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Chamberlain

By Michael Shaara

Introduction

Introduction

Courage is a virtue difficult to cultivate, especially among self-interested citizens oriented toward the pursuit of their own happiness. At the extreme, why shouldn’t I prefer the preservation of myself to the preservation of my nation? If there is both a natural and cultural tendency to cowardice, how is courage to be cultivated? Although courage usually grows only through repeated acts in the face of fear and danger, inspiring speeches can rally groups of men on the eve of battle. This selection—excerpted from The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1928–1988), an account of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War—and General George S. Patton’s Speech to the Third Army exemplify two such inspiriting speeches, in some ways similar, in some ways different.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, before the war a professor of rhetoric at Bowdoin College, is faced with the unexpected burden of guarding 120 mutinous soldiers, eager to return home after two years in the Union army. Summoned to march toward battle and lacking men to guard these prisoners, Chamberlain appeals to them to join his regiment, succeeding beyond his wildest expectations. What are the various aspects of Chamberlain’s appeal? How and why do his words—and his deeds—succeed with these previously recalcitrant men? Imagine yourself among the mutineers: would you have been moved to join the fight, and why?

View Jeff Daniels’ performance of the speech from the 1993 film adaptation, Gettysburg.


He dreamed of Maine and ice black water; he awoke to a murderous sun. A voice calling:

“Colonel, darlin’.” He squinted: the whiskery face of Buster Kilrain.

“Colonel, darlin’, I hate to be a-wakin’ ye, but there’s a message here ye ought to be seein’.”

Chamberlain had slept on the ground; he rolled to a sitting position. Light boiled in through the tent flap. Chamberlain closed his eyes.

“And how are ye feelin’ this mornin’, Colonel, me lad?”

Chamberlain ran his tongue around his mouth. He said briefly, dryly, “Ak.”

“We’re about to be havin’ guests, sir, or I wouldn’t be wakin’ ye.”

Chamberlain looked up through bleary eyes. He had walked eighty miles in four days through the hottest weather he had ever known and he had gone down with sunstroke. He felt eerie fragility, like a piece of thin glass in a high hot wind. He saw a wooden canteen, held in the big hand of Kilrain, cold drops of water on varnished sides. He drank. The world focused.

“. . . one hundred and twenty men,” Kilrain said.

Chamberlain peered at him.

“They should be arriving any moment,” Kilrain said. He was squatting easily, comfortably, in the opening of the tent, the light flaming behind him.

“Who?” Chamberlain said.

“They are sending us some mutineers,” Kilrain said with fatherly patience. “One hundred and twenty men from the old Second Maine, which has been disbanded.”

“Mutineers?”

“Ay. What happened was that the enlistment of the old Second ran out and they were all sent home except one hundred and twenty, which had foolishly signed three-year papers, and so they all had one year to go, only they all thought they was signing to fight with the Second, and Second only, and so they mutinied. One hundred and twenty. Are you all right, Colonel?”

Chamberlain nodded vaguely.

“Well, these poor fellers did not want to fight no more, naturally, being Maine men of a certain intelligence, and refused, only nobody will send them home, and nobody knew what to do with them, until they thought of us, being as we are the other Maine regiment here in the army. There’s a message here signed by Meade himself. That’s the new General we got now, sir, if you can keep track as they go by. The message says they’ll be sent here this morning and they are to fight, and if they don’t fight you can feel free to shoot them.”

“Shoot?”

“Ay.”

“Let me see.” Chamberlain read painfully. His head felt very strange indeed, but he was coming awake into the morning as from a long way away and he could begin to hear the bugles out across the fields. Late to get moving today. Thank God. Somebody gave us an extra hour. Bless him. He read: . . . you are therefore authorized to shoot any man who refuses to do his duty. Shoot?

He said, “These are all Maine men?”

“Yes, sir. Fine big fellers. I’ve seen them. Loggin’ men. You may remember there was a bit of a brawl some months back, during the mud march? These fellers were famous for their fists.”

