Joshua Lawrence Chamberlan: The Bowdoin College Site

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Ellis Spear to Hon. Amos Allen,
Washington D.C., December 4, 1899.


In his retirement years, Joshua Chamberlain was offered and accepted a position as Collector of Customs at the Port of Portland. Many lobbied on Chamberlain’s behalf for the position, including Ellis Spear, a Brevet Brigadier General in the 20th Maine, member of the Bowdoin class of 1858, and one who greatly aided Chamberlain on Little Round Top on July 2nd. Although the two men would bicker in later years over the details of the famous "charge" at Little Round Top, at this point they were still friends.

Washington D.C., Dec. 4, 1899.

Hon. Amos Allen,

House of Representatives,

Washington D.C.

My dear Sir:

There is one view of Genl. Chamberlain’s case I would like to present, not at his suggestion, for it is not what he would say. He is seventy years of age, and is poor. He keeps up the best appearance he can, and is sensitive and proud, and is the last man to plead, or even admit poverty. What public position he has held you know. In the Army I know that he stood high. He was on the best of terms with Griffin[1] and Warren,[2] his superior officers, and was relied on by them, and, as you may remember, was promoted on the field by Genl. Grant, who also mentions him particularly in his memoirs, in the highest terms, Chamberlain is also "solid" with the old soldiers, in Maine and elsewhere, and they would feel gratified if he were favored.

  This seems probably the last chance to do something for Chamberlain, and it is exactly what he needs. It will save his last days from the distress of penury, most galling to a man of his standing and sensitive feeling if he does not get this, I don’t know what he will do. He gets but $25- per month pension and his wife is now totally blind. I was with him when he was wounded, and I know how severely it

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 was. The common belief was that he would not recover from it. His is the most conspicuous and singular case in the State- of distinguished service in the war, old and poor.

  It may be that to approve his nomination would involve some political sacrifices on your part, (though I am far from thinking that this would prove to be the case,) but nobody could avoid applauding you for so generous an act. You would be the means of conferring abundant and fitting aid to one old solider, perhaps the most conspicuous in the State, but now in his old age, in poverty, and in the prospect of a dreary remainder of his life. I am sure that the old soldiers will be grateful to you.

Yours truly

Ellis Spear

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

Index Terms: Spear, Ellis; Portland; Collector of Customs; Gettysburg; Little Round Top; Grant, Ulysses S.; Civil War; Warren Gouverneur K.; Griffin, Charles


[1] Charles Griffin, commander of Chamberlain’s V Corps during the later part of the Appomattox Campaign following the Battle of Five Forks. 

[2] Gouverneur K. Warren, Commander of V Corps from the start of the Overland Campaign in May 1864 until April 1, 1865.


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