|Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons|
One night while I was hanging out with my parents, the topic of celebrity crushes came up, and my dad made a quip about how I don't have celebrity crushes: I have historical boyfriends instead.
I'm sure you don't think poorly of me for this quirk. In fact, perhaps the supreme benefits of historical boyfriends have already impressed themselves upon you. Historical boyfriends are perfect because not only can you learn absolutely everything about them, but you can also brag about doing so without seeming like a creepy stalker. Additionally, you can love your historical boyfriends from afar with absolutely no fear of rejection, and nobody will judge you for this. (Much.)
If you know me well, then you're already aware that I've had my share of historical boyfriends. My current favorite, however, leaves the rest of those has-beens in the dust.
I think that Joshua Chamberlain is one of the most attractive men in United States history.
Allow me to tell you why.
Ten Reasons to Love Joshua Chamberlain:
1. He's dreamy. Really, I think the photo speaks for itself. Even with that droopy walrus 'stache, he's a sight to behold. (He aged well, too.)
2. He's a man of God. Chamberlain wasn't just another seminary-educated product of the Victorian Age. He lived out his convictions in the classroom, at home, on the battlefield, and in the social arena. In his inaugural address as governor of Maine in 1870, he went on record that social programs (such as the Temperance Movement) could do little to enforce morality on people who remained unconvicted, because "only by the Gospel" can men be truly changed.
3. He's brave and adventurous. Historian John Pullen describes Chamberlain as having "hungered for an epic life." This didn't seem a likely fate for a family man and college professor; however, for better of for worse, the advent of the Civil War and his rise to prominence in the Union Army gave this side of his character free reign. Since you might already be familiar with his actions at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg, I would encourage you to acquaint yourselves with his insanely brave behavior at the Battles of Quaker Road and White Oak, when he fought so creatively and indefatigably that even the Southern line cheered him as they saw him riding dashingly around covered in blood from the various horses that they had shot out from under him.
4. He's funny. After various horses had been shot out from under him at the battle of Quaker Road, Chamberlain fell into a nest of Confederates. Under the camouflage of a mud-splattered face and uniform, he adopted what historian Willard Wallace refers to as a "fruity Southern accent" and called out for the boys to follow him if they wanted to catch some Yankees. He then led them straight into a Union line, where they were captured. A short time later during that same battle, someone from his staff helped him onto a pale white horse. The significance of this did not escape the Seminary-trained Chamberlain, who later commented that when straddling this mount, he must have appeared to the Southern line "more than ever like a figure from the Apocalypse."
5. He's a bit of a nerd. Chamberlain was a life-long scholar with a love of books, travel, and languages. Although he's better known in popular culture as a soldier, he spent most of his years as a teacher. He once also claimed to have loved even the smell of books. (I'd love him for that comment alone.)
6. He's noble. His nobility is displayed again and again throughout his life, from the time that he won over the men of the rebellious 2nd Maine Infantry (whom he was saddled with on the eve of the Battle of Little Round Top and told to shoot, but instead largely won back to loyal service through his care and respectful treatment) to the day that he called upon the men under his command at Appomattox Courthouse to offer one last, respectful salute to Lee's Army of Northern Virginia as they lay down their arms in surrender.
7. He's unpredictable. When angry political opponents plotted his assassination in 1880, Chamberlain marched out to the bloodthirsty mob saying, "Friends, you've come to kill me, I hear!" Then he tore open his coat, looked them in the eyes, and silently dared them. LIKE A BOSS.
8. He's a Romantic. I mean this not in the common sense of the word (although he did love his wife very much) but in the artistic sense. He loved nature, music, literature, truth, beauty, and high ideals, proving himself a well-rounded man.
9. He leads by doing. Accounts of battles always note Chamberlain going before his men, leading the line, shouting "Follow me!" Even the commands for which he's best known at Little Round Top--"FIX BAYONETS!" and "CHARGE!"--are lines which he admits he may or may not have actually uttered aloud. The charge was in all likelihood, says John Pullen, an "impulsive forward movement of the whole regiment," a regiment trained to keep an eye on their leader and follow him implicitly.
10. He's totally out of my league. I've always loved unattainable men best. As a happily married man who died a century ago, Chamberlain rests solidly in the unattainable category.
More's the pity.
I'm sure I could have made him very happy.
* * *
I'm indebted to the following works for fueling my research obsession:
- Joshua Chamberlain: A Hero's Life and Legacy, by John J Pullen
- Soul of the Lion: A Biography of General Joshua Chamberlain, by Willard Wallace
- In the Hands of Providence: Joshua L. Chamberlain and the American Civil War, by Alice Trulock
- The 20th Maine, by John J. Pullen
- The Attack and Defense of Little Round Top, by Oliver Norton
- The Joshua Chamberlain Society
- The Civil War Trust