The 20th Maine monument, at Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA.

Photo by David Williamson.

Do not use without his express written permission.

During his lifetime, Chamberlain gave numerous speeches to veterans groups, at public holiday gatherings and at soldiers' reunions. The following are two speeches which will serve as prime examples of his eloquence and heartfelt thoughts.

The first speech is "Dedication of the Maine Monuments" , given at Gettysburg, PA, on October 3, 1888. In it, Chamberlain talks of the heroic service performed by Maine troops at the battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863.

The original of this speech is in the collection of the Pejepscot Historical Society, Brunswick, ME. It is not to be reproduced, without the Society's written permission. 




"The State of Maine stands here today for the first time in her own name. In other days she was here indeed--here in power--here in majesty--here in glory; but as elsewhere and often in the centuries before, with that humility which is perhaps the necessary law of human exaltation, her worth merged in a name mightier than her own, so here, content to be part of that greater being that she held dearer than self, but which was made more worthy of honor by her belonging to it - the United States of America. For which great end, in every heroic struggle from the beginning of our history until now, --a space of more than two hundred years,--she has given her best of heart and brain and poured out her most precious blood.

"Today she stands here, in a service of mingled recognitions; humbly submitting to that mysterious law of sacrifice and suffering for the deliverance from evil; bending sorrowfully above the dust to which have returned again the priceless jewels offered from her bosom; proud that it was her part and lot that what was best in her giving and what was immortal in her loss should be builded into the nation's weal; and stretching out her hand, of justice and of grace, to raise along these silent lines of battle monuments eloquent of her costly devotion and of the great reward. She stands here--not ashamed when the roll of honor is called, to speak her own name, and answer, Here!

"The organization of the army of the Union was a counterpart of that of the Union itself. In its ultimate elements and separate units of organization, the personal force and political authority of each State were present; but they were merged and mingled in another order, which took another and higher name when exercised jointly, in a single aim, for the common weal. For reasons various but valid, the regiments and batteries of the several States were, for the most part, separated in assignment, distributed in different brigades, divisions, corps, armies. Some sad suggestions there were amongst these reasons; for one, the care that in some great disaster the loss might not fall too heavily on the families of one neighborhood. But there was a greater reason. Our thoughts were not then of States as States, but of the States united,--of that union and oneness in which the People of the United States lived and moved and had their being. Our hearts beat to that one high thought; our eyes saw but the old flag; and our souls saw it, glorious with the symbols of power and peace and blessing in the forward march of man.

"But now that this victory is won, this cause vindicated, and the great fact of the being and authority of the People of the United States has been thus solemnly attested,--the moral forces summoning, and as it were consecrating the physical as token and instrument of their convictions,--now, the several States that stood as one in that high cause come here in their own name,--in the noblest sphere of their State rights,--to ratify and confirm this action of their delegates; to set these monuments as seals to their own great deeds, and new testament of life.

"Today we stand on an awful arena, where character which was the growth of centuries was tested and determined by the issues of a single day. We are compassed about by a cloud of witnesses; not alone the shadowy ranks of those who wrestled here, but the greater parties of the action--they for whom these things were done. Forms of thought rise before us, as in an amphitheatre, circle beyond circle, rank above rank; The State, The Union, The People. And these are One. Let us--from the arena, contemplate them--the spiritual spectators.

"There is an aspect in which the question at issue might seem to be of forms, and not of substance. It was, on its face, a question of government. There was a boastful pretence that each State held in its hands the death-warrant of the Nation; that any State had a right, without show of justification outside of its own caprice, to violate the covenants of the constitution, to break away from the Union, and set up its own little sovereignty as sufficient for all human purposes and ends; thus leaving it to the mere will or whim of any member of our political system to destroy the body and dissolve the soul of the Great People. This was the political question submitted to the arbitrament of arms. But the victory was of great politics over small. It was the right reason, the moral consciousness and solemn resolve of the people rectifying its wavering exterior lines according to the life-lines of its organic being.

"There is a phrase abroad which obscures the legal and moral questions involved in the issue,--indeed, which falsifies history: "The War between the States". There are here no States outside of the Union. Resolving themselves out of it does not release them. Even were they successful in intrenching themselves in this attitude, they would only relapse into territories of the United States. Indeed several of the States so resolving were never in their own right either States or Colonies; but their territories were purchased by the common treasury of the Union. Underneath this phrase and title,--"The War between the States"--lies the false assumption that our Union is but a compact of States. Were it so, neither party to it could renounce it at his own mere will or caprice. Even on this theory the States remaining true to the terms of their treaty, and loyal to its intent, would have the right to resist force by force, to take up the gage of battle thrown down by the rebellious States, and compel them to return to their duty and their allegiance. The Law of Nations would have accorded the loyal States this right and remedy.

"But this was not our theory, nor our justification. The flag we bore into the field was not that of particular States, no matter how many nor how loyal, arrayed against other States. It was the flag of the Union, the flag of the people, vindicating the right and charged with the duty of preventing any factions, no matter how many nor under what pretence, from breaking up this common Country.

"It was the country of the South as well as of the North. The men who sought to dismember it, belonged to it. Its was a larger life, aloof from the dominance of self-surroundings; but in it their truest interests were interwoven. They suffered themselves to be drawn down from the spiritual ideal by influences of the physical world. There is in man that peril of the double nature. "But I see another law", says St. Paul. "I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind."