Chamberlain said, “One hundred and twenty.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Somebody’s crazy.”

“Yes, sir.”

“How many men do we now have in this Regiment?”

“Ah, somewhat less than two hundred and fifty, sir, as of yesterday. Countin’ the officers.”

“How do I take care of a hundred and twenty mutinous men?”

“Yes, sir,” Kilrain sympathized. “Well, you’ll have to talk to them, sir.”

Chamberlain sat for a long moment silently trying to function. He was thirty-four years old, and on this day one year ago he had been a professor of rhetoric at Bowdoin College. He had no idea what to do. But it was time to go out into the sun. He crawled forward through the tent flap and stood up, blinking, swaying, one hand against the bole of a tree. He was a tall man, somewhat picturesque. He wore stolen blue cavalry trousers and a three-foot sword, and the clothes he wore he had not taken off for a week. He had a grave, boyish dignity, that clean-eyed, scrubbed-brain, naïve look of the happy professor.

Kilrain, a white-haired man with the build of an ape, looked up at him with fatherly joy. “If ye’ll ride the horse today, Colonel, which the Lord hath provided, instead of walkin’ in the dust with the others fools, ye’ll be all right—if ye wear the hat. It’s the walkin’, do you see, that does the great harm.”

You walked,” Chamberlain said grumpily, thinking: shoot them? Maine men? How can I shoot Maine men? I’ll never be able to go home.

“Ah, but, Colonel, darlin’, I’ve been in the infantry since before you was born. It’s them first few thousand miles. After that, a man gets a limber to his feet.”

“Hey, Lawrence. How you doin’?”

Younger brother, Tom Chamberlain, bright-faced, high-voiced, a new lieutenant, worshipful. The heat had not seemed to touch him. Chamberlain nodded. Tom said critically, “You lookin’ kinda peaked. Why don’t you ride the horse?”

Chamberlain gloomed. But the day was not as bright as it had seemed through the opening of the tent. He looked upward with relief toward a darkening sky. The troops were moving in the fields, but there had been no order to march.

The wagons were not yet loaded. He thought: God bless the delay. His mind was beginning to function. All down the road and all through the trees the troops were moving, cooking, the thousands of troops and thousands of wagons of the Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac, of which Chamberlain’s Twentieth Maine was a minor fragment. But far down the road there was motion. Kilrain said,

“There they come.”

Chamberlain squinted. Then he saw troops on the road, a long way off.

The line of men came slowly up the road. There were guards with fixed bayonets. Chamberlain could see the men shuffling, strange pathetic spectacle, dusty, dirty, ragged men, heads down, faces down: it reminded him of a historybook picture of impressed seamen in the last war with England. But these men would have to march all day, in the heat. Chamberlain thought: not possible.

Tom was meditating. “Gosh, Lawrence. There’s almost as many men there as we got in the whole regiment. How we going to guard them?”

Chamberlain said nothing. He was thinking: How do you force a man to fight—for freedom? The idiocy of it jarred him. Think on it later. Must do something now.

There was an officer, a captain, at the head of the column. The Captain turned them in off the road and herded them into an open space in the field near the Regimental flag. The men of the Regiment, busy with coffee, stood up to watch. The Captain had a loud voice and used obscene words. He assembled the men in two long ragged lines and called them to attention, but they ignored him. One slumped to the ground, more exhaustion than mutiny. A guard came forward and yelled and probed with a bayonet, but abruptly several more men sat down and then they all did, and the Captain began yelling, but the guards stood grinning confusedly, foolishly, having gone as far as they would go, unwilling to push further unless the men here showed some threat, and the men seemed beyond threat, merely enormously weary. Chamberlain took it all in as he moved toward the Captain. He put his hands behind his back and came forward slowly, studiously. The Captain pulled off dirty gloves and shook his head with contempt, glowering up at Chamberlain.

“Looking for the commanding officer, Twentieth Maine.”

“You’ve found him,” Chamberlain said.

“That’s him all right.” Tom’s voice, behind him, very proud. Chamberlain suppressed a smile.

