In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil War

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Overview

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...

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In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil War

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Deserve[s] a place on every Civil War bookshelf.
Journal of Military History
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 Southern 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.
James Robertson
Trulock has done exhaustive research; her prose is relaxed and revealing.
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1861 Joshua Chamberlain was an obscure college professor. In 1863 he led the 20th Maine regiment ?/I've lc since I`m not sure regiment is the official title, referred to only as 20th Maine.gs in the defense of Little Round Top at Gettysburg. In 1865 he commanded a division in the Army of the Potomac with such skill that he was chosen to conduct the surrender ceremonies for since it was surrenner OF southern army the Army of Northern Virginia. Freelance writer 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. He was not a ``born soldier,'' but he eventually became a master of war. Neither his presidency of Bowdoin College nor his four terms as governor of Maine seem to have defined him as did a few minutes at Gettysburg and a few hours in Virginia. In this, Chamberlain was an archetype of the generation that dismembered, then reknit, a country. He died at age 86 in 1914. May
Library Journal
Chamberlain's extensive, informative, and often moving letters provided a unifying thread for Ken Burns in his PBS documentary on the Civil War (Video Reviews, LJ 8/91) and for Geoffrey C. Ward in the companion book, The Civil War ( LJ 9/15/90). Typical of many soldiers in his mixture of patriotic resolve and stoic resignation, Chamberlain proved extraordinary in his observational skills and persistence at recording not just historical events but also his emotional reaction to them. The author fashions this rich material and supporting research into a solid biography that does not concern itself much with the broader context of the events in which Chamberlain was caught up. Although the book can stand on its own, it will be enjoyed more by those with some understanding of Civil War chronology. It does full justice to an astonishing life. Highly recommended.-- Charles K. Piehl, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
From the Publisher
Deserve[s] a place on every Civil War bookshelf. (New York Times Book Review)

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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807820209
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 6/22/1992
  • Series: Civil War America
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 645,855
  • Lexile: 1500L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.47 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 1.93 (d)

Meet the Author

The late Alice Rains Trulock was a retired personnel manager and politician in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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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.[1]

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.[2]

Chamberlain thanked Field with feeling. His strong, resonant voice carried in a rhythmic, almost musical fashion to the officers and men—nearly a thousand in all—who 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."[3]

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."[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Alan T. Nolan
Preface
Prologue. 1913
Chapter 1. The Union Forever, Hurrah Boys, Hurrah!
Chapter 2. What Manner of Men We Will Be
Chapter 3. The Twentieth Maine
Chapter 4. Death-Gardens, Haunted by Glorious Ghosts
Chapter 5. Gettysburg: To the Limits of the Soul's Ideal
Chapter 6. The Country Would Not Stand It, If They Knew
Chapter 7. In the Hands of Providence
Chapter 8. Soul of the Lion
Chapter 9. Forward to the Nation's Second Birth
Chapter 10. The Passing of the Armies
Chapter 11. And Other Songs in Other Keys
Epilogue. 1913 Revisited
Appendix
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 7, 2013

    Very well written, the author utilizes many of General Chamberla

    Very well written, the author utilizes many of General Chamberlain's own words to give the reader a clearer insight into this noble man of great integrity.  The many pages are well worth the read, well worth the purchase.  Received as a Christmas gift, it is a valuable part of my library.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2005

    Unlikely Soldier

    I have read and re-read this book about Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and it never ceases to give me great pleasure. This man was the most unlikely of men to become a soldier. After all, he was a teacher of religion and rhetoric--a gentle soul--whom no one would ever have mistaken for 'hero' material, let alone being able to accomplish the things he did while fighting for the Union in the civil War.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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