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Friday, 1 April 2016

Chamberlain's Close Call


As General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s brigade advanced across Lewis’s Farm 151 years ago today, the general’s horse, charging with all possible speed, reared up on his hind legs. At that moment, a Confederate bullet pierced the animal’s neck and struck the rider in the chest. General Charles Griffin found Chamberlain slumped against the horse covered in blood—his own and the horse’s—and feared the worst. Fortunately for the Union general, the rebel bullet struck a sheaf of papers and a mirror in his breast pocket, leaving the hero of Little Round Top bruised, but alive. Chamberlain regained consciousness and rushed back to the front to press the attack home. Chamberlain’s men were successful, further tightening the noose around Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army at Petersburg, and setting the stage for the end of the 292-day siege.

Chamberlain survived the war, taking part in the surrender ceremonies at Appomattox Court House, just two weeks after his near death experience at Lewis’s Farm. Years later, Chamberlain reflected on the battlefields of his youth:

“On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls... generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”

If you’d like to explore more about the day’s events at Lewis’s Farm, our Petersburg Battle App™ guide goes over the key people, places, and events in detail. It is available for free for both iPhone and Android devices. Learn more here.

The Civil War Trust