Joshua Chamberlain and the Civil War: At Every Hazard is a historical novel about one of that war's genuine heroes, a college professor with no formal military training who, together with a small company of men, turned the tide of the battle and the war with a bayonet charge at Gettysburg. This was not the end of his exploits, however, and by war's end, he was so respected that Ulysses S. Grant chose Chamberlain to accept the South's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. The novel traces his evolution from an arrogant ...
Joshua Chamberlain and the Civil War: At Every Hazard is a historical novel about one of that war's genuine heroes, a college professor with no formal military training who, together with a small company of men, turned the tide of the battle and the war with a bayonet charge at Gettysburg. This was not the end of his exploits, however, and by war's end, he was so respected that Ulysses S. Grant chose Chamberlain to accept the South's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. The novel traces his evolution from an arrogant, overbearing professor to unwitting and unlikely hero and leader of men. Interwoven are subplots including the coming of age of his young orphaned aide, a complicated marriage, and of course, lots of rousing battle scenes. The story begins with a ferocious battle scene that orphans fourteen-year-old Emmett Collins. Following the last instructions of his father, Emmett shows up on Chamberlain's doorstep in Brunswick, Maine, where he joins Chamberlain and the 20th Maine as they embark for war in the late summer of 1862. He grows from a boy into a man over the next three years as he accompanies Chamberlain on his rise through the ranks to Major General and recipient of the Medal of Honor. Joshua Chamberlain and Emmett Collins journey to the battlefront in September of 1862, engaging in limited action until July of 1863. As is the wont of history, sometimes-great fates turn on the smallest of incidents. In this case, the 20th Maine was positioned on a small knoll, Little Round Top, on the extreme left of the entire Union Army. The order was given to defend this hill AT EVERY HAZARD, for failure here would allow the Confederates to roll up the flank and would most certainly result in Union defeat. After hours and hours of fierce fighting, outnumbered, with half his regiment wounded or dead and those still standing short on ammunition, Joshua Chamberlain ordered the 20th Maine to fix bayonets and led a sweeping charge. This cleared the field, making sure the defense of the left flank, the success of the army, the saving of the capital, and possibly the endurance of the United States of America. Subsequently, Chamberlain continued to prove his mettle even after being grievously wounded and left for dead at RIVES SALIENT, Virginia, in June of 1864. During the course of his recovery from this and five other wounds requiring journeys home to heal, we get glimpses of his difficult marriage to Fanny, an early feminist who fancied herself better suited to the world of art than motherhood. Once back on the battlefield, Chamberlain's exploits continue in an almost unbelievable series of events. In March of 1865 the Siege of Petersburg ends with the Union Army driving the Confederates from their defensive positions and into a desperate flight of survival. General Chamberlain, now commanding the 1st Brigade of the 2nd Division, furthers his reputation as a fearless leader in the battle of WHITE OAK ROAD. Badly wounded, Chamberlain survived to drive the Confederates from the field, and later, FIVE FORKS. When his presence closed the final trap on Lee and his army a week later at APPOMATTOX, General Ulysses S. Grant bestowed on him the honor of receiving their surrender. During the ceremony, he paid tribute to the defeated Confederates, ordering "carry arms," an honorable marching salute, as they laid down their guns. Observing the course of his extraordinary rise through the ranks, we come to understand the American Civil War in all of its horrible carnage, cloaked as it was in threadbare veils of honor, valor, and chivalry. This is the story of a boy, a hero, a conflicted country, a troubled society, a story which overflows with period detail and action, with very human characters, all caught up in a drama which truly did change the course of history.
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