No one of us would disregard the manly qualities and earnest motives among those who permitted themselves to strike at the consecrated life of the Union, and thus made themselves our foes. But the best of virtues may be enlisted in the worst of causes. Had the question of breaking up this Union been submitted to the people of the South as American citizens, I do not believe it possible that such a resolution could have been taken. But the leaders of that false cause knew how to take advantage of instincts deeply planted in every American heart; and by perverting their State Governments, and making their conspiracy seem to be the act and intent of the States, sprung an appeal to the sentiment of loyalty to the principle of local self-government; and the thrilling reveille of cannon swept the heart-strings of a chivalrous and impressionable people. There are times when it is more natural to act than to reason; and easier to fight than to be right. But the men that followed that signal made a terrible mistake. Misled by fictions; mistaught as to fact and doctrine by the masters of political history and public law; falsely fired by misdirected sentiment; mazed in the strange contradiction that they were at once the champions of democracy and the exponents of aristocratic superiority, they forgot the calm, true life rolling on above;--the mightier solution of differences,--the great coherence of affinity, stronger by counterpoise of attractions and interfusion of unlikenesses, than any mere aggregation of sameness in elements. They did not understand this rich, composite nature of the great People, born of the eternal energies of freedom; incorporate under the guarantees of highest law; dedicated to immortal life in the great covenants of mutual human faith.

There was no war between the States. It was a war in the name of certain States to destroy the political existence of the United States, in membership of which alone, on any just theory of the government, their own sovereignty as States inhered, and could make itself effectual. To this absurd pass did that false theory come, -- a war of States against the people; and if successful, the suicide of States.

"Our enemies, it is true, by their choice of field, secured the opportunity to say they were resisting an invader; that they were fighting for their native soil and birthright; for their homes and all that men held dear in them. We understand the power of sentiments like these, even when abused and played upon by indirection.

"The State is dear to all of us. It is the guardian of what we may call home rights; the almoner of home-born charities; the circle within which likeness of material, identity of interests and sympathy of sentiment make a crystal unity. Were our own State attacked in its high place and rightful function, we should defend it as valiantly as our brethren of the South were made to think they were defending theirs. But no such assault was made. We fought against no State; but for its deliverance. We fought the enemies of our common Country, to overthrow the engines and symbols of its destruction, wherever found upon its soil. We fought no better, perhaps, than they. We exhibited, perhaps, no higher individual qualities. But the cause for which we fought was higher; our thought was wider. We too were fighting for birthright and native soil; for home and all the sanctities of life, wide over the land, and far forward through the years to come. For all this belongs to us, and we to it. That thought was our power. We took rank by its height, and not of our individual selves.

"It is something great and greatening to cherish an ideal; to act in the light of truth that is far-away and far above; to set aside the near advantage, the momentary pleasure; the snatching of seeming good to self; and to act for remoter ends, for higher good, and for interests other than our own.

"To us this people in its life on earth was a moral personality, having a character and a commission; hence responsibility; hence duty; hence right; and its authority. The Union was the body of a spiritual Unity. Of this we were part, -- responsible to it and for it, -- and our sacrifice was its service.

"Our personality exists in two identities,--the sphere of self, and the sphere of soul. One is circumscribed; the other moving out on boundless trajectories; one is near, and therefore dear, the other far and high, and therefore great. We live in both, but most in the greatest. Men reach their completest development, not in isolation nor working within narrow bounds, but through membership and participation in life of largest scope and fullness. To work out all the worth of manhood; to gain free range and play for all specific differences, to find a theatre and occasion for exercise of the highest virtues, we need the widest organization of the human forces consistent with the laws of cohesion and self-direction. It is only by these radiating and reflected influences that the perfection of the individual and of the race can be achieved.

"A great and free country is not merely defense and protection. For every earnest spirit, it is opportunity and inspiration. In its rich content and manifold resources, its bracing atmosphere of broad fellowship and friendly rivalry, impulse is given to every latent aptitude and special faculty. Meantime enlarged humanity reflects itself in every participant. The best of each being given to all, the best of all returns to each. So the greatness as well as the power of a country broadens every life and blesses every home. Hence it is that in questions of rank, of rights, and duties, Country must stand supreme.

"The thought goes deeper. There is a mysterious law of our nature that, in this sense of membership and participation, the spirit rises to a magnitude commensurate with that of which it is part. The greatness of the whole passes into the consciousness of each; and the character of the whole seems to become the power of each; and the character of the whole is impressed upon each. The inspiration of a noble cause involving human interests wide and far, enables men to do things they did not dream themselves capable of before, and which they were not capable of alone. The consciousness of belonging, vitally, to something beyond individuality; of being part of a personality that reaches we know not where, in space and time, greatens the heart to the limits of the soul's ideal, and builds out the supreme of character.

"It was something like this, I think, which marked our motive; which made us strong to fight the bitter fight to the victorious end, and made us unrevengeful and magnanimous in that victory.

"We rose in soul above the things which even the Declaration of Independence pronounces the inalienable rights of human nature, for the securing of which governments are instituted among men. Happiness, liberty, life, we laid on the altar of offering, or committed to the furies of destruction, while our minds were lifted up to a great thought and our hearts swelled to its measure. We were beckoned on by the vision of destiny, we saw our Country moving forward, charged with the sacred trusts of man. We believed in its glorious career; the power of high aims and of strong purpose; the continuity of great endeavor; the onward, upward path of history, to God. Every man felt that he gave himself to, and belonged to, something beyond time and above place,--something which could not die.

"These are the reasons, not fixed in the form of things, but formative of things, reasons of the soul, why we fought for the Union. And this is the spirit in which having overcome the dark powers of denial and disintegration, having restored the people of the South to their place and privilege in the Union, and set on high the old flag telling of one life and one body, one freedom and one law, over all the people and all the land between the four great waters, we now come as it were home; we look into each other's eyes; we speak in softer tones; we gather under the atmosphere of these sacred thoughts and memories, -- like the high, pure air that shines down upon us today, flooding these fields where cloud and flash and thunder-roll of battle enshrouded us and them in that great three-days' burial, -- to celebrate this resurrection; to rear on these far-away fields memorials of familiar names, and to honor the State whose honor it was to rear such manhood, and keep such faith, that she might have part in far-away things.

