In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil Warby Alice Rains Trulock, Tom Parker
This remarkable biography traces the life and times of Joshua L. Chamberlain, the professor-turned-soldier who led the Twentieth Maine Regiment to glory at Gettysburg, earned a battlefield promotion to brigadier general from Ulysses S. Grant at Petersburg, and was wounded six times during the course of the Civil War. Chosen to accept the formal Confederate surrender… See more details below
This remarkable biography traces the life and times of Joshua L. Chamberlain, the professor-turned-soldier who led the Twentieth Maine Regiment to glory at Gettysburg, earned a battlefield promotion to brigadier general from Ulysses S. Grant at Petersburg, and was wounded six times during the course of the Civil War. Chosen to accept the formal Confederate surrender at Appomattox, Chamberlain endeared himself to succeeding generations with his unforgettable salutation of Robert E. Lee's vanquished army. After the war, he went on to serve four terms as governor of his home state of Maine and later became president of Bowdoin College. He wrote prolifically about the war, including ###The Passing of the Armies#, a classic account of the final campaign of the Army of the Potomac.
The author combines exhaustive research with an engaging prose style to produce a compelling narrative which will interest scholars and Civil War buffs alike. (Journal of Military History)
Trulock's strengths are derived from her meticulous attention to detail and her vivid description. Her account of the surrender of the Confederate Army is among the most moving this reviewer has read. (Journal of Southern History)
Trulock presents a definitive biography of this distinguished citizen and Union officer. Chamberlain emerges from Trulock's pages as an unusually brave man who could think quickly and rationally under extreme stress. (Publishers Weekly)
Trulock has done exhaustive research; her prose is relaxed and revealing. (James Robertson, Richmond Times-Dispatch)
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Read an Excerpt
The Union Forever, Hurrah Boys, Hurrah!
It was a wonderful gift. Standing splendidly on the camp parade ground in its full trappings, a beautiful stone-gray stallion, dappled white, with a heavy white mane and tail, and well known in the area as "the Staples horse," awaited its new owner. Two men, one a civilian and the other an army officer, stood for the presentation ceremony about to begin at Camp Mason, near Portland, Maine. Around them the officers and men of Maine's newest volunteer infantry regiment, the twentieth to be sworn into Federal service from the state since the beginning of the war, were drawn up in a "hollow square" formation, colorful in their new blue uniforms.
Although used to appearing and speaking in public, Lt. Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a little uncomfortable hearing the phrases of the flattering speech made to him by his friend William Field, who spoke for other friends and townspeople from the college town of Brunswick. "We beg you to accept this gift . . . appreciating the sacrifice you have made . . . that you may be borne on it only to victory . . . till the spirit of rebellion is crushed and you return, laden with honors"; Field's words came to him in flowery praise, finally invoking God's blessing and protection on him during his impending absence.
Chamberlain thanked Field with feeling. His strong, resonant voice carried in a rhythmic, almost musical fashion to the officers and mennearly a thousand in allwho were looking on:
"Sir:A soldier never should be taken by surprise, and it would be doubly inexcusable in me were I to deem anything surprising in the way of generosity on the part of those whose sentiments and deeds of kindness I have known so long.
"I thank you, sir, and through you, my fellow citizens, for this noble gift, and for the touching manner in which you are pleased to confer it. Nothing, surely, which I have done, renders me deserving of so costly and beautiful a memorial. No sacrifice or service of mine merits any other reward than that which conscience gives to every man who does his duty. But I know at least how to value a kindness and a compliment like this. I accept it, as a bond to be faithful to my oath of service, and to your expectations of me. I accept it, if I may so speak, not to regard it as fairly my own, until I have earned a title to it by conduct equal to your generosity.
"Let me bid you . . . farewell, commending these brave men who surround you, to your remembrance and care; and all of us to the keeping of a merciful God on high."
Even though he was taller than the average Maine soldier, and Maine men were taller than most in the Federal armies, Chamberlain's slim, muscular frame lacked an inch and one-half of reaching six feet. He had an erect way of carrying himself, however, which gave the impression of more stature; his presence was so remarkable and gave such an effect that, in the words of one private, he was "a brave, brilliant, dashing officer . . . who, when once seen, was always remembered."
Chamberlain's narrow face had tended toward roundness in his young manhood, but in this week before his thirty-fourth birthday, it was thinner and looked longer, the high cheekbones prominent. Almost hidden by a small, triangular tuft of beard worn below the full lower lip of his mouth, a slight dimple indented his wide chin; above his high, broad forehead the dark hair, which was parted on the left side and worn short, was streaked prematurely with silvery gray. His light, gray-blue eyes were arresting, especially when he looked up, and they often commanded attention with their flashing vitality. The handsome, classic nose, shaped like a hawk's beak, gave him a fine profile, and the long, full mustache below it, romantic and faintly swashbuckling, swept to his jaw on each side.
As the ceremony ended on that first day of September in 1862, Chamberlain undoubtedly appeared as handsomely dressed as when he had his photograph taken the month before at Pierce's in Brunswick, the silver oak leaves denoting his rank gleaming from the gold-edged, light blue shoulder straps of his new uniform. Two rows of seven brass buttons each shone gold against the dark army blue of his double-breasted frock coat, while a leather belt, with fittings that held his officer's sword and scabbard, wound around his narrow waist and was fastened by a gilt and silver buckle.
A crimson sash usually worn for dress occasions looped around the belt and knotted at his left side, its tasseled ends hanging beneath his scabbard. Completing his dress were blue wool trousers and a cap called a kepi, the latter having the circular horn or bugle of the infantry embroidered in gold on its front, just above the unused black leather chin strap buckled over the visor. In the center of the bugle was a small silver "20," the identifying numeral of his regiment.
What People are saying about this
Trulock's strengths are derived from her meticulous attention to detail and her vivid description. Her account of the surrender of the Confederate Army is among the most moving this reviewer has read. . . . Readers in search of a solid military history will be amply rewarded.Journal of Southern History
Deserve[s] a place on every Civil War bookshelf.New York Times Book Review
A solid biography. . . . It does full justice to an astonishing life. Highly recommended.Library Journal
Trulock presents a definitive biography of this distinguished citizen and Union officer. Chamberlain emerges from Trulock's pages as an unusually brave man who could think quickly and rationally under extreme stress.Publishers Weekly
In the Hands of Providence is both a scholarly biography and a delight to read. It is a worthy tribute to one of the most literate and authentic heroes of [the Civil War] and the period surrounding it.Harry W. Pfanz, author of GettysburgThe Second Day
Trulock has done exhaustive research; her prose is relaxed and revealing. . . . She brings her subject alive and escorts him through a brilliant career. One can easily say that the definitive work on Joshua Chamberlain has now been done.James Robertson, Richmond Times-Dispatch
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