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NASA Launching Advanced Laser to Measure Earth’s Changing Ice: Next month, NASA will launch into space the most advanced laser instrument of its kind, beginning a mission to measure – in unprecedented detail – changes in the heights of Earth’s polar ice.
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(This is an update to a previous story that appeared on this site, titled "Chamberlain's 20th Maine Saves the Union at Little Round Top." This is done to provide all points of view about the the action at Little Round Top )
By JIM PURCELL
The Battle of Little Round Top (July 2, 1863), during the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), is considered by many to be the key engagement in the most important battle of the American Civil War (April 1861-May 1865).
Until today, there are differing stories about what exactly happened during that terrible battle between the North and South at Little Round Top.
|Major (later General) Ellis Spear|
One of the most popular authors who wrote the history of the battle was Michael Shaara (1928-1988), who penned, among others, the book “The Killer Angels,” in 1974. The book was later made into a movie, which spent a great deal of time chronicling the actions of the 20th Maine Regiment, of the Army of the Potomac, which was led by then-Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.
The book and movie subscribe to the accounts of the battle allegedly given by Col. Chamberlain and several members of the regiment. In these accounts, the role of Col. Chamberlain is cast as very heroic in nature – so much so that Colonel, later General, Chamberlain was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions the day of Little Round Top. Indeed, Col. Chamberlain was heroic that day, but just what occurred has been disputed.
Col. Chamberlain’s right hand in commanding the 20th Maine was then-Major Ellis Spear (who later became a general himself). Maj. Spear was with the 20th Maine during that terrible day when it faced off against the 15th Alabama Regiment, among others in Gen. John Bell Hood's Confederate division.
According to Spear, who had been a long-time friend of Col. Chamberlain’s since before the war, in Maine, Col. Chamberlain’s published account of the battle exaggerated his role in the 20th Maine’s victory at Little Round Top. At the same time, though, I believe it is safe to say that every soldier who took part in the Battle of Little Round Top showed an amazing amount of courage and soldierly skill that terrible July day.
|MG J.L. Chamberlain|
Both Generals Chamberlain and Spear survived the war and went on to be very prosperous in civilian life. So, there was no discernable reason why Spear would be frivolous in his rebuke of Chamberlain’s side of the story regarding the battle.
Yet, Spear claimed that the version of Chamberlain’s story printed by Hearst Publications in the former commander’s later life may well have been “corrected” by the news outlet in a manner which gave a false impression of “vain glory” on the battlefield. Not only was Spear upset about Hearst publication’s account of Little Round Top, but also of the 20th Maine’s participation in the Battle of Fredericksburg previous to the Battle of Gettysburg.
|The 20th Maine Regiment can be said to have played a key role at the Battle of Gettysburg|
Essentially, Spear contended that there was far more of a committee to Chamberlain’s leadership that day among officers of the regiment. And, the signature bayonet charge at Little Round Top was the consensus of a group of officers and not the bold unilateral order of Chamberlain.
With that said, Chamberlain and Spear were, in fact, life-long friends. This clarification on the part of Spear was, in his point of view, nothing more than trying to give an accurate account of a major Civil War battle.
Though Spear did not seek to muddy Chamberlain’s name in any way he did seek to set the record straight about the events of July 2, 1863.
There may be some contention about the exact accounts of what happened during the furious battle between the 20th Maine and the rebels at Gettysburg, yet the fact remains that it was a day when a group of Maine men saved the Union in a bloody action that still resonates today.