Hero of Little Round Top
by Mort Kunstler
It was a desperate moment. The troops of the 20th Maine had been ordered to defend the left ﬂank of the Federal line at Gettysburg "at all costs." Led by Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain, a 35 year-old college professor and Christian theologian, the men from Maine had successfully repulsed repeated attacks by courageous Confederates from Alabama. Finally, exhausted and low on ammunition the valiant soldiers from Maine appeared near the breaking point. As the determined Southerners renewed the attack on Little Round Top with another assault against the Federal left ﬂank. Chamberlain knew what was at stake If his troops could not hold the line and the ﬂank was turned, the Federal army might be destroyed, the battle lost - and the war with it.
Facing what appeared to be impending destruction, Chamberlain did the unexpected: he ordered a bayonet charge. The battle-weary men in blue obediently ﬁxed bayonets, charged down the hill Into the face of the enemy - and shattered the ﬁnal Confederate assault. The day was won.
Chamberlain would rise to brigadier general, survive four battle wounds, officially receive the surrender of Lee's army at Appomattox and enjoy postwar prominence as governor of Maine. Yet despite his many achievements he would always be remembered for his leadership in those desperate moments at Little Round Top on the second day at Gettysburg. Like his Confederate counterpart, General Robert E. Lee, Chamberlain would be revered for his wartime character. How did he and his troops do it? He would be asked that question repeatedly for the rest of his life. His reply: "ln the privations and sufferings endured... in battle, some of the highest qualities of manhood are called forth - courage, self-command, and sacriﬁce of self for the sake of something held higher...." To generations of Americans - Southerners as well as Northerners - Joshua Chamberlain would hold an enduring position as the Hero of Little Round Top.
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