The Army of the Potomac finally arrived in the Washington area on May 12, 1865. The Fifth Corps was assigned a permanent camp on Arlington Heights, near the former mansion of Robert E. Lee. The next several days were spent preparing for a final great review of the armies, plus dealing with the many details and paperwork needed to muster out and transport hundreds of thousands of men. Chamberlain received a most welcome visitor during this time: his father-in-law, the Rev. George Adams, who gave him much-longed-for news of Fannie and the children back in Maine.

On the evening of May 22, a large farewell party was held in the Fifth Corps' First Division camp, to honor General Griffin. Four huge hospital tents had been put together, to accommodate Division officers and their invited guests. For the occasion, Chamberlain had designed, and Tiffany's in New York had created, a pin in enameled gold of a red Maltese cross against a white background--a miniature replica of the Division's flag. The cross was outlined in diamonds, with a center diamond costing about $1000. Chamberlain was chosen by his fellow officers to make the presentation speech, and he pinned the badge to his commander's uniform. Griffin was quite overcome by the honor paid, and simply bowed his thanks to the assemblage.

Not much sleep was had by anyone that night. The Fifth Corps was awakened at 2:00am on May 23, 1865, to get across Long Bridge from Arlington Heights, to be in Washington at 4:00 am. They had to wait several hours for the review to begin for them (they were proceeded by the Ninth Corps, with a division of the Nineteenth; the cavalry; and some smaller, specialized units. The Second Corps would then follow the Fifth Corps, bringing up the rear). Finally, at 9:00 am, the signal gun sounded to begin this, the Last Review of the Army of the Potomac.

"In my command we were well aware of quite an anxiety among officers and men of the army generally to look their very best, and more, too, on this occasion; for new uniforms, sashes, epaulettes, saddle housings and other gay trappings almost disguised some of our hardiest veterans...I hesitate to admit that in the revulsion from this on the part of the officers and men of my division, there might be a scornful pride more sinful than that of vanity...We could not pretend to be better,--proud of our humility...The men brought themselves up to regulation field inspection...their dress and accoutrements clean and bright; but all of every-day identity..for officers no useless trappings, rider or horse; plain, open saddle, with folded gray army blanket beneath; light, open bridle with simple curb and snaffle-rein; service uniform,--shoulder-strap, belts, scabbards, boots and spurs of the plainest,--no sashes, no epaulettes..."(40)


"The Proffered Wreath", by Don Stivers.

Macrophoto of limited-edition art print, taken by Cheryl Pula.

This illustrates an incident that happened to Chamberlain during the Grand Review, described below:

"Now a girlish form, robed white as her spirit, presses close; modest, yet resolute, eyes fixed on her purpose. She reaches up towards me a wreath of rare flowers, close-braided, fit for viking's arm-ring, or victor's crown. How could I take it? Sword at the "carry" and left hand tasked, trying to curb my excited horse...He had been thrice shot down under me; he had seen the great surrender. But this unaccustomed vision--he had never seen a woman coming so near before,--moved him strangely. Was this the soft death-angel--did he think?--calling us again, as in other days? For as often as she lifted the garland to the level of my hand, he sprang clear from earth: heavenwards, doubtless--but was not heaven nearer just then? I managed to bring down his fore-feet close beside her, and dropped my sword-point almost to her feet, with a bow so low I could have touched her cheek. Was it the garland's breath or hers that floated to my lips? My horse trembled. I might have solved the mystery, could I have trusted him. But he would not trust me....All this passed like a flash in act; but it was not quite so brief in effect. From that time my horse was shy of girls--sharp eyes out for soft eyes--I dare say, for his master's peace and safety!"(41)

I can well imagine Chamberlain smiling to himself, as he wrote that...

When Chamberlain came opposite the reviewing stand--where the new President, Andrew Johnson, his cabinet, ambassadors and other dignitaries were situated--he was invited to dismount and watch the review--which he did. As he watched, he saw in his mind's eye not only the living, but the dead.

