"Burnside's Bridge", Antietam National Battlefield Park, near Sharpsburg, MD:

I took this picture on a lovely October day in 1994. I was struck by the peacefulness of the scene; I had just begun to read about this battle--the bloodiest single day in the Civil War, September 17, 1862. And even today, it's still the bloodiest day in all American military history.

The 20th Maine had mustered into Federal Service in August 1862, as part of the Third Brigade, First Division, of the Army of the Potomac's Fifth Corps. On September 12, 1862, the First Division, under the command of General George Morell, moved out of its Washington-area camps, and the men of the 20th Maine began its first long march. Chamberlain rode alongside Colonel Ames, and the two officers made a handsome pair, riding erectly on their horses. The 20th's new uniforms and accouterments made quite a sharp contrast with the more worn apparel of the more veteran regiments.

Moving out of Washington, the men moved northwest into Maryland, toward the city of Frederick. The following day, the men in the newer regiments began discarding all their extra items alongside the road, in order to lighten their loads. The more experienced regiments, instead, rolled the barest of necessities up in a blanket that they wore across the body and over the shoulder; their canteens and mess items were hung from their belts. The dust, kicked up by thousands of marching feet, choked both veteran and new soldier alike, as they sweated in their woolen uniforms. And even the strongest men's wills could no longer command their bodies, as they fell behind their units--they caught up with their comrades long after dark had fallen.

After a forced march of some 24 miles the next day, the 20th Maine went into bivouac along the Monocacy River, two miles from Frederick. All day long, they heard the sound of booming cannon, as the Union forces fought the Confederates for control of three South Mountain passes. South Mountain was the name given to a range of low mountains, which ran north from the Potomac River through Maryland into Pennsylvania. As the Fifth Corps marched into Frederick, Maryland, the following day, they were welcomed enthusiastically by the city's pro-Union sympathizers. The men were given water and bread by handkerchief-waving ladies, who stood at their gates.

A very lovely photo of a now-tranquil Dunker Church -- around which some of the worst fighting took place on that bloody September 17, 1862.

Antietam National Battlefield Park, near Sharpsburg, MD

Photo by David Williamson -- and used with his kind permission.

Do not copy without express written permission from the photographer.

Leaving Frederick behind, the men turned westward, towards Middletown -- where the 20th Maine saw their first Rebel prisoners. One private described them as "tall, lank, slouchy-looking fellows clad in dirty gray uniforms".

Very early the next morning, Chamberlain and the 20th Maine resumed the march. The signs of battle were all around them: wounded men lay in every surrounding house and barn, and fresh mounds of earth showed where the dead were hastily buried. As they entered Turner's Gap -- the main pass through South Mountain -- more signs of the fighting could be seen: discarded guns, knapsacks, hats -- and turned-up earth, and trees scarred by shells and bullets.

Near a stone wall, where the Confederates battled desperately to hold off the men of General John Gibbon's "Black Hat" Brigade almost 36 hours before, lay many unburied Rebels killed in the fight. The bodies were bloodied and bloated -- an awful sight for the Mainers, who weren't used to such scenes.

And their lieutenant colonel was no exception. Chamberlain saw the figure of a Confederate soldier sitting with his back to an old tree. One hand was clasping a small Testament. Moving closer, Chamberlain saw it was a boy

"....of scarcely sixteen summers". (1A)

Startled, it was difficult for Chamberlain to realize that

"...this was my enemy -- this boy! Oh God forgive those who made us so!" (1B)

He then saw that the eyes on the boy's face were soft and dim, and there was a red stain on his shirt. The boy had indeed fallen asleep. Maybe not as soon as his surrounding comrades -- but he would never awaken again.

