Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum, Brunswick, ME.

Cheryl and I spent over an hour taking a tour of Chamberlain's home, and seeing the wonderful restoration work being done. I found it interesting to look at the contrasting architectural styles, between the first and second floors!

When Chamberlain purchased this house in the spring of 1859, it had only one story. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had brought his bride to live here in 1829. In 1867, Chamberlain had the house moved--literally!--from its original location on Potter Street, to this more desirable location on Maine Street, across from both Bowdoin College and First Parish Church. During his Bowdoin presidency, in 1871, he decided he needed a larger home, for things like entertaining guests. But instead of moving to another house altogether, Chamberlain had the present house literally raised up off the ground, and had a new first floor built underneath. He personally designed the Grand Entrance Hall, with a spiral staircase going up to the second floor. He jokingly told a reporter:

"When I returned to Brunswick after the war, I found I was a great man--so I added another story to my house."(1)

Here's a nice overall look at Chamberlain's home.

Photo by David Williamson.

Do not use without his express written permission.

In this house, Chamberlain and his wife Fannie raised their children: daughter Grace (nicknamed "Daisy"), and son Wyllys. Chamberlain was especially close to Grace, his eldest child; he considered her something of a kindred spirit. As an adolescent, she called her father "Dearest Papa" and "Darling Boy". She would also show her thoughtfulness to him in little ways--such as straightening and putting her father's papers away, after he left them spread around from his desk to the floor and the mantelpiece. When she was a child of six, Chamberlain wrote her this letter after the battle of Chancellorsville:

"My dear little Daisy, I began a letter to you before the battle, but in the hurry of our moving it was lost. It was night, too, so that we could not see much. I am sorry I lost the letter, for it was almost done. There has been a big battle, and we had a great many men killed or wounded. We shall try it again soon, and see if we cannot make those Rebels behave better, and stop their wicked works in trying to spoil our Country, and making us all so unhappy. I have looked for the letter a great deal, but I shall enjoy writing another to you. You see I cannot write very well in this way; I believe you could write better if you should try...Do you and Wyllys have a pleasant time now-a-days? I think dear Aunty [Fannie's aunt, Deborah Folsom, was staying with her at the time] must make you very happy. She has such kind ways. I should like to see you all. What a charming little home you have, especially if dear Mamma is with you. Does Master Wyllys call her Fanny yet? You must have a garden to work in. It is very hot here, so that we can hardly bear to have our clothes on. But we do not have any May-flowers here. All the ground is so trampled by the army that even the grass will not grow much. How I should enjoy a May-walk with you and Wyllys, and what beautiful flowers we would bring home to surprise Mamma and Aunty! I often think of all our paths and sunny banks where we are always sure to find the wild flowers. Do the beautiful birds sing about the trees, and look for places to build nests near the house, as they used to do? I am suddenly ordered to the front to take command of our pickets. Mamma will tell you what they are, so goodbye once more. Papa."(2)

While he was president of Bowdoin, Grace grew into a young woman to whom Chamberlain would write this letter in May of 1876:

"My Dearest Grace:

"I have been waiting long for your letter & now have come home from faculty meeting 11:30 Pm & find it.

"Thank you & bless you for it.(Private & Confidential) I dont love you so much because you are my daughter -- that is a mere plupical [?] law of time & earth -- a mechanical [encampment]. I love you because you are a splendid soul & belong to Eternity. I should love you any way daughter -- sister -- woman more especially the latter. Dont consider this a paternal epistle in which fathers say what is proper for fathers to say to daughters. I go back to first principles. Father & daughter is an arrangement of temporal & earthly law for the present sphere. If you were not a woman to command my love. you would not have it -- daughter or no daughter. You do command it -- & I want to tell you that is something worth having.

"I am glad of all the things you tell me of. You do not tell me of everything. You have good reasons. I dont care what they are if they are not the miserable ones of "afraid to tell my father". Let me tell you nobody will ever love you more or more deeply or widely than your present addressor!!!

"I love you as a father properly & regularly; I love you besides as a true, solid, genuine splendid woman, whom if God had given to me, I would have looked on as God's representative on earth -- (as a woman should be to a man) & I would have been something more than I am.

"If you dont like this burn it up & me too. I am in a hurry, & have been sick ever since my return. I wrote you a long letter & burned it! It did me just as much good & you no hurt! God bless you for a sweet true woman -- my joy & hope. If you want anything of me as a daughter let me know. Tear up & burn if you dont like. Written in 10 minutes after 3 days of hell-torments.

