Something Abides: General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Memory of the American Civil War



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Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain epitomizes the ideal of the citizen-soldier in a volunteer army. He left his position as Professor of Rhetoric at Bowdoin College in 1862 to join the Union army as the Lieutenant Colonel of the 20th Maine; by the end of the war, he had risen to the rank of Brevet Major-General and commanded two brigades. He received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Gettysburg and oversaw the surrender of arms at Appomattox. Chamberlain articulated his memories of the war in speeches for veterans gatherings and in memoirs written towards the end of his life. The experiences of the war shaped the way he thought for the next fifty years; however, his recollections were not static. This project focuses on the role of memory in the post-war relationships of veterans. Reconciliation of Union and Confederate veterans forced the memory of honorable or glorious battles to overshadow the underlying reasons for the war, and a new framework of memory was created to bring the two halves of the country back together.