Title: Chamberlain's York Address Memorial Day
Author: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Keywords: Joshua Chamberlain, Lawrence Chamberlain, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Memorial Day, Address, Speech, Oration
Credit: Courtesy the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine.
Permissions: Rights reserved by Bowdoin College. Do not reproduce without permission. Original copy Bowdoin Special Collections Box 11 folder 10
Chamberlain's York Address Memorial Day

image courtesy maine.gov


This address was most likely given on May 30, 1906. The Lewiston Journal relates, "At York a soldiers' monument will be unveiled during the exercises of Memorial Day. The inscription is as follows: 'Erected 1906, to Sons of York Who Served Their Country in Army and Navy for Preservation of the Union'"1
    In his address Chamberlain mentions General order 100 or Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, today it known as the Lieber Code, it called for humane and ethical treatment of prisoners of war and civilians in occupied areas and forbade the use of torture.2 The Lieber Code, as Chamberlain mentions on page 11, was adopted by the Hague Conventions thus creating the "laws of war" that would govern World War I and World War II.
    In 1994 local York residents began to have some doubts about this monument. Rick Souza a local who was investigating the matter declared, "There is no question about it: The statue in the center of town is a Confederate soldier." He went on to describe the monument as a "skinny Colonel Sanders."3 Noting that the monument has an inscription, "To sons of York who served their country in Army and Navy for preservation of the Union." Souza wrote to several Southern towns with "york" in the name, York, Yorkshire or Yorktown, but none reported having a statue of a Union soldier. Though it is somewhat baffling why Souza would imagine a Southern town would inscribe on a Confederate monument, "for preservation of the Union."
    The locals were so certain that they had long ago received the wrong monument that they even proposed a swap with a Southern town who had what they believed to be a Union soldier. Fortunately the trade was not made. A decade later the York historical society uncovered documents that proved their town had overseen every step of the monument's construction, viewing the monument in person and by photograph before it's completion. Rather than a Confederate uniform, the historical society determined it more closely represented a Spanish-American War uniform, the uniform that would have been on hand when the sculptor designed the statue in 1905. 4