is likely to result in disorder and violence, but to aid in keeping the peace by inducing our friends to speak and act as sober and law abiding citizens.

"In my opinion there is danger that our friends may take some step which would put them in the wrong. That would be very bad. If wrong is to be done, let the responsibility of it rest with those who do it, and do not let those who are aggrieved seek redress in a way to shift upon themselves the burden of wrongdoing.

"I deprecate all suggestions of bloodshed in the settlement of the question. Not only would that result be deplorable, but the suggestion of it is demoralizing. I cannot bear to think of our fair and orderly State plunged into the horrors of a civil war.

"I hope you can do all you can to stop the incendiary talk which proposes violent measures, and is doing great harm to our people. I cannot believe that you sympathize with this, and I am sure your great influence can be made to avail much now to preserve peace and respect for the law.

"Pardon me for this, but I think the circumstances demand of me to make these suggestions.

Very respectfully yours,

Joshua L. Chamberlain" (10A)

State civil war loomed: Maine men descended on Augusta, ready to battle for their parties. Newspapers took sides, fueling emotions. Blaine's men aimed their rifles at Governor Garcelon's men at the Capitol, and Augusta became a powder keg ready to go off. At last, Garcelon realized he was in over his head, and called out the State Militia on January 5, 1880. As Major General of the militia, it was now up to Chamberlain to keep some semblance of order, until the State Supreme Court could decide the election.

As he looked over the situation, Chamberlain realized a show of military force would only make things worse. He ordered his militia commanders to mobilize their men, but not to come to Augusta unless he gave the order. Augusta was swarming with riflemen, but Chamberlain was the only man in a military uniform--and he chose to come unarmed. He received permission from Augusta Mayor Charles Nash to use the city police force to maintain law and order--and he managed to persuade Governor Garcelon to replace his hired guns with city police. He also placed state documents in the Treasury vaults for safekeeping, and kept entrances to all executive chambers under guard.

During this tense time, Chamberlain managed to find time to write to Fannie, who was home in Brunswick:

"Jan. 9, 1880

"My dear Fan[n]y:

"There is such confusion here -- no Governor & no legislature -- that to prevent possible anarchy & mob-law I have been obliged to assume the defence & protection of the Institutions of the State as you will see by my proclamation to the people which you perceive bears a very quiet & unasumming mien.

"I do not dare to leave for a moment. There would most assuredly be a coup d'etat, ending in violence & bloodshed.

"I am determined that Maine should not become a South American state.

"I wish you were here to see & hear. But there is not a great crowd of ladies here I assure you.

"I wish Carrie {Pennell, a member of Chamberlain's household staff} would give me a little more of an outfit. I came off in a great hurry. No one knows what will come next, & I cant tell when I can get home. For the last two days & nights I have scarcely slept.

"It is a critical time & things are greatly missed. But I know my duty thoroughly.

"Thanks to a good Providence my health is quite good.

"Hoping that you are all well & happy & not worried about me I remain yours most affectionately, J.L.C." (10B)

A closer view of the Maine State Capitol building, Augusta, ME.

Photo by David Lepkowski.

Do not use without his express written permission.

For twelve days, Chamberlain worked in a small office in the Capitol, using Mayor Nash's aid and the city police force to keep a lid on things. Each opposing camp tried to win Chamberlain's favor, asking him to recognize their candidate as Governor. Chamberlain refused; he said it was up to the Legislature, and those who made up that body had to be decided by the State Supreme Court. It would not be decided by a military commander. Even pleas from his own Republican party fell on deaf ears--his role was that of a military officer only; he would remain neutral. Chamberlain soon became the focus of many people's anger; newspapers began calling him "The Tool of Blaine", "The Serpent of Brunswick", and "The Most Dangerous Man in Maine". Chamberlain would not be bullied, so his enemies decided to try and eliminate him; Mayor Nash discovered an assassination plot against Chamberlain,and sent a police squad with him whenever he left the Capitol. Chamberlain also made it a point never to sleep two nights in the same place.

In this letter, Chamberlain describes the rising tension of the crisis to Fannie--who had to be very anxious for the fate of her husband:

"15 Jan 1880

"Yesterday was another Round Top; although few knew of it. The bitter attack on me in the Bangor Commercial calling me a traitor, & calling on the people to send me to a traitor's doom, created a great excitement.

"There were threats all the morning of overpowering the police & throwing me out of the window, & the ugly looking crowd seemed like men who could be brought to do it (or to try it). Excited men were calling on me -- some threatening fire & blood & some begging me to call out the militia at once. But I stood it firmly through, feeling sure of my arrangements & of my command of the situation.

