Title: Maine A History - Centennial Edition - Biographical
Publisher: The American Historical Society
Date Published: 1919
Author: Louis Hatch
Keywords: Joshua Chamberlain, Lawrence Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, wound, Petersburg, hospital, surgeon, battlefield, regiment, Twentieth Maine, 20th Maine, Civil War, battle, Doctor Shaw, Dr. Shaw, A. O. Shaw
Permissions: public domain
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Maine a History
by Louis Hatch 1919

Doctor Abner O. Shaw well known among Chamberlain historians as being the Doctor who saved Chamberlain's life at Petersburg, he was also there in 1914 at Chamberlain's deathbed when he finally succumb to the same wound. The Doctor, after serving a brief stint in the 7th New York Militia as a private,1 graduated medical school2 and joined the 20th Maine as assistant surgeon. Chamberlain was so pleased with him that he wrote the Governor on several occasions to ask for Shaw to be made full Surgeon of the 20th.3 This was done November 10, 1863.
    Shaw managed to be present for the more depressing battles like Wilderness and Petersburg; he came just after Gettysburg and left before Appomattox. He would be promoted to Brigade Surgeon December 1, 1864 before resigning February 22, 1865 after developing malaria.1
    On June 18, 1864 Chamberlain was brought to the Division Hospital with a gunshot wound through both hips and his bladder. The higher ranking surgeons at the division level were able to remove the bullet, but declared the case hopeless.
    After accepting his fate Chamberlain remembers,
I looked up and saw dear, faithful Doctor Shaw, Surgeon of my own regiment lying a mile away. My brother Tom had brought him. He and good Dr. Townsend sat down by me and tried to use some instrument to establish proper connection to stop the terrible extravasations* which would end my life. All others had given it up, and me too. But these two faithful men bent over their task trying with vain effort to find the entrance to torn and clogged and distorted passages of vital currents. Toiling and returning to the ever impossible task, the able surgeon undertaking to aid Dr. Shaw said, sadly, 'It is of no use, Doctor; he cannot be saved. I have done all possible for the man. Let us go, and not torture him longer.' 'Just once more, Doctor; let me try just this once more, and I will give it up.' Bending to his task, by a sudden miracle, he touched the exact lost thread; the thing was done."4
    As he sent Chamberlain off to Annapolis on the morning of June 19th 1864, blearily eyed from lack of sleep Doctor Shaw likely believed he would never see Chamberlain again. We will never know what he thought when Chamberlain returned to duty November 18th. In December Chamberlain was given the old Third Brigade when Bartlett fell ill, as the Brigade Surgeon, Shaw was likely one of the Doctors who insisted Chamberlain go north again for another operation. When Chamberlain returned at the end of February Shaw would be gone.
1 Doctor Shaw in the 7th NY National Guard
2 Commencement of the College of Physicians and Surgeons
  and Catalogue of the Alumni College of Physicians and Surgeons
3 Chamberlain to Governor Coburn
4 Smith, Diane M. Chamberlain at Petersburg pg 71
*This word means pooling of urine under the skin. The Medical and Surgical history of the war recommends the immediate insertion of a catheter to save a life in this case, at the time they were made out of metal. See Medical and Surgical History. pg 301