"But there are other reasons, which are matters of knowledge and understanding. I have said that the issue brought upon us was a question of politics. Every one knows that I do not mean that this was a party question, as to what particular set of persons or policies should have control of the Government. And when I say that it was a political question, this is not saying that it was not also a moral question. For I do not think that politics and morals are so utterly alien and exclusive, one from the other, as some find it necessary to maintain. It is true that on one side politics is concerned with forms, methods, measures; and herein acts chiefly upon economic and tactical considerations. Still, all these must be comformable, or at least not alien, to the great constructive principle which holds to the motive and to the final cause of action.

"Politics, I believe, is the organization of the human elements and powers for the promotion of right living, and to secure the noblest ends of living attainable in human character. It is, then, a domain which on its higher side takes cognizance not alone of rights, but of rightness, and of human worth, and of a nobleness which has a moral and divine ideal. The sphere of politics, therefore, is the highest range of thought and action, and the widest field of practical ethics set before the mind of man for its earthly career.

"The issue before us, while having its ultimate ground in reason and great ethics, and the perfectibility of man, was practically, one of positive, public law. It was an issue, as we believed, to enforce the performance of constitutional obligations undertaken deliberately and freely, and under solemn pledges, as the expression of the deepest convictions of the mind and conscience of the people. If we are right, then there was such a being and power on this earth as the People of the United States of America. If we were wrong, then there was no such People, but a chaos of jarring elements and antagonizing interests. The forces ranged themselves across this line. It became of the test of what we call Loyalty. This was a positive, practical question. The test was sharp. The answer must be final.

"That question has been answered: at the cost of toil and treasure, of blood and tears. The people have made themselves the expounders of their Constitution. The decision has been accepted by clear constitutional and legal enactment; confirmed by the supreme judicial tribunals of the land; and, we fervently trust, sealed by the benediction of the Most High. We are one People; and the law of its spirit is supreme over the law of its members.

"But grave responsibilities come with great victory. The danger is not so much, I think, from renewed attacks of those who lost, as from the tendencies of power on the part of those who won. It should be distinctly borne in mind that we were not antagonizing the principle of local self-government. Our triumph was for all the people, and in full recognition of the value in our political system of recognizing local centers of influence and of government. The "lost cause" is not lost liberty and right of self-government. What is lost is slavery of men and supremacy of States.

"It was necessary for us to save the Union. In the stress and sharpness of the conflict we were forced to strain to the utmost all the central powers of the Government, and leave it to the after wisdom of the People to restore the equilibrium of powers, to see to it that the abnormal necessities of war should not be made precedents for the law of life and growth. Necessity is a dangerous plea for the privilege of power; especially when the sole judge of it is the power pretending it. In times of peace, when the free faculties of the people are proceeding by natural and spiritual laws of growth, the powers of government should be jealously guarded, and its agents held close to the thought and purpose of the people. The national authority we have vindicated by the war, means in the last analysis that Congress is the sole judge of its own powers, and sole executor of its own will. This is a tremendous trust. God grant that it be ever exercised, not in willfulness of power nor by force of chance majorities, nor to favor particular or partisan interests, but with the large and long look, and with the deep sense of constitutional obligation and of supreme trusts, for the common well-being.

"To this end the place of the State in our political system is one of vital importance. The inter-action of local and national capacities is a peculiarity in our system, without parallel and but little understood in other lands, and liable to be too little regarded in our own. We make much account of checks and balances in the separation of the three Departments of the Government---Legislative, Executive and Judicial. A similar theory does not hold England from pressing steadily towards a concentration of power in the hands of her House of Commons, now practically absolute. We rely justly on the lines of division between State and National powers, a wisdom to which England has not yet attained, but of which the skillful recognition makes the strength of the German Empire of to-day, while the lack of it has held back the French Republic for a hundred years.

"Local self-government alone could not have constructed this People, but without local self-government as an instrumentality in our representative system, neither Government nor people could hold together. The generative and formative forces are in the local centers. These vortexes of living energy, touching and interfusing, are rounded into oneness and bound together by the deep, central consciousness of mutual service and a common destiny. In the course of history, which we call the orderings of Providence, local traditions, sentiments, needs and aspirations have made up the strong composite character of this country. So long as the people of each decided local type and center feel that in the institutions, laws and policies of the great People shaping the larger life, their own freedom is secured; their own thoughts and interests are represented, they will feel bound together by the central attraction of a vital force, and no lesser influence nor lower impulse can tempt away their loyalty, patriotism and pride of partnership.

"But it is not enough that the State is supreme in its sphere, and that departments of government shall not encroach upon each other. Our strongest safeguard is in personal participation in the direction and destiny of the Nation. It is not the separation of spheres and offices in the administrative order, but the interpenetration of State and National capacities in the organic order. The political unit of organization is neither the individual nor the State; but the people of each State. The government is not an aristocracy, nor a plural monarchy. It is not administered in the interests of sections nor of classes; but the people of the several States, in their responsible character and mature convictions, acting through their respective political organizations, reach out to their larger boundaries and administer the great trusts of the Nation. Just as in the sphere and function of the States is the surest safeguard of liberty,--as those who are to make and execute the laws which affect the daily life and dearest interests are chosen from among citizens whom the people know, and can trust and vouch for, so it is within the power of the same people acting yet through their State organizations, to see to it that in the election of Representatives, Senators and Presidents only such men are chosen as well understand the delicate articulations by which liberty is kept alive, who are brave to reverse the false maxim that the law cares not for the least but only for the great, and who represent not the mere will of a momentary majority, but the heart and conscience of the manifold people which make their vote the voice of God.

