MAJOR GENERAL JOSHUA LAWRENCE CHAMBERLAIN - TYPED LETTER SIGNED 08/16/1888 - HFSID 288358
Writing 25 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, the hero of Little Round Top gives a judicious but convincing answer to a question of whether Union Corps Commander Daniel Sickles acted wisely or foolishly by advancing his men on the 2nd day of the battle.
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JOSHUA LAWRENCE CHAMBERLAINWriting 25 years after the Battle of Gettysburg, the hero of Little Round Top gives a judicious but convincing answer to a question of whether Union Corps Commander Daniel Sickles acted wisely or foolishly by advancing his men on the 2nd day of the battle. Typed Letter signed: "Joshua L. Chamberlain", 2 pages, 8½x11. New York, N.Y., 1888 August 16. On letterhead of the Silver Springs, Ocala and Gulf Railroad to M. S. O'Donnell, Massachusetts. In full: "Yours of the 15th has just reached me here, having been forwarded from Brunswick, Maine. The military wisdom and effect of the movement and position taken by Gen'l Sickles with the 3rd Corps at Gettysburg is a matter of controversy. The facts are these: He advanced his corps, just before the action of the 2nd of July commenced, and before our general line was fairly taken up, to a broken piece of ground some half mile in advance of the left of the line General Meade intended our left wing to occupy, on the ridge of hills which stretches southerly from Cemetery Hill to Round Top. Both flanks of the 3rd Corps were exposed to the enemy's immediate and heaviest assault, and after the most gallant and obstinate resistance and great losses, the 3rd Corps and all its supports from the 2nd and 5th Corps, were forced back to the place in the line which Meade first intended Sickles to occupy. It is an open question whether the position taken and resistance offered by Sickles did not delay and break the force of Longstreet's attack so as to do quite as good a work as if he had followed Meade's intention from the first. General Sickles claims that he did more than that, that his action compelled Meade to fight the battle at Gettysburg, and also that it saved the day on the 2nd of July. General Meade, and his friends after him, have vigorously denied this, and have maintained that General Sickles' course led to a needless sacrifice of his troops, and imperiled the success of the Union Arms. I have not been able as yet to study this question deeply enough (to be able) to reach a perfectly satisfactory opinion. On general military principles, and with a tolerably good knowledge of the ground, I have been inclined to rest in the opinion of General Meade and his friends. The burden of proof certainly is upon General Sickles. It is for him to show that the position General Meade intended him to occupy would be less favorable and less decisive of the result than the ground he actually took up. I do not think as yet General Sickles has succeeded in making this evident. No one questions his bravery or the good conduct of his troops on that day. It is a question of 'grand tactics', and involves many elements in its consideration. This is the best answer that I can give at present to your inquiry." JOSHUA LAWRENCE CHAMBERLAIN (1828-1914), formerly a college professor, commanded the 20th Maine regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg, where he held the extreme left flank on Little Round Top, a service for which he was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Assigned to brigade command in June 1864, he was wounded 12 days later in the assault on Petersburg. Chamberlain was promoted to Brigadier General on the spot by General Grant, and then carried to the rear, where a surgeon declared that he would certainly die from the wound; he did, 50 years later. At Appomattox, Chamberlain was given the honor of commanding the troops that formally accepted the surrender of the Confederate Army. (He ordered a salute to the defeated Confederate troops as they filed past, a gesture much appreciated in the South but used against him later by political foes in Maine.) After the war he served as Governor of Maine (1866-1870) and President of Bowdoin College (1871-1883). Chamberlain, a great success as a soldier, scholar and statesman, proved a poor businessman. His investment in Florida railroads and hotels proved unsuccessful. In 1914, the wound received at Petersburg in 1864 finally claimed his life, making him the last Civil War veteran to die from his war wounds. Chamberlain is lionized in the historical novel The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, and in the film Gettysburg, based on it. DANIEL SICKLES (1819-1914), a US Congressman (1857-1861, 1893-1895) was already famous before the Civil War for killing his wife's lover, the son of Francis Scott Key, and making the first successful use of the "temporary insanity" defense to avoid punishment. Military historians still debate the wisdom of Sickles' advance at Gettysburg, but he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for it in 1897. Sickles lost a leg at Gettysburg two days later, donated it to the Army Medical Museum in Washington, and visited it until his death. GEORGE MEADE (1815-1872), raised from Corps command shortly before Gettysburg, commanded the Army of the Potomac there and, later served as General Grant's second in command in the Eastern Theater. Toned and creased. Multiple mailing folds. Otherwise, fine condition.
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