"Yours, J.LC."(3)

In 1881, Grace married Boston lawyer Horace Gwynn Allen (the son of Stephen Allen -- an old friend of her mother's, as it turned out!) at First Parish Church. Her father led her to the very altar where he and Fannie had been married in 1856. She and Horace had three daughters: Eleanor, born in 1893; Beatrice, born in 1893; and Rosamond, born in 1898. Chamberlain adored the three little girls, and visited them often in their Boston home.

Chamberlain's only surviving son, Harold Wyllys (but called Wyllys by the family), was of a different story altogether. Physically, he resembled his mother, and she was also his greatest influence. He graduated from Bowdoin in 1881, and completed his Master's Degree there in 1884, and then studied law at Boston University Law School. He was not the scholar his father was, and never seemed to become completely independent of his parents. He practiced law in both Florida and New York; he also lived in Florida briefly, where he helped Chamberlain oversee some of his business interests. He also pursued his interest in the military while in Florida, serving for several years as lieutenant of the "Finley Guards". During that service, he became involved in an incident where he and his men protected an accused man from being lynched by an armed mob! He downplayed his role in the incident, writing to his family:

"...the occasion does not rank with Waterloo or Gettysburg, but we accomplished our purpose."(4)

But what Wyllys really enjoyed doing was being an inventor, especially doing electrical experiments involving magnets and motors. He gave up his law career, and focused mostly on this vocation, usually living with family members while conducting his experiments. He never married. Chamberlain loved his son, but was constantly worried about Wyllys' ability to stand on his own financially--especially in the event of Chamberlain's death. In a letter to Wyllys, Chamberlain wrote:

"Your attention has been absorbed in the inventions in which your brain is so fertile, so that you have not got into the other stratum, or sphere, of making money of it. That is a 'worldly way' of looking at things, but it has to [be] regarded."(5)

No doubt life in his famous father's shadow must have been very hard for Wyllys.

All during his life, Chamberlain remained close to his parents, writing letters and visiting them in Brewer as often as he could. During the war, in a letter to his sister Sae, he wrote:

"I could not bear to lose Father or Mother any more than if I was a boy of 10."(6)

Every year, on his birthday, Chamberlain wrote a letter to his mother, to thank her for all that she meant to him. This is what he wrote her in 1887:

"My dear Mother, This is my birthday and I must write you my letter, as I always do to bless and thank you for my life; for all your suffering for me & tender care, and faithful guidance & good instructions. I trust that I have made the life of some good to the world, and a joy to you. Perhaps I have not made all that was possible of my life, but I trust that God has still use for me, and has spared me through so many perils and so many years, for a blessing somewhere yet to be given and received. I pray that you may be kept in health and peace & that God's peace may rest in your soul. I thank Him & I thank you, for the happy little meeting we had a few days ago. I trust I can be of some comfort and use to you still in these sweet evenings of the years. Your prayers for me are always in my heart. God has answered them for my good, and will do so still. It is a day full of gratitude to you & to God for my spirit, & I am happy and ready for anything to which I may be called. May God bless & keep you. Your loving son, Lawrence."(7)

In the summer of 1880, Chamberlain's father, Joshua, Jr., --the man who had taught him so many valuable lessons--died at the age of 79. In November of 1888--just over a year after receiving the above letter--Chamberlain lost his mother. In fact, the latter part of the 19th century saw Chamberlain also lose his two surviving brothers.

First to go was his brother John, who had spent time with Chamberlain during the Gettysburg campaign, as a member of the Christian Commission. John returned to Maine in 1863 and attended Bangor Theological Seminary, graduating in 1864. He was offered a commission as chaplain of the 11th Maine Infantry Regiment, but declined, and instead moved to New York City to work as an Internal Revenue commissioner, and to get started in business. In April 1865 he began to hemorrhage from his lungs, which was probably indirectly caused by his catching a cold after returning to Washington in 1863. He recovered sufficiently enough to marry Delia Jarvis of Castine and Bangor in 1866. But his illness worsened, and John died at Castine in August 1867, at the age of 29.

Here is a very nice wartime photo of Tom Chamberlain.

It gives no indication of the problems Tom suffered in later life.

Photo sent by Mindy Eckler.