"When the martyr President, standing on this hallowed ground at the consecration of this cemetery, uttered that noble climax of his immortal speech, "We here highly resolve that the government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth", he meant such a people as I have described. Surely he did not mean in this sublime utterance to justify the rule of mob majority, nor to furnish a watchword for revolutionists like those who a century ago in France knew not how to overthrow tyranny without overturning also the foundations of society human and divine, nor a pretext for the anarchists and dynamiters of to-day who in the name of the people would let loose a riot of discordant and irresponsible individualism--a carnival of savage greed and frenzied passion.

"He meant government; he meant a people holding their liberty under law; exercising their sovereignty by deliberation and delegation; respecting its minorities; checking its own caprice and facility of change; relegating great questions to its sober second thought; its consciousness alive in every part, but guided ever by great commanding convictions, and pressing forward as one for the goal of a common good.

"Part and parcel of this political being of the people is this State of ours. As such she stood on these hills and slopes a generation ago, of the foremost of the people's defenders. Whether on the first, the second, or the third day's battle; whether on the right, caught and cut to pieces by the great shears-blades of two suddenly enclosing hostile columns; on the left, rolled back by a cyclone of unappeasable assault; or on the center, dashed upon in an agony of desperation, terrible, sublime; wherever there was a front, the guns of Maine thundered and her colors stood. And when the long, dense, surging fight was over, and the men who made and marked the line of honor were buried where they fell, the name of Maine ran along these crests and banks, from the Cavalry Fields, Wolf's Hill, Culp's Hill and the Seminary Ridge, down through the Cemetery, the Peach Orchard, the Wheat Field to the Devil's Den and the Round Top Crags--a blazonry of ennobled blood!

"Now you have gathered these bodies here. You mark their names with head-stones, and compass them about with the cordon of the State's proud sorrow. You station them here, on the ground they held. Here they will remain, not buried but transfigured forms,--part of the earth they glorified,--part also of the glory that is to be.

"No chemistry of frost or rain, no overlaying mould of the season's recurrent life and death, can ever separate from the soil of these consecrated fields the life-blood so deeply commingled and incorporate here. Ever henceforth under the rolling suns, when these hills are touched to splendor with the morning light, or smile a farewell to the lingering day, the flush that broods upon them shall be rich with a strange and crimson tone,--not of the earth, nor yet of the sky, but mediator and hostage between the two.

"But these monuments are not to commemorate the dead alone. Death was but the divine acceptance of life freely offered by every one. Service was the central fact. That fact, and that truth, these monuments commemorate. They mark the centers around which stood the manhood of Maine, steadfast in noble service,--to the uttermost, to the uppermost! Those who fell here--those who have fallen before or since--those who linger, yet a little longer, soon to follow; all are mustered in one great company on the shining heights of life, with that star of Maine's armorial ensign upon their foreheads forever--like the ranks of the galaxy.

"In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.

"This is the great reward of service. To live, far out and on, in the life of others; this is the mystery of the Christ,--to give life's best for such high sake that it shall be found again unto life eternal."

General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, in his Grand Army of the Republic dress uniform.

Portrait by Maine artist Ken Hendricksen. Do NOT use without my express written permission.

The following speech is taken from a privately-published booklet entitled "Not A Sound of Trumpet", which was sent to me by a visitor to the Web site. It was given by Chamberlain to the Bowdoin Club of Boston, in May 1901. Two speeches were given that evening by 'two soldier boys', as described by Bowdoin Club President Edgar O. Achorn, Bowdoin Class of 1881: General Oliver Otis Howard, Class of 1850, and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Class of 1852.

I thank this visitor for sending me this booklet. Please do not reproduce this speech, without my express written permission.

I will preface Chamberlain's speech with the introductory remarks made by Edgar O. Achorn:

"One of the finest tributes paid by General Grant to any officer of the Union Army is found in his "Memoirs", and I will read it to you:

"'Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain of the Twentieth Maine was wounded on the eighteenth {referring, I believe, to the Battle of Petersburg.} He was gallantly leading his brigade at the time, as he had been in the habit of doing in all the engagements in which he has been previously engaged. He had several times been recommended for a brigadier generalcy for gallant and meritorious conduct. On this occasion, however, I promoted him on the spot and forwarded a copy of my order to the War Department asking that my act might be confirmed and Chamberlain's name sent to the Senate for confirmation without any delay. This was done, and at last a gallant and meritorious officer received partial justice at the hands of his government, which he had served so faithfully and so well'".

"I referred to the incident of General (Oliver Otis) Howard's meeting General Gordon at Cumberland Gap {in his introduction to the previous speaker}. I have in mind a dinner party at which this same General John B. Gordon was present, and he gave an account of the surrender at Appomattox. And he said that when he rode up with his command to make the final surrender no man suffered more than he, that his head rested upon his breast, that he was heartbroken, discouraged, despondent, not knowing what was going to happen when they laid down their arms, and he said at that moment a command rang out from the federal armies, "Carry Arms". It was a tribute of respect to the surrendering armies, and he said it thrilled him and he sat again straight upon his horse and his manhood came back and his heart swelled with gratitude for the generosity of the officer who had paid that tribute to him and his men. And he said he afterwards inquired and learned it was General Chamberlain of Maine who had paid that fine tribute to the surrendering army. That act was the completion of Grant's statement, "Let us have peace", for it was in fact thus, "Let the North and South have peace with mutual honor and respect".

"I take great pleasure in presenting to you Major General Joshua L. Chamberlain."


"Mr. President, I hardly know what I ought to do or say. Let me get my watch out. I don't think it is quite fair that I should indulge in any remarks especially to follow out the notice on the card which we have been presented that I was to give some reminiscences of Appomattox, because I don't think it would be fair--there is not time to tell the story or any part of it, and certainly you do not wish to be detained here.

