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Feature on Civil War generals. TOPIC: CIVIL WAR & PEOPLE
Written by Kenny McDougle, printed by Jim Sayre in March, 1999

OPPOSITE CAREER PATHS: 'STONEWALL' JACKSON AND JOSHUA L. CHAMBERLAIN

The Battlefield-Academic Career of Joshua L. Chamberlain

Birth and Background of Parents
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was born September 8, 1828, in Brewer, Maine, the oldest of five children. His father, also named Joshua, was a Brewer farmer who took a leading citizen’s part in civil and military affairs, holding at one time office of county commissioner and serving as unionbrigadiergeneraljoshuachamberlain.gif (61607 bytes)lieutenant-colonel commanding the militia regiment at the time of Maine’s "Aroostook War" with New Brunswick. His mother, Sarah, was quite different. Filled with energy, she kept all about her busy with activity with her children. She resolved early in his life that the young Joshua should devote himself to the Lord’s work. That her husband was equally determined on a military career for their oldest son did not disturb her. ( See photo at right of Union Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain from Brady Collection, National Archives.)

Early Life
Growing up on a 100-acre farm, the young Chamberlain learned that few things are so difficult that they cannot be mastered. He learned to shoot, sing, and play the string bass, in which he became an accomplished player. His father sent him to a military academy in nearby Ellsworth. Joshua did very well in military drill, Latin, and the required modern language, French.

Career Decision
Nearing the end of his teens, no decision had been made concerning a possible career. The social and spiritual significance of the Congregational Church in Brewer began to possess him. He agreed to become a minister of the gospel as a missionary to some country. To reach this goal, he had to earn a college education. The college in Maine which produced many aspirants to the Congregational ministry at that time was Bowdoin College in Brunswick. In 1848 he was admitted.

A successful student, Joshua received second prize ($5) for English composition at the end of his senior year. Joshua graduated in 1852. He entered the Bangor Theological Seminary that year and was graduated in 1855.

Professor at Bowdoin
While studying at the seminary, he presented an oration at Bowdoin. The faculty and administration were impressed and invited Chamberlain for the academic year, 1855-56, to become an instructor in logic and natural theology. Stowe had taught these same subjects in 1852. Joshua accepted the position and celebrated by marrying Fanny Adams on December 7, 1855. His wife was also a member of the Congregational Church.

Growing Uneasy
By 1862, several students from Bowdoin were serving with the Union forces. For Chamberlain, the conviction mounted that he must commit himself to this struggle in which he saw the very citadel of civilization threatened, a respect for the laws of man and God. Friends were bothered at the possibility of his leaving. Besides, if he were going to be an officer, he had no qualifying experience, no military training except for what he received at the academy years before. In its concern, the college gave him a two-year leave of absence in August 1862 to travel and study in Europe. He at first accepted, but then gave in to his conscience. He went to Augusta to see Governor Israel Washburn. Chamberlain was offered the rank of lieutenant-colonel, a subordinate position but one in which he could master the art of command in war.

Military Career
Chamberlain was assigned to the 20th Maine Infantry, mustered into Federal service on August 29, 1862. Its first action was at Antietam, September 17. Until the end of the war, April 9, 1865, Chamberlain took part in 24 battles and was wounded six times. His climb to fame as a military leader took place at Gettysburg, July 1-4, 1863. Chosen to hold the ground of the extreme left of the Union Army on Little Round Top, Chamberlain led his troops in a deadly counterattack which allowed enough time for additional troops from other units to arrive. For this action, Chamberlain was award the Congressional Medal of Honor.

On June 18, 1864, Chamberlain was severely wounded at Petersburg. Believed to be near death, he was promoted to brigadier general. Following a recovery lasting until November, Chamberlain returned to active duty on the 19th, only to be wounded again on March 29, 1865, at the Battle of Five Forks. Chamberlain was chosen from all of the officers in the army to receive the formal surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1965. This honor moved him greatly, perhaps more than anything else in his whirlwind military career of three years.

Chamberlain was assigned to the 20th Maine Infantry, mustered into Federal service on August 29, 1862. Its first action was at Antietam, September 17. Until the end of the war, April 9, 1865, Chamberlain took part in 24 battles and was wounded six times. His climb to fame as a military leader took place at Gettysburg, July 1-4, 1863. Chosen to hold the ground of the extreme left of the Union Army on Little Round Top, Chamberlain led his troops in a deadly counterattack which allowed enough time for additional troops from other units to arrive. For this action, Chamberlain was award the Congressional Medal of Honor.

On June 18, 1864, Chamberlain was severely wounded at Petersburg. Believed to be near death, he was promoted to brigadier general. Following a recovery lasting until November, Chamberlain returned to active duty on the 19th, only to be wounded again on March 29, 1865, at the Battle of Five Forks. Chamberlain was chosen from all of the officers in the army to receive the formal surrender of Lee’s army at Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1965. This honor moved him greatly, perhaps more than anything else in his whirlwind military career of three years.