“You Chamberlain?” The Captain stared at him grimly, insolently, showing what he thought of Maine men.

Chamberlain did not answer for a long moment, looking into the man’s eyes until the eyes suddenly blinked and dropped, and then Chamberlain said softly, “Colonel Chamberlain to you.”

The Captain stood still for a moment, then slowly came to attention, slowly saluted. Chamberlain did not return it. He looked past the Captain at the men, most of whom had their heads down. But there were eyes on him. He looked back and forth down the line, looking for a familiar face. That would help. But there was no one he knew.

“Captain Brewer, sir. Ah. One-eighteen Pennsylvania.” The Captain tugged in his coat front, produced a sheaf of papers. “If you’re the commanding officer, sir, then I present you with these here prisoners.” He handed the papers. Chamberlain took them, glanced down, handed them back to Tom. The Captain said, “You’re welcome to ’em, God knows. Had to use the bayonet to get ’em moving. You got to sign for ’em, Colonel.”

Chamberlain said over his shoulder, “Sign it, Tom.” To the Captain he said, “You’re relieved, Captain.”

The Captain nodded, pulling on the dirty gloves. “You’re authorized to use whatever force necessary, Colonel.” He said that loudly, for effect. “If you have to shoot ’em, why, you go right ahead. Won’t nobody say nothin’.”

“You’re relieved, Captain,” Chamberlain said. He walked past the Captain, closer to the men, who did not move, who did not seem to notice him. One of the guards stiffened as Chamberlain approached, looked past him to his captain. Chamberlain said, “You men can leave now. We don’t need any guards.”

He stood in front of the men, ignoring the guards. They began to move off. Chamberlain stood for a moment looking down. Some of the faces turned up. There was hunger and exhaustion and occasional hatred. Chamberlain said, “My name is Chamberlain. I’m Colonel, Twentieth Maine.”

Some of them did not even raise their heads. He waited another moment. Then he said, “When did you eat last?”

More heads came up. There was no answer. Then a man in the front row said huskily, in a whiskey voice, “We’re hungry, Colonel.”

Another man said, “They been tryin’ to break us by not feedin’ us.” Chamberlain looked: a scarred man, hatless, hair plastered thinly on the scalp like strands of black seaweed. The man said, “We ain’t broke yet.”

Chamberlain nodded. A hard case. But we’ll begin with food. He said, “They just told us you were coming a little while ago. I’ve told the cook to butcher a steer. Hope you like it near to raw; not much time to cook.” Eyes opened wide. He could begin to see the hunger on the faces, like the yellow shine of sickness. He said, “We’ve got a ways to go today and you’ll be coming with us, so you better eat hearty. We’re all set for you back in the trees.” He saw Glazier Estabrook standing huge-armed and peaceful in the shade of a nearby tree. “Glazier,” Chamberlain said, “you show these men where to go. You fellas eat up and then I’ll come over and hear what you have to say.”

No man moved. Chamberlain turned away. He did not know what he would do if they did not choose to move. He heard a voice: “Colonel?”

He turned. The scarred man was standing. “Colonel, we got grievances. The men elected me to talk for ’em.”

“Right.” Chamberlain nodded. “You come on with me and talk. The rest of you fellas go eat.” He beckoned to the scarred man and waved to Glazier Estabrook. He turned again, not waiting for the men to move off, not sure they would go, began to walk purposefully toward the blessed dark, wondering again how big a guard detail it would take, thinking he might wind up with more men out of action than in, and also: what are you going to say? Good big boys they are. Seen their share of action.

“Gosh, Lawrence,” Tom Chamberlain said.

“Smile,” Chamberlain said cheerily, “and don’t call me Lawrence. Are they moving?” He stopped and glanced pleasantly backward, saw with delight that the men were up and moving toward the trees, toward food. He grinned, plucked a book from his jacket, handed it to Tom.

“Here. This is Casey’s Manual of Infantry Tactics. You study it, maybe someday you’ll make a soldier.” He smiled at the scarred man, extended a hand. “What’s your name?”

