Some republicans were initially a little hesitant to back Chamberlain for governor fearing that he supported
President Johnson in wanting to hand power back to the South.1
This could have been due to comments Chamberlain made in February at the Military Order of the Loyal Legion where he said,
A great and difficult duty is laid upon us all to help the poor, surprised race among us, whose
enfranchisement was the signal incident of the war, to make themselves truly free. Still greater and
more difficult is the task for the States now restored to their place in the Union, having on them a double burden;
of dealing with this multitude among them suddenly let loose from slavery; and of settling in a new order civil,
social and industrial relations which have been shaken to their very foundations. A work which can effectually be
done through the best minds of the South, although lately swept into the ranks of the Rebellion. Surely they need
our truest sympathy and assistance, in working out this revelation of the new life.2
His comment on "the best minds of the South," along with the knowledge that he had
saluted the surrendering Confederates at the formal surrender ceremony could have fueled fears that
Chamberlain sympathized with the President Johnson and the South. Chamberlain relieved these fears by addressing the issue in a letter to a friend.
It seems little else than absolute madness to hasten to reinvest with political power the very men
who precipitated upon us the horrors of civil war; and little else than cowardly wickedness to turn our backs upon the
millions whose humble and despised condition did not prevent them from befriending the country
when it was most in need of friends, and yet this very madness and this very wickedness constitute to-day
the main feature of a policy urged upon the country with the full strength of the party which,
pretending to oppose the war during its continuance, did in reality encourage and prolong it by moral
support, and now that the war is ended in triumph, so contrary to their predictions, seeks to rob that
victory of the fruits we had supposed secure.
This letter succeeded in alleviating his party's fears and they enthusiastically elected him governor.
- For the book mentioned on June 26th see Campaigns of a Non Combatant
- The official report on Petersburg that is quoted I have not yet found.