I hope it will also stir your interest, in visiting this beautiful place! It really helped me see how much Chamberlain loved his home state.
The pictures accompanying the article were all taken by me. except for one by Bobby Grenier, which is identified. Please do not use them,without my permission.
I left Syracuse around 3 am, and got to Brunswick, ME, in just about eight hours. Didn't get lost, but the traffic was a bear in Massachusetts (I-495)! A road not for the faint of heart, I assure you. And any construction I ran into was right IN Maine itself. Hope they get it done before the tourist season arrives....
Anyway: I arrived in Brunswick a little after 11 am, and pulled into the lot behind Chamberlain's house. I had a little time before my tour with "Military History Online"s own Mike Nugent, so I wandered over to the Bowdoin College campus, and took some pictures. The campus was eerily quiet--only a few students about. But it was a gloriously sunny and breezy day. I took pictures of Massachusetts Hall, which is the oldest building on campus (built 1804) and the Hubbard Hall administration building. I thought about visiting the Chamberlain family plot at Pine Grove Cemetery, which lies just beyond the campus. But I decided to wait, and go back later. So I went back to the Chamberlain Museum.
There, I met one of the volunteers for the Pejepscot Historical Society: a gentleman named George Pickering. Very nice fellow, and very knowledgeable about Chamberlain. He's doing his own research--particularly about Chamberlain's role at Appomattox. Seems there was a Bowdoin professor, who thinks Chamberlain's account in "The Passing of the Armies" is bogus. So George got a copy of the Official Records of the Civil War, and found some confirmation of what Chamberlain actually did--how he was chosen to command the surrender ceremony, etc.. Can't wait to see what the professor says about that!
Not much time passed before Mike arrived. He's a great guy, and very knowledgeable about the Civil War, and Chamberlain. He led me on a chronological tour of the house, from the time the Chamberlains first rented the house in the late 1850s, to when it was sold out of the family in 1939 by Chamberlain's granddaughter Rosamond Allen. The house was originally a one-story Cape Cod, that faced adjacent Potter Street at an angle. Then Chamberlain had it moved, literally, up the block to the corner of Potter and Maine Streets, and turned it to face both the college and First Parish Church! Mike said it was easy to do, because Brunswick was a shipbuilding town.
He then took me upstairs, to the original part of the house. Right now, the only room restored is called the "Longfellow Room"--so called because the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once lived here in the early 1840s with his new wife. In fact, Longfellow came back to Brunswick for a Bowdoin reunion once, and Chamberlain had him stay at the house-which was overwhelming emotionally for the poet. Now, it's made to look like a "typical New England room" of the Victorian period. There is some original furniture in here: a small table, a day bed and a big clothes dresser. On the table was a photo from a newspaper interview with Chamberlain, that showed this very room--along with the table it was sitting on! On the walls were pictures of Chamberlain's family: him, his wife Fannie and his children Grace and Wyllys. There were also pictures of his sister Sarah, and younger brother Tom.
I asked Mike what was behind the closed door across the hall--he said it was Chamberlain's bedroom!! So he took me in to see it. Right now, it's being converted from an apartment, and is currently used for storage. The Society's not sure how to restore this room, as there are no known pictures of what Chamberlain's bedroom looked like--nor of Fannie's sewing room beyond. So, it might be made into a typical Victorian bedroom, or it might be left alone. While here, we were joined by two ladies from Pittsburgh, who came with us back across the hall--along with three young boys from Brunswick, who happened to be studying the Civil War in school. We went out on the outside porch and chatted a bit--and I was reminded of a picture taken of this porch from the street in the 1880s. Chamberlain himself is standing at the front door, and three people--two women and a man--are standing on the porch. I thought it was his family-but Mike said it could have been former 20th Maine color sergeant Andrew Tozier and his wife, and another domestic servant! Seems that Tozier and his wife were employed by the Chamberlains as house servants after the war--probably when Chamberlain was Bowdoin College president.
Guess Chamberlain never forgot Tozier's service during the war, when the color sergeant was seen defending the center of the 20th's line on Little Round Top, holding the colors in one arm, and loading a musket with the other--for which Sgt. Tozier was awarded the Medal of Honor. Not many know this, but Tozier was originally with the Second Maine--the same mutinous regiment literally dumped in Chamberlain's lap after he took command of the 20th Maine in May 1863. Quite possibly, Chamberlain made Tozier the color sergeant, as a way of bringing the Second Mainers around.
