A quick learner

On August 8, 1862, he reported to Colonel Adelbert Ames (1835-1933), commander of the Twentieth Maine. Over the next several weeks, Chamberlain quickly distinguished himself as a sharp young officer. Ames learned to trust his second-in-command, impressed by the former professor's intelligence and desire to learn. In fact, Chamberlain seemed to spend nearly all of his waking moments talking with veteran officers in order to improve his knowledge of military strategy and other subjects. "I study . . . every military work I can find and it is no small labor to master the evolutions of a battalion and brigade," he said in a letter to his wife. "I am bound [determined] to understand everything." Joshua was joined in the regiment around this time by his younger brothers Tom and John, who would fight by his side for the remainder of the war.

In September 1862, Chamberlain and the other soldiers of the Twentieth Maine were stationed near Sharpsburg, Maryland, site of the bloody Battle of Antietam. The Twentieth Maine was never ordered into the battle, but the troops saw plenty of evidence of war's terrible toll. Chamberlain recalled that the sight of one dead Confederate soldier holding a Bible in his lifeless hands haunted him for the rest of his life. "I saw him sitting there gently reclined against the tree . . . this boy of scarcely sixteen summers," he stated. "His cap had fallen to the ground on one side, his hand resting on his knee. It clasped a little testament opened at some familiar place. He wore the gray. He was my enemy, this boy. He was dead—the boy, my enemy—but I shall see him forever."

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