"I have been very much disturbed since I have been hearing General Howard's speech. He started so many thoughts in my mind. I really wish I could say a few words upon several of those points because I see those things from a little different angle from that in which he saw them. I could tell something about him that he won't tell about himself. I happen to know quite a number of things and knew how General Howard was esteemed by President Lincoln. I happen to know positively that nobody could make President Lincoln swerve one hair's breadth from the honor and respect and love he had for Howard.

"I congratulate you, gentlemen of the Bowdoin Club, on your president. He has some high military qualities to make people do what they don't want to, and that is the first quality, I believe, of a soldier. I did not want to come up here with my uniform, but he told me General Howard was going to wear his. I did not think it was proper. What was I? You know what General Howard is! He is the only living army commander who has commanded armies in the United States. He is a man whose history you are somewhat familiar with. I wish to say here he is a man who would have been where General Miles is today, in command of the armies of the United States, had it not been for a record against him. Why? His mother's Bible, where the date of his birth is written down! He is in the neighborhood of seventy. You would never dream it otherwise. That miserable regulation that an officer has to be retired and made ineligible for office just because he has breathed God's air so many years and had the record of an eventful life and recalls the day which his venerated mother had put down with great affection which stands right in his way; otherwise he would be in command of the army where he should be. I wish to say one word more--General Howard made some reminiscences. I suppose you know besides being a professional soldier, making it the profession of his life, he has held some of the more important civil positions in this country at the time of Reconstruction, which were of tremendous responsibility, taking the released soldiers and trying to organize something in that department that would get them partly on their feet and enable the government to carry out its pledges. I do not know a higher trust or honor than that. He is a very distinguished author, you know; he is a very distinguished educator; he has one university named for him. He is a philanthropist; he is a Christian, the world knows: he is a man, God knows.

"He ranks me, ladies and gentlemen, in every regard. What am I as educator, as philanthropist, as soldier and civilian? I did not want to come in uniform, did not want to put on a dress suit, wanted to drop in. But here I am, and somehow or other I am wearing a coat with as many buttons as General Howard. A boy taken out of Bowdoin College and put into that war in the darkest, most critical juncture (you know, after that terrible campaign of McClellan's on the peninsula, the Army of the Potomac being brought from the defenses of Washington). It was a dark day, that was! I went to the war in '62 when things meant business. There was not much waving of silk handkerchiefs; there was no holiday business in the summer of '62. Everyone, when we took that oath, knew we were signing our death warrant. It was serious business. I do not like to say much about myself; I will not, sir, but General Howard has almost compelled me by his reminiscences.

"I was in college, a boy, been there five or six years, had been transferred to another chair, made professor of modern languages, and had leave of absence granted for two years to go to Europe to see if I could make myself fit for the chair, I suppose. It was not two hours after I received that notice of leave of absence that I telegraphed, "Governor, have you any use for me?" He knew my father and grandfather, each one of whom had been a colonel. He replied: "I will give you the colonelcy of a regiment". I said, "I want to learn my duties; I will organize a regiment if you find an officer to command it when I get it organized". After three weeks' time I had the Twentieth Maine Regiment organized and (Adelbert) Ames was colonel. I told the governor, "I will take the lieutenant colonelcy in preference". There is where I think I was wise. I had everything to learn, and things were as bad as they could be at the front. Bull Run Second was coming on. Ames came next morning; we took that regiment and marched to the front into the Bull Run Second, rode with bullet and cartridge the first night and never out sight the enemy from that time to the end. We saw some pretty severe business. I was not ashamed to admit I did not know anything. I sat down and did study and did know my duties, and I made myself master of the military position where I had any responsibility so that I had the pleasure of seeing the letter of my corps commander to the department I had made myself proficient and fit to be promoted. I did get promoted pretty fast, and I want to tell you that it won't do to say or think that a man can come out from Bowdoin College and walk into the midst of a terrible war without some labor. When you see how modest General Howard was--an instructor at West Point, with his experience, was not willing to take anything but a subordinate field officer's position--I think was justified in what I did. I did not hesitate to ask the young officers of the regular army to have a school. I went to it, I got my lessons, put them in practice at the drills, and those things did not come without labor, without effort, conscientious, faithful study, and practice.

"I do not know how much you remember about the state of things that led to Appomattox. I am not going to make a long preamble. We had broken up the whole right flank of Lee's lines. He was all broken up, nothing to do but get away, if he could, to North Carolina, where he thought he could effect a junction with Joe Johnson {Note: it should be corrected to read "Joe Johnston"} or get up in the mountains. Lee was not going to give it up so easily. Grant was bound to head him off from those avenues of escape. He was going to get off by one or the other of the routes. He had been very much pressed for supplies, and his army was almost starving. He had to get out. To get out he had to fight his way out. We formed two columns in that pursuit, the Army of the Potomac. The Army of the Potomac was reduced to two corps. We were following on Lee's rear, pressing hard every day. Our corps, the Fifth, had been taken away from {General George G.} Meade and ordered to report to {General Philip} Sheridan with the cavalry. Two corps of Meade were present, and Sheridan with his cavalry were to outflank Lee, and that is what we did for several days, four to eight days, kept him away from that crossing to the south side of the Appomattox Rive. It was the evening of the ninth {of April}. The evening of the ninth we made a terribly hard march, had every obstacle on the road, had made a twenty-nine mile march of it. It was about two o'clock in the morning when we halted, halted not because we had reached any particular goal (because Grant sent an order down late the fifth; we did not get the order). We halted because anatomy and physiology stopped us. Human endurance was exhausted. Sheer exhaustion of that march and firing; firing by day and marching by night, five of the eight days. Well, we pitched tent {on} that side of the road, Sheridan ahead of us, General {Edward O.C.} Ord with the Twenty-Fourth Corps of the Army of the James. Ord ranked Sheridan and by regulations was virtually the commander of the whole column, although Sheridan had received specific instructions about the movement and really, virtually, Sheridan was directing things, but Ord was very gentlemanly and did not show his superiority in any offensive way.

