On this day in history, Mainer Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain gave the command to fix bayonets.
In his words:
“At that crises, I ordered the bayonet. The word was enough. It ran like fire along the line, from man to man, and rose into a shout, with which they sprang forward on the enemy, now not 30 yards away. The effect was surprising; many of the enemy’s first line threw down their arms and surrendered. An officer fired his pistol at my head with one hand, while he handed me his sword with the other. Holding fast by our right, and swinging forward our left, we made an extended “right wheel,” before which the enemy’s second line broke and fell back, fighting from tree to tree, many being captured, until we had swept the valley and cleared the front of nearly our entire brigade.”
For this action, he was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. His citation reads:
Daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on the Great Round Top.
For a good read on JLC’s Civil War activities, I recommend Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. This book was the source for the PBS movie on the The Civil War. Shaara takes the reader from before, then during, then after that epic three day battle. This book became the foundation of the Shaara family trilogy on JLC’s civil war career, starting with Of Gods and Generals and finishing with Last Full Measure. Read these three books for a full appreciation of how our country transitioned to We The People.
Killer Angels was mandatory professional reading when I taught at the Air Force Senior NCO Academy. The book piqued my interest into the Civil War and introduced me to a heroic Mainer – Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Since then, I have walked the hallowed ground of the Round Tops, read the Gettysburg Address at the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, and now, frequently drive by his statute at Bowdoin College.
History lives on when we remember.