Chamberlain's youngest brother, Tom, had an even more difficult life after the war. It seemed he picked up some very bad habits during his wartime service--namely, drinking too much. He couldn't seem to settle down after the war. He settled briefly in New York, working for his brother John, and worked in business for himself for a short time after John's death. He went back to Maine and worked as a merchant in Bangor for a time; then from 1879 to 1886 he worked in a pension office, possibly in Washington. In 1870 he married John's widow, Delia, but lived apart from her while working at the pension office. Sometimes he was so neglectful of his support of Delia that she had to ask her mother-in-law for money for board and other expenses. His sister Sae wrote worried letters to her brother Joshua. Tom suffered from chronic lung and heart problems before he was fifty, and in the summer of 1896, his health failed completely. His wife Delia and sister Sae devotedly nursed him during his final illness, and Tom died in August 1896, at the age of 56.

Chamberlain's love for his wife, Fannie, remained strong all through the years, even during their most difficult times, and frequent separations due to his speaking engagements. In a letter written to Fannie just before they were married, Chamberlain wrote:

"I know in whom all my highest hopes & dearest joys are centered. I know in whom my whole heart can rest--so sweetly and so surely."(8)

Sadly, Fannie suffered from eye problems most of her life, and by the turn of the century, had gone completely blind. She, who used to enjoy travel (and who had done a lot of it, especially during the Civil War years, visiting friends in Boston and New York), became more and more reclusive, despite the entreaties of her husband and her son-in-law to leave her Brunswick home. In August of 1905, Fannie fell and broke her hip; a short time after that, Chamberlain wrote her a letter for her 80th birthday, to thank her for her love and their long life together. In it, he wrote:

"Your husband and children 'rise up and call you blessed'--as the old scriptures represent the crowning grace of a good woman".(9)

On October 18, 1905, Fannie died in their Brunswick home, and was buried three days later in the family plot at Pine Grove Cemetery. Her husband mourned her loss; on her gravestone he had inscribed the words: "UNVEILED, OCTOBER 18, 1905"--a reference to her blindness. The following spring, he wrote an eloquent tribute to her, in a war paper about the Last Review of the Army of the Potomac. It was written in such a way that any casual listener or reader would think that it was not part of the description of the AOP and its spectators in 1865. It went like this:

"You in my soul I see, faithful watcher by my cot-side long days and nights together through the delirium of mortal anguish,--steadfast, calm, and sweet as eternal love. We pass now quickly from each other's sight; but I know full well that where beyond these passing scenes you shall be, there will be heaven!"(10)

During the post-Civil War years, and particularly after Fannie's death in October of 1905, Chamberlain found himself being virtually 'chased' by many women -- literally, from teenagers to 'mature ladies'. And no wonder: he was by no means an 'unhandsome' man! Beyond his tall physical stature, his striking gray-blue eyes (and not to mention that dashing, sweeping mustache!), Chamberlain treated woman chivalrously and attentively. Even more important than that: he also respected their abilities, which was rather surprisingly in an age when most men did not acknowledge a woman's equality.

On the 'teenage side' of things, there were Mary and Edith Dalton, daughters of an old friend of Chamberlain's. They absolutely hero-worshiped him, and they wrote him letters that would have turned any man's head, if it wasn't one that was as steady as Chamberlain's. As a younger man, Chamberlain had a young cousin, Annie Chamberlain, who loved him very much. Just before the war, she told him that she believed that God had chosen him to do a great work, and would call him when needed...

" be his minister in a higher sense than the word." (10A)

When Chamberlain lived for a time in New York City (without Fannie), attending to some of his business ventures, he made friends with Elizabeth Kendall Upham and her husband. Mrs. Upham looked after Chamberlain, invited him to dinner at the Uphams' home, and took him for carriage rides. She admired him both as a man, and a mind.

There were also women whom Chamberlain assisted in practical ways, such as with financial assistance. One such lady was Sarah S. Sampson. She was a Maine Civil War widow, who worked at the Pension Office in Washington, DC; Chamberlain assisted her in obtaining this position. She called Chamberlain her "glorious Friend", and wrote this to him in the early 1900s:

"I thank the good Father, that you still live, and that occasionally I have an appreciative word from your hand. Since I first knew you, you have given me more encouragement and assistance in my life work than any other person living, or who ever did live. I want you to know that I appreciate all your kindnesses to me in so many ways -- ways that you have forgotten but I never shall". (10B)

Then, there were those women who had more 'romantic' feelings for Chamberlain. One of these was Myra F. Porter, a Maine woman from Bangor, but who lived for a time in New York City. She was very poor and ill, and had spent a year in a sanatorium in Nyack-on-the-Hudson, New York. Chamberlain sent her gifts of money over the years --not a lot at once; but over time, a good-sized amount. And he also wrote occasional, in her words, 'kind letters'.