"There we were, Army of the James and our corps of the Army of the Potomac, pushing along the best we knew. The rest of the Army of the Potomac were ten to fifteen miles away across the Potomac, pressing Lee's rear. We made a halt about ten miles due south of where the Army of the Potomac was. I can tell you after such a forced march as that, lying down in the chilly night dews of a Virginia spring, it creates quite a reaction. We were not long going to sleep. However, not two hours had we been lying there in that way, ready to march at a moment's notice, the horses' girths loosened a little, but the riders slipped the bridle rein over the horses' noses, and went to sleep. Scarcely had the first broken sleep begun when my sentinel comes and touching my shoulder, "Orders, sir!" I awake. The cavalry officer dismounted, comes up, and the sentinel strikes a match. I get up on my elbow and read the brief, thrilling note from Sheridan, one of those manifold orders sent to each of the infantry commanders along that line. It read like this: "I have cut across the enemy at Appomattox Station on the south side of the road. Captured five of his trains. If you can possibly push your infantry up here tonight we will have great results in the morning". After such a message as that, if our poor fellows could have had half a night's rest or anything to eat, with what alacrity they would have loved to answer such a summons.

"Answer it they did, however, as best poor human nature could. We sent to get a little coffee. That order was not obeyed; they had not much material to obey with; we were short of rations. We had received word that rations were to be served at nine o'clock the next morning. In three hours we had reached Appomattox Station, where Sheridan wrote his note, and there were his trains. He had left the rebel supply trains standing in their tracks. Sheridan was not there. Why? Because he had filed off with his cavalry sharp to the right, right to the Appomattox River. He had taken a common dirt road in turning up into the pike, had pushed on with his {cavalry} near the Appomattox Court House. It was not necessary to leave orders to follow. We did follow and took up the double-quick from that point. We can hear the sharp ring of that artillery that goes with the cavalry and ever and anon the heavier guns, the light artillery, and soon the crack of the cavalry carbines and the unmistakable roar of infantry--you see, that meant the enemy. There is no mistake about it. Sheridan is square across the rebel retreat and with that glorious cavalry line has held at bay there whatever is left of whatever has reached the front of the proudest army of the Confederacy. I need not say we pressed on. We are so eager for the front that the Army of the Potomac and our corps of the Potomac and the Army of the James are trotting along side by side, now one, now the other taking the lead.

"I must stop to mention one rather striking incident in the rush to the front. For the first time in my life my eye caught the glimmer of black soldiers trotting along our left, eager for the front, faces all lighted up. The sight thrilled me. Was it patriotic justice or was it the irony of history or fate, those black men pressing their way to the front, eager to get into the fray which was to make a white man's republic a free country? It was a thrilling sight.

"My turn put me in the middle of our Fifth Corps of the column. The head of the column was pushing for that center of the attack and defense going on there. The attack was from Stonewall Jackson's Corps trying to get through the cavalry before the infantry could reach there. We were pushing for the central part of the fight. Suddenly from behind, beyond me from the right, a staff officer of General Sheridan's rode up to me. "Are you commanding this column?" "Yes, sir, I command this brigade". "General Sheridan instructs you to direct your column and come to his support. The rebel infantry is upon him. He cannot hold his own. Do not wait for orders from any regular general, but come at once".

"With the first and second brigade of the First Division I dashed there on the double-quick. We pushed through that woods one and one-half miles, and we marched in the open field from the woods and the air black with smoke, cannon smoke. First thing I caught sight of was Sheridan's battle flag waving out there in the battle smoke. Soon I saw right in it, wrapped in smoke, that figure, that intense form, that countenance, that expression, rider and horse, both of them (that splendid horse, you know, which turned the tide of battle as they sang "In the Shenandoah Valley"), rider and horse, swarthy and terrible to look at, black as the cannon smoke above their heads. Of course, I ride straight up to Sheridan; what I got for greeting was a grim smile and an impetuous wave of the hand--not one word. I understood it. He knew I would. I push out and formed forward of the line, in line of battle. I advanced past Sheridan and his guns and the cavalry and took the battle out of their hands. Stonewall Jackson's Corps is the center. At the bugle call they rallied, formed their ranks, and swept like a most beautiful cloud around our right. I was on the extreme right, close on the rebels' left flank, and completed this enveloping destruction, for the Army of the James on the left had cut square across Lynchburg Pike and the rest of our corps filled the interval between him and the Army of the James. I had with me two brigades, the extreme right of our lines. Of course, we had to engage the Stonewall Jackson Corps. When they recognized this infantry which they knew so well on many a well-remembered field, I could feel the shock in their minds. They did not fight so hard, made quite a show of fighting but were receding and, of course, the more they receded the more we pressed on.

"One little incident I will tell. They got halfway up the slope and got what they thought was a good stone wall to get behind, got behind a good-sized stone wall. You know that gives an advantage {of} about three to one. I got out a light battery and put a few shells into the center of that force where I saw a new rebel battle coming about. General Griffin came up and said, "What are you driving at here?" "I am driving the rebels out of their position, and I want to scatter those stones a little about their heads for a starter". "You are firing at the peach trees", he said. "I tell you it is a peach tree in blossom". "Very well, General, I will get you a bouquet out of the peach blossoms".

