Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
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Quotes for
Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Character)
from Gettysburg (1993)

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Gettysburg (1993)
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Generals can do anything. There's nothing so much like a god on earth as a General on a battlefield.

[on the 120 mutineers of the 2nd Maine]
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Mutiny? I thought that was a word for the Navy.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: [Chamberlain is addressing his junior officers before the Confederate assault on Little Round Top] Gentlemen... the 83rd Pennsylvania, 44th New York, and 16th Michigan will be moving in to our right. But if you look to our left, you will see that there is no one there. It's because we're the end of the line. The Union army stops here. We are the flank. Do you understand, gentlemen? We cannot retreat. We cannot withdraw. We are going to have to be stubborn today. So, you put the boys in position, you tell them to stay down. Pile the rocks up high; get the best protection you can. I want the reserve pulled up about 20 yards. This is sloping ground, it's good ground. If you have any breakthroughs, if you have men wounded, if you have a hole in the line, you plug it with the reserve. How are we fixed for ammunition?
Capt. Ellis Spear: Sir, I think about 60 rounds per man.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: That's good. 60 rounds. I think - I... yes, that's adequate. Any questions?
Young 20th Maine Officer: Colonel... seems to me the fighting's on that side of the hill.
Older 20th Maine Officer: Yep. Seems to me that we're the back door. Everything's goin' on at the front door.
[all but Chamberlain laugh]
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Well, gentlemen, that hill is steep. It's rocky. It's bare. To come straight up it is impossible. No. The Reb army is going to swing around. It's gonna come up through that notch right over there. It'll move under the cover of trees, try to get 'round the flank. And gentlemen... *we* are the flank. Gentlemen.
[he salutes, and all the others return it]
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: God go with you.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Many of us volunteered to fight for the Union. Some came mainly because we were bored at home and this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many came because it was the right thing to do.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: I've been ordered to take you men with me, I'm told that if you don't come I can shoot you. Well, you know I won't do that. Maybe somebody else will, but I won't, so that's that. Here's the situation, the Whole Reb army is up that road aways waiting for us, so this is no time for an argument like this, I tell you. We could surely use you fellahs, we're now well below half strength. Whether you fight or not, that's up to you, whether you come along is... well, you're coming. You know who we are and what we are doing here, but if you are going to fight alongside us there are a few things I want you to know. This regiment was formed last summer, in Maine. There were a thousand of us then, there are less than 300 of us now. All of us volunteered to fight for the Union, just as you have. Some came mainly because we were bored at home, thought this looked like it might be fun. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came because it was the right thing to do. And all of us have seen men die. This is a different kind of army. If you look back through history you will see men fighting for pay, for women, for some other kind of loot. They fight for land, power, because a king leads them, or just because they like killing. But we are here for something new, this has not happened much, in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free. America should be free ground, all of it, not divided by a line between slave states and free - all the way from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow. No man born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was. Here you can be something. Here is the place to build a home. But it's not the land, there's always more land. It's the idea that we all have value - you and me. What we are fighting for, in the end, we're fighting for each other. Sorry, I didn't mean to preach. You go ahead and you talk for a while. If you choose to join us and you want your muskets back you can have them - nothing more will be said by anyone anywhere. If you choose not to join us well then you can come along under guard and when this is all over I will do what I can to ensure you get a fair trial, but for now we're moving out. Gentlemen, I think if we lose this fight we lose the war, so if you choose to join us I will be personally very grateful.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: [quoting Hamlet] "What a piece of work is man, in form and movement how express and admirable. In action how like an angel."
Sergeant 'Buster' Kilrain: Well, if he's an angel, all right then. But he damn well must be a killer angel.

Major General Winfield Scott Hancock: Tell me, Professor. In your studies have you come across a story from antiquity of two men who are like brothers facing each other on the field of battle?
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Well, General, if the Greeks or Romans did not tell of it, I think that story must surely be in the Bible.
Major General Winfield Scott Hancock: When I look across the field and see the flags of the 9th and 14th Virginia; I can almost see his old crumpled hat and hear his voice. Lewis Armistead was my closest friend before the war. I'd like to see him again; but not here, not like this. What do you say, Colonel; what do the books tell you.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Don't call me Lawrence.
Lieutenant Thomas D. Chamberlain: Darn it, Lawrence, I'm your brother.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Just be careful of the name business in front of the men, just because you're my brother... it looks like favoritism.
Lieutenant Thomas D. Chamberlain: God Almighty, General Meade has his own son as his aide de camp.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: [thinking] Hold to the last. To the last what? Exercise in rhetoric. Last shell... last man... last foot of ground... last breath...

