The Civil Dozen — Part Two (a)

He was born Lawrence Joshua Chamberlain – on September 8, 1828 – in a cottage near the family homestead in Brewer, Maine. Brewer was a farming and shipbuilding community. Chamberlain’s parents named him after the heroic Commodore James Lawrence who had immortalized the words: “Don’t give up the ship!” The eldest of five children, young Lawrence was raised as a Puritan and Huguenot (French Protestant) in a household which prized good manners, cheerfulness, morality, education, and industry. During his adolescence, scholastic studies and farm work kept the shy, serious, and dutiful youth busy. This combination of scholastic studies and farm work taught him many lessons. One of the most important was earned while plowing the rough fields. His strict and taciturn father taught him that sheer willpower followed by positive action could accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. His father, a former lieutenant colonel in the military, wished for his son to enter the army. But his mother, a religious woman, wanted him to study for the ministry. After much consideration on the matter, Lawrence agreed to enter the ministry if he could become a missionary in a foreign land, a popular career choice of the time. In 1848, Lawrence entered Bowdoin College at Brunswick, where he began using Joshua as his first name. During these initial years away from home, the introverted 19-year-old felt lonely and spoke little because he was embarrassed by his propensity for stammering. Joshua – remembering the lesson from his father about sheer willpower followed by positive action overcoming seemingly impossible tasks – learned to overcome his stammering by “singing out” phrases on a “wave of breath.” By his third year at Bowdoin, he had won awards in both composition and oratory. As a student, Joshua earned a reputation for standing behind his principles. He refused to cut corners. He refused to cheat. He refused to even marry the girl he loved until he had a means for providing for her. This sense of honor never deserted him, even when under fire. When not pursuing his studies, Joshua enjoyed singing and playing musical instruments. Without any training, he learned to play both the bass viol and the organ by himself. In...

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