Love Letters from Joshua Chamberlain to Fanny Chamberlain

Don Troiani has made available to the Gettysburg Discussion Group three love letters from Joshua Chamberlain to his wife, Fanny. With his gracious permission, they are reprinted below .

Don's Introduction

The City of Harrisburg Civil War Collection has 100 unpublished prewar JLC -Fannie luv letters which they aquired from me along with some 40 odd war letters etc. All are unpublished. I read as many of the love letters as I could tolerate. Things were definitely somewhat strange before the war started, even by Victorian standards . I think the City's plan is to publish them sometime but I am not sure if they will allow acess to interested parties. JLC was about as smitten as a human being can get, but Fannie had a much cooler head.

Don Troiani

Hd Qrs 20Maine Vols Manassas Gap near Front Royal July 24th 1863
My Dear Girl, You must be astonished to see where successive letters are dated:especially if you happen to have ( as I once suggested) a tolerably minute map of the theatre of war. Here, for once. in this famed"Gap" of the Blue Mountains. Your noble "5th corps" is up here with the 3d to take this important pass from the Rebels. Well my dearest, they have done it: so don't worry. We have just returned from the final pursuit, one of the very hardest we ever had in the way of natural obstacles.craggy ascents, deep ravines-mountain torrents,treacherous morasses-wild vines + woody thickets- all these in the burning sun + at the "double quick". I tell it wears men out to encounter all these for twelve or twenty four hours. Last night the 3d corps had a fight- a pretty severe on inn carrying a crest- murderously shelled by the Rebels. at sunset we went up to relieve them & this morning Griffin"s Division was ordered to clear them off a very steep + densely wooded hill at the outer throat of the pass. The pleasant duty of taking the front was assigned to the 3d Brigade, the left the most exposed to a flank attack was given to the 20th.up we went like tigers-"your friend + servt. about twenty five yards ahead of his gallant boys- with a good solid company on the flank as skirmishers to prevent suprise- up a mountain side of thhe roughest sort. The Rebs. left. we got only two as specimens. We had to bury half a dozen of them afterwards but the stronghold was free from them, + so we have just marched back a little + gone into camp- tired to death completely wet through as a result of toil + heat. What a lovely spot this is where I am camped on a (word looks like hourth) mountain side overlooking all the beautiful valleys- on one side the valley of the Shenandoah lying like a sweet meadow as seen from here- in the distance an immense Rebel column moving rapidly down toward some lower pass of the mountains, but too many or too far away for us to attack- on our side twenty thousand men to fight encamped in their little white tents, or winding down the hill sides opposite. What a magnificent scene. Would that you might lie here under my one little piece of shelter tent - in a cosy cleft of rocks- the glorious stars + stripes our loved color- the 20ths- more battle rent than ever, but the fringe still on, clinging like true love, because fastened by the true and + loving hands- marking my head Quarters gaily streaming out in the mountain breeze. How happy I should be with my darling here for a little while just to enjoy this with me. You know I am not well yet that will account for my slight unsoundness of mind in a remark I just made to Col. Rice about a sweet smiling valley between the soft blue hills-" It is a vale of love, between the breasts of the Mountain". Shall I be forgiven? and yet I half believe I should have said it to you, if you had been here- a soldier is bold you know. I am writing you though I shall not have a chance to send the letter for several days.

night- moonlight- we move very early so I try to send this to Washington. Good night darling I shall lie looking at the moonlight on the mountains- + in that " vale" + dream myself there. A kiss+ thousand thoughts of you till the early bugle call.


Here is Chamberlain letter to Fannie no#2. It is written in pencil on the reverse of a pass thru the lines given him by Major General Fitz John Porter dated Sept. 9 1862. The pass is to go to Washington and back on business. After being stored in a box in the family barn until recently mice chewed the side of a bundle of letters so words or parts of are missing. I will mark these areas........ thus.
Sept 17th 1862
Bivouac on the Battlefield near Sharpsburg. Md. We have had one of the greatest +bloodiest battles of the war. We were suddenly ordered to march at an hours notice+by hard+ hurried marches we found ourselves up with the enemy in Maryland. We passed through one battlefield on our way+ became somewhat accustomed to the sight of dead bodies piled up +lying in every conceivble position. All day today we have been lying deployed in range.........a continuous fire of shot + shell, no......than three came very near me.....Twice we were ordered to be up + enemy but before we got fairly...........the scale had been turned without us.....loss has been great , especially of officers,....tomorrow we expect to be in the thickest of it all day+ as for me I do not at all expect to escape injury. I hope I should not fall: but if it should be God's will I believe I can say amen. I think of you all whom I love so much + I know how you would wish me to bear myself in the field. I go, as twice today I went serious and anxious but not afraid. God be with you+ with me.