"In the afternoon the tune changed. The plan was to arrest me for treason, which not bei[n]g a [jailable offence, I should be kept in prison while they inaugurated a reign of terror & blood. They foamed & fumed away at that all the evening. Mr. Lamson kindly came to me & said he would be the one to sue out a writ of habeas corpus & have me set at liberty again.

"That plan failed.

"At about 11 P.m. one of the citizens came & told me I was to be kidnapped -- overpowered & carried away & detained out of peoples knowledge, so that the rebels could carry on their work. I had the strange sense again -- of sleeping inside a picket guard.

"In the night Gen'l Hyde of Bath came up with 30 men & Col. Heath of Waterville with 50 men: sent by Republicans I suppose & greatly annoying to me & embarrassing too.

"I wish Mr. Blaine & others would have more confidence in my military ability. There are too many men here afraid [for] their precious little pink skins.

"I shall have to protect them of course: but my main object is to keep the peace & to give opportunity for the laws to be fairly executed.

"Do not worry about my safety. Make yourself as comfortable as you can at home.

"If you are afraid, send word to the Selectmen, or Mr. Thos. K. Eaton to have the police keep an eye on you & the house.

"But I dont believe any body will think of troubling you.

"Somebody else beside Annie ought to be in the house with you. Dont worry about me.

"Yours aff. J.L.C. (10C)"

State Capitol Building, Augusta, ME.

The day Cheryl and I visited, we went out on the front steps, overlooking the wide and sweeping grounds. I stood on the top step and surveyed the scene, trying to imagine Chamberlain dealing with this crisis.

As the crisis neared its climax, an aide ran into Chamberlain's office, warning that a crowd of angry men had gathered outside, wanting to kill him. Chamberlain went outside the building, alone. Descending the first two steps, he confronted the mob, saying:

"Men, you wish to kill me, I hear. Killing is no new thing to me. I have offered myself to be killed many times, when I no more deserved it than I do now. Some of you, I think, have been with me in those days. You understand what you want, do you? I am here to preserve the peace and honor of this state, until the rightful government is seated---whichever it may be, it is not for me to say. But it is for me to see that the laws of this state are put into effect, without fraud, without force, but with calm thought and purpose. I am here for that, and I shall do it. If anyone wants to kill me for it, here I am. LET HIM KILL!"(11)

With those words, Chamberlain flung open his coat in a dramatic gesture, daring the mob to kill him. His courage caught the mob off guard, and the words caused some to remember his leadership in the Civil War. One veteran was heard to yell:

"By God, old General, the first man that dares to lay a hand on you, I'll kill him on the spot!"(12)

The crowd dispersed, and Chamberlain was unharmed. But the crisis was not yet over: both Chamberlain and Mayor Nash uncovered a plot to assassinate Senator Blaine, and warned him of it. Suddenly Blaine's view of the situation began to change; instead of using force, he urged the Republican party to let the Court decide the matter. But the Greenbacker Joseph Smith refused, declaring himself Governor, and revoked Governor Garcelon's order that had ordered Chamberlain to duty. Chamberlain wouldn't recognize Smith as the new Governor; neither would he relinquish the duty he'd been given to carry out. When Smith sent a police officer to arrest Chamberlain, And Chamberlain refused to be arrested!

That very same day, the State Supreme Court finally made its ruling: the Republicans would retain the majority of seats in both the House and state Senate. The next day, new Governor Daniel Davis relieved Chamberlain of his duty. The crisis was over. Now, instead of being "The Most Dangerous Man in Maine", Chamberlain was hailed as the "Champion of Liberty in Maine". He received numerous letters of support from people in and out of the state, but he was especially grateful for those who stood by him when he was considered "The Serpent of Brunswick": people like Mayor Nash, and the veteran who came forward in the Capitol mob. Unfortunately, the "Twelve Days" also made Chamberlain a host of political enemies who could do great harm to Bowdoin, as long as he was its president.

It also ruined his chances to hold a major political office, such as U.S. Senator from Maine, or even a diplomatic post abroad--which he would have been greatly suited for, given his fluency in such languages as French, Italian, Spanish, and German. He was also too independent for the political bosses of the Republican party, but this very quality was something that appealed to many individuals throughout Maine.

So the crisis of the "Twelve Days" finally ended, and Chamberlain returned to Brunswick--to Bowdoin College, and to his family.

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