A Place Called Appomattox Review



Marvel states, "In the dim, distant light of old age Joshua Chamberlain would remember that he had commanded the troops that accepted the formal surrender of Lee's army. He would also recall having been chosen for that honor, and by none other than Ulysses Grant himself."

Marvel first makes a point of Chamberlain's age then uses a sarcastic tone to let the reader know that he or she should not accept Chamberlain as a credible source. The laughable thing is Chamberlain's dim old age memory seems to recall the exact same thing as the newspapers did in 1865. (pg 33 - 36) So Marvel is going to have to come up with a better excuse than old age.

Next Marvel complains about this letter saying, "Chamberlain conceded that this recitation seemed like boasting, and it did." I do wonder what strange friends Marvel has that apparently do not tell their families of their accomplishments. Frankly if my brother did such things and I had to read about it in the newspaper I would be quite mad, and if he then told me, "oh that, that was nothing" I would think him more conceited than if he called me to tell me about it. But maybe that's just me, let's read on.

Marvel goes on to say, "This letter marked the first time he claimed to have commanded the Union side of the surrender parade, and over the next four decades he so convinced himself of the truth of it that in the next century he declared it publicly. By then the people who would have known better were all dead."

So Marvel's whole argument seems to rest on the notion that Chamberlain didn't claim to have commanded the surrender until after Bartlett's death in 1893, therefore Bartlett did not have chance to dispute it and this is why there is no evidence to show that Bartlett commanded the surrender.

The argument is a bit of semantics as Chamberlain of course talked about the surrender as can be seen as early as 1868 but he uses general terms like, "Our command" or "The lot fell to us, and we were not slow to accept it." Later in 1882 he states, "We were in camp all the next day while Gens. Grant and Lee were arranging the details of the surrender. But on the next night, about midnight, I was ordered to have my command out at 5 o'clock the next morning to receive the colors of the rebel army of Northern Virginia." Descriptions general enough that Marvel imagines that rather than modestly avoiding the use of I Chamberlain might be trying to leave room for the possibility Bartlett was really in command. If this were true one must wonder why Bartlett did not correct the newspaper accounts, or why did the history of the 118th suggest Chamberlain was in command before Bartlett's death on page 594. This is a regiment that for most of their existence served under Bartlett. They had many more reasons to be loyal to and have a better memory of Bartlett, but they say that, "General Griffin and General Gibbon sent for General Chamberlain on the night of the 11th and informed him that he was to command the parade on the occasion of the surrender of Lee's army." And go on to say that Bartlett directed the other two brigades of the division to report to Chamberlain for the ceremony. I know Marvel knows about this book, but it doesn't help his argument so he leaves it out. Marvel might not have known about the newspaper accounts so I'll forgive him that.

Next Marvel says, "On the day after the surrender, Chamberlain wrote home simply that his brigade received the Confederates 'with honors due to troops, at a shoulder & in silence. They came to a shoulder on passing my flag & preserved perfect order.' Order may have been as much on the general's mind as honor, for he specifically noted that his superiors wished no scenes to humiliate the defeated army. Bringing the troops to 'shoulder arms,' at attention with the rifle tucked against the right side of the body, was the common means of bringing silence to the ranks; had Chamberlain intended a formal salute, he would have ordered his men to present arms with their rifles held before them."

I actually agree with Marvel here because most soldiers who remember the ceremony remember the silence more than the salute and silence would have been attained by this position. But I think that Marvel feels he is telling us something new here. And maybe there were people when Marvel published this book that were confused about what order Chamberlain gave. I think Chamberlain was rather clear about it. You can see here that in the 1960s the painter was not confused about it. But okay, whatever. Good job Marvel you figured that out. *pat on back.*

Looking at the notes on page 358 I read, "In 'Reminiscences of Petersburg and Appomattox' Chamberlain complained that 'some persons' had charged that he was not even present at the surrender ceremony, suggesting that his role in the ceremony had indeed been challenged, at least privately."

Now keep in mind that Marvel is trying to convince us that Bartlett was in command, because of that he takes a quote out of context so we will think someone has gone up to Chamberlain to tell him that he was not in command that Bartlett was.

Lets see the full quote.


So Chamberlain says two things, one that someone not there has said that Chamberlain wasn't there. The "not there" part is important, and that's why Marvel leaves it out. If they weren't there then they must not have been Bartlett or anyone in Bartlett's command as Marvel would want us to think.

The second group that challenged Chamberlain was the Army of the James, and I don't see Marvel trying to make the claim that the Army of the James was the ones who actually accepted the surrender. But Marvel knows if he gave the full quote we would all see this as plain as day so he purposely tries to deceive us and hopes we don't go look it up for ourselves.