The Civil Dozen — Part Three

Chamberlain said: “When did you eat last?” There was no immediate answer from the mutineers. Finally one man said: “They been tryin’ to break us by not feedin’ us. We ain’t broke yet.” Chamberlain nodded and said: “They just told us you were coming a little while ago. I’ve told the cook to butcher a steer. Hope you like it raw. There is not much time to cook. We’ve got a ways to go today and you’ll be coming with us, so you better eat hearty. The food has been set up for you back in the trees.” No one moved. Not a single person moved. Chamberlain turned away. He thought: “What would he do if they would choose not to move?” Finally, a scarred man stood and called out to Chamberlain. “Colonel, we got grievances. The men elected me to talk for ‘em.” “Right.” Chamberlain nodded. “You come on with me and talk. The rest of you fellas go eat.” Chamberlain turned away and was pleased to hear the men were up and moving toward the food in the trees. He smiled at the spokesperson, extended a hand, and asked: “What’s your name?” The man stopped, looked at him for a long cold second. The hand seemed to come up against gravity, against his will. This was automatic courtesy and Chamberlain was relying on it. “Bucklin. Joseph Bucklin.” Chamberlain invited Bucklin to have coffee and then listened silently to the man’s story. They were interrupted by the arrival of a courier. “Colonel Chamberlain, the Twentieth Maine is to move out and is instructed to take the first position in line.” Chamberlain instructed his aide to strike the tents and he turned to Bucklin. “We’re moving out. You better hurry up and go eat. Tell your men I’ll be over in a minute. I’ll think on what you said.” His regiment was up and moving. Chamberlain shook his head. “God, I can’t shoot them. If I do that, I’ll never be able to go back to Maine when the war’s over.” He walked slowly toward the prisoners thinking, at least, it’ll be a short speech. He stood in the shade, waited while they closed...

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The Civil Dozen — Part Two (b)

Part Two [2] 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...

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