Remembering How Maine Helped to Win The Civil War

5/28/18, Maine First Media Staff Report,

Embroiled in constant battle for more than an hour and a half, the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment was running low on ammunition as Confederate forces closed in.

Instead of retreating, the 20th Maine charged down Little Round Top with bayonets pointed at the surging Alabama soldiers.

The rebels were in shock and scattered.

With the Confederate attempts to flank the hill position spoiled, Union forces won the day and retained control of Little Round Top.

The actions of Maine’s 20th aided the North in winning the Battle of Gettysburg. The victory at Gettysburg marked a turning point in the American Civil War and was the home cite of President Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.


“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us –that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion– that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”


Maine soldiers played a vital role in winning the Civil War for the Union. And Heroes from Maine have their fingerprints all over historic moments throughout the American story.

In the spirit of Memorial Day, Maine First Media remembers The 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment from The Civil War.

The volunteer unit was made famous in the 1993 movie Gettysburg and 2003’s Gods and Generals.


The 20th may be most famous for defending Little Round Top from July 1-3 of 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg. However, the unit had many more contributions to the Northern efforts.

The 20th Maine was originally organized on August 29, 1862, commanded by Col. Adelbert Ames. They were first assigned to the Army of the Potomac where they remained until July 16, 1865.

Lt.Col. Joshua Chamberlain was a member of the 20th Maine. His actions have warranted him folk hero status. While the 20th Maine was battling the Confederate lines at Fredricksburg in December 1862, Lt.Col Chamberlain used a dead body to shield himself from enemy fire.

Lt. Col Chamberlain would later take command of the unit following a promotion for Colonel Ames.

As if battling Confederate forces wasn’t enough, the 20th Maine would be forced to overcome a run-in with smallpox.

However, it is their heroics at Gettysburg that are most notable. Had the 20th Maine failed at beating back the units from Alabama, the entire Union line would have been flanked, jeopardizing their chances of winning the pivotal battle.

Following their victory at Gettysburg, the 20th Maine remained active, including action at:

  • Second Rappahannock Station,
  • Mine Run,
  • The Wilderness,
  • Spotsylvania Court House,
  • The Siege of Petersburg,
  • Peebles’s Farm,
  • Lewis’s Farm/Quaker Road,
  • White Oak Road,
  • Five Forks,
  • Appomattox Court House.

Following their action at Appomattox, the unit marched for 10-Days to Washington D.C. Upon their arrival, all the original members of the unit that had survived were granted a release from service.

Over the course of the war, the 20th Maine enrolled more than 1,600 men.  Almost 150 were killed in combat, just as many died from disease. Nearly 400 more were wounded, and another 15 were Confederate prisoners.

Nearly 300 Mainers gave their lives to win the Civil War, free the slaves and unite our country. Today, remember those men. Remember all the Mainers and fighting men and women from across the country who have paid the ultimate price to protect our freedom. And remember, freedom is far from free.

Stayed tuned as Maine First Media will look back at other Maine war heroes in future Holiday editions of The Maine Event.

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