Return to Bowdoin
Due to his physical condition, a permanent army career was impossible. Chamberlain returned to his teaching post during the 1865-66 academic year. Becoming restless he was soon drawn to the political stage. In November of that year, he was elected governor and served until 1871.

President of Bowdoin College
In the spring of 1871, he was approached by the Board of Trustees about becoming president. This opportunity presented Chamberlain with the possibility of putting into effect a number of educational ideas long fermenting in his mind. In the fall of that year, he became the sixth president of Bowdoin. He had in mind three areas of reform: a loosening of discipline; curriculum revision with greater emphasis on science, and the introduction of military drill.

The students did not take well to his last idea. In the spring of 1874, a "revolt" took place in which the sophomore class signed a pledge, "We refuse to ever again to drill at this college." This action doomed Chamberlain’s military program. In June, the Board voted that it become optional. By 1878, even Chamberlain admitted failure to this plan and the others he had envisioned. In 1880 and 1881, the Boards discontinued the scientific and engineering programs he had started. In spite of these failures, Chamberlain left his mark on the curriculum and must be remembered as being ahead of his time. In 1883 he resigned but continued to lecture on public law and political economy until 1885.

Later Life
Never able to completely recover from his wounds, Chamberlain was in pain for the remainder of his life. After serving as president, he was appointed by the Hayes administration a commissioner of education representing the United States in Paris at the Universal Exposition; was president of three companies; and became surveyor of customs for the port of Portland, Maine. He died February 24, 1914.

References

Nesbitt, M. Through blood and fire. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1996.

Wallace, W. M. Soul of the lion. Gettysburg, PA: Stan Clark Military Books, 1960

______________

The Academic-Battlefield Career of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson

Birth and Early Life
Jackson was born January 21, 1824, in Clarksville, Virginia (now West Virginia). In 1826, Jonathan, Thomas’ father, died from a fever. Mrs. Jackson remarried in 1830 to Blake Woodson, an elderly widower without much money.

Due to this situation, Thomas was sent to live with an uncle, whose name was Cummins. In 1831, Jackson’s mother died. Thomas thrived under the guidance of his uncle, attending school and helping with his farm. In the winter of 1840-41, Tom followed in his brother Warren’s footsteps and became a school teacher, despite his limited academic training. He was employed to teach reading and spelling to three girls and two boys, all about 11 or 12 years old. The term lasted four months for which he was paid $5.64.

Jackson was at that time 16 years old. The school was in a log cabin, not far from Jackson’s Mill. It was supported by the Virginia "Literary Fund" which helped families without money to send their children to private schools, since there were no public schools then in the region. A model for penmanship, supposedly written by Tom for his pupils, encouraged them: "A man of words and not of deeds is like a garden full of weeds."

It is not known if he enjoyed teaching at this point of his life, 16 years of age at the time. Through the assistance of his uncle Cummins and a family friend, Colonel Withers, Jackson was appointed constable of Lewis County. Not an easy job, he was expected to collect bad debts. The only authority he had was the law, which was not always honored, and his own ingenuity.

The Road to West Point
Being a constable was not a bad position, but Jackson wanted more. He was ambitiousconferederategeneralthomasjstonewalljackson.gif (60539 bytes), desired to be rich, and determined that being educated could help. However, he was a penniless orphan.

In order to better himself, Jackson earned an appointment to West Point. Following his graduation in 1846, he participated in the Mexican War until 1848. (See photo at right of Confederate General Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson from National Archives.)

Professor, Virginia Military Institute
In November 1839, the Virginia Military Institute opened with 28 cadets. By 1851, the number of cadets had risen to 117. This led to the creation of a new faculty position. The superintendent, Colonel Frances Smith, was directed by the Board of Visitors that the new teacher was to be a graduate of West Point. After several unsuccessful attempts, Smith shared his frustrations with Major Daniel Harvey Hill, of the Washington College faculty. He handed Hill a copy of the Army Register and urged him to find a suitable candidate. Hill quickly picked out Jackson.

He and Jackson had served together during the Mexican War. Smith sent a letter to Jackson inviting him to apply for the position of Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy.

In 1851, Jackson was stationed at Fort Meade, near Tampa Bay, Florida. He had been there for two years after a previous stay at Fort Hamilton in New York. Jackson received Smith’s letter in late February 1851. He replied that his name be presented to the Board. In April, the vote by the Board of Visitors was unanimous. Jackson had been appointed professor of Natural Philosophy and Artillery Tactics. After taking advantage of a leave by going to New York, Jackson reported for his new job in August 1851.

From the very start Jackson was a poor teacher. He taught the second-class Optics and Analytical Mechanics and the first class Optics, Acoustics, and Astronomy. Almost ignorant of these subjects, Jackson had to spend long hours preparing for his classes. Organizing his lessons proved a difficult task. He had to prepare with badly weakened eyes which lessened his ability to stay the proverbial "chapter ahead of his class."

