For much of the 20th century, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's life and career remained mostly obscure outside of dedicated scholars of the Battle of Gettysburg and alumni and students of Bowdoin College. Colonel Chamberlain had led the 20th Maine regiment at Gettysburg, holding the extreme left of the Union line on Little Round Top, and he continued to rise up the ranks toward the end of the war until he was commanding a brigade and present at the surrender ceremony of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox. After the Civil War, Chamberlain served as governor of Maine and president of Bowdoin College.
Chamberlain had a respectable Civil War career and life, but he had been largely forgotten in the decades after the Civil War, with the focus on more influential commanding generals and their principal subordinates. Then a remarkable thing happened with the 1974 publication of Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historical novel that focused on the Battle of Gettysburg and its influential generals and leaders. In one fell swoop, Michael Shaara breathed life back into the reputations of men like John Buford and Joshua Chamberlain, cast as the Union heroes of day one and day two respectively that made victory at Gettysburg possible. In the novel Chamberlain's regiment holds the high ground against a series of desperate Confederate charges, and when they ran out of gunpowder, Chamberlain ordered a brave bayonet charge that drove the Confederates in their front from the fight. With that, the Union's left flank was saved.
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