Joshua Chamberlain was the colonel of the 20th Maine regiment famous for the defense of Little Round Top on Gettysburg day 2. Just prior to the start of fighting on July 2, 1863, General Daniel Sickles moved his division forward from the spot designated by commanding General George Meade. This created a salient in the Union left and left Little Round Top largely undefended.
The Confederates saw this advantage and if Little Round Top could be taken, they could roll up the left flank of the Union army. Colonel Vincent Strong was in the area and his division was sent to defend. Strong placed Chamberlain and the 20th Maine on the extreme left of the Union army. Chamberlain understood the significance of this position and knew he could not retreat regardless of circumstance.
The 15th & 47th Alabama regiments charged up the hill and were initially repulsed by the 20th Maine. Time after time they charged back up the hill and eventually tried to over-extend the lines of the 20th Maine. Chamberlain had to create a right-angle formation to counter and for the time, was able to hold the line.
Exhausted and running low on ammunition, Chamberlain ordered his regiment to fix bayonets. "At that crisis, I ordered the bayonet. The word was enough." With this Chamberlain ordered a right wheel maneuver down the hill to sweep the Alabama regiments off the hill. Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine were able to capture many men and with this valiant charge, saved the left flank of the Union army.
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