On Great Fields: The Life and Unlikely Heroism of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Hardcover)
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“A vital and vivid portrait of an unlikely military hero who played a key role in the preservation of the Union and therefore in the making of modern America.”—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of And There Was Light
SHORTLISTED FOR THE GILDER LEHRMAN LINCOLN PRIZE • A KIRKUS REVIEWS BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
Before 1862, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain had rarely left his home state of Maine, where he was a trained minister and mild-mannered professor at Bowdoin College. His colleagues were shocked when he volunteered for the Union army, but he was undeterred and later became known as one of the North’s greatest heroes: On the second day at Gettysburg, after running out of ammunition at Little Round Top, he ordered his men to wield their bayonets in a desperate charge down a rocky slope that routed the Confederate attackers. Despite being wounded at Petersburg—and told by two surgeons he would die—Chamberlain survived the war, going on to be elected governor of Maine four times and serve as president of Bowdoin College.
How did a stuttering young boy come to be fluent in nine languages and even teach speech and rhetoric? How did a trained minister find his way to the battlefield? Award-winning historian Ronald C. White delves into these contradictions in this cradle-to-grave biography of General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, from his upbringing in rural Maine to his tenacious, empathetic military leadership and his influential postwar public service, exploring a question that still plagues so many veterans: How do you make a civilian life of meaning after having experienced the extreme highs and lows of war?
Chamberlain is familiar to millions from Michael Shaara’s now-classic novel of the Civil War, The Killer Angels, and Ken Burns’s timeless miniseries The Civil War, but in this book, White captures the complex and inspiring man behind the hero. Heavily illustrated and featuring nine detailed maps, this gripping, impeccably researched portrait illuminates one of the most admired but least known figures in our nation’s bloodiest conflict.
“This evocative biography of Joshua Chamberlain manages to be both dramatic and understated—like the great war hero himself. Readers hoping for a rousing account of Chamberlain’s heroics at Little Round Top will get not only a riveting, but a definitive, version of that battle-changing moment at Gettysburg. But White also opens a window onto the nineteenth-century worlds of military service, politics, and academia, which Chamberlain bestrode with a unique combination of drama and dignity fully reflected in the narrative.”—Harold Holzer, winner of the Lincoln Prize
“Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is one of the most famous soldiers who fought at the battle of Gettysburg. Ronald C. White chronicles that story and Chamberlain’s other Civil War exploits, but the distinguishing feature of this fine biography is its in-depth account of the varied achievements of this extraordinary American hero in a lifetime that ranged over more than eight decades.”—James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
“On Great Fields is one of those exceedingly rare biographies that is beautifully written and superbly researched, as well as a truly inspirational tale. It is a phenomenal account of an extraordinary individual.”—General David Petraeus, U.S. Army (Ret.), and co-author (with Andrew Roberts) of Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine
“A thoroughly engaging portrait of the life and career of Civil War hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Ronald C. White demonstrates once again his mastery of the biographical art with a fresh assessment of Chamberlain’s complicated yet inspiring journey.”—Joan Waugh, author of U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth
“[White] delivers a satisfying biography. . . . A revealing portrait of an American hero who deserves even wider recognition.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“By delving deeply into Chamberlain’s intellectual and spiritual life, White successfully reconciles his subject’s contradictory reputation as both a ‘bookworm college and seminary student’ and a ‘risk-taking Civil War soldier.’ Civil War fans and general history readers alike should take note.”—Publishers Weekly