Several of Mary's letters survive, and they are filled with gratitude:

", of all my friends, are the one who has enabled me to keep from want....I thank God for your kindness." (10C)

Another time she wrote:

"...I am not foolish over it, but no friend has ever come into my life just as you have come". (10D)

Myra Porter was very fond of Chamberlain. For his part, however, he was really just being a gentleman, assisting a lady in her distress and loneliness. There's no indication that he felt any sort of 'romantic' feelings for her.

There was one woman, however, who did fill a lonely place in Chamberlain's life, in those years after Fannie's death. This was Mary P. Clark. She was a family friend, who admired Chamberlain very much, and she wintered in Massachusetts and summered in Maine. Somewhat extravagant in her letters to Chamberlain, she was a gracious and sentimental lady, who liked investing a friendship with much more 'tender and romantic' feelings. Sometimes Chamberlain would write and call on her. Mary called Chamberlain 'my Beloved General', and she was most grateful for his attentiveness to her. She wrote to him in 1910:

"Your recent visit, though it gave me only two days of your dear presence, was of rare delight to me -- you brought me love and joy and peace, and in parting you left the sweetest and dearest of memories. How trying was the farewell!" (10E)

She anxiously wanted to remind Chamberlain of her love for him, and to give him, as she put it:

..."{the} undisturbed rest which you too often need". (10F)

In 1911, Mary entreated him to visit her, if only briefly. She treasured those rare moments when she saw him -- as well as those even rarer moments when Chamberlain would talk about himself. Or, as Mary described it:

"...your dear self {about which} I most wished to know". (10G)

If all the women who wrote to Chamberlain, Mary Clark was most likely the closest in his affections. She was not only a link to his past, she also helped fill that need for companionship and communication, that had been lost with Fannie's death. For her part, Mary really did love Chamberlain. At the same time, there isn't much doubt that she was trying to convince herself -- and him as well -- that his affection for her ran any deeper or more exclusively than it really did.

All in all, Chamberlain enjoyed the company of women. And they responded back with both affection and admiration. And everything he did for them -- his visits, his generosity, his invitations to dine, and his gifts of flowers and candy -- meant so very much to them. And particularly to 'older' women.


After Chamberlain resigned as Bowdoin's president in 1883, he turned his attention to the business world. He worked out of Florida, New York and Maine, and his business ventures ranged from developing land in Florida, establishing the Ocala and Silver Springs Railroad, and holding stock in, and serving as president of, several companies, including New Jersey Construction, Mutual Town and Bond in New York, and Kinetic Power. His idealism and sense of duty to others were two factors that motivated him in business. Unfortunately, those traits also made him a poor businessman! He made many investments, ranging from orange groves to railroads, but he reaped little financial reward from them. In 1902, his son Wyllys wrote to his mother from Florida:

"Two of Father's companies are coming to the front, three of them in fact, and I hope he will see that he gets something for himself out of them..."(11)

After about a decade of trying to make a go of it in the business world, Chamberlain gave it up, saying he wanted to put his strength into "good clean work."

The world of business wasn't the only thing occupying Chamberlain during the late 1888's and into the 1890's. For instance, he served as president of the Institute for Artists and Artisans. He described its purpose this way:

"It is conceived and conducted in the spirit of Vital Art, tending toward a National emancipation from servile imitation and dead literalism, as well as from industrial and commercial dependence on foreign peoples for a supply of a fresh and growing demand in this country for high artistic work, in the common arts."(12)

The Institute was based in New York City, but Chamberlain also established a summer home for it in Maine, in what would become his summer home. It was located at Simpson's Point, on Middle Bay between Mere Point and Harpswell, about four miles south of Brunswick, on the site of an old shipyard. He named his home "Domhegan", after the one of the Indian chiefs who sold the site to the white man. Here he loved to ride his horse "Charlemagne" and sail Middle Bay on his little yacht "Pinafore."

Chamberlain was always looking for ways to serve his fellow man, and the organizations he chose to be involved in reflected that sense of service. They included: military organizations such as the Society of the Army of the Potomac (president), the Grand Army of the Republic (department commander), the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, the Maine Commandery (department commander)--the last organization he founded in 1869, and the one in which he was most interested.

