Top 10 Quotes by General Joshua Chamberlain

General Joshua Chamberlain, also known as “Lion of the Round Top”, was a highly decorated and respected Officer during the Civil War.  Despite him having really no formal military training, he was awarded the Medal of Honor for his gallantry during the Battle of Gettysburg.  His famous bayonet charge on the assaulting Confederates at Little Round Top is one of the most famous accomplishments of the war.  Here are my Top 10 Quotes of this timeless General.

10. “But we can hold our spirits and our bodies so pure and high, we may cherish such thoughts and such ideals, and dream such dreams of lofty purpose, that we can determine and know what manner of men we will be, whenever and wherever the hour strikes and calls to noble action.”

My take: The way we carry ourselves, the way we think, train and prepare for life (or war) must be consistent with our values and ideals.  When life or combat throws challenges our way, we must always resort to the men (or women) that we have trained ourselves to be.

9. “I never could be a partisan leader – a man of one idea.”

My take: This quote is self-explainable.  You must be a well-rounded individual with many perspectives and points of view.

8. “I long to be in the Field again, doing my part to keep the old flag up, with all its stars.”

My take: Chamberlain was a true leader.  He wanted to share the burdens he knew his Soldiers were.  Much like Chamberlain, I will truly miss the days being at the Company Level with the Soldiers.

joshua chamberlain
Photo of General Joshua Chamberlain of the 20th Maine Regiment

7. “But the cause for which we fought was higher; our thought wider… That thought was our power.”

My take: To me, this quote summarizes why the US Military is the greatest force and team on Earth.  When all the odds are stacked against us, that is typically when we pull through and succeed.  This quote explains why.

6. “The power of noble deeds is to be preserved and passed on to the future.”

My take: Every generation has their heroes.  Chamberlain understood that and I believe that in order to act heroic in our own lifetime, we have to look to our past and those who had set the example.

5. “We have to go in places no body would ever think of going into were it not for the necessities of war.”

My take: This is what sets Soldiers apart from your everyday civilian.  As a volunteer, you understand and you are willing to place yourself into harms way, into unthinkable situations, to protect the freedoms of your country.

4. “My officers and men understood wishes so well that this movement was executed under fire, the right wing keeping up fire, without giving the enemy any occasion to seize or even to suspect their advantage.”

My take: I think this quote sums up what all Combat Arms leaders strive for.  Chamberlain’s men were so trained that their actions in combat became instant, required little thought and achieved his purpose without his having to initiate himself.

3. “Let me say no danger and no hardship ever makes me wish to get back to that college life again.”

My take: This quote makes me chuckle.  I often hear many of my peers wish they were back in college.  However, despite the horrors that Chamberlain did see throughout the war, he never wanted to go back.  Makes you curious as to how college has changed over the centuries.

2. “The word was enough. It ran like fire along the line, from man to man, and rose into a shout, with which they sprang forward upon the enemy, now not 30 yards away.”

My take: This quote paints such a vivid picture of the bayonet charge on Little Round Top.

1. “We know not of the future and cannot plan for it much.”

My take: Truer words have not been spoken.  Despite all we try to plan for in our lives, life always throws us different curves.  I think what we can take from Chamberlain is that the only thing we can know for sure is that life is unpredictable.  The best way to prepare for life is to prepare for uncertainty and increasing our ability to be resilient.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Please read more into the life and accomplishments of General Chamberlain.  His story is truly remarkable.

What are your thoughts? If you have comments or questions, please post them below. Thank you.

8 thoughts on “Top 10 Quotes by General Joshua Chamberlain”

  1. I have always admired a person who can forego formal training, either by choice or necessity, teaching themselves a skill or gaining expertise on a particular subject. Not only did General Chamberlain gain military skills on his own, but his leadership abilities far surpassed many of those with years of education and training, back then or today. He was a selfless leader, and very wise.

  2. In the cable TV series Homeland, one of the main characters takes his family to the Gettysburg battlefield and tells them the story of Chamberlain’s charge. He left his position as a professor at Bowdoin College over the objection of the administrators to take a commission in the 20th Maine and intensely studied works of military history and theory to prepare for his responsibilities. He is noteworthy for more than just his bayonet charge against the attacking forces of Confederate Gen. John Hood. He was wounded six times, the last time so seriously that Congress voted to promote him to brigadier general as what they thought would be a posthumous honor. He accepted the handover of the Confederate forces’ weapons at Appomattox and graciously ordered his men to salute their defeated opponents. After the war Chamberlain served four terms as governor of Maine and as president of Bowdoin College.

  3. General Chamberlain is quite perhaps my favorite leader from the Civil War. It’s really sad that he has no living family members left, and that his bloodline stopped. We could use more leaders like him in today’s world.

  4. Katelyn Hensel

    Interesting post. I myself have never heard of General Joshua Chamberlain before. Having been educated about some of his beliefs by the above mentioned quotes, I can see him being a lasting figure in military history. I think I’d like to do more research on the subject though. I particularly liked the quote, “We have to go in places no body would ever think of going into were it not for the necessities of war.” Not something that would normally stand out, but it kind of accurately captures the life of the soldier at war. They go to places we would never dream of going, for good or bad, and they stand and defend our country and our freedom.

    1. Joshua Chamberlain is a hero from where I am from (Maine). Most folks outside of the military have never heard of him though. I would suggest watching the movie Gettysburg to learn more about him. His feats at Little Round Top were nothing short of amazing.

      1. Candace Ginestar

        It was mind blowing to stand at Little Round Top and see what he was up against. The entire battlefield is actually awe inspiring, hallowed grounds. It really puts things into perspective.

  5. Being from Maine myself, I am a big fan of General Joshua Chamberlain. His leadership with the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment is a wonderful case study for any new military leader. What he did at the “Battle of Little Round Top” is nothing short of amazing. I appreciate you sharing these General Joshua Chamberlain quotes with the rest of our community.


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