Sickened by what he saw, Chamberlain would not forget that day on South Mountain:

"He was dead -- the boy, my enemy, but I shall see him forever". (1C)

. The 20th Maine would not experience the bloody combat at Antietam, unlike many other green regiments in the First, Second,Sixth, Ninth and Twelfth Corps. They did, however, participate in a brief skirmish on September 30, at the Shepherdstown Ford on the Potomac River:

"That day Chamberlain was riding a black horse, lent to him by Major Charles Gilmore (of the 20th Maine), in order to spare his own 'splendid white horse', which he had named 'Prince', from exposure to fire. As Chamberlain was calmly steadying his men of his own regiment and others through a deep place in the river, the Major's steed was wounded in the head near the bridle, and became the first of several horses to be shot under the intrepid Lt. Colonel."(1)

Here's another beautiful look at Burnside's Bridge.

Antietam National Battlefield Park, near Sharpsburg, MD.

Photo courtesy of David Williamson.

Do not copy without his express written permission.

During the first weeks of his Civil War service, Chamberlain wrote a number of letters to his wife Fannie back in Brunswick. As the correspondence went on, he began to number the letters he sent to her - whether it was due to mail delivery problems, or possibly the fact that Fannie didn't write letters as much as her husband wanted her to.

In one such letter, dated October 10, 1862, Chamberlain refers to that very subject:

"My dear Fanny--

"It is very evident that you do not get all my letters: perhaps I don't get yours. Now it occurs to me that it be a good idea to number the letters. I will begin with this, if I can recall all that I have written -- this must be at least the 5th letter of mine to you. O! yes it is the 6th or 7th, I have rec'd from you..."

In the following section from the same letter, Chamberlain is apparently trying to dissuade Fannie from visiting him in the 20th Maine's camp. It was in the immediate aftermath of the horrific battle of Antietam in September, and the Army of the Potomac had recrossed Antietam Creek, and were now situated near a place called Antietam Ford, where the creek flows into the Potomac River.

"Does not your innocent little head imagine that I could get a photograph (!) taken here? My stars! I fear you have not a high idea of my position. If we can get any thing to eat, or any thing to sleep on except the open ground; or under, save the sky; if we can see a house that is not riddled with shot & shell, or left tenantless through terror; or if we could get a glimpse of a woman who does not exceed the requirements for sweepers in College, we think we are in Paradise". (1a)

The reference to 'sweepers' in Chamberlain's letter is to the Brunswick-area women employed by Bowdoin College, who cleaned the students' rooms and made the beds. There was a joke amongst the all-male student body then at Bowdoin, that the primary qualification of these hardworking, yet underpaid, women had to be physical unattractiveness--supposedly to avoid potentially scandalous situations from occurring. One Bowdoin tradition made reference to a rather straitlaced president, who inquired about a potential sweeper candidate: "Is she sufficiently repulsive in her personal appearance?"

In this same letter, Chamberlain appears to backtrack a bit on his somewhat critical tone, and attempts to describe to Fannie both the hardships she might face in current camp conditions should she visit -- and also describe his longing for her presence:

"I should wonder to see a woman in our camp. Really I think the exposure & hardship would kill her in less than a week. Then we had not half the comforts that most other Regts. have because we have not been able to get teams & transportation. I do not imagine any body would be more glad to see any body, that somebody to see somebody who is the constant center of his every dream & the soul of his every thought! But for the present, only dreams & thoughts in that delightful side & deeds and works on the other. By & by you will be able to come & find me in some civilized shape I hope. My rubber blanket is not quite big enough to accommodate ever so sweet & welcoming a guest on the rough hill sides, or in the drenching valleys that constitute my changing homes:. (1b)

As the beautiful Maryland autumn moved on, Chamberlain was able to poke fun at himself and his appearance in letters, thinking he looked absolutely ridiculous. The formerly clean-shaven college professor now sported a bearded face, and his only uniform had become ragged, the trousers worn, in his words:

"....quite out of the question".(1c)

In place of them, he wore a sky-blue cavalry pair that were much too big for him; and, when it was cold, a huge and rough cavalry overcoat. His cap sported a huge rent in it -- a souvenir from a picket raid Chamberlain led to one of the South Mountain passes, where Confederate General James E.B. "Jeb" Stuart was said to be in the vicinity of. Two huge pistols in their holsters and a fine three-foot sword strapped to his side completed the outfit.

