Sunday, September 4, 2011

Civil War Sunday - As An Eagle Towards the Sky

Brunswick, Maine may be the last place you would think to visit in order to learn about the Civil War.  You would be wrong.  And that is why I hope to head there in the near future.

Bowdoin College is a small liberal arts college located in Brunswick.  It was founded in 1794.  Its motto is "As An Eagle Towards the Sky". For a small college, it has a good number of  alumni and professors who achieved fame.  Henry Longfellow.  Nathanial Hawthorne.  Alfred Kinsey. William Hodding Carter II.

And a man who may have, by his actions, saved the Union in the battle of Gettysburg.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  First there was a book, written by the wife of a Bowdoin College theology facilty member, in a house on the college campus.

Any writer could wish to write a masterpiece, the kind of book that is written only a few times in each century.  For the 20th century, one of those books was "To Kill a Mockingbird".  In the 19th century, that book was "Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly" by Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Published in book form in 1852, this antislavery book  became the best selling novel of the 19th century.  I read the book as a teenager, over 100 years later.

Meanwhile, teaching at Bowdoin was a graduate of the school, Joshua Chamberlain.  When the Civil War broke out, he felt it was his duty to serve the North.  He enlisted, and fought in 20 battles.  At one, the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863, Chamberlain may have literally saved the Union on the second day of the three day battle, at Little Round Top. (I note here that there is some question of exactly what happened at Little Round Top - and part of the controversy involves the 137th NY, Binghamton's own regiment.).  What isn't questioned is that Chamberlain later won the Medal of Honor, and went on to serve as Governor of Maine and President of Bowdoin College. (Chamberlain, incidentally, was not the only Civil War general to end up as a college president.  At least one other famous general did, a Confederate who was also instrumental in saving the Union, and yes, I plan to write about him one day.)

When we decided to vacation in Maine, we were not planning to learn more about the Civil War.  But I look forward to visiting Brunswick, Bowdoin College and the Chamberlain House.

In a way, the Civil War is everywhere.

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