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To The Last - extract from "Freedom Ho!"

Updated on September 10, 2013

Freedom Ho!

"History is often forgotten, whether it be from ignorance or the surpassing of modern tales. It is not without consequence: by forgetting the past, we lose a part of ourselves, original culture, and heritage.

With research and known historical references by artists, writers, and those from the past themselves, this book comprises short stories that delve into important, significant sequences of the past that have changed America forever.

From the Boston Massacre to Chamberlain's charge on Little Round Top, it is almost impossible to forget the momentous actions taken to create this free nation.

An easy-going read for both adults and children!"

This hub reveals one of the many inspiring and exciting short stories that have succeeded in creating the book that is Freedom Ho!. This story should serve as an example of beautiful writing yet also as a symbol of powerful knowledge. It is about Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the 32nd Governor of Maine, and it provides you with an intriguing first impression of the man if you have not heard of him. If you have, you may yet discover a hidden, dauntless image of him.

Extract - To The Last

He was already wounded twice, but was still alive. A revolver-pistol was held loftily in his hand; a bent scabbard – which had previously deflected a spent round – lay near him, useless. Yet, nothing else was on his mind except one thing: hold the line.

The great effort of the whole army around him was entirely audible, and the mass teamwork – the sense that this whole army was the last defense – kept everyone on high alert. Already, they had endured several charges. It was only possible to hold out such strong spearheads because of the steep, rocky hill. He had read and learned everything he could about the tactics of war: marches, counter-marches, drills, attacking positions, retreat calls…but it was all useless at the moment. The college professor knew that the gray boys down there would continue to drive into his lines. The past summers, the rebels had won battle after battle. They had the stonewall at Fredericksburg. But now, the professor and his Maine men had the heights and the rocks.

His heart was beating as hard as the hooves of a horse upon dirt ground. When he took moments to look between intervals of the charges, he could tell that the men around him were just as wild-eyed, ecstatic, and…fearful. Some would sneer at the very grit the enemy was bringing. Others would sob and stay as close to cover as they could as they prepared to fire their muskets.

The professor could not feel anything – any emotion – when he fired upon the rebs. None of them could afford to. Mourning for the dead and wounded would come after. For now, the main objective was to stay alive. But still he admired them for it.

A year before, he had taught Rhetoric at Bowdoin College. He had never received any military training, did not even take any courses at West Point, which was the most famous military academy at the time. In this, he was just a man who relied upon his will to learn in order to succeed. This attack, however, would require more than learning.

He was also a father of two, a husband to a loving wife. Most of these Maine men were. Even his brother Tom, a lieutenant, fought beside him.

Another boy was shot in front of him, and he began to think as he continued to pull the lever of his pistol, Oh, God, how much longer must this be endured? And yet he felt exhilarated, despite the intense situation: A full colonel and his men, the last to defend.

With the last charge falling back, the college professor was informed of the situation by his aides: high casualties, and very, very low ammunition. He was told that, if another one came, it was very possible they would sweep right through the line. It dawned on him that he would die there the next time the rebs climbed this steep hill. And there was nothing he could do about it.

There were fearful faces: looking down the darkening abyss, toward the enemies…and many at him. They were bright eyes, tearful eyes, eyes with admiration and sympathy. So now was the time to make a decision: for them and the Union. What to do…? No more ammunition was available. One more charge by the opposing force, and more of the men would die and the rebs would most likely pass over the hill. If they passed over the hill, they could place cannons and fire down on the Union lines. If the Union lines broke, there would be an open road to Washington, the war would end, and there would be two Americas. This could not happen....

A single thought came to his mind: Fix bayonets. We’ll make our own charge. As quickly as the idea sprang to his mind, he had already informed his officers to prepare.

As the rebels came up again, he shouted the order, at the top of his lungs, and all down the line men answered the order by fastening the large staves to the ends of their weapons.

A right-wheel forward of the regiment.

With the rebels coming, smoke rising behind them, they almost seemed invincible – impossible to stop. The rebs knew this as well.

Wild with excitement, but still clearly focused, the professor and officers gave the order to charge down the hill. Like a great door swinging on its hinge, the regiment fell upon the swarming rebel mass, and suddenly the invincible feeling was gone – replaced instead by instinct, a sense of fear for the unknown....

Author's Notes

The college professor mentioned in this short passage is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. First-born of five in a hearty Maine family, professor of Rhetoric at Bowdoin College, Chamberlain had always had a higher calling to serve in the army, though his mother wanted him to become a preacher. When the Civil War broke out, he found this chance. In order to be excused from Bowdoin (for they found it improper for anyone working for the college to join the army), Chamberlain requested two years-leave to be able to study in Europe. He signed up for the army at the Governor’s office, taking the position of Lt. Colonel (after denying the possibility of becoming a Colonel).

His regiment, the 20th Maine was involved in the battles of Antietam and Chancellorsville, though they played little part in them. At Fredericksburg, Chamberlain and his men used bodies as cover to dodge rounds flying overhead.

At the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1st – 4th, 1863), on the second day, the 20th Maine regiment was ordered to hold the extreme left of the Union line against Confederate General Longstreet’s advancing division.

The inevitably-made charge on Little Round Top succeeded in forcing the rebel troops back, and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was later awarded the Medal of Honor.


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