Title: Dedication of the 20th Maine Monument Gettysburg
Keywords: Joshua Chamberlain, Lawrence Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, 20th Maine, Twentieth Maine, Gettysburg, Little Round Top, Big Round Top, Civil War, battle, Ellis Spear, Controversy
Permissions: public domain
Reproductions: This speech was reprinted in the book:
Bayonet! Forward: My Civil War Reminiscences
Dedication of the 20th Maine Monument Gettysburg

image courtesy mainehistory.org


Chamberlain takes up much of this speech addressing some of the controversies brewing among the members of the regiment. When he mentions the "surprise of several officers to hear that it was some other than a single one who came to me in the course of the fight with information of the enemy's extended movements to envelop our left." He is referring to Ellis Spear and James Nichols as is evidenced in Howard Prince's address.1 Chamberlain calms this controversy by stating, "Now, as might well be believed of such gentlemen and soldiers, they are all right; no one of them is wrong."

In 1882 Theodore Gerrish wrote in his book Army Life,
The order is given 'Fix bayonets!' and the steel shanks of the bayonets rattle upon the rifle barrels. 'Charge bayonets, charge!' Every man understood in a moment that the movement was our only salvation, but there is a limit to human endurance, and I do not dishonor those brave men when I write that for a brief moment the order was not obeyed, and the little line seemed to quail under the fearful fire that was being poured upon it.
This is probably what Chamberlain is responding to in this speech when he says, "I am sorry to have heard it intimated that any hesitated when the order was given."
    Chamberlain goes on to explain that the left of the line which was bent back to protect the flank needed time to come up in line with the rest of the regiment before the whole regiment could start forward. While this part of the story was missing from Prince's history read at the monument dedication, Ellis Spear would expand on it emphasizing his own heroics about a decade later writing,
At this crisis, with the quick and resolute instinct to strike before he was struck, Chamberlain staked all upon a desperate counter-charge. He repaired to the left centre to advise Capt. Ellis Spear who, acting as field officer was in charge there, of this new purpose. Great responsibility was to fall upon this officer, as his flank was to start the movement, and moreover to become the wheeling flank, as the movement must swing on the right as a pivot; otherwise the regiment would be cut in two by the enemy, massing on the centre, as they naturally would do.2