Podcast Episode
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Calls for the Bayonet
America's Forgotten Heroes  •  Jul 1, 2021  •  53m
On July 3, 1863, Union forces easily took up a defensive line along a small rise call Cemetery Ridge in the peaceful Pennsylvania crossroad village called Gettysburg. But the extreme far left of the Union line was, in the parlance of the time, “in the air” — meaning it was not anchored to a river or forest or other natural barrier. Defense of the extreme let of the Federal line fell to the 20th Maine Infantry regiment, commanded by a Professor of Rhetoric named Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Standing on the crest of a small hill known as Little Round Top, Chamberlain immediately realized that to lose this position would mean that Confederate Artillery would be able to enfilade the entire Union line. The loss of Little Round Top meant the loss of the Battle of Gettysburg, and the loss of Gettysburg would mean the loss of the Pennsylvania capitol at Harrisburg. After the endless series of catastrophes suffered by the Army of the Potomac, the loss of a northern state capital might have been enough to bring Great Britain into war on the side of the Confederacy. Astonishingly, Chamberlain saw all of this very plainly. Robert E. Lee wanted Little Round Top, and launched wave after wave of attacks up the thickly forested hill. By the time of the penultimate charge, Chamberlains men were out of ammunition and reduced to throwing rocks. As his exhausted, bloodied and battered men faced yet another Confederate charge, Chamberlain, acting on instinct, personally led Union bayonets in a counter-charge that saved the position, the battle, and possibly the war.