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The Grand Old Man of Maine: Selected Letters of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 1865-1914 (Civil War America) Hardcover – September 27, 2004
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"Anyone with an interest in Chamberlain, the Civil War, Bowdoin College, postwar Maine, or any combination thereof, will enjoy it." -- York County Coast Star, December 16, 2004
"Goulka's introduction and the foreword supplied by McPherson are the best summary of Chamberlain's life and legend I have read." -- Bangor Daily News, December 20, 2004
Remarkable. . . . Presents a rich portrait of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. . . . Artfully piec[es] together a deep selection of his postwar letters. -- Washington Times, February 27, 2005
Remarkable. . . . The Grand Old Man of Maine presents a rich portrait of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. . . . Artfully piecing together a deep selection of his postwar letters.--Washington Times
Chamberlain's important careers as governor, educator, and chronicler of the war for half a century after Appomattox remain little known. This skillfully edited collection of Chamberlain's postwar letters . . . is therefore an invaluable addition not only to the corpus of Chamberlain biographies but also to our understanding of the war, the Gilded Age, and the construction of Civil War memory.--James M. McPherson, from the Foreword
Goulka's introduction and the foreword supplied by James M. McPherson are the best summary of Chamberlain's life and legend I have read.--Bangor Daily News
Jeremiah Goulka should be commended for his work in bringing together Chamberlain's postwar correspondence. His words serve as a reminder that the experience of war remained with the veterans long afer the guns fell silent.--Civil War History
Nowhere can the complexity of a man be ascertained more fully than in the body of his correspondence. . . . Goulka's introduction offers the reader the background needed to appreciate the meaning and motive of Chamberlain's letters.--York County [Maine] Coast Star
Goulka has compiled this selection of letters not only to chronicle Chamberlain's deeds but also to reveal the depths of feeling, the commitment to honor, and the obsession for truth that resided in this remarkable man who suffered in almost constant pain from war wounds.--Virginia Quarterly Review
Goulka deserves thanks . . . for giving us a deeper understanding of a genuine American hero.--Civil War News
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Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain survived the Civil War - including a horrible wound at Petersburg - to become one of Maine's most prominent citizens. His postwar career included four terms as governor of Maine, a stint as president of Bowdoin College, numerous business enterprises, and perhaps most importantly, many years as a writer and lecturer on his Civil War experiences.
The correspondence included by editor Jeremiah Goulka covers nearly every aspect of Chamberlain's personal and professional life. Chamberlain's heartfelt letters to his family, especially those to his wife Fannie, reveal him to be a loving, thoughtful husband and father. His relationship with Fannie, stormy and difficult though it was for many years, survived numerous crises until Fannie's death in 1905.
Chamberlain's Civil War experiences transformed him, and his separation from the army often left him feeling restless. In 1870, Chamberlain wrote to the King of Prussia and offered his services in Prussia's war with France. In 1898, Chamberlain contacted the Secretary of War to volunteer for the Spanish-American War. Even with all his postwar positions and projects, Chamberlain never quite filled the space in his soul left empty by the end of the Civil War.
Critics of Chamberlain, in his lifetime and in our own time, claim that he inflated his role at Little Round Top in an attempt to horde the glory of that important engagement. At least one letter included in this volume refutes this criticism. In a January 1910 letter to Union veteran and author Oliver W. Norton, Chamberlain says of his brigade commander, Strong Vincent, "He was a noble man, and I have not known an abler commander in his grade. Nothing could exceed his skill and energy in taking the position on Little Round Top and the confidence he inspired in his subordinates. To this the result of the fight on the left at Round Top is very largely due [emphasis added]."
The correspondence also clarifies an often incorrectly reported fact concerning the July 1913 fiftieth anniversary reunion at Gettysburg. Chamberlain, while he visited Gettysburg in May as a member of the planning commission, did not attend the July reunion. Chamberlain's doctor strongly urged him not to go due to his declining health, and he stayed behind in Maine.
Rather than being castigated for his prolific eloquence, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain deserves the timeless thanks of everyone who studies the Civil War. Jeremiah Goulka deserves thanks as well, for his skillful editing, and for giving us a deeper understanding of a genuine American hero.