Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Scope and Content
The collection was acquired by the Hayes Presidential Center in 1959. The Rutherford B. Hayes Papers includes additional Chamberlain correspondence.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was born Sept. 8, 1828, in Brewer, Maine, to Joshua and Sarah Dupee Brastow Chamberlain. He attended a military academy in Ellsworth, Bowdoin College, and Bangor Theological Seminary. After graduating in 1855, he returned to Bowdoin College as a faculty member and taught a wide variety of subjects. Chamberlain married Frances Caroline Adams in 1855. The couple had five children.
Chamberlain enlisted in the Union army during the Civil War and was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the Twentieth Maine Infantry on August 8, 1862. He was promoted to colonel and regimental commander May 20, 1863. During the battle at Gettysburg the Twentieth Maine was positioned on Little Round Top, the extreme left flank of the Union line. Its heroic defense of this position played an important part in repelling the Confederate attack of July 2, 1863. Chamberlain was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions in this fight.
Chamberlain, wounded several times during the remainder of the war, was promoted to brigadier general in 1864. His meritorious service during the war's final campaigns earned him the honor of commanding the forces designated to receive Lee's formal surrender at Appomattox Court House.
At the close of the war Chamberlain returned to Maine and Bowdoin College. He soon entered political life and was elected governor of Maine four times, serving from 1866-1870. In 1871, he was chosen as the sixth president of Bowdoin College and remained in that position until 1883. President Rutherford B. Hayes named Chamberlain as one of the U.S. Commissioners to the Paris Exposition of 1878. Chamberlain retired from Bowdoin College in 1883 and pursued several business and literary interests. He was named Surveyor of the Port of Portland, Maine in 1900, a position he held until his death in 1914.
Scope and Content
This collection contains 21 items dated 1867-1913. The bulk of the correspondence is comprised of letters directed to Chamberlain. Four additional letters make reference to the general. Most of the items concern Chamberlain's appointment as Surveyor of the Port of Portland, Maine, or the business of the surveyor. There is also a copy of an 1867 petition from Calvin Bates of the Twentieth Maine seeking a pension and back pay from his time as a prisoner of war.
Letters to Chamberlain from:
- Allen, Amos Lawrence, Representative from Maine, dated 2/12/1900 and 2/29/1902
- Bates, Calvin, dated 2/4/1867
- Black, John Charles, Representative from Illinois, and president, U.S. Civil Service Commission, dated 8/21/1907
- Fogler, Grace Edna, dated 4/2/1899
- Frye, William Pierce, Senator from Maine, dated 8/30/?
- Gardner, Obadiah, Senator from Maine, dated 5/28/1912
- Gilmore, Charles D., dated 1/11/1880
- Gordon, John Brown, Senator from Georgia, dated 2/26/1892
- Hale, Eugene, Senator from Maine, dated 11/8/1902 and 2/4/1910
- Jewell, Claudius B., dated 4/23/1886 and 3/15/1889
- Kean, John, Senator from New Jersey, dated 6/6/1902
- Rutherford, Allan, dated 1/19/1884
- Smith, George Otis, Director of U.S. Geological Survey, Dept. of the Interior, dated 6/14/1913
- Spear, Ellis, dated 10/25/1883
Letters referring to Chamberlain from:
- Allen, Amos, Representative from Maine, dated 12/12/1899
- Claflin, William, Representative from Massachusetts, dated 1/23/1880
- Cortelyou, George B., assistant secretary to President McKinley, dated 2/5/1900
- Porter, J. A., secretary to President McKinley, dated 11/28/1899