After all the drama and excitement of the battlefield, Chamberlain found the professor’s occupation at Bowdoin tame and uninspiring. Despite receiving an honorary doctor of law degree from Pennsylvania College in 1866, and later from Bowdoin in 1869, a restlessness prevailed within him. Chamberlain decided to pursue a political career, and in September 1866 was elected governor of Maine by the largest majority in the state’s history. He served four one-year terms in all, concluding his last term at the end of 1870.
As governor, Chamberlain continued to do what he thought was right, despite objection. He chose to carry out the law and enforce controversial measures as capital punishment even though there were great objections raised by other officials and citizens.
In 1871, Chamberlain was elected president of Bowdoin by the trustees of the college. His presidency, which would conclude in 1883, found him being Chamberlain-like. His reign saw him introduce progressive and occasionally unpopular ideas to the conservative institution. He endorsed studies in science and engineering, de-emphasized religion, and became involved in student demonstrations over the question of ROTC (due to him having students participate in military drills in preparation for the possibility of war). To the end, Chamberlain stood for his ideals despite the opposition. The later years of Chamberlain’s career found him pursuing business ventures, serving as U.S. Surveyor of Customs at the Port of Portland, Maine, and writing about his wartime experiences. Chamberlain passed away on February 24, 1914 at the age of 86, having died of the war wound he received so long ago in Petersburg.
“In great deeds something abides.”