We went back downstairs to the library, which contains most of Chamberlain's Civil War artifacts--or at least, those the Society has. Mike talked about his Civil War career at length. He told us something really gruesome: after Chamberlain was wounded at Petersburg, VA in 1864, he was attended by the 20th Maine's surgeon, Dr. Abner Shaw and the 44th New York's surgeon, Dr. Morris Townsend. When the doctors probed the direction of his wound, they were using the sharp end of a musket ramrod!! OUCH!!!!! I can't imagine the agony Chamberlain was in. Poor man....
Anyway, Mike showed us the artifacts on display: some buttons and colonel's shoulder straps; his boots from Gettysburg (with the slash in the instep, caused by a rock splinter or a shell fragment, that cut Chamberlain's foot); a gauntlet; a 20th Maine cap insiginia; a period officer's sword-and the bullet that nearly killed him at Petersburg. That thing was all smushed on top--evidence of being smashed against his hip and pelvic bones. There was also a McClellan saddle and horse blanket in another case; Mike wasn't sure if the blanket belonged to Chamberlain's horse "Charlemagne". On the wall is the original oil of artist Don Troiani's "Bayonet!", which he donated to the Society. There is also the print "Soul of the Lion", by Keith Rocco, which shows Chamberlain leading the charge at "Rives' Salient" at Petersburg--just before he was wounded.
Mike also said that the photos of Chamberlain on display don't really show his sense of humor--but one other art print did: "The Proffered Wreath" by Don Stivers, which shows an incident from the Grand Review of May 1865: Chamberlain describes a young girl, who ran out of the crowd to give him a wreath of flowers-and ended up scaring his horse "Charlemagne" to bits, and almost throwing Chamberlain into the street! He says: "From then on, my horse was shy of young girls....sharp eyes out for soft ones - I dare say, for his master's peace and safety!" I thought: did that mean Fannie and Grace, too, when he brought the horse home from the war? He also says that the wreath went instead to one of his young staff officers: "And I must say I did not see him again for quite some time!" I could just imagine Chamberlain smiling (and maybe laughing) to himself, as he wrote that line.
After this, the ladies and boys departed, and it was just Mike and me. So we went into the next room, which contains stuff from Chamberlain's political career: a campaign banner that reads "For Gove'nor--the Gallant Chamberlain!", a political rally poster--and the chair he used as Governor. This chair looks like a throne: plush velvet and fancy wood carving. It was missing for several years, until it was found at the University of Maine at Orono, north of Bangor. It was being used as the throne for the Homecoming Queen!!
Mike talked about Chamberlain's political career, and how it was so short-lived--because he wouldn't follow in lock-step with the "powers that be" in the Republican party in Maine. Especially one James G. Blaine, who was THE power in Maine Republican politics. Chamberlain had a lot of trouble with temperance advocates, as well as death penalty opponents. He also opposed the impeachment proceedings against then-President Andrew Johnson. But he also encouraged immigration to Maine--at a time when many Mainers were leaving the state, to go west. He helped bring Scandinavian immigrants to the state, and commissioned a hydrographic survey of Maine's waterways, in order to bring more industry to the state. He was also very active in veterans' affairs; he had certificates signed by him made up for every Civil War veteran from Maine--even for himself! Which again shows his sense of humor...
In an adjoining room, we saw a display case with some of Chamberlain's GAR medals, some copies of his speeches (including his oration on Abraham Lincoln from 1909, I believe, and the speech he gave at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876), and a leaf from one of his funeral wreaths!! There was also a copy of a newspaper photo, from an interview done with Chamberlain in the late 19th century, or early 20th. He was seated in a back enclosed patio (which is not there now), with a huge dog by his side. The caption reads something to the effect that he called the dog--"Come here, Tiberius Caesar"!--and the dog sat up, and the picture was taken.
I've often wondered: why did Chamberlain name his animal companions names like "Tiberius Caesar" and "Charlemagne"?
