Chamberlain Statue - Gettysburg
image courtesy GNMP
Maine intended to erect a statue of Chamberlain on Little Round Top along Chamberlain Avenue (see above blueprint).
The monument first proposed in 1906, potentially could have faced challenges similar to the ones the 83rd Pennsylvania monument faced when the regiment wanted to
make their monument a statue of Vincent. As Oliver Norton would recall, "The Commissioners of the State very properly refused to permit any personal allusions or
inscriptions to be placed on the Pennsylvania monuments."1
Thus the 83rd Pennsylvania monument is said to bear a striking resemblance to Vincent but is not labeled as such.2
Pennsylvania however did pass separate acts to allow for the erection of statues to General Meade, Reynolds and Hancock as well as civilian John Burns.3
No restrictions seemed to hinder the proposal for the Chamberlain monument, the State of Maine, Gettysburg National Military Park, and the War Department all appeared to give the
project their blessing. Henry S. Burrage, Maine's first official state historian wrote to Chamberlain on November 22nd, 1909 including with his letter the proposed plan seen above,
"I enclose a letter from Col. Nicholson concerning the position of the Chamberlain Memorial at Gettysburg. You are the one most familiar with the place and so the best fitted to make the selection. I send the plan. I take it that the position deemed the best by the Commission
is the boulder 10 feet in diameter and 3 feet high, just opposite the L.F. of the 20th Maine, where from the curve in the avenue a memorial would be seen in front and on either side."
The reason why no monument to Chamberlain exists on Little Round Top today may have been due to Chamberlain himself. About a month after the above letter was sent, a letter from John P. Nicholson, chairman of the Gettysburg National Park
Commission, to Burrage suggests that Chamberlain was not comfortable with the idea of a statue of himself, "Thanks for the note and information regarding the location for Chamberlain." Nicholson writes, "If he has not interest enough in the matter why should be [sic] push him. Let it go."4
The monument idea was possibly pigeonholed but remained on the books as is evidenced by this newspaper clipping and another copy of this same report in the 1916, Annual Report of the Secretary of War.
In the War Department's Annual Report
for 1918 a small blurb reads,
"The Chamberlain and Howard Statues: There is nothing to report in the matter except that the site for the Chamberlain statue was fixed several years ago, Gen. Chamberlain being present."
It is not clear if this statement is in error or if Chamberlain was present for the selection of the position for a monument of himself.
It appears that Chamberlain was first informed of the possible location of a Chamberlain statue in the Burrage letter; Chamberlain was however a member of the committee to place General Howard's statue in 1911.5
The Howard statue was erected in 1932. The Chamberlain statue was never erected. However because of his somewhat recent resurgence of fame through novel and feature film,
many visitors to Little Round Top expect to find a statue to Chamberlain. Some even mistake the statue of General Warren for Chamberlain.
Fortunately a monument is not needed to keep alive a memory.
There are other ways that Chamberlain is being remembered today.
More and more so he is now being remembered for the Battle of Petersburg, even though he did not win that fight, the bravery he showed as a wounded soldier
continues to be inspiring to soldiers today. For example The Joshua Chamberlain Society
If he is owed any other honors at this late date, I think it would be fitting for the government to
return the Major General commission that he was given but then taken away so that it could be offered to
someone with more political connections. It was an embarrassment he very rarely spoke of.