JOSHUA LAWRENCE CHAMBERLAIN'S
TIES TO CENTRAL NEW YORK
This unusual picture of Chamberlain is from the collection of the Pejepscot Historical Society, Brunswick, ME. Please do not use without their permission. Thanks!
On this page, I decided to include articles from the Syracuse, NY, newspapers of late May 1888, which describe Joshua Chamberlain's visit to Syracuse, for Memorial Day 1888. He was invited here to speak, by veterans of the 185th New York Volunteer Infantry, a unit in Chamberlain's First Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac.
(Syracuse Evening Herald, Saturday, June 2, 1888)
General Chamberlain Speaks to Some of His Old Soldiers
Root Post G.A.R. brought its Memorial Day ceremonies to a fitting
close last evening at the Alhambra. The Rev. S.T. Ford offered prayer
and war songs were sung by nearly 200 girls from the public schools
under the leadership of Professor Lyman. Commander Hubbs of Root Post
then introduced General Joshua L. Chamberlain, ex-Governor of Maine,
as the orator of the evening. General Chamberlain formerly commanded
the brigade to which the 185th New York regiment was attached, and he
spoke very feelingly to the soldiers who twenty-four years ago
followed him in battle. The Women's Relief corps was represented by
many ladies on the stage and they were pleasantly alluded to by the
orator, who spoke also of the great deeds of women during the war.
"America", he said, "should now stand before the world as the
champion of peace. Alone and unarmed she stands among the nations of
FOR THE OLD FLAG
(From the "Sunday Herald", June 3, 1888)
General Chamberlain Recalls the Gloomy Years of War
THRILLING HIS BRAVE SOLDIERS
Eloquent Words for the One Hundred and Eighty-Fifth, that Fought Under the Orator and Against Mighty Odds
The members of the 185th regiment, N.Y.V., may be pardoned if they feel just a little bit proud of themselves to-day. Yesterday afternoon, at their twenty-four annual reunion in Danforth Park, so eminent an authority as General Joshua L. Chamberlain, their brigade commander of Maine, pronounced them one of the "crack" regiments of the war, and declared that for general efficiency and individual valor they were not surpassed by any other body of troops in the service. That was high praise indeed, and when the veterans heard it from the lips of their distinguished eulogist they felt amply repaid for all the hardships in which they had made so important a figure.
The General's speech was the great feature of the reunion. It was entirely an impromptu effort, but it was characterized throughout by eloquence of the highest order and by a depth of feeling that was plainly the result of the speaker's own share in the thrilling scenes so vividly described. The regiment, he said, had entered the service in the darkest hour of the rebellion. Raw recruits as they were, they had the bearing of veterans, and they inspired confidence from the start. They were assigned to his command, and at the first look he knew that they were men in whom he could safely put his trust. How abundantly his confidence had been justified and was now a matter of record than that which dealt with the deeds, the heroism and the sublime courage of the 185th.
"I know of my own knowledge", said the General, "that we were outnumbered more than three to one. I can see that big pile of sawdust that stood in the road as plainly as I see your faces before me now. I can see your flag torn with shot and shell and repeatedly knocked from the hands of the men who bore it in their hands. When it fell from the grasp of one man, another would seize it and wave it aloft. Four of the heroes who had it in charge were shot down, one after the other, and then I saw your gallant commander, General Sniper, raise it from the ground and rushing forward amid a shower of bullets, plant it in the sawdust pile at the very top and then urge you on to victory."
Tremendous cheering greeted this reference to the flag incident at Quaker road. The General himself was visibly affected and seemed moved almost to tears. When the cheering had partly subsided, he took the flag in his hands, pressed it tenderly to his lips and apostrophized it in language that sent a thrill through the hearts of all his listeners.
The engagement at Gravelly Run, or White Oak Road, was described in language equally powerful and vivid. The Second and Third divisions of the Union army, the General said, had been driven back from the rebel lines with great slaughter. The 185th was being held in reserve because of the fatigue they had undergone and the hard fighting they had done the day before. General Griffin, the division commander, was maddened out of all power of self-control by the repulses of his troops, and he used the strongest kind of "old testament" language. "The Fifth Corps is eternally damned", he exclaimed in a perfect frenzy. Then General Warren came to the speaker and appealed to him to order the 185th to the front and save the honor of the corps.
"I was reluctant to do this under the circumstances," said the orator, "but I finally gave the desired order, and right nobly did you respond. You drove the rebels before you like chaff before the wind. You saved the day by your heroic valor and literally snatched victory from the jaws of defeat." The General spoke in the same eloquent strain of the battle of Five Forks and of the fighting around Appomattox, which terminated the war. At the conclusion of his address, the veterans tendered him a vote of thanks, and made him an honorary member of their association. The only other speaker was Sergt. Jerry S. Gross of Oswego, who told the story of the death of Lieut. Hiram Clark of Marathon, the last man killed in the war.