Next we visited the front parlor, where Mike talked about Chamberlain's Bowdoin College career: from student to president to trustee. This room was one of the first to be restored: there's a gorgeous hand-painted fresco of some sort in the center of the ceiling. There was also some original furniture on display--along with some rugs Chamberlain had brought back from a trip to Egypt in the early 1900s! Mike mentioned the reforms Chamberlain tried to bring to Bowdoin during his presidency--including military training for students. The students liked it at first, but soon rebelled--and Chamberlain had a campus revolt on his hands! He threatened them with expulsion--eventually the revolt ended, but the military program didn't last, along with several other programs he instituted. Turns out he was way ahead of his time.
Our last stop was in the dining room--the most recently restored room in the house. The ceiling paper was pretty bizarre: a wild green and gold paisley-ish design. But Mike said that was the rage in the 1890s. The original pattern was found in a storage closet, believe it or not--so the restorers could reproduce the exact pattern. On display were five original dining room chairs, a server against one wall, and some china and glassware settings. But no table. No one knows exactly where this dining room table might be. There is even a rumor that famous visitors carved their initials into the table top. I wonder what Fannie would have thought of this?
Right now, the main focus is on restoring the original wrought-iron fence around the house. At the moment, there's a hedge. The original pattern was discovered, and is being done in Alabama (of all places!). So the Pejepscot Historical Society is now raising funds to get that done.
Also: the big buzz around town is the creation of a Chamberlain statue, to be placed in the green space between Chamberlain's home and Bowdoin College. An overdue monument, to Brunswick's most well-known Civil War figure. I was told it might be in place for the next "Chamberlain Days", in August 2003.
We ended our time together back in the gift shop out back, and that's where I parted from both Mike and George. They were terrific people, and really made the tour special.
I then went to the motel and checked in, and then went off to Pine Grove Cemetery, where I left some silk flowers for Chamberlain at his grave. I also visited Fannie's grave, as well as those of all their children: Grace, Wyllys, and the two baby girls who died in infancy: Emily Stelle and Gertrude Loraine. I always spend time "talking" to Chamberlain and his family, during my cemetery visits. To be honest, I keep looking over at Fannie's grave, wondering what she thinks of my admiration for her husband.
I then ended the day at Orr's and Bailey's Islands--two small islands south of Brunswick. The sea was blue and so beautiful--and very calm. Just tiny ripples on the water. This place is rapidly becoming one of my favorite spots in Maine. Everywhere you look, there are terrific sea views to be found.
Sunday, May 12, was the day I decided to go up the coast, towards Castine and Brewer. It was a bit cloudy, and gloomy outside. First, I stopped off at the Chamberlain graves to say "good morning"--then after breakfast, it was back on the road. I took Route 1, which runs along the coast. First big town was Bath--home of the oldest shipbuilding facility in the US: the Bath Iron Works. When you approach the town from Brunswick, you can see these huge dock cranes, towering above the tree line--with plane-warning lights on top! Very distracting--and when I crossed the bridge over the Kennebec River, I had to look fast to see if any ships were being worked on. Not an easy thing to do. But it was a darned impressive sight!
I passed through some of Maine's prettiest little towns--such as Wiscasset, on the Sheepscot River. This town calls itself "The Prettiest Little Town in Maine"--and it's true. Lots of lovely old shipbuilders' houses. And there's a huge long and low bridge that crosses the Sheepscot River, which is really cool! I also passed thru Rockland, Rockport and Camden--and a really neat thing happened: the sun came out! I was real happy to see that.
Camden's another lovely town, with old houses and a pretty historic district, and a beautiful little harbor. Above the town sits Mount Battie, which is around 800 feet high. My sister and brother-in-law visit there, every time they vacation in Maine, and encouraged me to try and find it. So I did (after first missing the entrance). What a view from the top!!! Camden spreads out before you-and the sea just glowed in the sunlight, with all the little islands dotting the horizon in all directions. The silence atop Mount Battie was awesome--only thing I heard were church bells chiming in Camden. I was so glad it was clear, too.
