Joshua Chamberlain in History and Memory

Open Access
Hess, Nathaniel Robert
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Carol A Reardon, Thesis Supervisor
  • Michael James Milligan, Honors Advisor
  • Mark E Neely Jr., Faculty Reader
  • Chamberlain
  • Joshua
  • Civil War
  • Memory
  • 20th Maine
This thesis examines the path that the American Civil War general Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain took through the mists of history and memory to the present day. Chamberlain has become the quintessential Civil War hero, and this thesis tracks the progress of Chamberlain’s rise to fame. While Chamberlain is enormously popular today, his image has not always been so. His fame began largely in his home state of Maine. His heroic actions on July 2, 1863 on Little Round Top at Gettysburg, however, cast him into the national spotlight. After the war, he defended that legacy actively, sometimes against the criticisms lodged by his own veterans. Later in the 20th Century, Chamberlain’s rise came to fruition through the mediums of historical fiction and film. In his push towards fame, Chamberlain’s legend thrust aside all other contenders to advance a version of the “truth” surrounding his actions during the fight at Little Round Top, and beyond.