June 18

This Day in History

Civil War

Jun 18, 1864:

Union hero Joshua Chamberlain is wounded at Petersburg

Union war hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain is severely wounded at Petersburg, Virginia, while leading an attack on a Confederate position. Chamberlain, a college professor from Maine, took a sabbatical to enlist in the Union army. As commander of the 20th Maine, he earned distinction at the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when he shored up the Union left flank and helped save Little Round Top for the Federals. His bold counterattack against the Confederates earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

His wound at Petersburg was the most serious of the six he received during the war. Doctors in the field hospital pronounced his injury fatal, and Union General Ulysses S. Grant promoted him to brigadier general as a tribute to his service and bravery. Miraculously, he survived and spent the rest of the Petersburg campaign convalescing at his Maine home. He returned to the Army of the Potomac in time for Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Virginia, and he was given the honor of accepting the arms of the Confederate infantry.

Chamberlain returned to Maine after the war and served four terms as governor. He then became president of Bowdoin College–the institution that had refused to release him for military service–and held the position until 1883. Chamberlain remained active in veterans' affairs and, like many soldiers, attended regimental reunions and kept alive the camaraderie created during the war. He was present for the 50th anniversary of Gettysburg in 1913, one year before he died of an infection from the wound he suffered at Petersburg.

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