The Hero of Gettysburg
Lewiston Journal September 1, 1900
In this account of Petersburg Chamberlain gives the time of his second charge as 1:00, however in his
written account written a year earlier he records it as 3:00.1
It being an interview it is hard to say whether
Chamberlain misspoke or the writer made the error. The Official Reports
also indicate it was a 3 o'clock attack.
Another point of confusion in this article is the suggestion that the staff officer at Petersburg came from Grant.
In his unpublished written account, The Charge at Fort Hell
a year earlier we see the staff officer, who was unknown to Chamberlain, described himself as being from
"The General commanding" Chamberlain wrote, "he did not say which general, but it was either Meade or Grant, it was not an officer I had seen before."
So we can see Chamberlain had no idea who the staff officer came from, and either he or the writer of this article decided to pick Grant for the purposes of the story.
Most historians doubt that it would have been Grant. Trulock suggests in her book, "In the Hands of Providence" on page 461 that the staff officer may have been
Theodore Lyman, who was sent by Meade to Warren's headquarters where he operated out of all day keeping in contact with Meade via telegraph
(Or perhaps messenger as the OR states the telegraph was operational at 2:15 pm on page 179).
In a book gleaned from his own letters and diary Lyman recalls Meade telling him that morning, "Lyman, take two or three orderlies and go to General Warren and report to me by telegraph promptly and
This suggests that it could be one of these other orderlies that delivered the message to Chamberlain
saying he was from "the General commanding".
In the OR Volume 40 part 2
we see on page 179 Meade is desperately trying to get Warren to attack and Lyman is reporting to Meade with the progress.
At 1:15 pm Lyman sends to Meade,
"Robeling just in from left reports the advance satisfactory. Ayres is close in, and so is the rest of the line."
And then at 2 pm Warren sends to Meade stating,
"I thought the attack at 12 m. was to be a rush. My left had not got up close enough."
Meade angrily sends back,
"I am greatly astonished at your dispatch of 2 p.m. What additional orders to attack you require I cannot imagine.
My orders have been explicit and are now repeated, that you each immediately assault the enemy with all your force, and if there is any
further delay the responsibility and the consequences will rest with you."
It is possibly Warren's attempts to get his left "close enough" that prompted a staff officer to ride out to Chamberlain with the order that Chamberlain
should attack alone.
Earlier at 12 noon we see Lyman reported,
"Colonel Sweitzer is across the railroad and advancing; General Crawford is also advancing."
It may have been expected when the messenger was sent out around 1 that Chamberlain was still back behind Sweitzer protecting the guns where he was before noon, however Griffin had
already ordered him to advance. Chamberlain guessed something like this had happend and stated in his "Lines before Petersburg" reply, (seen here page 19 and 20)
"the General cannot be perfectly aware of my situation, which has greatly changed within the last hour. I have just carried a crest, an advanced post
occupied by the enemy's artillery supported by infantry."
In his written account Chamberlain describes the staff officer returning saying the charge would indeed be with the whole army and that
Chamberlain being in front would start it off, they both agreed a 3 o'clock start time would give the staff officer enough time to inform the other commands.
At 2:40 pm Lyman sends to Meade,
"The Fifth Corps will assault at 3 p.m."
And then at 4 pm Lyman sends,
"The assault has been made, so far as I can see. Our left advanced under heavy fire and entered a small ravine close to their works,
but could not get farther. The line there remains more or less covered."
Thanks to Diane Monroe Smith for finding this article for her book Chamberlain at Petersburg