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Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign by Dennis Rasbach

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign: His Supposed Charge from Fort Hell, his Near-Mortal Wound, and a Civil War Myth Reconsidered

by Dennis Rasbach

JoshuaLChamberlainAndPetersburgCampaignRasbach2016SavasBeatieBTC’s Take: This book focuses on the location of Joshua L. Chamberlain’s V Corps brigade on June 18, 1864.  Chamberlain himself, writing decades after the war, thought he assaulted in the vicinity of what became known as Fort Mahone and Fort Sedgwick, along the Jerusalem Plank Road.  Using exhaustively documented research of primary sources, Rasbach shows that Chamberlain couldn’t possibly have been where he thought he was.

I want to make clear that Rasbach has the utmost respect for Chamberlain.  He does not accuse the Gettysburg hero of lying intentionally.  He only believes Chamberlain was mistaken, a mistake he can be forgiven for given his horrific wounding on June 18, 1864, his six month absence, and the level of change the terrain in that area went through in those six months.

The author undertook the effort to write this book because of his ancestor in the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry, fighting at the time dismounted and part of the same V Corps Division as Chamberlain’s brigade.  Rasbach read everything he could get his hands on about June 18, 1864, and soon realized Chamberlain’s Fort Hell accounts weren’t matching up with other first person accounts of the action that day.  He set out to find the truth.  This book is his attempt to do so.

I was given the opportunity to read a manuscript copy of this book before it even had maps, and I was convinced early on the author was on to something based on his text alone.  By the end of the book, I was confident he was right.  Keep an eye out here and at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog for some fun teasers before this book releases.

Author Interview:

Book Summary/Review:

    BTC Siege of Petersburg Book Notes:

      BTC Siege of Petersburg Book Sources:

        Publisher Info:


        Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain earned the sobriquet “Lion of the Round Top” for his tactical brilliance leading his 20th Maine Infantry on the rocky wooded slopes of Little Round Top at on the evening of July 2, 1863. Promoted to brigade command, he was presumed mortally wounded during an assault at Petersburg on June 18, 1864, and bestowed a rare “on the spot” battlefield promotion to brigadier general. He survived, returned to the command in 1865, and participated in the surrender of Lee’s veterans at Appomattox.

        Chamberlain went to his grave a half-century later believing he was wounded while advancing alone from the future site of “Fort Hell.” His thrust, so he and others believed, was against the permanent fortifications of the Dimmock Line at Rives’ Salient, near the Jerusalem Plank Road, through a murderous flank fire from what was soon to become Confederate-held Fort Mahone. This narrative has been perpetuated by Chamberlain scholars and biographers over the past century. Chamberlain’s wounding and Rives’ Salient are now fused in the modern consciousness. This interpretation was given an additional mantle of authority with the erection of a Medal of Honor Recipient’s placard near South Crater Road by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources on November 8, 2014.

        In fact, author Dennis A. Rasbach argues, a careful review of the primary evidence left by Chamberlain and his contemporaries suggests that Chamberlain was mistaken regarding the larger context of the engagement in which he fought and fell. An overwhelming body of evidence, much of it derived from Chamberlain himself, demonstrates he actually attacked a different part of the Confederate line in the vicinity of an entirely different road. This part of the Petersburg campaign must now be rewritten to properly understand the important battle of June 18, 1864, and Chamberlain’s role in it.

        Richly illustrated with photos and original maps, and documented with extensive primary accounts, Rasbach’s Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign dispels a well-established Civil War myth, and sets the historical record straight.

        For more information, visit the Savas Beatie web site

        Hardcover Edition

        ISBN: 978-1-61121-306-5

        PublisherSavas Beatie

        Release Date: September 2016 (per Amazon)

        Pages: 192

        The Siege of Petersburg Online: Beyond the Crater Pages Which Mention This Book:

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