"I pressed on, and the Stonewall Jackson Corps relinquished their namesake and retired a little over the crest. I was eager to push up the crest when General Ord himself rode up. He said, "Don't develop your lines on that crest and draw the destructive fire of the enemy. They will sweep you from it in an instant". That was a very positive order, but it was an extremely awkward place to be in on that slope. The crest cut off our vision. We did not know what there was behind it. I was troubled. I wondered why that order had not come from the regular generals; I did not understand that at all. I heard that light battery coming up too, which stirred me up a little bit; then I bethought myself of Grant's last words in the confidential order: that a general officer, when in his judgment he had got things going, might push things. I thought that was about the time. Then Sheridan, who rode off to the rear of his cavalry, rode up to me with that black face of his and brought his two palms down like a crack of the carbine. "Now smash them, General, smash them!" (and two words more General Howard will not permit me to add, Sheridan said).

"I was young and I was very rash and very imprudent and became very unmilitary, rode close to my first line and used some very unmilitary language: "Forward, let 'er go! Forward to the top!" We swept on! In a very few minutes the crest was ours! We had achieved that deprecated movement of exposing ourselves to the view of the enemy. We had done it before once or twice while General Howard was with us. That exposure was one that worked two ways. On the crest of the hill, now belted by that cordon of steel, our troops see down in the hollow below us the remainder of that magnificent far-boasted Army of Northern Virginia, counterpart and companions of ours in war. Thrilling thoughts took possession of us at the sight. It brought every foot to an involuntary halt, but with a devout joy in our hearts we dashed forward on the hope of the consummation.

"I am in two lines of battle. I ride between and push my two lines forward. We are already in the main street at Appomattox Court House. The right of our line is diagonally across it, and the men are fighting in the houses and wild with excitement. The rebels slowly retire but giving shots when they go. One of my mounted orderlies rides up and said, "General, can I go forward?" "Go forward if you want to." I thought I would let him go. He comes back in a few minutes, hugging four sabers as spoils. Well, all was excitement. I was very apprehensive about my right, as I had crossed the road and my right flank stood towards the rebel flank. Longstreet was coming up with his corps. I expected a charge from our cavalry. I could see in the glimpse between oak trees his formation of squadron front prepared for the charge. Although I was soldier enough to wonder why he was going to do that, I saw coming out from that dusky line two horsemen riding at full speed straight for me. I did not know whether they were going to call on me to surrender. I saw, waving, a white flag. I wondered at a white flag from that part of the field. I soon saw that the flag was a towel. I wondered still more where on earth in either army they got a towel and one as white as that. I saw a Confederate aide-de-camp. Soon I recognized Colonel Whitaker, chief of Custer's staff, who had joined this flag of truce. He rode over to me and said a rebel flag of truce was being made and that Longstreet and Gordon were there and said, "For God's sake stop that line of infantry!" They rode up. Whitaker is very excited, tremendously excited. He exceeds his instructions, I rather think. The first thing he shouts out is, "This means unconditional surrender. "What is your authority?" "Major Brown of General Gordon's staff", Major Brown said. "General Longstreet desires a cessation of hostilities until he can hear from General Lee as to the proposed surrender". Longstreet was senior. Lee had come to find Grant and Grant was not with us. The correspondence between General Lee and Grant had not taken place near our front but where Grant was and where Meade was. Longstreet was senior officer. You may imagine how that word struck me, saying that Longstreet wanted time to hear from Lee about the proposed surrender. "Sir", I answered, "that matter exceeds my authority; I am but a general officer here. You must find my superiors. General Ord is the superior officer over on the left". The aide salutes and rides along. Colonel Whitaker goes back to Custer and gives Custer that flag. Whitaker afterward told me he ought to give it to me.

"I was nearer than the cavalry. Well, I did not know what to do. A flag of truce had come in and passed me--whether to halt, cease firing--but I supposed I should obey somebody's orders. My last orders had been to halt below that crest. I began now to think about the proprieties. Just then my heart stopped still, for a cannon shot came from the battery beyond, beyond the town, passed through the breast of a gallant and true young officer I had summoned to my side from the 185th New York Regiment {Note: that officer's name was Hiram Clark, from Marathon, NY; I visited his grave at the Petersburg, VA, National Cemetery in October 1994), and takes off the legs of another. {It} struck me with a panic, but now that the flag of truce was in there we knew what must come of it. It seemed too costly a peace offering. The order comes now to cease firing and to halt. There was not much firing to cease from.

"Dear old General Gregory (who was sixty-four and I thirty-four, but I ranked him) came up to know the meaning. '"Only that General Lee asks time to surrender, General Gregory". "Glory to God!", roared the brave and pious old general, rushing upon me with his horse with a shock that nearly unhorsed us both, twisting my hand that had not yet had time to lower the sword. "Yes, and on earth peace and goodwill toward men'.

"A truce is now agreed upon until one o'clock in the afternoon. Nobody had a right to talk about surrender but just a little conference by the principal officers at the front. They had a truce till one o'clock from nine at the court house in the yard out in front. General Gordon, of course, was there. Longstreet came up pretty soon and half a dozen of the rebel officers, and on our side a number of corps and division commanders, and I was honored with an invitation to go there myself. We were chaffing each other there, having all kinds of fun, why we did not do so and so at Gettysburg and Antietam, etc., everybody cheerful but Sheridan; he was just about as cross as a bear. He did not believe in the flag of truce. He was not very slow in saying so. He thought it would be just like the men to attempt to get away, and he told General Merritt to take some cavalry and go on the Lynchburg Pike and if there is any manoeuvering, stop it. In the midst of this pleasant chat we hear a sharp ring of horse artillery and pretty soon a great din of musketry. We do not know what to make of it on the Lynchburg Pike. Gordon jumps up and looks inquiringly at General Sheridan. He said: "For my part, I don't understand that". Sheridan says: "Oh, never mind, I know all about it. Let 'em fight!" (The general adds two other words you never use which I suppose taken in their literal sense must be understood as condemnatory of the actors, but those who know Sheridan's rhetoric will understand it.) And so it turned out Merritt stopped those trying to get off out there.