(From the Syracuse Standard, Wednesday, May 31, 1888)
GENERAL CHAMBERLAIN'S VIEWS
Mr. Blaine's Paris Letter Interpreted By an Ex-Governor of Maine
Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain of Maine, who is spending a few days with his old soldier friends in this city, is a close observer of the present political shiftings of the country. Being formerly a Governor of his State, he feels especial interest in the attitude of Mr. Blaine as a possible candidate for the coming campaign, and has made something of a study of his recent letters.
"How do you construe his last letter from Paris?", a HERALD reporter asked him last evening.
"Mr. Blaine has written some very skillful and admirable letters", replied the ex-Governor. "If he had been willing to accept a forced nomination for President and desired to play his very last card to that end, it has seemed to me all along that he has done so, but his Paris letter I think put an end to that matter. Even if he desired the nomination now, it seems to me this letter must estop his friends from pressing his canvass further, and it must also estop him, I think, from accepting the nomination if offered".
General Chamberlain looks upon Chauncey M. Depew as the most available Republican candidate at present. "Everyone concedes", he said, :"that we must carry New York State to win and I think Mr. Depew the strongest with this delegation".
"How about the chances for a dark horse, General?"
"I think they are poor because they seem to have been all trotted out".
The following article I discovered in the summer of 1999, via the Baldwinsville (NY) Public Library. This tells the story of Chamberlain's Memorial Day visit to Baldwinsville in 1898, at the invitation of the veterans of the 185th NYVI.
(From the Baldwinsville "Gazette & Farmers' Journal:", June 28, 1898)
THE SOLDIERS' DAY
Baldwinsville Entertains the Veterans of the Civil War with Characteristic Enthusiasm
Members of the 185th, Old Twelfth and Fifteenth Cavalry hold their reunions in the Old Town
June 27 was a great day in our village. Three veteran organizations of survivors of the civil war meeting here for fraternal greetings, a good dinner and a business and social session.
The local members of the organizations met at seven a.m. and marched to the depot escorted by a drum corps to meet those who were to come on the 7:40 train.
These visitors, about 200 in all, marched up to the Seneca House, and were there dismissed to meet again at nine o'clock, when the veterans, their families and friends marched to the M.E. Church for the preliminary exercises of the day. The church was beautifully trimmed for the occasion, flags were everywhere showing their bright colors, and the decorative art displayed was unusually fine. Interest centered largely on the presence of Brigadier General Joshua L. Chamberlain, who commanded the brigade of which the 185th regiment was an important part.
Rev. Dr. William Beauchamp delivered the address of welcome, and everyone knowing the reverend doctor needs no assurance of its interest. He spoke of Onondaga's share in the war, of Baldwinsville's part, and paid glowing tributes to the men of the Old Twelfth, 15th Cavalry and 185th regiment, every word of which was well timed and confirmed by their war history.
Attorney W. H. Gilbert, of Syracuse, made an eloquent response, recounting a little war history and expressing his appreciation of the cordial greetings bestowed. Then General Chamberlain spoke briefly.
He is a fine-looking, soldierly-appearing man, an ex-governor of the state of Maine, where he still resides, and his remarks, though intending, as he said, to touch upon some of the subjects to which he should refer to at the afternoon session, were splendidly given.
He spoke of the appropriateness of marching directly to God's house, there to remember anew that He it was who was with us in the hour of our country's need.
He also said that it also seemed especially appropriate to pass an undertaking establishment. All of the comrades had in days gone by passed the gates of death - and many, all too many - had entered therein. Some announcements of the day's program were made at the conclusion of General Chamberlain's remarks and then adjournment was made to 1:30 pm at the same place.
Another very large delegation arrived on the 11:14 train, the Elmira and Horseheads comrades being escorted by the Continental Band of the former city.
Then dinner was served by Landlord Hatfield, of the Seneca House, in the city hall, and a good dinner it was. The seating capacity of the tables was 285, and more than one round was bought. After dinner the veterans smoked and visited and at 1:30 pm, the crowd assembled once more at the M.E. church.
The exercises at the church began with prayer by Rev. J.W. Benham. All united in singing "America", and then General Chamberlain gave an address. It was from the standpoint of the man who commanded, and he paid a worthy tribute to the men led.
His remarks breathed a deeply religious spirit, and he urged the old boys to do as well in life's battles as they did in their country's. James A. Johnson sang a fine solo in closing the exercises and then the business meetings were held.
I want to thank the Onondaga County Public Library, in Syracuse, NY (and especially Cheryl Pula, for successfully deciphering the sometimes hard-to-read text on microfilm) for locating the Syracuse newspaper articles for me.
And thanks go to the reference librarian at the Baldwinsville Public Library for making a copy from their archives--and also to Dick Palmer, former editor of the "Baldwinsville Messenger', for alerting me to this last article.
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