Descending Mount Battie, I continued my trip northeast. Route 1 now pretty much hugs the coastline, so the sea was always in view. Just outside the town of Bucksport, I saw this huge suspension bridge across the Penobscot River. It took me totally by surprise, and I pulled over to take a picture. Seems an important Revolutionary War battle took place here: a small Continental Navy flotilla was beaten badly by the Brits. The bridge was awesome, though--and then I had to CROSS IT, to go to my next stop: Castine.
Castine's another lovely town--the home of the Maine Maritime Academy. It sits at the mouth of the Penobscot River, and the road leading to it gives you great glimpses of this wide river. Castine is where Chamberlain's younger brother Tom is buried, so I wanted to get pictures of his grave, and that of his wife Delia. I missed the turnoff for the cemetery, and had to backtrack thru town. But it's really a pretty place: more old homes, and a lovely little village green, with a Civil War memorial.
Eventually, though, I found Castine Cemetery, and located Tom's grave. It sits in the oldest part of the cemetery, overlooking the harbor. It's in pretty good shape, and someone else had left flowers, too. I spent some time "talking" to Tom, wondering why his postwar life was so unfocused, and sad. He really gave Delia much cause for concern. (Odd thing is: Delia was married previously to Tom's older brother John. After John's death in 1867, Tom married Delia. But they had no children.) The cemetery as a whole, however, looks rather disheveled: lots of uneven ground, and moldering gravestones. But somehow, I had the feeling that something (or someone) was guiding my steps this day--as I was to find out on my next stop: Brewer.
From Castine, I headed back north towards Bucksport, and headed up the Penobscot River to the town of Brewer--Chamberlain's birthplace. Here you can still see his birthplace and childhood homes--at least from the outside. It's also the home of the new "Chamberlain Freedom Park", which overlooks the Penobscot River, and the city of Bangor opposite. This park was created by the Brewer Historical Society, and was made to look like the 20th Maine's position on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. Funny thing is: there's no place to park to see the park! I had to park the car in a residential neighborhood, and cross the busy main drag to get there! A definite drawback....
Anyway: there is a replica of the 20th Maine monument on display, along with a beautiful statue of Chamberlain--which looks out towards Bangor. He stands there with his arms folded across his chest, with a thoughtful, sad look on his face. The sculptors wanted to get a more reflective and thoughtful expression, rather than a military one. And they succeeded. (The statue is also illuminated at night, which must be really lovely.) There is also a reminder of the Underground Railroad in this park: seems there was found a tunnel used by escaping slaves on the way to Canada. Eventually, there will also be a monument to the Underground Railroad in this park.
After a short break seated below Chamberlain's statue, I resumed my travels. I did find Chamberlain's birthplace on the main drag--(it used to be an antique shop, but it looks unoccupied now; there's a stone marker near the road, saying it was Chamberlain's birthplace), and his childhood home, which is in private hands (on Chamberlain Street)!. I really had a problem finding the cemetery where his parents and other siblings are buried. All I knew was it was in a residential area. After some fruitless attempts, I was about to give up and head back to Brunswick. On the way out, I saw a cemetery on the left side of the road--and something told me to go back and check it out. So I turned around---and I'm glad I did!! I had found the cemetery, and found the graves!! I knew then, that someone was watching out for me on this trip!
Here are buried Chamberlain's parents, his younger brothers John and Horace (and Horace's wife Mary), and his sister Sarah and her family--along with Chamberlain's grandfather, Joshua Chamberlain, Sr.. Horace died in December 1861, and John in August 1867--both of tuberculosis. These graves need some work: some have mold of some kind on them, or they're just plain dirty. A real shame. John's grave has a military marker in the ground, with a lovely inscription: "Amour Eterna"--"Love Eternal". Since it was Mother's Day, I wished Mother Chamberlain and Sarah "Happy Mother's Day"--and told his mother what a great job she did, in raising her family--especially her eldest son. I really would have loved to have met Sarah Dupee Brastow Chamberlain. From what I've read, she was quite a lady. There is a portrait of her--that used to hang in Chamberlain's Brunswick home--in the Brewer Public Library. I want to see that on my next visit.
