About this Book

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain had no idea that the failed attack he led at Petersburg on June 18, 1864, that nearly took his life would spark controversy more than a century later. According to his own accounts, penned decades after the event, he led his brigade against the permanent fortifications of the Dimmock Line at Rives' Salient, in an attack that originated from the future site of Union "Fort Hell." His line of battle advanced along the Jerusalem Plank Road through a murderous flank fire from what was soon to become Confederate-held Fort Mahone. According to author Dennis Rasbach's new study, none of this is true.

Chamberlain's grievous and presumed fatal wounding, together with his stellar previous service at Little Round Top and elsewhere, resulted in a rare "on the spot" battlefield promotion to brigadier general. He survived, returned to brigade command in 1865, and participated in the surrender of Lee's veterans at Appomattox. His account of the events of June 18, coupled with its perpetuation by historians and other writers, fused his wounding and Rives' Salient in the modern consciousness. This interpretation was given an additional mantle of authority with the erection of a Medal of Honor Recipient's placard near South Crater Road by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources on November 8, 2014.

Rasbach builds his meticulous case like a detective, adding one piece of primary evidence upon another while matching them to terrain features. Chamberlain was a brave and honest man, argues Rasbach, but he was gravely wounded amidst smoke and confusion, carried off the field, and never had the opportunity to re-study the ground over which he led his men. An overwhelming body of evidence, much of it derived from Chamberlain himself, demonstrates he actually attacked a different part of the Confederate line nearly a mile away.

Richly illustrated with photos and more than thirty maps, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign dispels a well-established Civil War myth and sets the historical record straight. It is essential reading for all who would understand the important fighting of June 18, 1864, and Chamberlain's role in it.