Here came the First Division, Fifth Corps, beginning with the Third Brigade:

"For me, while this division was passing, no other thing could lure my eyes away...These were my men; and those who followed were familiar and dear. They belonged to me, and I to them by bonds birth cannot create nor death sever. More were passing here than the personages on the stand could see. But to me so seeing, what a review--how great, how far, how near! It was as the morning of the resurrection."(42)

"These are of the men I stood with at Antietam, and Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. Of that regiment--the 20th Maine--a third were left on the slopes of Round Top, and a third again in the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania, the North Anna, Cold Harbor and the Chickahominy; to-day mingling its ranks the remnants of the noble 2nd and 1st Sharpshooters. Beside it still, the 118th Pennsylvania...More Pennsylvania veterans yet; the storied 83rd and 91st, and brilliant 155th Zouave, and the shadow of the stalwart 91st, gone, and 21st Cavalry passed on. With these the 1st and 16th Michigan...the keen-eyed 1st and 2nd Sharpshooters and proud relics of the 4th, left from the Wheat-field of Gettysburg...the trusted, sorely-tried 32nd Massachusetts, with unfaltering spirit and ranks made good from the best substance of the 18th..."(43)

"Now Gregory's New York Brigade,--the 187th, 188th, and 189th, young in order of number, but veteran in experience and honor; worthy of the list held yet in living memory, the 12th, 13th, 14th, 17th, 25th, and 44th, one by one gone before. (44)

"One more brigade yet, of this division; of the tested last that shall be first; the splendid 185th New York, and fearless, clear-brained Sniper still at their head; the stalwart fourteen-company regiment, the 198th Pennsylvania, its gallant field-officers gone,--brave veteran Sickel falling with shattered arm, and brilliant young adjutant Maceuen shot dead--both within touch of my hand in the sharp rally on the Quaker Road; and Major Glenn since commanding, cut down at the height of valor....leading a charge I ordered in a moment of supreme need..Each of these brigades had been severally in my command; and now they were mine all together, as I was theirs. So has passed this First Division,--and with it, part of my soul."(45)

Chamberlain also watched the passage of the Second Division of the Fifth Corps. Of that division's three brigades, only two regiments were left: the 140th and 146th New York, led by General Romeyn Ayres:

"Where are the regulars, who since 1862 had been ever at our side?--the ten iron-hearted regiments that made that terrible charge down the north spur of Little Round Top...and brought back not one-half of its deathless offering...Their places had been taken by two brigades from the old First Corps..the thrice-honored Maryland Brigade, 1st, 4th, 7th and 8th...and the gallant little Delaware Brigade..."(46)

Then lastly, the Third Division. Chamberlain sees the 5th, 140th and 146th New York regiments, along with the 15th Artillery; along with commanders such as Henry Morrow (of the famous "Iron Brigade") and Richard Coulter of the 11th Pennsylvania. But he also notices that some are missing:

"But where are my splendid six regiments of them which made that resolute, forlorn-hope charge from the crest they had carried fitly named "Fort Hell", down past the spewing dragons of "Fort Damnation" into the miry, fiery pit before Rives' Salient of the dark June 18th. Two regiments of them, the 121st Pennsylvania...and 142nd Pennsylvania...alone I see in this passing pageant,--worn, thin hostages of the mortal. "(47)

Chamberlain is so moved by seeing these men--those who fought with him that June 1864 day when he was so badly wounded--that he does something unorthodox:

"...I violate the courtesies of the august occasion. I give them salutation before the face of the reviewing officer--the President himself--asking no permission,--no forgiveness."(48)

And so it went. At the end of this momentous day, he could not seem to accept that this part of his life was over:

"Have they all passed,--the Fifth Corps? Or will it ever pass? Am I left alone, or still with you all?"(49)

"The pageant has passed. The day is over. But we linger, loath to think we should see them no more together,--these men, these horses, these colors afield." (50)

The Army of the Potomac was officially disbanded as of June 28, 1865, but Chamberlain remained in camp, chosen as a brigade commander in the new Provisional Corps--it was rumored these "Provisionals" would be sent to Mexico with Phil Sheridan to help the French get their army out of that country. But as things turned out, they were not needed, and Chamberlain returned home to Brunswick in late July 1865--just in time for Bowdoin's commencement. He learned that General Grant was to be visiting Portland at the same time, so he invited his former commander to attend the commencement--causing quite a bit of excitement!

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was officially mustered out in August 1865, but applied for reinstatement, due to needed surgery for his Petersburg wound. His reinstatement was accepted, and he was finally mustered out January 15, 1866.

This is a new portrait of Major General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, by artist Andy Amato. I thank him again for his wonderful generosity, in letting me use it on my site.

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