Colonel Ames, in fact, joked that the 20th Maine was recognized everywhere by its ragged-looking second-in-command seated on his beautiful dappled horse, giving the impression of, in Chamberlain's words:

".....that peculiar quality of incongruity which constitutes the ridiculous'. (1d)

In conclusion, he added with tongue in cheek:

"Rebel prisoners praise the horse and the sword, but evidently take no fancy to the man". (1e)


Fifth Corps monument,

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, VA.

My friend Cheryl and I visited Fredericksburg on another perfect October 1994 day. When I read the words "20th Maine" on the monument--erected by order of their former corps commander, General Daniel Butterfield, I almost burst into tears!

The first time the 20th Maine saw major battle action, it was at Fredericksburg, Virginia, in December 1862. The Army of the Potomac was now under the command of Major General Ambrose Burnside (the previous commander, the very-popular Major General George B. McClellan, had been relieved of command by President Lincoln in November 1862, after McClellan failed to pursue General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia after Antietam). Burnside had reorganized the AOP into three "Grand Divisions": the 20th Maine would be part of the "Center Grand Division", under command of General Joe Hooker. The battle was a disaster from the start; pontoon bridges needed to cross the Rappahannock River were late in coming, giving Lee's men time to concentrate and form up behind a convenient stone wall, behind the city at the foot of a hill called "Marye's Heights". The Confederates waited for the Union troops to get within range, and mowed them down like grass.

The "Stone Wall" at the foot of Marye's Heights,

Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, VA

As we walked behind that stone wall, I could see that the Union soldiers who bravely charged the position in December 1862 never had a chance to succeed! The road behind the wall was lower at the time of the battle, so the Confederates had excellent protection.

"On we pushed, up slopes slippery with blood, miry with repeated, unavailing tread. We reached that final crest, before that all-commanding, countermanding stone wall."(2)

The 20th Maine was part of the last charge of the day, fighting with their comrades in the Center Grand Division. They lost four killed, 32 wounded--light casualties, considering it was their first major action, and the fact they had to spend the night in front of the wall, in freezing temperatures!

Chamberlain lay among the dead, trying to keep from freezing to death himself. He placed one dead soldier on either side of him and one in front, and tried to gain some protection from their "closeness". As he lay there, the sounds of the night seared themselves into his memory:

"All night the winds sound whose gloomy insistence impressed upon my mood was the flapping of a loosened window-blind in a forsaken brick house to our had a weird rhythm as it swung between the hoarse answering sash and struck a chord far deepening the theme of the eternal song of 'the old clock on the stairs': NEVER-FOREVER-FOREVER-NEVER!"(3)

There was another, more personal, incident that touched Chamberlain deeply:

"Wakened by the sharp fire that spoke the dawn, as I lifted my head from its restful though strange pillow, there fell out from the breast pocket a much-worn little New Testament written in it the owner's name and home. I could do no less than take this to my keeping, resolved that it should be sent to that home in the sweet valley of the Susquehanna as a token that he who bore it had kept t he faith and fought the fight. I may add that sparing mercy allowed the wish to be fulfilled, and this evidence gave the stricken mother's name a place in the list of the nation's remembered benefactors".(4)

The 20th Maine did manage to retreat back to Fredericksburg, but not before burying their dead. As they performed this sad task, nature put on a bizarre light show: the aurora borealis lit up the night sky--a weird thing to be happening so far south! The 20th was also among the last Union troops to get across the pontoon bridges and back to their camps in Falmouth, Virginia. Back on the opposite shore, an exhausted Chamberlain and his men sat down by the road, in the rain. Suddenly, General Hooker appeared, and came over to Chamberlain, who was sitting with his back against a tree:

"....(Hooker) gave kindly greeting. "You've had a hard chance, Colonel; I am glad to see you out of it! I was not cheerful, but tried to be bright. "It was chance, General; not much intelligent design there!" "God knows I did not put you in!" came the rather crisp reply. "That was the trouble, General. You should have put us in. We were handled in piecemeal, on toasting-forks". It was plain talk. And he did not reprove me."(5)

Thankfully, Chamberlain did not get into trouble for being so outspoken to General Hooker. It was also a good thing that forthrightness was a prized trait in a Civil War officer!

