Address to the 16th Maine Volunteers
The story of the 16th Maine is as thrilling a story as that of the 20th Maine. While the 20th is known for thier victory, the
16th is famous for their defeat. On July 1st after General Renolds had been killed and the First Corps was being driven South through the town of Gettysburg, the
16th Maine was ordered to hold their ground at the northern most edge of the Union Army allowing the rest of the Corp to escape to higher ground south of town.
Though Chamberlain did not command the 16th Maine, this speech illustrates Chamberlain's romantic and uplifting style
of speaking for which he was so loved by his men.
"... But when I came to know the truth of it all, I saw that instead of your colors being lost, they were eternally saved! Not laid down, but lifted up;
not captured nor surrendered, but translated..."
On the field Chamberlain did more motivating than ordering.
Whether it is in this speech to the 16th Maine, or the way he handled the 2nd Maine mutineers, he seemed to have a knack for encouraging and motivating in a way they didn't teach at West Point.
There are stories of other commanders yelling and swearing at a retreating or cowering soldier,
Chamberlain on the other hand would always encourage, never discourage.
He likely developed this skill in learning to mold his students at Bowdoin College.
In 1857 he explained to the visiting committee at Bowdoin College,
" that it was of the first importance to stimulate the pupils, and that he avoided discouraging effort by severe criticism."*
In case there was any doubt in their mind, Chamberlain assures the 16th Mainers that there was no shame in their being captured,
"Lost? There is a way of losing that is finding. When the soul overmasters sense; when the noble and divine self overcomes the lower self;
when duty and honor and love, - immortal things, -bid the mortal perish! It is only when a man supremely gives that he supremely finds.
That was your sacrifice; that is your reward."