The 20th Maine at Little Round Top
Battles and Leaders of the Civil War Volume 3
by H.S. Melcher
"Colonel Chamberlain gave the order to 'fix bayonets,' and almost before he could say 'charge!' the regiment leaped down the
hill and closed in with the foe..."
A few years later Chamberlain would agree with this statement in the Dedication of the 20th Maine Monument Gettysburg.
Both officers were likely trying to indicate the regiment's bravery by showing their eagerness to obey the command. They did not intend to suggest
that any kind of mutiny suddenly took place that caused the regiment to run off without orders. The men simply knew what command would come after "bayonet!" and did not
need to wait to hear it.
In spite of the fact that Melcher remembered Chamberlain giving the order before he started the charge, and also, strangely,
in spite of Ellis Spear previously remembering getting orders from Chamberlain himself, Spear did not let Melcher's first hand account or his own previous recollections
dissuade him from returning to his own already written autobiography and penciling in a strange passage in its margins. In this passage Spear suddenly remembers that
he was the one who instructed Chamberlain to bend back the left of the line. He also states that there was a story circulating around amongst the men after the battle
that "Some men in Co. K suggested that they 'advance & cover [the wounded]' & therefore started the shout to advance. The shout & corresponding movement immediately spread
to the left."1
- Company K was commanded by James Nichols not Mecher.
A few years later Spear would write another version of his autobiography, this time including his added passage
but now he described the man who started the charge as "A brave fellow in the company on the left of the colors"2
presumably meaning Melcher.
In both accounts Spear states that he was not a witness to how the charge started, but that it was a story he had heard at the time.
It is strange that so late in his life Spear would suddenly start contradicting his own and others accounts by interjecting hearsay. For many years after the war Spear had
nothing but praise for Chamberlain. Slowly his praise turned to patronizing remarks and finally ended in bitterness.