The man stopped, looked at him for a long cold second. The hand seemed to come up against gravity, against his will. Automatic courtesy: Chamberlain was relying on it.

“I’m not usually that informal,” Chamberlain said with the same light, calm, pleasant manner that he had developed when talking to particularly rebellious students who had come in with a grievance and who hadn’t yet learned that the soft answer turneth away wrath. Some wrath. “But I suppose somebody ought to welcome you to the Regiment.”

The man said, “I don’t feel too kindly, Colonel.”

Chamberlain nodded. He went on inside the tent, the scarred man following, and sat down on a camp stool, letting the man stand. He invited the man to have coffee, which the man declined, and then listened silently to the man’s story.

The scarred man spoke calmly and coldly, looking straight into Chamberlain’s eyes. A good stubborn man. There was a bit of the lawyer about him: he used chunky phrases about law and justice. But he had heavy hands with thick muscular fingers and black fingernails and there was a look of power to him, a coiled tight set to the way he stood, balanced, ugly, slightly contemptuous, but watchful, trying to gauge Chamberlain’s strength.

Chamberlain said, “I see.”

“I been in eleven different engagements, Colonel. How many you been in?”

“Not that many,” Chamberlain said.

“I done my share. We all have. Most of us—” he gestured out the tent flap into the morning glare—“there’s some of them no damn good but most of them been all the way there and back. Damn good men. Shouldn’t ought to use them this way. Looky here.” He pulled up a pants leg. Chamberlain saw a purple gash, white scar tissue. The man let the pants leg fall. Chamberlain said nothing. The man looked at his face, seemed suddenly embarrassed, realized he had gone too far. For the first time he was uncertain. But he repeated, “I done my share.”

Chamberlain nodded. The man was relaxing slowly. It was warm in the tent; he opened his shirt. Chamberlain said, “What’s your name?”

“Bucklin. Joseph Bucklin.”

“Where you from?”

“Bangor.”

“Don’t know any Bucklins. Farmer?”

“Fishermen.”

Former Sergeant Kilrain put his head in the tent. “Colonel, there’s a courier comin’.”

Chamberlain nodded. Bucklin said, “I’m tired, Colonel. You know what I mean? I’m tired. I’ve had all of this army and all of these officers, this damned Hooker and this goddamned idiot Meade, all of them, the whole bloody lousy rotten mess of sick-brained pot-bellied scabheads that ain’t fit to lead a johnny detail, ain’t fit to pour pee outen a boot with instructions on the heel. I’m tired. We are good men and we had our own good flag and these goddamned idiots use us like we was cows or dogs or even worse. We ain’t gonna win this war. We can’t win no how because of these lame-brained bastards from West Point, these goddamned gentlemen, these officers. Only one officer knew what he was doin: McClellan, and look what happened to him. I just as soon go home and let them damn Johnnies go home and the hell with it.”

He let it go, out of breath. He had obviously been waiting to say that to some officer for a long time. Chamberlain said, “I get your point.”

Kilrain announced, “Courier, sir.”

Chamberlain rose, excused himself, stepped out into the sunlight. A bright-cheeked lieutenant, just dismounted, saluted him briskly.

“Colonel Chamberlain, sir, Colonel Vincent wishes to inform you that the corps is moving out at once and that you are instructed to take the advance. The Twentieth Maine has been assigned to the first position in line. You will send out flankers and advance guards.”

“My compliments to the Colonel.” Chamberlain saluted, turned to Kilrain and Ellis Spear, who had come up. “You heard him, boys. Get the Regiment up. Sound the General, strike the tents.” Back inside the tent, he said cheerfully to Bucklin, “We’re moving out. You better hurry up your eating. Tell your men I’ll be over in a minute. I’ll think on what you said.”

Bucklin slipped by him, went away. Chamberlain thought: we’re first in line.

“Kilrain.”

The former sergeant was back.

“Sir.”

“Where we headed?”

“West, sir. Pennsylvania somewhere. That’s all I know.”

