PETERSBURG, Virginia — A sign to mark where one of Maine’s most historic figures was wounded in Virginia during the U.S. Civil War and promoted on the spot to brigadier general was moved this week.
The marker created to designate where Joshua Chamberlain was shot during the battle of Petersburg in June 1864, was moved two to three days ago about 4,000 feet to a site across the road from the Petersburg National Battlefield, according to Jennifer Loux of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The controversial move came after several researchers, including from the National Park Service, determined the new location was closer to where Joshua Chamberlain was shot during one of the fiercest battles of the Civil War.
The sign states, “In this vicinity on 18 June 1864, Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain received a near-fatal wound while leading a Union brigade in a charge against Confederate works defending Petersburg.”
Believing Chamberlain was dying, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant promoted him on the spot to brigadier general “for gallant conduct,” according to the sign.
But Chamberlain recovered and returned to duty before being wounded again in March 1865.
Despite his battle scars, Chamberlain also commanded the ceremony on April 12, 1865, at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, where Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia formally surrendered its arms.
A Brewer native, Chamberlain returned to Maine and served as governor from 1867 to 1871. He served as president of Bowdoin College in Brunswick from 1871 through 1883 and received the Medal of Honor in 1893. He died in 1914.
The marker originally was erected in 2014 after an effort by Dean Clegg, a guide at the Chamberlain House Museum in Brunswick, raised the $1,630 necessary for the sign. Clegg said in a news story last year that he relied heavily on the writings of Maine and National Park Service historians in locating a spot to place the sign before a dedication ceremony was held Nov. 8, 2014.
The relocation generated considerable controversy within the historical community, but Loux stated in a letter last year that the Virginia agency “recognizes that intelligent, thorough researchers will continue to debate Chamberlain’s exact placement on the field on June 18, 1864. By moving the marker, [the department] does not intend to issue an authoritative statement on where Chamberlain’s attack took place.”
The final decision to relocate the sign was made by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.