Chamberlain was also involved in many non-military organizations, besides the Institute for Artists and Artisans. He was always looking for ways to serve his fellow human beings, and the following list reflects that sense of service. They included the American Huguenot Society (vice president), the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity (president), the Chamberlain Association of America (president), the Egyptian Exploration Society, the Philosophical Society of Great Britain, the New England Rhetorical and Genealogical Society, the Egyptian Research, the American Political Science Association, the American Historical Association, the Maine Historical Society, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, the Webster Historical Society at Boston, the American Geological Society, the American Geographical Society, the American Bible Society (senior vice president), the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (life member), American National Institute in Paris (a director), the Humane Education Society (vice president), the Maine Institute for the Blind (a director), and the National Red Cross. He wasn't merely content to pay fees and read periodicals--he attended meetings and took an active interest in the organizations. Such activity, however, took a toll on his health; in December 1890, he was taken seriously ill, and confined to his room in New York City.

During this time of illness, the 30th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg approached, and many of Chamberlain's friends tried to obtain for him some concrete recognition for his outstanding service at Little Round Top. Old comrades such as General Thomas Hubbard and General Alexander Webb wrote letters on his behalf, as did Maine's then-Governor, Henry B. Cleaves. Finally, on August 17, 1893, Chamberlain received what, to many, was a belated "thank you" from the government: the Medal of Honor. The inscription on the back read, in part:

"...for distinguished gallantry at the battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863.."(13)

Chamberlain's Medal of Honor, on display at the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library, Bowdoin College.

Photo taken by Cheryl Pula.

This is Chamberlain's actual Medal of Honor, which is in a special section of the Bowdoin College library.. I was amazed to see how small it was--and couldn't get over the fact that this was HIS medal!

During his life, Chamberlain also represented his state, and his country, at two important exhibitions. He was invited by Maine Governor Selden Conner (himself a distinguished Civil War veteran) to give the primary address at "Maine Day", during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, on November 4, 1876. He entitled his address "Maine: Her Place in History". It was a long and idealistic speech, but it was also like his gubernatorial addresses: filled with sharp realism as well. In it, he spoke of his native state as:

"...conservative; self-reliant; calm; slow, even, to wrath or novelty. She will lead in a noble cause when convinced; but she is not fanatical, narrow, or self-seeking..."(14)

Concerned about the state's young people, who were leaving in droves for opportunities elsewhere, Chamberlain wanted his state to emphasize skilled labor, rather than manual:

"Hard labor is a prison sentence; skilled labor is the enfranchisement of man".(15)

On an idealistic note, he envisaged a time, when:

" the revolutions and evolutions of history the shore of this Gulf of Maine will be the seat of industrial, social, and political empire, even beyond the early dreams; for it will be an empire where no despot either of politics or traffic, shall make merchandize of souls, but where MAN, in making himself master, makes all men free!"(16)

The address was very well received; many people thought it was the most significant of all those delivered! Chamberlain was invited to give the same speech before the Maine State Legislature in February, 1877, and it was later published as a state document.

On the international scene, Chamberlain attended the 1878 Paris Exposition, as United States Commissioner of Education, appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes. He took Fannie and his now-grown children with him, and they stayed in Europe for nearly five months, beginning in June 1878. In a way, it was the fulfillment of that European trip he'd given up, to go to war in 1862. They first visited Britain, and then took a house in Paris, so they could travel around the Continent. (He also had to raise a lot of money to finance such a long trip!) There were exciting moments to remember, such as the grand ball held in the Palace of Versailles' Hall of Mirrors; here Chamberlain danced with his daughter Grace. A far cry from his youth in Maine, when just looking into a ballroom was considered sinful!

But Chamberlain also had serious duties to perform. He got permission from the French authorities to do research on the French occupation of Maine in colonial days, by going through France's public libraries and archives. He also prepared for the U.S. government a report on educational systems, as shown in the educational exhibits at the Exposition, with a particular emphasis on France. His inspection ranged from nurseries to scientific museums. In his report, Chamberlain saw that the Europeans were more progressive in their educational systems than the U.S., especially in making education compulsory and "neutral" in religion. He saw that in Europe, education was primarily in the hands of men, whereas in America it was just the opposite: women had taken over. He wrote:

"..there is a just mean somewhere...But it will probably remain true that the reserved force and the power to command and to deal with masses, which is characteristic of manhood, will be deemed an essential factor in the proper discipline of youthful character, and the successful administration of schools on any considerable scale.:(17)

He saw the U.S. as ahead in the education of girls, and also thought that schools and colleges in the U.S. were "far behind" in the study of political ad social science:

"Nor can there be any branch of the 'humanities' more important or more urgently demanded by the times than the knowledge of the facts, the forces, and the laws by which civilization advances, and man emerges from the brute."(18)

He also liked the way Europeans gave attention to adult education, saying:

"More of this sort could be done in our higher schools of learning. The college should not only be a place where a student can get an education; it should be a light set on a hill, to shine into the dark places before it."(19)

For his efforts, Chamberlain received a bronze medal from the French government, and the compliments of John D. Philbrick, director of the Educational Exhibit of the United States.


