On Great Fields: The Life and Unlikely Heroism of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

Random. Oct. 2023. 512p. ISBN 9780525510086. $35. MILITARY HISTORY
Joshua Chamberlain (1828–1914) is remembered for his actions during the Battle of Gettysburg at Little Round Top and the charge of the 20th Maine Infantry regiment. Historian White’s (Lincoln in Private) latest biography covers the entirety of Chamberlain’s extraordinary life. The Union army volunteer demanded strict and exacting discipline from himself. As a young man, he overcame a severe stammer, taught himself military drills and tactics, and learned several languages, including Hebrew and Arabic, to help him on his travels. As a professor at his alma mater, Bowdoin College, he attempted to introduce educational reforms that emphasized critical thinking and reflection instead of rote memorization and recitation. A severe hip and groin wound received at the Battle of Petersburg plagued him for the remainder of his life, leaving him in constant pain. He never healed properly but was awarded the Medal of Honor. After the war, Chamberlain served four terms as governor of Maine, returned to Bowdoin College as president, and gave many lectures on his wartime experiences.
VERDICT Based on extensive primary research, this book gives fresh insight into Chamberlain’s life. Readers interested in the American Civil War and biographies of famous 19th-century Americans will enjoy this title.
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