David Dew gave us a wonderful opening talk in his presentation of the life of Joshua Chamberlain, masterfully hitting highlights in the telling with interesting facts and a touch of humor, and that in the space of a short amount of time. He spoke without notes, only pausing to read a couple of short selections of Chamberlain’s words. He made a story (not an academic lecture) of his subject, and we all love a good story, especially one that is true—especially one about a real American hero. If you remember the delightful feeling in childhood of hearing a fascinating story and at the end, you are left wanting to hear another: that is what I felt.
Here are a few of the interesting facts Mr. Dew brought out about Mr. Chamberlain, the scholar and soldier:
- His real full name was Lawrence Joshua Chamberlain.
- As a youth he stuttered, the mastery of which helped make him the man he became.
- Was fluent in nine languages, including an Indian one.
- Did not start college until age 20.
- Was in 24 battles, wounded six times and, one wound inflicting pain and taxing his life for half a century.
- A telling quotation I got was that he once said, “I know how to learn.” His biography proved that capacity to learn can make a brave man a great human being and in his case, the ideal officer and citizen soldier.
- Chamberlain’s conduct in the surrender at Appomattox was one of his finest moments, and one of the finest moments in the history of our country.
Another proof that individuals can and do make a great difference—in everyday life as well as history.