“Listen, Buster. You’re a private now and I’m not supposed to keep you at headquarters in that rank. If you want to go on back to the ranks, you just say so, because I feel obligated—well, you don’t have to be here, but listen, I need you.”

“Then I’ll be stayin’, Colonel, laddie.” Kilrain grinned.

“But you know I can’t promote you. Not after that episode with the bottle. Did you have to pick an officer?”

Kilrain grinned. “I was not aware of rank, sir, at the time. And he was the target which happened to present itself.”

“Buster, you haven’t got a bottle about?”

“Is the Colonel in need of a drink, sir?”

“I meant . . . forget it. All right, Buster, move ’em out.”

Kilrain saluted, grinning, and withdrew. The only professional in the regiment. The drinking would kill him. Well. He would die happy. Now. What do I say to them?

Tom came in, saluted.

 “The men from the Second Maine are being fed, sir.”

“Don’t call me sir.”

“Well, Lawrence, Great God A-Mighty—”

“You just be careful of the name business in front of the men. Listen, we don’t want anybody to think there’s favoritism.”

Tom put on the wounded look, face of the ruptured deer. “General Meade has his son as his adjutant.”

“That’s different. Generals can do anything. Nothing quite so much like God on earth as a general on a battlefield.” The tent was coming down about his head; he stepped outside to avoid the collapse. The General and God was a nice parallel. They have your future in their hands and they have all power and know all. He grinned, thinking of Meade surrounded by his angelic staff: Dan Butterfield, wild Dan Sickles. But what do I say?

“Lawrence, what you goin’ to do?”

Chamberlain shook his head. The regiment was up and moving.

“God, you can’t shoot them. You do that, you’ll never go back to Maine when the war’s over.” 

“I know that.” Chamberlain meditated. “Wonder if they do?”

 He heard a flare of bugles, looked down the road toward Union Mills. The next regiment, the Eighty-Third Pennsylvania, was up and forming. He saw wagons and ambulances moving out into the road. He could feel again the yellow heat. Must remember to cover up. More susceptible to sunstroke now. Can’t afford a foggy head. He began to walk slowly toward the grove of trees.

Kilrain says tell the truth.

Which is?

Fight. Or we’ll shoot you.

Not true. I won’t shoot anybody.

He walked slowly out into the sunlight. He thought: but the truth is much more than that. Truth is too personal. Don’t know if I can express it. He paused in the heat. Strange thing. You would die for it without further question, but you had a hard time talking about it. He shook his head. I’ll wave no more flags for home. No tears for Mother. Nobody ever died for apple pie.

He walked slowly toward the dark grove. He had a complicated brain and there were things going on back there from time to time that he only dimly understood, so he relied on his instincts, but he was learning all the time. The faith itself was simple: he believed in the dignity of man. His ancestors were Huguenots, refugees of a chained and bloody Europe. He had learned their stories in the cradle. He had grown up believing in America and the individual and it was a stronger faith than his faith in God. This was the land where no man had to bow. In this place at last a man could stand up free of the past, free of tradition and blood ties and the curse of royalty and become what he wished to become. This was the first place on earth where the man mattered more than the state. True freedom had begun here and it would spread eventually over all the earth. But it had begun here. The fact of slavery upon this incredibly beautiful new clean earth was appalling, but more even than that was the horror of old Europe, the curse of nobility, which the South was transplanting to new soil. They were forming a new aristocracy, a new breed of glittering men, and Chamberlain had come to crush it. But he was fighting for the dignity of man and in that way he was fighting for himself. If men were equal in America, all these former Poles and English and Czechs and blacks, then they were equal everywhere, and there was really no such thing as a foreigner; there were only free men and slaves. And so it was not even patriotism but a new faith. The Frenchman may fight for France, but the American fights for mankind, for freedom; for the people, not the land.

Yet the words had been used too often and the fragments that came to Chamberlain now were weak. A man who has been shot at is a new realist, and what do you say to a realist when the war is a war of ideals? He thought finally. Well, I owe them the truth at least. Might’s well begin with that.

