Character Analysis Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain


Chamberlain is an unusual man, a college professor turned regiment commander, and he views the war and the people around him more as a philosopher than a military man. He senses that they are making history and understands the importance of what they are doing. He is at home wherever he is and feels that home is not North or South, but within. He is fair and unbiased, even with the enemy. As they march toward Gettysburg and Chamberlain sees rows of dead Confederates from a previous battle, he wonders whether the local people will give them a decent burial or leave them for the buzzards. On the other hand, he cannot understand the Southerners who speak of their slaves as cattle. To Chamberlain, all men are equal, and each possesses a "divine spark" that makes a man.

With regard to army life itself, despite the discomforts, dangers, and inconveniences, Chamberlain loves it. Chamberlain is similar to Lee in many respects — he cares about his men in a fatherly way, yet he doesn't hesitate to use them, including his own brother, for the sake of the higher good — the Cause. He is idealistic, optimistic, and has faith and pride in his men. He treats them intelligently and with respect, and they in turn respond. The army is his family, his men are his children, and his aide, Kilrain, is his "father."

His own family relationships seem a bit strange. He doesn't speak much in the story about missing his children, and though he reflects on missing his wife, and no doubt there is physical longing, other than that, he seems happier away from home. He observes that "away from her you loved her more" and that while she is the only thing missing here, otherwise, this life in this army is everything he wants. It is here he feels most alive and connected to others. He is thrilled by battle — the sight of thousands of soldiers marching in formation to attack with flags waving — and he wonders how he will ever deal with going home. Though he hates to admit it, he is eager for future battles and knows he will stay until he dies or the war ends.