I recently found it in a special supplement of the Brunswick Times-Union newspaper, on the occasion of the dedication of a new statue of Chamberlain in May 2003. I tracked down Mr. Corish, and asked him for permission to use the poem on my site -- and to my grateful surprise, he did just that!
I had the opportunity to meet Professor Corish in person in May 2004, while on a week's vacation in Maine. He was a delightful Irish-born gentleman, and was very generous with his time, showing me places around the Bowdoin campus--as well as letting me see the inside of Chamberlain's former president's office, in Massachusetts Hall--the oldest building at Bowdoin.
I thank Professor Corish, for allowing me to put this poem on my site. Please do not copy, without his express written permission.
Retired Professor of Philosophy, Bowdoin College
Of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain,
And learn -- if such learning still may be,
There may still be a place for gallantry.
A professor when the war began,
He declined to be an inactive man;
When his college failed to humor him
He took leave of absence, and followed his whim.
That whim then led him such a course
As few can have followed, for better or worse,
And now gave the untried Chamberlain
Command in the untried 20th Maine.
He saw hundreds of his fellows fall ---
And slept in the cold among the dead,
A corpse's greatcoat over his head.
He got the order on Gettysburg field
That this wooded hill-top must be held --
Held the end of the line to the final round,
Then bade the bayonet take the ground.
It was be overwhelmed now, or attack --
It was then Lee's plan met Chamberlain
And the bayonet charge of the 20th Maine.
At Petersburg, ahead of his troops,
He took a bullet through both hips,
But stood, to urge his soldiers on,
And collapsed when the last of them had gone.
He made him a general on the spot --
They took him up from the blood-soaked ground;
But Death would not dress his terrible wound.
For the last campaigning he was back --
A bullet came through his horse's neck,
Hit a brass-bound glass over Chamberlain's heart,
Ricocheted, knocked his aide clear into the dirt.
And said: "My dear General, you are gone!"
"Yes", replied Joshua Chamberlain,
And rose up to rally his wavering men.
He fought on his horse till, weak from its wound,
It stood exhausted, nosing the ground --
Dismounted, fought, found horse, rode on;
There still was fighting to be done.
But later, looking over that day,
And the dead on both sides, he had his say:
"Was it God's command we heard, or
His forgiveness we must forever implore?"
At Appomattox, he was there
To witness the silence in the air --
And was vested with Grant's authority
To accept the surrender of Lee's army.
And there he saw a deeper need,
And there he did his most gallant deed,
Without leave or excuse but that he was fired
To honor the manhood he admired.
Erect, but chin down, all glory dead --
But he raised his eyes at the sound of command;
The North was saluting his ragged band!
He wheeled, drew saber, swept point to boot,
And gave the order to march at salute;
And so they came on, not as foe to foe,
But as honor to honor before they'd go.
And though some will refuse the grace of Heaven,
And some refused then to be forgiven,
Surely some rancor that day died
When honor saluted and honor replied?
Went home to Maine, became Governor --
And later, when called upon to rule,
Became the president of his school.
And when faction raised its head again
To contend the governorship of Maine
He took the militia and held the peace
Till the courts should settle the rights of the case.
Met old Chamberlain, rain coming down,
And wondered if it would ever cease --
"My experience is that it always has".
And visit the grave of Chamberlain,
And stop and think before you go on
How valor and decency are one.
If you have an original poem, song or story that you've written about Chamberlain, and want to share it with your fellow JLC admirers--I invite you to do so! Please email it to me, and I will post it on its very own page. Thank You!
NOTE: This Web site is Copyright © 1999- 2009 Pat Finnegan. All rights reserved.
DO NOT use any written material, or photographs, without first contacting me in writing. If you do not do this, be assured that legal action will be taken.
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