The Regiment had begun to form. Chamberlain thought: At least it’ll be a short speech. He walked slowly toward the prisoners.

Glazier Estabrook was standing guard, leaning patiently on his rifle. He was a thick little man of about forty. Except for Kilrain he was the oldest man in the Regiment, the strongest man Chamberlain had ever seen. He waved happily as Chamberlain came up but went on leaning on the rifle. He pointed at one of the prisoners.

“Hey, Colonel, you know who this is? This here is Dan Burns from Orono. I know his daddy. Daddy’s a preacher. You really ought to hear him. Best damn cusser I ever heard. Knows more fine swear words than any man in Maine, I bet. Hee.”

Chamberlain smiled. But the Burns boy was looking at him with no expression. Chamberlain said, “You fellas gather round.”

He stood in the shade, waited while they closed in silently, watchfully around him. In the background the tents were coming down, the wagons were hitching, but some of the men of the Regiment had come out to watch and listen. Some of the men here were still chewing. But they were quiet, attentive.

Chamberlain waited a moment longer. Now it was quiet in the grove and the clink of the wagons was sharp in the distance. Chamberlain said, “I’ve been talking with Bucklin. He’s told me your problem.”

Some of the men grumbled. Chamberlain heard no words clearly. He went on speaking softly so that they would have to quiet to hear him.

“I don’t know what I can do about it. I’ll do what I can. I’ll look into it as soon as possible. But there’s nothing I can do today. We’re moving out in a few minutes and we’ll be marching all day and we may be in a big fight before nightfall. But as soon as I can, I’ll do what I can.”

They were silent, watching him. Chamberlain began to relax. He had made many speeches and he had a gift for it. He did not know what it was, but when he spoke most men stopped to listen. Fanny said it was something in his voice. He hoped it was there now.

“I’ve been ordered to take you men with me. I’ve been told that if you don’t come I can shoot you. Well, you know I won’t do that. Not Maine men. I won’t shoot any man who doesn’t want this fight. Maybe someone else will, but I won’t. So that’s that.”

He paused again. There was nothing on their faces to lead him.

“Here’s the situation. I’ve been ordered to take you along, and that’s what I’m going to do. Under guard if necessary. But you can have your rifles if you want them. The whole Reb army is up the road a ways waiting for us and this is no time for an argument like this. I tell you this: we sure can use you. We’re down below half strength and we need you, no doubt of that. But whether you fight or not is up to you. Whether you come along, well, you’re coming.”

Tom had come up with Chamberlain’s horse. Over the heads of the prisoners Chamberlain could see the Regiment falling into line out in the flaming road. He took a deep breath.

“Well, I don’t want to preach to you. You know who we are and what we’re doing here. But if you’re going to fight alongside us there’s a few things I want you to know.”

He bowed his head, not looking at eyes. He folded his hands together.

“This Regiment was formed last fall, back in Maine. There were a thousand of us then. There’s not three hundred of us now.” He glanced up briefly. “But what is left is choice.”

He was embarrassed. He spoke very slowly, staring at the ground.

“Some of us volunteered to fight for Union. Some came in mainly because we were bored at home and this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came . . . because it was the right thing to do. All of us have seen men die. Most of us never saw a black man back home. We think on that, too. But freedom . . . is not just a word.”

He looked up in to the sky, over silent faces.

“This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you’ll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we’re here for something new. I don’t . . . this hasn’t happened much in the history of the world. We’re an army going out to set other men free.”

He bent down, scratched the black dirt into his fingers. He was beginning to warm to it; the words were beginning to flow. No one in front of him was moving. He said, “This is free ground. All the way from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow. No man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by what your father was. Here you can be something. Here’s a place to build a home. It isn’t the land—there’s always more land. It’s the idea that we all have value, you and me, we’re worth something more than the dirt. I never saw dirt I’d die for, but I’m not asking you to come join us and fight for dirt. What we’re all fighting for, in the end, is each other.”