When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1895, Chamberlain offered his services to his country once again. He contacted Maine Governor Llewellyn Powers, as well as the Secretary of War and to Senator William Frye. In the letter to Frye, Chamberlain offered to organize a division of New England troops to be distributed among several training camps, and also expressed a hope that he could go to Cuba himself. He wrote:

"I cannot but think that my day is not yet over for the service of my Country. You gentlemen in Congress and in the offices of the Government are in your right place; I desire to be in mine."(20)

He was seventy years old when he wrote this letter. The Secretary of War politely acknowledged Chamberlain's offer, but turned to younger men instead. Senator Frye and his colleague, Senator Hale, thought of him as one of the peace commissioners, but nothing came of that--as well as the suggestion from someone else that Chamberlain be considered as head of the new Philippine government.

In 1899, Chamberlain's desire to be of service came to the attention of friends in Maine, who wrote to President William McKinley, asking him to secure a position for Chamberlain to serve the Federal Government in the state of Maine--centering primarily on the post of Collector of Customs for Portland. Many letters and petitions were sent to the President, to Senators Frye and Hale, and to the First Congressional District's representative, Amos L. Allen. Even with all these letters, and expressions of support from other prominent Mainers, Chamberlain did not get the post. (Chamberlain seemed to show a reluctance to speak and work for his own advancement--not because he was shy about doing so, but because he had a great distaste for self-adulation--and he also realized that there's no such thing as an "indispensable man".)

In spite of that setback, however, Chamberlain's friends managed to secure for him the post of Surveyor of the Port of Portland. It was a less prestigious position than that of Collector of Customs, but it was much less strenuous, given the state of Chamberlain's health at the time. Chamberlain finally agreed to take this post (although he was disappointed at not getting the Collector's post), and was officially appointed by President McKinley on March 20, 1900.

The Portland Customs House (the building in the middle with the tower), Portland, ME.

Chamberlain's office was located here.

Photo courtesy of David Lepkowski.

Do not copy without his express written permission.

Chamberlain received many congratulations on getting this position--but inside he was quite distressed. In December 1899, Chamberlain wrote of this distress to an old friend, General John T. Richards:

"The surveyorship is a good little office, no doubt...It is said to be an easy place--no responsibilities, no duties, no power, no prominence, no part in the governmental representation, and requiring no ability...To me it suggests a free bed in a hospital. It has a good salary for such a place, I confess, and that is something of a silencer."(21)

Then he really said what was on his mind, and heart:

"What I aspired to...was the Collectorship. This is a representative office. It is concerned not only with the collection of the customs; but it represents the party in power; represents the President among the people as the Senators and Members of Congress represent the people in the halls of legislation and government...Hence it has been held not unworthy of the ambition of first-class men. It has been thought promotion even for Governors. I am free to say I thought myself equal to these things."(22)

As he thought of the Surveyorship, Chamberlain scoffed:

"{the Surveyorship} has nothing of this character or history about it. It is essentially an obscure office, tending to keep one out of notice, as well as out of responsibility. I am conscious of vital activities which welcome heavier tasks, and demand more scope."(23)

In the end, he applied himself vigorously to the task at hand, determined to make more of the job than it originally offered, and soon made good friends of everybody at the Customs House--especially the Collector. He was also grateful that the job was not strenuous, especially when he suffered a violent inflammation of the Petersburg wound in 1900.

From November 10, 1900 to January 10, 1901, Chamberlain took an extended trip to the Mediterranean, hoping that its warmer climate would aid in the recovery of this most recent infection from his Civil War wounds.

He had wanted to see the ancient classical lands there, especially Italy. But wet winter weather there forced a change in plans, and several acquaintances urged him to go to Egypt, where the drier climate would be better. Chamberlain took their advice enthusiastically, and took up lodgings in Cairo. He did have a brief bout with illness while there, but he received the best of care. He also applied to the Secretary of the Treasury for an extension of his leave, which was granted - and so was able to really relax and enjoy himself.

During his stay in Egypt, Chamberlain developed a consuming interest in both the country's historic past, and exciting present. According to a story later told by his niece, Alice Farrington, Chamberlain became interested in Islam. He would read the Koran in the original language at bedtime -- and then, as if to remind himself that he was, after all, a Christian, he also put his Bible on his night-table, and would read an equal portion from each book before retiring!