Monday .........Sept.22 Relieved from picket. All well+ sound. your loving husband L

The third and last JLC Letter in my collection.
(no 12) Head Qurt. 20Me Vols Camp near Falmouth opposite Fredericksburg Dec.2d 1862

My Dearest Fanny, We have been here a week + are waiting nobody knows for what. All sorts of rumors arise of course, but our business is to obey orders + it becomes us to be patient as well as obediant. There is a great army here you may be sure+ something will be done with it,I have no doubt. Saturday I rode over to the front, on the banks of the Rappahanock, only a few rods from the Rebels opposite in Fredericksburg. I rode along for some miles,+ of course I had no difficulty in seeing the Rebels. They were busy as bees throwing up fortifications + planting cannon. They kept as much out of sight as possible in order not to show their force+ movements. I did not feel fully comfortable,I own,in full view+reach of every one of those ugly looking cannon they are training to slaughter us by& by,+some of the Rebel rifles looked saucy(?),but I presumed on the mutual understanding not to fire on either side + so in company with Mr. Brown took my time to view the city+ enemy at my leisure.We did not stay very long in one spot, but dashed along from hill to hill, leaping ditches+scampering around in a quite exhilarating fashion. F is a fine looking city; some of the buildings - churches I imagine chiefly-are really in good taste.Warrenton is the only Virginia city I have seen equal to this. We called on Wm. H. Owen on our way back,+reaching camp at dark found that we had orders to go out on picket five or six miles to the right where some of our cavalry had been taken-"gobbled up" as the press elegantly has it- a day or two ago. Our orders were to stay out fortyeight hours + expect a skirmish. The picketting we did-the skirmishing, not.The first day of December was a lovely day. I thought of you in my rude tent+ grow rather lonely,till some duty took me away. You may imagine how warm it is , or perhaps how tough I am,when I say that I took a full bath in "Potomac creek" the first day of winter,without the least inconvenience. To be sure ice formed to quite a thickness the night before, but the days are delighful when it does not rain.Sometimes it snows- a wet driving snow- then I beg to assure you it is not particularly agreeable weather to experience. The country is nearly all devasated in this part of the state+ starvation pretty sure for some I cannot but believe. The distress is great now.Our generals are kind enough to place guards around every house that is inhabited + Rebel property is carefully protected from pillage. Our Quartermasters it is true take whatever we must have + give reciepts for it which are presented to the Govt, + pay obtained on them I suppose. I do not think the Rebels are treated very severly however. If this were really war we should not leave rabid secessionists within our lines to observe + give information while we protect tthem from loss or harm. I do not mean to question the propriety of the present policy. But regardless in a merely military point of view, the war would seem to be much more effectively carried forward if we should leave no Treachery in the midst of us or behind us- nor anything to aid support or strengthen the enemy. We should take horses, forage, cattle,+c send women + children+ all nonresistants over the lines all active rebels to the rear that is to confinement within our lines ,+for every ship burned at sea fire a rebel courthouse, or even private house worth $20,000 to $50,000. I tell you we shold not have to fight the same ground over again, as we have here so many times. In that way we should weaken+ crowd the enemy + at the same time strengthen + advance ourselves. Of course the country would be laid waste absolutely, but it would be war. We have not got over the old idea of suppressing a mob. Whatever cruelty there might seem to be in the course I indicated would be countervailed if the great saving of life + treasure in a speedier ending of the war. Now we take no advantages, use little or no strategy, but gain what we do by mainforce, by bearing on. Perhaps I speak strongly but it seems to me.You may think I am very savage in what I have said, but it is to lessen animosity. I looked over at the Rebels in Fredericksburg, without the least blood-thirstiness though if the order had come to "charge" on them, I could have gone in with all the vigor + earnestness in the world. Did I ever tell you that I tried to find out, of a rebel South Carolina officer- prisoner what had become of your uncle Harold. He did not know. I don't believe he was foolish enough to get hung(?) after all his knowledge of the world. He is probably a resident still of S. Carolina. # Friday Dec4th Only think we had two ladies to dine with us on tin platters yesterday Mrs. Eaton+ Mrs. Fogg- of the Sanitary commission-+ very proper+ efficient ladies they are too. They think I have been well instructed in the manly art of taking ladies bonnets+ cloaks properly. Send them to have your Thanksgiving letter+ the package of shirts + drawers (2 pairs) just what I wanted-+the "Jomini" too (art of war) with a letter tonight from Sarah from Prof. Smith of Bangor, from Mrs. Bacon+ from Julia poor girl. I feel perfectly crazed so much good fortune. I thank you very much + think you are as usual a darling. I dreamed of you last night of course. I shall write you another letter on our wedding day the 7th. About the money there cant be any risk of it being lost. The delay I don't understand I have not had a cent yet. they owe me $600. so already in haste to get this off+ love to aunty + the darlings your own Lawrence.