ChamberlainEntering Bowdoin College , Chamberlain studied thetraditional classical curriculum and showed particular skillat languages. But first Chamberlain took his Bowdoin A.
B.degree, in the Class of 1852, and returned north for threemore years of study. Turning down the opportunity to becomea minister or missionary, he accepted a position at Bowdointeaching rhetoric. A good scholar, he was also an orthodoxCongregationalist, an important factor to his Bowdoincolleagues, for the College was embroiled in thedenominational quarrels of the day.
Chamberlain knew little of soldiering despite a shorttime as a boy at a military school at Ellsworth. When thesectional crisis led to civil war in 1861, Chamberlain felta strong urge to fight to save the union. Althoughsympathetic to the plight of the slaves, he is not known tohave been an abolitionist and showed little interest, afterthe war, in the cause of the freedmen.
But the college wasreluctant to lose his services. Offered a year’s travel withpay in Europe in 1862 to study languages, Chamberlaininstead volunteered his military services to Maine’sgovernor. He was soon made lieutenant colonel of the 20thMaine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He is best remembered for two great events: the actionat Little Round Top, on the second day of Gettysburg (2 July1863), when then-Colonel Chamberlain and the 20th Maine heldthe extreme left flank of the Union line against a fiercerebel attack, and the surrender of Lee’s Army of NorthernVirginia at Appomattox, when Grant chose Chamberlain toreceive the formal surrender of weapons and colors (12 April1865). Always a chivalrous man, Chamberlain had his mensalute the defeated Confederates as they marched by,evidence of his admiration of their valor and of Grant’swish to encourage the rebel armies still in the field toaccept the peace. Although never forgotten in Maine, Chamberlain largelyfaded from national view for most of the 20th century.
Nostatue of him was ever erected at Gettysburg; few historiansstudied his campaigns. But amid the surge of interest in theCivil War in the 1990s he has re-emerged as an exemplaryfigure among the Union generals, the very model of thecitizen-soldier. Longstreet James Longstreet at age forty-two was the dean of corpscommanders at Gettysburg; he had been in corps command twiceas long as anybody else on either side. It was he who wouldcommand of the Army of Northern Virginia if Lee wereincapacitated.
He was a man who studied the averages andcalculated the odds carefully. Never one to force hischances, he preferred to wait for a situation like the oneat Fredericksburg, where he could prepare his defenses onadvantageous terrain and wait for the enemy to shatterhimself against them. If the odds were not in his favor, hewould wait for the moment when he held the trumps.Longstreet approached his business dispassionately. To him,victory was the result of thoughtful planning, not heroism.While he supported Lee’s bold strategic offensives, it wasalways with an eye to fighting a defensive battle at theclimax of each campaign. His way of evening the odds withthe numerically superior Union army was to conserve hismen’s lives, not gamble them needlessly in costly assaults.
He thus dealt in human life with a conservatism lacking inmany military men, especially in the South. He showedconstant concern for his men’s well-being. At When the bullets began to fly, Longstreet’simmovability translated into a magnificent fearlessness.
Longstreet was a native of South Carolina who grew up mostlyin Georgia. When the Civil War began in 1861 Longstreet joined theConfederate army with no ambition for glory. Since he wasthe ranking officer from Alabama, he was instead made abrigadier general.
On October 7, Longstreet was givencommand of the Third Division of the army. Lee said “Here comes my war horse from the field he hasdone so much to save!” “War Horse” to Lee, “Pete” or “Old Peter” to his men,”Dutch” to his West Point pals, sometimes “Bull” or”Bulldog,” Longstreet was a man who attracted nicknames. Fewcolorful stories attached themselves to him, however,because of his phlegmatic personality. Interestingly,Longstreet in the first year of the war had been a popularcompanion; his headquarters had been a center ofsocialization where visitors could expect a good time, afine meal, plenty of whiskey.
General Lee followed thecustom of pitching his tent close to Longstreet’s. Althoughthe two differed fundamentally in their philosophy of howthe war should be waged, Lee would continue to valueLongstreet even if he was at times presumptuous when headvanced his recommendations to Lee, did not bother hissuperior with unsolved problems. Perhaps this is the traitwhich most endeared Lee to Longstreet Lee’s continuingphysical closeness with Longstreet indicated respect for hisopinions. Fredericksburg, for Longstreet, was the mostinstructive battle of the war.
His men, stoutly prepared,repulsed division after division of Federal attackers. Thisbecame the battle he sought to re-fight for the rest of thewar. Perhaps it spoiled him, giving him the notion that ifhe got in position and stayed there, impatient Uniongenerals would crash headlong into his prepared defenseslike Union they did before. When Lee reunited the army forthe Gettysburg Campaign, Longstreet discussed grand strategywith Lee, and somehow got the impression that Lee wascommitted to fighting only defensive battles, the kindLongstreet liked.
Combined with Longstreet’s liabilities hisdeliberateness when on the offensive and his habit ofsulking when contradicted. This misunderstanding would haveterrible consequences for the Army of Northern Virginia inenemy territory.