Once he started talking he broke right through the embarrassment and there was suddenly no longer a barrier there. The words came out of him in a clear river, and he felt himself silent and suspended in the grove listening to himself speak, carried outside himself and looking back down on the silent faces and himself speaking, and he felt the power in him, the power of his cause. For an instant he could see black castles in the air; he could create centuries of screaming, eons of torture. Then he was back in sunlit Pennsylvania. The bugles were blowing and he was done.

He had nothing else to say. No one moved. He felt the embarrassment return. He was suddenly enormously tired. The faces were staring up at him like white stones. Some heads were down. He said, “Didn’t mean to preach. Sorry. But I thought . . . you should know who we are.” He had forgotten how tiring it was just to speak. “Well, this is still the army, but you’re as free as I can make you. Go ahead and talk for a while. If you want your rifles for this fight you’ll have them back and nothing else will be said. If you won’t join us you’ll come along under guard. When this is over I’ll do what I can to see that you get fair treatment. Now we have to move out.” He stopped, looked at them. The faces showed nothing. He said slowly, “I think if we lose this fight the war will be over. So if you choose to come with us I’ll be personally grateful. Well. We have to move out.”

He turned, left silence behind him. Tom came up with the horse—a palegray lightfooted animal. Tom’s face was shiny red.

“My Lawrence, you sure talk pretty.”

Chamberlain grunted. He was really tired. Rest a moment. He paused with his hands on the saddle horn. There was a new vague doubt stirring in his brain. Something troubled him; he did not know why.

“You ride today, Lawrence. You look weary.”

Chamberlain nodded. Ellis Spear was up. He was Chamberlain’s ranking officer, an ex-teacher from Wiscasset who was impressed with Chamberlain’s professorship. A shy man, formal, but very competent. He gestured toward the prisoners.

“Colonel, what do you suggest we do with them?”

“Give them a moment. Some of them may be willing to fight. Tom, you go back and see what they say. We’ll have to march them under guard. Don’t know what else to do. I’m not going to shoot them. We can’t leave them here.”

The Regiment had formed out in the road, the color bearers in front. Chamberlain mounted, put on the wide-brimmed hat with the emblem of the infantry, began walking his horse slowly across the field toward the road. The uneasiness still troubled him. He had missed something, he did not know what. Well, he was an instinctive man; the mind would tell him sooner or later. Perhaps it was only that when you try to put it into words you cannot express it truly, it never sounds as you dream it. But then . . . you were asking them to die.

Ellis Speer was saying, “How far are we from Pennsylvania, Colonel, you have any idea?”

“Better than twenty miles.” Chamberlain squinted upward. “Going to be another hot day.”

He moved to the head of the column. The troops were moving slowly, patiently, setting themselves for the long march. After a moment Tom came riding up. His face was delighted. Chamberlain said, “How many are going to join us?”

Tom grinned hugely. “Would you believe it? All but six.”

How many?

“I counted, by actual count, one hundred and fourteen.”

“Well.” Chamberlain rubbed his nose, astounded.

Tom said, still grinning, “Brother, you did real good.”

“They’re all marching together?”

“Right. Glazier’s got the six hardheads in tow.”

“Well, get all the names and start assigning them to different companies. I don’t want them bunched up, spread them out. See about their arms.”

“Yes, sir, Colonel, sir.”

Chamberlain reached the head of the column. The road ahead was long and straight, rising toward a ridge of trees. He turned in his saddle, looked back, saw the entire Fifth Corps forming behind him. He thought: 120 new men. Hardly noticeable in such a mass. And yet . . . he felt a moment of huge joy. He called for road guards and skirmishers and the Twentieth Maine began to move toward Gettysburg.


Shaara, Michael. “Chamberlain.” From Shaara, Michael, The Killer Angels. New York: Ballantine Books, 1974, 17–32. Copyright © 1974 by Michael Shaara, copyright renewed 2002 by Jeff M. Shaara and Lila E. Shaara. Used by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Random House, Inc. for permission.

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