Listen my children, and hear again
Of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain,

And learn -- if such learning still may be,

There may still be a place for gallantry.

A professor when the war began,

He declined to be an inactive man;

When his college failed to humor him

He took leave of absence, and followed his whim.

That whim then led him such a course

As few can have followed, for better or worse,

And now gave the untried Chamberlain

Command in the untried 20th Maine.

At Fredericksburg, before the wall,

He saw hundreds of his fellows fall ---

And slept in the cold among the dead,

A corpse's greatcoat over his head.

He got the order on Gettysburg field

That this wooded hill-top must be held --

Held the end of the line to the final round,

Then bade the bayonet take the ground.

For he saw his defensive line forced back --

It was be overwhelmed now, or attack --

It was then Lee's plan met Chamberlain

And the bayonet charge of the 20th Maine.

At Petersburg, ahead of his troops,

He took a bullet through both hips,

But stood, to urge his soldiers on,

And collapsed when the last of them had gone.

When Grant heard Chamberlain was shot

He made him a general on the spot --

They took him up from the blood-soaked ground;

But Death would not dress his terrible wound.

For the last campaigning he was back --

A bullet came through his horse's neck,

Hit a brass-bound glass over Chamberlain's heart,

Ricocheted, knocked his aide clear into the dirt.

Then General Griffin came riding on,

And said: "My dear General, you are gone!"

"Yes", replied Joshua Chamberlain,

And rose up to rally his wavering men.

He fought on his horse till, weak from its wound,

It stood exhausted, nosing the ground --

Dismounted, fought, found horse, rode on;

There still was fighting to be done.

But later, looking over that day,

And the dead on both sides, he had his say:

"Was it God's command we heard, or

His forgiveness we must forever implore?"

At Appomattox, he was there

To witness the silence in the air --

And was vested with Grant's authority

To accept the surrender of Lee's army.

And there he saw a deeper need,

And there he did his most gallant deed,

Without leave or excuse but that he was fired

To honor the manhood he admired.

General Gordon rode at the head,

Erect, but chin down, all glory dead --

But he raised his eyes at the sound of command;

The North was saluting his ragged band!

He wheeled, drew saber, swept point to boot,

And gave the order to march at salute;

And so they came on, not as foe to foe,

But as honor to honor before they'd go.

And though some will refuse the grace of Heaven,

And some refused then to be forgiven,

Surely some rancor that day died

When honor saluted and honor replied?

But Chamberlain went home from the war,

Went home to Maine, became Governor --

And later, when called upon to rule,

Became the president of his school.

And when faction raised its head again

To contend the governorship of Maine

He took the militia and held the peace

Till the courts should settle the rights of the case.

A younger person of the town

Met old Chamberlain, rain coming down,

And wondered if it would ever cease --

"My experience is that it always has".

Go to the town of Brunswick, Maine,

And visit the grave of Chamberlain,

And stop and think before you go on

How valor and decency are one.

An original poem by Denis Corish,
Professor of Philosophy, Bowdoin College

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