Since the first inroads of eye trouble in 1848, Jackson had abandoned all reading by artificial light. Evening hours were lost as a time for study. As he was busy for large portions of each day, he developed a schedule. After his morning classes, he quickly read over the next day’s material. Following dinner he would stand facing a wall going over in his mind the lessons which he had read earlier. He developed limitless powers of concentration and photographic recall of anything he read.

In spite of this dedicated ritual, Jackson continued to struggle in his classroom. Most of the cadets showed a healthy distaste for such abstract and difficult problems. He was too literal to be a successful teacher. His mind was direct, objective, and definite. Slow to solve a problem, once he grasped the solution he was committed to that one train of logic. His own method of solution was the one he presented to the class. Jackson had no facility for drawing analogies, citing parallel, examples, and developing alternate plans. Single-mindedness can make a field commander a conqueror, but it ruins a teacher. Jackson could never let go with his students, could never share his problems and triumphs with them.

Due to his aloofness, Jackson was a prime target for brutal student humor. As he passed one day through the sally port of the barracks, someone dropped a brick from a third story window. The brick barely missed, brushing the major’s hat. Jackson remained straight on his course, never looking up or around. On another occasion there was a loud knock on the door of his quarters. When Jackson opened the door, a cadet, tied to a chair, fell backward into the room. This was a large joke on Jackson, but one that backfired for the cohorts of the chair-bound cadet. The lead conspirators were caught and dismissed from the Institute. Even on the parade ground, during artillery drill, they would hurl remarks at the major. Although mildly interested in his experiences in the Mexican War, they could not view him as a military hero. He never made the slightest claim to fame. They took him at what seemed to be his own estimate and complained loudly.

In July 1856, an alumni resolution concerning the mismanagement of the Department of Natural and Experimental Philosophy was made to the Board of Visitors. The proposal did not object to Jackson per se. However, members believed he was not teaching his subject matter to best advantage. In their opinion, the cadets and the Institute were suffering. This action placed the Board in a precarious position, which had no desire for trouble with the Society of the Alumni. At the same time, the Board did not wish to take action against Jackson or his department. The resolution was tabled.

It was a serious enough matter for Superintendent Smith to attempt to remove the pressure from the major and the Institute. Even though Smith recognized Jackson’s limitations as a teacher, he also admired him to a large degree. As Smith explained in his annual report for 1856-57, the problems were not so much with the teacher as with the limited classroom and laboratory facilities. The superintendent announced a new room had been established for Jackson’s department.

Despite these improvements the alumni pressure did reach Jackson. These whispers could only mean one thing -- the former students wanted him fired. Recognizing his own limitations, as he always did, Jackson made serious efforts to improve, including an attempt to write his own text in optics. He also wanted his name cleared. He addressed a letter to the Board of Visitors in July 1857, requesting that the communication from the previous year be investigated. On motion, the issue was tabled by the Board. Jackson’s job was still safe, regardless of the disgust of the alumni.

Military Career and Death
At the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Jackson left VMI to enter the Confederate army. He was commissioned a colonel and within several months was given the rank of brigadier general. Jackson earned his nickname at the First Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861, where his troops stood "like a stone wall" against Union forces, according to Brigadier General Barnard E. Bee.

Jackson won a series of victories against a larger Union army during a campaign in the Shenandoah Valley in the spring of 1862. Later serving with General Robert E. Lee, Jackson took part in Confederate victories in the Seven Days’ Battle at Richmond, Second Battle of Bull Run, and Fredericksburg. On May 2, 1863, while scouting the front lines near dark following what was to become known as the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson was accidentally shot by his own troops. Pneumonia set in after his left arm was removed just below the shoulder. Jackson died on May 10. He was given a full military funeral and burial in Lexington.

References
Chambers, L., Stonewall Jackson. N.Y.: William Morrow & Co., 1959. Davis, B., They called him Stonewall. N.Y.: Rinehart & Co., 1954. Martin, D. G., The Chancellorsville campaign. Conshohocken, PA: Combined Books, Inc., 1992. Vandiver, F. E. Mighty Stonewall. N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1957.

About Professor Kenny O. McDougle

Seventy-five members of the Shelby County Civil War Roundtable heard Professor Kenny O. McDougle speak on March 15, 1999, at the Amos Community Center, Dorothy Love Retirement Community. The program was arranged by Dan O’Connor, executive director of Dorothy Love Retirement Community.

McDougle, associate professor of curriculum and instruction at Pittsburgh State University in Pittsburgh, Kansas, based his presentation on his two recent papers tracing opposite career paths of two prominent Civil War generals, one Confederate, the other Union: Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson and Joshua L. Chamberlain.

A native of Louisiana and educated at Northeast Louisiana University, Louisiana Tech, and the University of North Texas, McDougle holds bachelor and master degrees in music and master and doctorate degrees in education.

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