The 20th Maine, and the rest of the Army of the Potomac, spent the rest of the winter of 1862-63 in their winter camps at Falmouth--but not before getting involved in General Burnside's infamous "Mud March", when virtually the whole army got stuck in the gooey Virginia mud. It wasn't long after this that General Burnside resigned as AOP commander, and was replaced by General "Fighting Joe" Hooker.

Outline of foundation of the "Chancellor House",

Chancellorsville Battlefield, VA

This picture was taken in October 1994, not far from where General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson made his famous flank attack that crashed into the Union Eleventh Corps on May 2, 1863. General Hooker's headquarters were in this house, which burned down during the fighting.

The 20th Maine did not participate in the Battle of Chancellorsville, due to their receiving bad smallpox vaccine! Over 80 men were infected, and several died. As a result, they were quarantined away from the rest of the AOP. Colonel Ames managed to get a place on General George Meade's staff, leaving Chamberlain in charge of the regimental "pest house", as he called it! He wanted to get into the action himself, however, and rode over to the headquarters of Fifth Corps commander General Daniel Butterfield, to see if the 20th Maine would be allowed to fight. When Butterfield firmly refused, fearing a mass epidemic, Chamberlain had a most un-Christian inspiration! He said:

"If we could do anything, we could give the Rebels the smallpox!"(6)

Needless to say, General Butterfield was not impressed with this concept of "germ warfare", so he put the 20th Maine in charge of guarding the telegraph line from the Falmouth camps to General Hooker's headquarters. Chamberlain, however, did manage to get into the fight somewhat: he was with General Charles Griffin's First Division of the Fifth Corps at the Rappahannock River, which got into a fight with Jeb Stuart's men. Chamberlain also assisted in the AOP's retreat back across the river; his steadying words and presence impressing itself on General Griffin. So much so that, when Colonel Ames was promoted to Brigade command with the Eleventh Corps, both Griffin and Ames recommended Chamberlain to promotion to full Colonel, and command of the 20th Maine. That happened on June 23, 1863.


This beautiful portrait of Chamberlain was sent to me by Maine artist Ken Hendricksen--I am overwhelmed by his generosity and kind permission!

Please do not copy without express consent of Mr. Hendricksen.

Just after Joshua Chamberlain took command of the 20th, an incident happened that would test his leadership skills to the utmost: One hundred and twenty men of the old 2nd Maine regiment were literally dumped into his lap! These veteran soldiers were rough and tough fellows--having 'cleared the field' in a brigade-wide brawl just after the battle of Fredericksburg.

These men also thought they were being mustered out with their comrades, whose two-year enlistments had recently expired. Unfortunately, these 120 men had mistakenly signed up for three-year enlistments! They mutinied and refused to do military duty, and were awaiting court-martial:

"They had been soon brought over to me under the guard of the 118th Pennsylvania, with fixed bayonets; with orders to me to take them into my regiment and 'make them do duty, or shoot them down the moment they refused'...The responsibility, I had thought, gave me some discretionary power. So I had placed their names on our rolls, distributed them by groups, to equalize companies and particularly to break up the 'esprit de corps' of banded mutineers. Then I had called them together and pointed out to them the situation; that they could not be entertained as civilian guests by me; that they were by authority of the United States on my rolls as soldiers; and I should treat them as soldiers should be treated; that they should lose no rights by obeying orders; and I would see what could be done for their claim."(7)

Because of Chamberlain's actions, all but six of these men ended up fighting with the 20th Maine--and none too soon. The 20th had need of more men, and they and the rest of the AOP were soon to be pursuing Lee's army north again. They were on the road to Gettysburg.


Little Round Top,

Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA

This was taken from the rocks at Devil's Den; the 20th Maine's position was to the right and behind the trees, on the side of the hill facing nearby Big Round Top. The rest of the Fifth Corps' Third Brigade--83rd Pennsylvania, 44th New York, and 16th Michigan--filed into line on their right.