So, with that accomplished, I headed back to Brunswick, retracing my route. I made one shopping stop along the way: in Thomaston, at the "Maine State Prison Store". Here, you can buy items made by the inmates at the Maine State Prison--which used to be in Thomaston. (It's now in nearby Warren.) Lovely wood furniture, kitchen stuff (cutting boards, utensils, etc.), and funny knickknacks. They also build beautifully detailed sailing ship models--including two incredible 9/11/01 memorials! They were five or six-masted 18th or 19th-century models--one was called "Enduring Freedom". They cost $1200 and $1800 dollars. But they were beautifully detailed, indeed. This is a very popular shopping stop, and right on the main street. The old prison was located just up the block from the store, but was recently torn down. Not much is left: just one section of outer wall, and a watchtower.
Monday, May 13, dawned cold and rainy. Today, I went to Freeport, to do some shopping at the 20th Maine Civil War shop. First, though, a funny thing happened: there was no place to eat breakfast in Freeport! I searched and searched, to no avail. So, I traveled south on Route 1, in search of a restaurant--passing thru the towns of Yarmouth and Cumberland. Believe it or not: I ended up in downtown Portland!!!! Thank God it was still early enough, and not a lot of traffic, so I backtracked north--and found a place to eat. What a moron I was....!
Back in Freeport, I also visited the famous L.L. Bean outlet store--which never closes! I bought myself a new backpack, and had it monogrammed. I really went in to get out of the rain, which was quite steadily coming down--but I had great fun wandering around L.L. Bean. The people there are really nice, too. Of course, Freeport is a big outlet shopping town--if you're into that.
Eventually, I did make it to the 20th Maine shop, and had a great time chatting with the clerk--a lady named Lee, who is a civilian reenactor with the Third Maine Infantry. She had some very funny stories to tell--and of course, I bought a few things, including a 20th Maine regimental colors flag. This is a great little shop for Civil War books and related items.
I didn't really do much touring around, because of the rain. I did stop at the Bowdoin campus again, and visited the main administration building. On the second floor is a presidential portrait gallery, made up of most of Bowdoin's presidents--including Chamberlain. I sneaked in, and got a picture. I got totally soaked, however, wandering around campus. Again, there weren't many students about.
I did do another silly thing, however: I went back up Route 1, hoping to find the town of Chamberlain, which is located south of the town of Damariscotta. But the rain was just too much--so after a lunch stop at a really cute train depot-turned-restaurant, called the "Last Reunion", I went back to Brunswick, and called it a day. It was too cold and wet to be out.
Tuesday, May 14, was my last full day in Maine. The day started out windy and rainy, but I was determined to get some sea pictures. I took a different route out of Brunswick, south to Harpswell Neck--another one of those offshore islands. When I got to the end of the road (literally--as it happens so often on these islands), the wind was blowing and it was raining hard, and there wasn't much to see. So I headed back to town--until I noticed a shortcut back to Orr's and Bailey's Islands. I turned off there--and I'm glad I did! I crossed a bridge and came to a good-sized cove--which looked full of mud! And there were two guys in yellow slickers, digging in that mud! It was low tide, and they were digging for either clams or mussels. Really cool. And of course, I took pictures.
At the end of the road, I turned right to Orr's and Bailey's Islands. By this time, the rain had pretty much ceased--just a drizzle. I went to the end of Bailey's Island, and parked the car, and walked up a little hill overlooking the bay. And what a sight I saw! The wind was driving the waves inland, crashing against the rocks and the little barrier islands just offshore! I stood there in awe, watching the waves smash against the shoreline--I wanted sea pictures, and I GOT THEM, in spades! I didn't care HOW cold it was! The roar of the sea was incredible, as the wind blew in my face. And the smell of the sea was terrific, too. And I was the only one there--except for a white goose, who stood on the rocks and tucked its head beneath its wings. Again, I wondered if this was another indication of "someone" watching over me, and allowing me to see such a magnificent sight?
Reluctantly, I pulled myself away, and went back to Brunswick: I had an appointment to do some research at the Pejepscot Historical Society. I was greeted by Deborah Smith, the Executive Director, and she showed me into the office. I wanted to find articles about Chamberlain's death and funeral in 1914--and I found a lot of stuff! The staff there is very helpful and kind--they were specially helpful with the cranky copy machine! But I got a lot of articles, and Deborah allowed me to use them on my Web site--and they will get credit, of course. A couple of them had pictures of the funeral procession in both Portland and Brunswick. And they were quite sizable articles, too. I was very grateful for the kindness shown me at the Society.
