Joshua Lawrence Chamberlan: The Bowdoin College Site


Joshua L. Chamberlain to "Dear Fanny" [Fanny Chamberlain], Augusta, November 20, 1868.

Joshua and Fanny Chamberlain had a unique and at times challenging relationship. At some points, the two would not see each other for weeks at a time. The Chamberlains' long distance relationship led to strains in their marriage, as exemplified in the following letter. No further evidence of domestic violence could be found in the Chamberlain collection.

To Fannie

Augusta Nov 20 1868

Dear Fanny,

  In the whirl of all this uproar of obloquy now hurled at me by the friends of Harris + the rampant temperance men I find myself assailed by only one thing which distresses me.

  On arriving here last night sick + worn-out, I had hoped that even if I could have no other care and nursing I would at least have that of sleep.

  Things have now however come to that pass that I must trouble you by referring again to the suggestion I made to you some time since in regard to your making a confidant of unworthy persons. I have had abundant + concurrent testimony from many – all as much your friends as mine—that you were complaining to everyone who came into the house of my conduct + treatment of you. I have passed that over for a long time not thinking it worthwhile to notice it.

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When I found that you were still disposed to do this + in the last instance in a direction that would do you more harm than me, I ventured to give you the warning I did some time since. You received it with apparent kindness + I was satisfied. I then referred to it again just before I came away + you spoke in a way that made me nearly happy.

  Now last night after I had gone to bed, Mr Johnson came in with a very distressed demeanor + begged me not to be angry with him but he saw such grief + ruin impending that he must tell me. Miss Courlaender[1] it seems is freely telling people that "you told her (+ Mrs. Dunning also as well as everybody else) that I abused you beyond endurance—pulling your hair, striking, beating + otherwise personally maltreating you, + that you were gathering up everything you could find against me to sue for a divorce." Mr Johnson says this is doing immense harm, whether the fact is so or not + the bitter enemies who now assail me

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on public grounds will soon get hold of this + will ruin me. He is in great distress + begs me to do something – what he does not know.

  You must be aware that if it were not you who were so clearly implicated in this business, I should make quick work of these calumniators. I fear nothing for myself. But you must see that whatever come upon me; comes upon you too with even more effect + for your sake I must again offer the suggestion that you act with wisdom and discretion.

  If it is true (as Mr. Johnson seems to think there is a chance of its being) that you are preparing for an action against me, you need not give yourself all this trouble. I should think we had skill enough to adjust the terms of a separation without the wretchedness to all our family which these low people to whom it would seem that you confide your grievances + plans will certainly bring about.

  You never take my advice, I am aware.

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But if you do not stop this at once it will end in hell.

I am sorry to say this to you, when I have so entirely confided in you + have been so reassured of late in this confidence, as my interest in your matters + in your friends must convince you. Of course this has given me a troubled night + I am taking up the duties of the day wholly unfitted for them.

  The thing comes to this, if you are contemplating any such things as Mr Johnson says—there is a better way to do it. If you are not, you must see the gulf of misery to which this confidence with unworthy people tends. You have this advantage of me, that I never spoke unkindly of you to any person. I shall not now do so to you. But it is a very great trial to me—more than all things else put together—wounds, pains, toils, wrongs, + hatred of eager enemies

truly yours,

J.L. Chamberlain

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Citation: Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library, New Haven, Connecticut.

Index Terms: Chamberlain, Fanny; Marriage; Miss Courlaender; Mr. Johnson; Governor; Mrs. Cunning

[1] Miss Courlaender was a Brunswick school teacher.

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