From Chancellorsville, the 20th Maine, and the rest of the AOP, began their pursuit of Lee's army in late May 1863. During that long march in the blazing sun, Chamberlain came down with sunstroke, and was briefly left behind to recover. Without him, the 20th fought at Middleburg, VA, under the temporary command of the 44th New York's Lt. Colonel Freeman Conner. Chamberlain was aided in his recovery by his younger brother John, who had joined the Christian Commission, and managed to find both the regiment, and his brothers Joshua and Tom; Tom at this time was serving as an adjutant to his brother, the Colonel. Chamberlain was also suffering a recurrence of malaria, along with the sunstroke.

After a long and arduous march--which included an all-night forced march on July 1-2--the Fifth Corps arrived near Gettysburg in the early hours of July 2. During this night march, some bizarre things seemed to be happening:

"At a turn of the road a staff officer, with an air of authority, told each colonel as he came riding up, that McClellan was in command again, and riding ahead of us on the road. Then wild cheers rolled from the crowding column into the brooding sky, and the earth shook under the quickened tread. Now from a dark angle of the roadside came a whisper, whether from earthly or unearthly voice one cannot feel quite sure, that the august form of Washington had been seen that afternoon at sunset riding over the Gettysburg hills. Let no one smile at me! I half believed it myself--so did the powers of the other world draw nigh!"(8)

The Fifth Corps was moved around several times (including a brief stop at the edge of the infamous "Wheatfield"). A messenger from General G.K. Warren, the AOP's chief engineer arrived, looking for troops to be sent to a place called Little Round Top; General Warren was atop the hill, overlooking the field, and watching Confederate Lt. General James Longstreet's men smash into troops of General Dan Sickles' Third Corps, and head for Little Round Top. (Sickles didn't like where his men were posted, so he moved them forward, closer to the Emmitsburg Road. Unfortunately, he left Little Round Top exposed and undefended, save for a unit of the Signal Corps. Warren saw the immediate danger, and sent messengers looking for men to get up there and defend the hill.) The messenger ran into the 20th Maine's brigade commander, Colonel Strong Vincent, who took it upon himself to take his brigade (without waiting for orders from Division command) and get up to Little Round Top. They got there with only minutes to spare.

83rd Pennsylvania Monument, looking from the 20th Maine's right flank,

Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA.

Photo taken by Margaret Marley Stowell.

My friend Margaret and I visited this spot during our 1998 trip to Gettysburg; it was a wet day, and rather spooky, with all the fog and such around. She took a beautiful picture! That's Colonel Strong Vincent's statue atop this monument, by the way.

On the way up the slope, the three Chamberlain brothers--Joshua, John and Tom--were riding abreast of each other, when a solid shot from a Confederate battery came flying into their midst. That disturbed Colonel Chamberlain. He said to his brothers:

"Boys, I don't like this. Another such shot might make it hard for mother. Tom, go to the rear of the regiment and see that it is well closed up! John, pass up ahead and look out a place for our wounded."(9)

This is one of those National Park Service battlefield markers at Gettysburg, depicting the monent Colonel Strong Vincent tells Chamberlain to "Hold This Ground at All Hazards".

Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA.

Photo courtesy of Beth Miller. Do not use without her express written permission.

From right to left, Vincent placed the men: 16th Michigan, 44th New York, 83rd Pennsylvania--and the 20th Maine. The 20th Maine was the last in line--the left flank of the entire Army of the Potomac! Colonel Vincent wanted to make sure Chamberlain understood his responsibility, and that of his men:

"Reaching the southern face of Little Round Top, I found Vincent there, with intense poise and look. He said with a voice of awe, as if translating the tables of the eternal law, "I place you here! This is the left of the Union line. You understand. You are to hold this ground at all costs!'"(10)

Chamberlain definitely understood. He went about preparing his men for what they would face. Years later, one of his officers, Captain Howard Prince, would recall watching Chamberlain in the moments before battle:

"Up and down the line, with a last word of encouragement or caution, walks the quiet man, whose calm exterior concealed the fire of the warrior and heart of steel, whose careful dispositions and ready resource, whose unswerving courage and audacious nerve in the last desperate crisis, are to crown himself and his faithful soldiers with...fadeless laurels."(11)

The Rebel shells stopped falling. That meant one thing: the infantry was coming fast. Sure enough, it did, with the high-pitched scream of the Rebel yell. They came storming up through the trees--men of the 15th and 47th Alabama, and the 4th and 5th Texas, of General John Bell Hood's brigade. Soon the 20th Maine was heavily engaged:

"The edge of the conflict swayed to and fro, with wild whirlpools and eddies. At times I saw around me more of the enemy than of my own men; gaps opening, swallowing, closing again with sharp convulsive energy...all around, strange mingled roar..."(12)

One of Chamberlain's officers, a Lt. Nichols, ran up to him and told him that something strange was going on in his front, behind the Rebels engaging his men. The Confederates were trying to get around the 20th's left flank. If they succeeded, the Rebels could get in the brigade's rear, and destroy them piece by piece.

"That front had to be held, and that rear covered...I called the captains and told them my tactics: to keep the front fire at the hottest....and at the same time, as they found opportunity, to take side-steps to the left, coming gradually into one rank, file-closers and all. Then I took the colors with their guard and placed them at our extreme left, where a great boulder gave token and support; thence bending back at a right angle the whole body gained ground leftward and made twice our original front...This was a difficult movement to execute under such fire, requiring coolness as well as heat. Of rare quality were my officers and men."(13)

Chamberlain's daring maneuver--"refusing the line"--kept the left flank from being overrun, but it thinned out his men, giving the regiment no reserves.

This marks the extreme left flank of the 20th Maine's line, after Chamberlain had ordered them to 'refuse the line'.

Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA.

Photo courtesy of Beth Miller. Do not use without her express written permission.

At one point in the battle, Chamberlain's life was in mortal danger, although he didn't know it at the time. A Rebel sharpshooter had him dead in his sights, but for some reason, could not bring himself to pull the trigger. The unnamed man sent Chamberlain the following letter some years after the war:

"Dear Sir: I want to tell you of a little passage in the battle of Round Top, Gettysburg, concerning you and me, which I am now glad of. Twice in that fight I had your life in my hands. I got a safe place between two rocks, and drew bead fair and square on you. You were standing in the open behind the center of your line, full exposed. I knew your rank by your uniform and your actions, and I thought it a mighty good thing to put you out of the way. I rested my gun on the rock and took steady aim. I started to pull the trigger, but some queer notion stopped me. Then I got ashamed of my weakness and went through the same motions again. I had you, perfectly certain. But this same queer something shut right down on me. I couldn't pull the trigger, and gave it up--that is, your life. I am glad of it now, and hope you are. Yours truly, a member of the 15th Alabama."(14)

I've always wondered what Chamberlain's initial reaction to that letter must have been! He mused:

"I thought he was that, and answered him accordingly, asking him to come up north and see whether I was worth what he missed. But my answer never found him, nor could I afterwards."(15)

By this time, about two hours or so had passed, and the situation for the 20th Maine was becoming desperate. Even though Chamberlain had "refused the line", his left flank was taking a real beating, and time was running out, as well as ammunition. As his men fired their last rounds, they all looked at Chamberlain as if to say: "What now?" Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say. Let Chamberlain describe what happened next:

"...Brave, warm-hearted Lt. Melcher of the color company...came up and asked if he might take his company and go forward and pick up one or two of his men left wounded on the field...I answered, 'Yes, sir, in a moment! I am about to order a charge!' Desperate as the chances were, there was nothing for it, but to take the offensive. I stepped to the colors. The men turned towards me. One word was enough-"BAYONET!"--it caught like fire, and swept along the ranks. The men took it up with a was vain to order 'FORWARD'".(16)

Here is the 20th Maine's right flank marker.

Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA.

Photo courtesy of Beth Miller. Do not use without her express written permission.

