Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Unlikely Heroes

   The Civil War produced many unlikely heroes from the most unlikely backgrounds.  One of those was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. 
 Encouraged by his mother to become a preacher, while his father desired him to pursue a military career, Joshua instead became a teacher at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.  Even though he struggled with a speech impediment, he eventually became a professor of rhetoric and was fluent in nine other languages besides English.  Although he did not want a military career, he believed the country needed to be supported against the Confederacy.  Therefore, he surrendered to the convictions of his heart.  Granted a leave of absence to further his studies abroad, and unbeknownst to the college, Joshua instead enlisted in the 20th Maine Regiment as a Lieutenant Colonel.  He had been offered a higher rank, but he declined, saying he preferred, "to start a little lower and learn the business first." 

During the war, Chamberlain played a key role in two important and significant events on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain was positioned on the Union Army's extreme left, on a small hill called the Little Round top, weakly defended by less than 400 men of the 20th Maine.  Under assault by five Confederate Regiments, Colonel Chamberlain ordered the most brave and extraordinary maneuver.  He ordered a bayonet charge down the hill straight into the oncoming enemy. It worked!
The Rebels, who did not break and run, were quickly captured.  The Battle for Little Round Top was over, and by most military strategists accounts, it was the turning point for the Union victory at Gettysburg, and to Civil War historians, the determining point of the entire War.  Amazingly, a professor of rhetoric was used to change the course of the war.

The surrender of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House was another compelling event in which Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain took part. He had been selected by Union Headquarters to preside over the official surrender of the Confederate troops as they laid down their arms and battle flags.  It was Chamberlain's decision and order, although unpopular, to have his men come to attention and "carry arms" as a sign of respect when the defeated Rebels marched by.  It was a poignant display of honor from one soldier to another.  Some historians believe that small act helped to speed the healing between those who witnessed the moment.  Amazingly, a professor of rhetoric was used to help heal a nation.

History records those moments that changed the course of nations.  Many times it's the small decisions that determine a brighter future.  God uses unlikely, seemingly ill equipped people to mightily impact history.  The Civil War was full of such men and women.  The Bible also records name upon name of such world-changers.  Names like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, and lest we forget, Queen Esther. She is reminded by Mordecai that she had a purpose to fulfill to save her people, "You have come to your royal position for such a time as this." Esther 4:14  She did not neglect her opportunity nor her People nor her Nation.  Remember it was just a small band of uneducated fishermen who, "Turned the world upside down."  Acts 17:6

They, like Joshua Chamberlain, had limited experience in the task that was required; but, they did not let that stop them. What do you think God could do with you and me, if we would just but charge bravely into our next, "for such a time as this" moment?

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