I have blogged on this issue in the past: Warning to Warriors (2007)
But you cannot add Joshua Chamberlain to that list of those who fizzled out after their moment of glory.
His famous fight at Gettysburg was on July 2, 1863 (35 years old). He went on to live a fruitful and productive life until he passed away peacefully at 9:30 in the morning on Feb. 24, 1914 completing 86 beautiful years on earth. That is an extraordinary long life for a man in that time of history.
So what did he accomplish AFTER Gettysburg?
- Promoted to General (that took a long time because Chamberlain did not promote himself)
- Severely wounded in battle (a Minnie' ball slammed into his right hip-severed arteries-nicked his bladder- crushed pelvic bones- it took two discouraged surgeons who performed what has been called a miracle of medicine- but he suffered physically from that wound for the rest of his life).
- returned to war
- shot again in battle- a chest hit that was slowed down because it passed through his horse first.
- An honor: Chamberlain was appointed to receive the infantry surrender.
- The magnanimous gesture: Chamberlain received more acclaim and criticism for the honorable way he treated the confederates during the surrender at Appomattox. Instead of humiliating the vanquished foes, he had his men salute them.
I quote from Wallace:
As Chamberlain watched the remnant of Lee's once great army, perhaps the most effective fighting instrument of its size ever created by the American people, the significance of the situation profoundly impressed him. He had earlier resolved to recognize the moment by saluting the Southern troops and had so informed his his regimental commanders. He was aware of the responsibility he was assuming, aware, too that criticisms would follow, as indeed they did. But his chief reason, he said, 'was one for which I sought no authority nor asked forgiveness.
'Before us in proud humiliation stood the embodiment of manhood; men whom neither toils and sufferings. nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend their resolve; standing before us now, thin, worn, and famished, but erect, and with eyes looking level into ours, waking memories that bound us together as no other bond; was not such manhood to be welcomed back into a Union so tested and assured?'
When Gordon, the Confederate counterpart saw what was happening, his whole demeanor changed. He wheeled his horse toward Chamberlain and bowed.
This act was noted all throughout the South and Chamberlain became known as 'the most knightliest soldier of the Federal army'.
A few days later, a confederate officer approached Chamberlain: "You astonish us by your honorable and generous conduct. I fear that we should have not done the same to you had the case been reversed."
- He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor
- He became a successful Governor of Maine
- He became the President of Bowdoin College
- He was a reformer in economics and education.
- He represented American interests in France.
- He transformed the Port at Portland.
AND WHAT KEPT HIM GOING?
This quote from a letter to his sister sums it up: "I always wanted to be at the head at some enterprise to transform the wilderness into a garden both materially and spiritually- to be a missionary of civilization and of Christianity at once."
I highly recommend the biography by Wallace- but my deep prayer is that we find more men in the spirit of Joshua Chamberlain- it is our only hope!