Teacher Turned General: The Story of Joshua Chamberlain

By Samuel Phineas Upham

Groomed to become an educator or a clergyman, Joshua Chamberlain nervously bounced between many professions throughout his adolescence and early adulthood. He was the oldest of five children, and thought to have been his mother’s favorite while his father ruled with an iron fist. The boy was encouraged to join the military from a young age, but never felt himself quite up to the task.

When America went to war with itself, Chamberlain felt passionately that he owed the Union forces and that they needed men like him. He is noted for proclaiming: “I fear, this war, so costly of blood and treasure, will not cease until men of the North are willing to leave good positions, and sacrifice the dearest personal interests, to rescue our country from desolation, and defend the national existence against treachery.”

A teacher at the time, Chamberlain would frequently hold tangential discussions in class where he openly expressed his pro-Union beliefs and encouraged his students to follow their hearts for guidance in the Civil War.

The University, though, did not share his passionate beliefs and he was given a leave of absence where he was supposed to go to Europe and study various languages. Instead, he joined the war effort unbeknownst to his family and colleagues.

Chamberlain rose quickly through the ranks, and was recognized mostly for his strategic defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain was awarded the Medal of Honor for recognizing the strategic importance of the hill to Union forces that day.

Chamberlain’s feats are dramatized in the film Gettysburg, although the account is somewhat inaccurate.

About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or Facebook.