"One o'clock comes--no word from Lee. The truce had come. I think Lee had authorized Longstreet to ask for a truce till one o'clock. Nobody had any right to extend the time. Nothing to do but resume hostilities. We shook hands and parted. I was ordered to return to my command. We took up arms, made a proper front, and stood waiting. In a few moments comes this strange order: "Prepare to make or receive an attack in ten minutes". I advanced my lines to some good ground and was prepared to make or receive an attack, but, gentlemen and ladies, something else had come to pass in the meantime. I was out and between the two lines when I became aware, possessed of one of those strange feelings of another world surrounding me, some visions of the night as in the times of old, times of prophets, aware of a presence--I was not seeing with my mortal eyes. I turned square around, and there my eyes fell upon a wonderful figure, a man venerable and imposing in form, in bearing, magnificently dressed with an elegant gray uniform, superbly accoutered, magnificent sword with the hilt glittering with diamonds, superbly mounted, with an expression of intense emotion as if he were repressing heartbreaking thoughts. Who else, of course, but Robert E. Lee! Seen, and seen for the first time, between my two lines, he had ridden up the road that came between my two lines, riding from Appomattox. I looked, stood as if transfixed, thoughts came over me of all those years, the man whom we had confronted so long, whom we had often feared and sometimes pitied, the man who was in our thoughts so many times and, I don't know but I might say, in our hearts, when on the retreat we saw what care he took of his men. I am almost willing to say we nearly loved him for that, but there was another figure in a few minutes, wholly different in its aspect, sitting in his saddle looking a born master not only of horses but of men, and a countenance which did not quite conceal tremendous emotions. I am seized with an admiration almost equal to that with which I looked at Lee, for what thoughts were in the souls of those men that day, appointed for such a service on which the destinies of the country hung, no longer free, those two men, no longer considering how they could best make way against the other or wield their tremendous forces to overcome the other.

"Orders were given to go into camp, and the terms and details were being arranged for the surrender. Parole papers had to be made out; receipts had to be made out for property to be exchanged, taking a day or two. On the night of the second day I was summoned to headquarters. General Lee and General Grant had both gone (Grant to the headquarters near City Point and Lee to Richmond) and left the details in the charge of the three senior officers on the field. I was called for and told that General Grant and General Lee had gone and what the ceremony was to be, that the rebels had begged to stack their arms where they were and we to get their arms afterwards. The entire Confederate Army, it was decided, must come out, officers and men, and lay down their arms and colors with due ceremony before some representative part of our troops.

"I was told it had been determined that I was to be in command of the final scene. I think I was the general officer on that field. I did not quite understand that. I want to confess to you that I was not entirely unaware of that being something of a distinction. I did not know why it happened at all, but, still, there were anterior reasons that reached back quite a little distance that might partly explain it. My troops were nearer the rebel lines. Gentlemen, if I may indulge in a moment's reminiscence: long before that I had commanded the largest brigade in that corps and, being sent back to the city (on account of a wound), a senior officer had taken my brigade. I had no hesitation in taking a much smaller one and a brigade of new men. I was sent back a second time (on account of a second wound); I was then commanding a brigade of volunteers. When I returned, I found myself assigned to the smallest brigade in the whole corps. I did not say anything about it. It happened that General Griffin, my corps commander, had assigned me to another brigade beside my own, and I had a command equal to anybody's with my two brigades. I had directed General Griffin's attention once or twice to this. I suppose they thought they were making things equal for me for bearing some things in silence. The French have a saying, "Everything comes at last to him who knows how to wait".

"We came out in the morning, forming our line of battle on the principal street of the town, forming a regular line of battle to receive the arms and colors of the surrendering army. We see them not a mile away, breaking their camp and folding their little tents. I bethought myself it would not be improper to pay them some respect, not to the Confederacy but to the surrendered Confederacy laying down the power and the will to hurt the dear old flag of ours. I sent down an order to come up successively to the "Carry arms!" not to "Present"--that would be too much. At the signal of my bugle they did that. General Gordon was leading the whole rebel army with his Stonewall Corps. I saw him coming with his chin on his breast. He heard the rattle of our men coming to the carry and looked up and understood its meaning, straightened up, wheeled his horse facing me, and gently touching the spur, made the horse rear high in air so that his horse and himself made a bow of salutation, bringing his sword to his boot toe, then gave the command for the men to give the salutation as they best may. They come by successive divisions to rest, halting about twelve feet off, fix bayonets, stack arms; lastly, reluctantly, with an agony of expression on the face, they furl their battle-stained, blood-stained flags and lay them down, some of the men rushing frantically from the ranks, kneeling over those flags, pressing them to their breasts with burning tears and burning kisses, and then the Star-Spangled Banner waved alone upon the field.

"All day it takes--not a sound of trumpet, nor roar of drum, not even a cheer or whisper of vainglory escapes the lips of a single man in our army. We could not look in those brave, bronzed faces, thinking of the battles we had been through. I wish I had time to tell you what those men were. We could not look into those brave, bronzed faces we had met on so many fields where glorious valor made the very earth glorious under their feet, and think of such a thing as hatred and mean revenge. Oh no, that was not our part! We were the appointed instruments to a divine decree that such things in the course of human history cause the steps to be taken in the enfranchisement of man. No, it was our glory only that the victory we had won was for others, for those very men before us, as well as for ourselves and ours. Our joy was a deep, far drawn, unspoken satisfaction. We seemed to be in the presence of some mighty angel appointed for human destinies, perhaps with the power of correcting errors and even of forgiving sins, and aught we knew, accepting sacrifice and crowning martyrs for the sake of men, which is the sake of God."

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