All in all, Chamberlain loved his stay in Egypt, and said afterwards that:

" winter on the Nile could not be otherwise than charming and full of historic interest". (23a)

Fannie did not accompany Chamberlain on this trip; by this time, she had lost her sight completely, and she was left in the care of Grace and her family. Chamberlain did not forget his wife; he wrote to her just before he left:

"You remember we are 'engaged' again, not to sink down under any evils in our absence, but to keep whole and well for other days to come."(24)

Chamberlain himself got seriously ill while in Egypt, which delayed his trip home; he returned in the spring of 1901.

Besides his work as Surveyor, Chamberlain also fulfilled many speaking engagements at this time. He spoke at many historic anniversaries in the East, as well as at meetings of the GAR and the Loyal Legion. His most significant address during this time was given on the hundredth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth in February 1909, at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. He chose as his theme "Abraham Lincoln Seen from the Field":

"But always he wished to see the army together...This had a being, a place, a power beyond the aggregate of its individual units. A review was therefore held, in completeness and most careful order. Slowly he rode along front and rear of the opened ranks, that he might see all sides of things as they were...We could see the deep sadness in his face, and feel the burden on his heart...and we took him into our hearts with answering sympathy, and gave him our pity in return."(25)

At the conclusion of the speech, the veterans sat in momentary silence, then leapt to their feet in thunderous applause.

Chamberlain's last home, Ocean Avenue, Portland, ME.

Photo taken by Cheryl Pula.

Cheryl and I found this wonderful old house on a cold, damp day in October. I hope the current occupant didn't see us, snapping pictures like crazy! He must have thought we were nuts.

Besides the speeches, Chamberlain also did a lot of writing about his war experiences. In early 1913, the editor of "Cosmopolitan" magazine asked him to contribute an article, which became "My Story of Fredericksburg". He was also contacted by "Hearst's Magazine" for another article, which became "Through Blood & Fire at Gettysburg". (Unfortunately, the first article caused a serious rift to develop between Chamberlain and his old comrade, Ellis Spear. It seems the editors of "Cosmopolitan"--a Hearst-edited publication--did some "colorful editing" of the article, which infuriated Spear. He thought it was Chamberlain's work--but when Chamberlain himself found out about it, he TOO was infuriated! But Spear didn't know this, and began to publicly condemn his former commanding officer.) He also presented papers on the subjects of the White Oak Road battle and the battle at Five Forks, which became the basis for his only published book, "The Passing of the Armies"--which was not published until after his death.

In May of 1913, Chamberlain made his last known visit to Gettysburg, as Maine's representative on the planning committee for the 50th anniversary reunion in July of that year. He went once more to that southern slope of the hill, where his Twentieth Maine had won their undying fame:

"I went--it is not long ago--to stand again upon that crest whose one day's crown of fire has passed into the blazoned coronet of fame; to look again upon the rocks whereon were laid as on the altar the lives of {Strong} Vincent and {Colonel Patrick} O'Rorke {the commander of the 140th New York, who helped save the right flank of Vincent's Brigade--and who died as a result.]"(26).

As he sat there, he thought he could see in his mind's eye his old comrades returning once more:

"I sat there alone on the storied crest, till the sun went down as it did before the misty hills, and the darkness crept up the slopes, till from all earthly sight I was buried as with those before. But oh, what radiant companionship was around, what steadfast ranks of power, what bearing of heroic souls. Oh, the glory that beamed through those nights and days. Nobody will ever know it here!--I am sorry most of all for that."(27)

Sadly, Chamberlain's health wouldn't permit him to go to that great reunion--his doctor, the faithful Dr. Abner Shaw (the same man who saved Chamberlain's life at Petersburg in 1864) would not permit him to go. The heat would probably have killed him. But he saw the Maine contingent off at the train station in Portland--no doubt wishing with all his heart that he could be with them.

In August 1913 Chamberlain visited his daughter's family at their summer home, sailing and spending time with the family. He was even considering writing a book about Gettysburg, but he soon fell ill again, and Grace came from Boston in December to be with him. Dr. Shaw was also with him. Later that month, he felt well enough to sit up in a chair and dictate letters to his surviving sister, Sae. This illness really sapped his remaining strength; and by January 1914, he was completely bedridden. On January 20, 1914, he said in a letter to Sae:

"I am passing through deep waters...The Doctor thinks I am going to land once more on this shore...I am trying to get a little closer to God and to know him better."(28)

Two weeks later, he would write:

"Am gaining strength, but slow work. The bed and bed-side chair are still my habitual place. Have to keep a trained nurse for awhile yet."(29)

He was almost recovered from this illness, when he caught cold and suffered a relapse. This time there was no hope of recovery, and, with Grace and Wyllys at his bedside, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain died, quietly, at his home in Portland, on February 24, 1914. Grace especially was crushed by her loss; her husband Horace came down from Boston to comfort her.

