Joshua Lawrence Chamberlan: The Bowdoin College Site


Joshua L. Chamberlain to "My dear Fanny" [Fanny Chamberlain], [n.p.], January 15 [1880]

A crisis emerged in the fall and winter of 1879 over the winner of the Maine gubernatorial election. Initially a widespread Republican victory, controversy soon arose with the votes called into question by the Democratic Party. The Republican Party responded with accusations of voter tampering and disenfranchisement by the Democratic Party in heavily Republican areas. The issues were referred to the Maine State Supreme Court. Armed mobs soon arrived in Augusta to support their respective candidates. The state militia, under the command of Militia General Chamberlain mustered at the State House to maintain order during this tumultuous time. As a former Republican Governor charged with maintaining order, Chamberlain came under fierce criticism from all sides. Below is Chamberlain's account to Fanny of the events in Augusta.

Thursday morning

15 Jan. [1880]

  My dear Fanny;

  Yesterday was another Round Top; although few knew of it. The bitter attack on me in the Bangor Commercial calling me a traitor, + calling on the people to send me speedily to a traitor's doom, created a great excitement.

  There were threats all the morning of overpowering the police + throwing me out of the window, + the ugly looking crowd seemed like men who could be brought to do it (or to try it). Excited men were calling on me—some threatening fire

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 + blood + some begging me to call out the militia at once. But I stood it firmly through, feeling sure of my arrangements + of my command of the situation.

  In the afternoon the tune changed. The plan was to arrest me for treason, which not being a jailable offence, I should be kept in prison while they inaugurated a reign of terror + blood. They foamed + fumed away at that all the evening. Mr. Lamson kindly came to me + said he would be the one to sue out a writ of habeas corpus + have me set at liberty again.

  That plan failed.

  At about 11 P.M. one

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of the citizens came + told me I was to be kidnapped—overpowered + carried away + detained out of peoples knowledge, so that the rebels could carry on their work. I had the strange sense again—of sleeping inside a picket guard.

  In the night Gen'l. Hyde of Bath came up with 30 men + Col. Heath of Waterville with 50 men: sent for by Republicans I suppose + greatly annoying to me + embarrassing too.

  I wish Mr. Blaine[1] + others would have more confidence in my military ability. There are too many men here afraid of their precious little pink skins.

  I shall have to protect them

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 of course; but my main object is to keep the peace + to give opportunity for the laws to be fairly executed.

  Do not worry about my safety. Make yourself as comfortable as you can at home.

  If you are afraid, send word to the selectmen, or Mr. Thos K. Eaton to have the police keep an eye to you + the house.

  But I dont believe any body will think of troubling you.

  Somebody else beside Annie ought to be in the house with you. Dont worry about me,

  yours aff.


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Citation: George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College, Joshua L. Chamberlain Collection, M27.

Index Terms: 1879 Gubernatorial Election, James Blaine, Round Top, 1880 mob, Augusta, State House, Militia, Presidency

[1] James Blaine was a United States Senator from Maine at the time of the Gubernatorial Crises.

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