At the Siege of Petersburg, the 20th Maine was in reserve, while Joshua (against his better judgment) led his Pennsylvania Bucktail brigade in a charge on a section of the Confederate defenses known as Rives’s Salient. Turning to direct his troops, Joshua was struck by a minié ball, which entered just below his right hip, nicked his bladder and urethra, and stopped at his left hip. Such a devastating wound should have been fatal, and when he arrived at the field hospital, three miles behind the lines, his life was feared over.
Thomas Chamberlain, back with his regiment, eventually heard the news. He and the surgeon of the 20th Maine, Dr. Abner O. Shaw, went to the hospital where Joshua was dying. As Thomas waited, Dr. Shaw, with Dr. Morris W. Townsend of the 44th New York, worked all night to try to save Joshua Chamberlain’s life.
Thirty-five years later, Joshua Chamberlain wrote that, after the surgeons had finished: “Tom stood over me like a brother, and such a one as he was.” Remarkably, Col. Chamberlain survived to enjoy his “on the spot” promotion to brigadier general, although he never returned to full fitness. A number of biographers of Joshua Chamberlain say that his life was saved through the activity of his brother, Thomas.
A combat medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, holds an overwatch position during Operation Southern Strike III in the district of Spin Boldak, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, Sept. 2, 2012.
First Lt. Dillon Kareive (left), an officer with 426 Civil Affairs Battalion, Combined Task Force Arrowhead, and 1st Lt. Michael Hoffman, platoon leader of 2nd platoon Charlie Company, 5th Brigade, 20th Infantry Regiment, watches for spotters in the mountains while providing security for Afghan National Army soldiers during operation Kalak Hode 5 in the Mizan District of southern Afghanistan Sept. 5, 2012.