From the PHS, I wandered up the street to First Parish Church, hopeful it was open, so I could sneak in for a visit. Thankfully, it was! I tiptoed in, and heard organ music coming from the sanctuary. I could well imagine the young Joshua, singing in the First Parish choir, and eventually becoming its director.
I walked quietly around the outer aisles, and sat down behind the Chamberlain family pew (which is marked by a plaque; opposite theirs is the one occupied by Harriet Beecher Stowe--who got a vision of Uncle Tom's death while at a communion service, which inspired her to write her famous novel). I didn't feel right about sitting in the Chamberlains' pew.... So I sat there for a little while, gazing around this lovely old church, and reflecting on the role it played in Chamberlain's life. Here is where he conducted the church choir--and met Fannie, and married her; gave away his daughter Grace in marriage, and also buried his two baby daughters. Here, he probably presided over several Bowdoin commencements and other college events--and is where both his funeral, and Fannie's, too, were held. Behind the altar is a huge stained-glass window, designed by Chamberlain in memory of his father-in-law, the Rev. George Adams. I got a picture of it, and I'm glad to say it came out pretty well!
From here, I wandered back to Pine Grove Cemetery and had another "chat" with Chamberlain and his family (more like a monologue, I suppose). I was supposed to meet a fellow Society member for tea after this--but couldn't find her house! I was so frustrated I gave up, and went back to my room to call her. I apologized, and told her I would try and meet her again on another visit.
As the afternoon went on, the rain finally cleared away, and the sun actually came out! I decided to return to Orr's and Bailey's Islands one more time, so I took the Harpswell road, and saw the cove I'd seen earlier in the day--all filled in this time by the tide! By the time I got to the end of Bailey's Island, the sky was blue, with just a few clouds. The wind was still kicking up, and the sea was crashing--but didn't look as angry and gray as earlier. I sat down on the rocks, and just gazed out to sea.
In a strange way, I could feel Chamberlain's presence here: I could sense he was still out on the bay, sailing around in his little boat, the "Pinafore". I bet he had some really happy times out there-away from the cares of the world. Whether it was politics or stuff at Bowdoin, or his own physical suffering, it didn't matter. He could get away, and come down here to sail. I also think the sea helped him put life in perspective, when things got really hard. One sits here, and finds that things one thinks are important really aren't.
I didn't want to leave this place--but I had one more surprise in store: I looked out over the water--and a RAINBOW appeared!!!! I stood there in total awe, as I watched this huge rainbow form across the bay, and literally stretch out OVER the water!! I wished I had pictures left, so I could have had a record of it--but I didn't. But it was incredible. It was like something (or someone---maybe Chamberlain himself?) was telling me I would be back someday. I hope that's true.
As it was getting later in the afternoon, I decided to get some dinner. I tore myself away from the sea, and stopped in a nearby gift shop. The very friendly owner told me about another place to watch the waves crash: "The Giant's Staircase", which is another rock formation. He gave me directions,and I found it--and it IS a great place to watch the waves smash unimpeded to the shore! I made a note to come back there next visit.
I had my last meal in Maine at a terrific local landmark: "Cook's Lobster House", at the northern tip of Bailey's Island. The view of Harpswell Sound was magnificent, and the food was first-rate! (I even tried a little lobster sauce on my fish--excellent!!) I'd recommend it to anyone. And while I was there, a little rain squall blew in from the sea, and got everything wet again! And then the sun came out, and it was beautiful again.
My final stop in Maine was back at Pine Grove Cemetery, where I made my "au revoir" to the General and his family. I told him I would be back--and I still kept making sideways glances at Fannie's grave, hoping she wouldn't be mad at me.... It was with reluctance that I left, and headed back to my room, to get ready for my trip home.
I left Brunswick, and Maine, around 4 am--and as soon as I crossed the bridge at Kittery, on the border with New Hampshire, the sun broke over the horizon. I hope it was a sign, that I would soon return to Maine. I had a really marvelous visit--and hope to make it an annual "pilgrimage".
And here's an appropriate ending:
Brian C. Pohanka,
Civil War Historian and Admirer of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
1955 - 2005
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