The remaining 200 or so men of the regiment ran down the hill (as much as the rocky terrain would let them), screaming hoarsely, bayonets at the ready. The shocked Confederates didn't know what to do; here were these bayonet-wielding Yankees bearing down on them--when suddenly they were hit from the flank by musket fire! The 20th's Company B, led by Captain Walter Morrill, had been sent out on the extreme left, as protection. They found a stone wall to hide behind, and were joined by some U.S. Sharpshooters, who had been driven off Big Round Top by the Confederates. This was all too much for the exhausted Rebs; many threw down their weapons and surrendered, and others ran, in the words of Colonel William Oates of the 15th Alabama:

" a herd of wild cattle".(17)

Chamberlain himself had another close call, almost at point-blank range. A Confederate officer with a sword in one hand and big navy revolver in the other, fired at Chamberlain's face. But the gun misfired, and Chamberlain brought the point of his sword to the officer's throat and took him prisoner. He took the officer's revolver, and gave the sword and the officer into the hands of a nearby sergeant.

"The Tenacious 20th Maine": a National Park Service battlefield marker, describing what the regiment did on that hot July 2, 1863.

Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA.

Photo courtesy of Beth Miller. Do not use without her express written permission.

The 20th Maine, once it got started charging, was hard to stop. They got as far as the front of the 44th New York, declaring they were "on the road to Richmond"! It took Chamberlain and his officers a while to bring the men back. They took, all told, around 400 Rebel prisoners. In spite of their heroic charge, the day was not over for the 20th Maine.

This monument marks the spot where Colonel Strong Vincent, commander of the Third Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps, was mortally wounded, trying to rally the 16th Michigan, on July 2, 1863.

He was promoted to Brigadier General for his heroic action, but died of his wounds on July 7, 1863.

Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA.

Photo courtesy of Beth Miller. Do not use without her express written permission.

The new Third Brigade commander, Colonel James Rice of the 44th New York (Rice took over the Brigade's command after Strong Vincent was mortally wounded earlier in the fight; Vincent had gone to shore up the 16th Michigan's crumbling flank, when he was wounded in the groin. He would die five days later of that wound.), ordered the 20th Maine to take nearby Big Round Top, after a brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves had refused to do so. Chamberlain then asked for volunteers, and the whole exhausted regiment got up and followed him up the hill. After a very nerve-racking ascent (they could take fire, but not return it, much to their annoyance--plus they didn't know how many Rebs were about!), the 20th Maine set up a watch and slept on their arms. Eventually, they were supported by both the 44th New York and 83rd Pennsylvania--plus some of those Pennsylvania Reserves. They also managed to take a few more Reb prisoners, mainly Texans from Hood's Brigade.

The "second" 20th Maine monument,

Big Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA:

This is a 20th Maine monument that not many people see--because it's at the end of a long hard climb up Big Round Top! I don't know HOW I made it up here! This marks their position on the night of July 2-3, 1863. Too bad the inscription's not easy to read.

After an anxious night, the 20th Maine was relieved on Big Round Top, and placed in reserve near the Fifth Corps' headquarters. They lay there during the bombardment that preceded "Pickett's Charge" on July 3rd, but were too far away to be engaged in the fight on Cemetery Ridge. They were also sent on a patrol near the Round Tops a couple of days later, and saw some pretty ghastly scenes--one of which was the remains of the John Sherfy barn, which had caught fire during the battle. Inside had been wounded men from both sides, and, being unable to escape, they burned to death. After what the 20th Maine had gone through on July 2nd, this was almost too much to bear...

Before leaving Gettysburg, the 20th Maine bid farewell to their dead. They buried them in shallow graves, near where they fought and died:

"There they lay, side by side, with touch of elbow still; brave, manly resolution, heroic self-giving, divine reconciliation...we buried them there, in a grave, alas, too wide, on the sunny side of a great rock, eternal witnesses of their worth--the rock and the sun. Rude head-boards, made of ammunition boxes, rudely carved under tear-dimmed eyes, marked and named each grave, and told each home."(18)
This is the inscription on the east side of the 20th Maine monument,

Little Round Top, Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, PA.

Photo by David Valencia.

Do not use without his express written permission.

It reads:


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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.