Three days later, on February 27, 1914, a military funeral was held at Portland's City Hall, under the charge of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. Hundreds of people lined the streets as Chamberlain's coffin was taken from his Ocean Avenue home to City Hall. Two thousand people gathered inside City Hall; they included such dignitaries as Maine's governor, representatives of the governor of Massachusetts, officers of Bowdoin College, as well as members of the Loyal Legion and the Grand Army of the Republic. His casket was attended by an honor guard. After two music selections--Beethoven's funeral march "On the Death of a Hero", and Chamberlain's favorite, "The Death of Asa" from Grieg's "Peer Gynt"--the eulogy was delivered by Rev. Jesse M. Hill. He told the crowd, in part:

"There was a texture to his mind, a color to his soul, a certain quality to his personality that would have made him conspicuous and lovable without the titles and robes of the earth...He was the incarnation of the best and manliest qualities of the American character."(30)

Following a prayer, and the playing of "Taps" from the upper gallery, the casket was taken from the hall by the honor guard, to the strains of Chopin's "Funeral March". The funeral procession then made its way through Portland, to the train station, where a special train waited to take Chamberlain home to Brunswick.

Grave of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Pine Grove Cemetery, Brunswick, ME.

Photo taken by Cheryl Pula.

Cheryl took this picture of Chamberlain's grave, on another damp day in Maine. It's always decorated with flowers, flags, small rocks, pinecones, notes--and pennies!

I wonder what it was like, that cold February day, when Chamberlain was finally laid to rest...

In Brunswick, life came to a standstill, as the train carrying Chamberlain's body pulled into the Maine Central station. Businesses closed, classes at Bowdoin were suspended, and flags flew at half-mast. Members of the Grand Army post in Brunswick acted as escorts, and, led by Bowdoin students as a body, proceeded to the First Parish Church for the final service. Cello music was played, a soloist sang two of Chamberlain's favorite hymns: "Abide with Me" and "Nearer My God to Thee", and Bowdoin President William DeWitt Hyde delivered the eulogy. In it, he described Chamberlain's life and career, and attempted to explain why he was such an extraordinary man:

"Whoever, whether as patriot or Christian dares to plant his standards far in advance of present and sustained achievement, runs the risk of ...misinterpretation. General Chamberlain never hauled down his flag to the low level of what he or any man could easily do or habitually be. All he said and did was bright and burning with an ardor of idealism which in the home was devotion; in the college was loyalty; in the State and nation was patriotism; toward humanity and God was religion."(31)

After the service, the funeral procession made its way on the Bath Road, to Pine Grove Cemetery. After a salute of three volleys was fired by the National Guard escort, Chamberlain's casket was lowered into the earth, to lie beside his beloved wife, Fannie. In the days to come, both his daughter Grace and his son Wyllys would also be buried in this family plot.

So ends the story of this great man, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. I want to end this by quoting a passage from "Sunset of the Confederacy", a book written by West Point graduate General Morris Schaaf. It seems an appropriate way to end. In this passage, General Schaaf tries to explain why he thought Chamberlain was selected to receive the Confederate surrender at Appomattox:

"I believe that the selection of Chamberlain to represent the Army of the Potomac was providential in this, that he, in the way he discharged his duty, represented the spiritually-real of the world. And by this I mean the lofty conceptions of what in human conduct is manly and merciful, showing in daily life consideration for others and on the battlefield linking courage with magnanimity and sharing an honorable enemy's woes....Great in the broad and high sense, was the cause battled for and spontaneous and knightly was this act of Chamberlain's {the salute he gave General Gordon}, lending a permanent glow to the close of the war like that of banded evening clouds at the end of an all-day beating rain. It came from the heart and it went to the heart; and when "taps" shall sound for Chamberlain I wish that I could be in hearing, hear Maine's granite coast with its green islands and moon-light reflecting coves taking them up in succession from Portland to Eastport, and as the ocean's voice dies away, hear her vast wilderness of hemlock, spruce and pine repeating them with majestic pride for her beloved son."(32)
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