Colonel Strong Vincent: It's a far cry from Bowdoin College.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: No farther than Harvard yard.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: [after three of the last deserters decide to fight] Sergeant Owen, get these men some muskets.
Sgt. Owen: There are no muskets, sir.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: [to the deserters] Wait here. There'll be guns available in a little while.

Rice's Courier: [just before Pickett's Charge to the center of the Federal line] Colonel Rice has instructed me to tell you're relieved, sir.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Relieved?
Rice's Courier: Fresh troops are on their way up and they'll take over here, sir. Colonel Rice wants to give you people a rest. You are to fall back, and I am to show you the way.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: [to himself] Fall back. Yes...
[turns to Ellis]
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Ellis, have the men fall in; we're moving out.
[to the courier]
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Where are we going?
Rice's Courier: Oh, sir! Lovely spot. Very quiet. Safest place on the battlefield. Right smack-dab in the center.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Tell me something, Buster... What do you think of Negroes?
Sergeant 'Buster' Kilrain: Well, if you mean the race, I don't really know. This is not a thing to be ashamed of. The thing is, you cannot judge a race. Any man who judges by the group is a pea-wit. You take men one at a time.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: You see to me there was never any difference.
Sergeant 'Buster' Kilrain: None at all?
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: None at all. Of course, I haven't known that many freed men... But those I knew in Bangor, Portland... You look in the eye, there was a man. There was a "divine spark," as my mother used to call it. That is all there is to it. Races are men. "What a piece of work is man. How infinite in faculties and form, and movement... How express and admirable. In action how like an angel.
Sergeant 'Buster' Kilrain: Well, if he's an angel, all right then... But he damn well must be a killer angel. Colonel, darling, you're a lovely man. I see a vast great difference between us, yet I admire you, lad. You're an idealist, praise be. The truth is, Colonel... There is no "divine spark". There's many a man alive no more of value than a dead dog. Believe me. When you've seen them hang each other the way I have back in the Old Country. Equality? What I'm fighting for is to prove I'm a better man than many of them. Where have you seen this "divine spark" in operation, Colonel? Where have you noted this magnificent equality? No two things on Earth are equal or have an equal chance. Not a leaf, not a tree. There's many a man worse than me, and some better... But I don't think race or country matters a damn. What matters, Colonel... Is justice. Which is why I'm here. I'll be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved. I'm Kilrain... And I damn all gentlemen. There is only one aristocracy... And that is right here.
[points to his head]
Sergeant 'Buster' Kilrain: And that's why we've got to win this war.

20th Maine soldier: [guarding several newly captured Confederate prisoners] Colonel! I've been moving these Rebs with an empty musket!
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: [whispering] No so loud!

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: [Tom hands Lawrence a cup of coffee] Where have you been?
Lieutenant Thomas D. Chamberlain: We sent out a detail and found some more departed souls down there, and they were carrying coffee for which they had no more use for, so...
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Oh, you're a ghoul.


Gods and Generals (2003)
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Hail Caesar! We who are about to die, salute you!

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: In the Roman civil war, Julius Caesar knew he had to march on Rome, which no legion was permitted to do. Marcus Lucanus left us a chronicle of what happened. "How swiftly Caesar had surmounted the mighty alps and in his mind conceived immense upheavals, coming war. When he reached the water of the little Rubicon, clearly to the leader through the murky night appeared a mighty image of his country in distress, grief in her face, her white hair streaming from her tower-crowned head, with tresses torn and shoulders bare, she stood before him and sighing said, "Where further do you march? Where do you take my standards warriors? If lawfully you come, if as citizens, this far only is allowed." Then trembling struck the leader's limbs, his hair grew stiff and weakness checked his progress, holding his feet at the rivers edge. At last he speaks, "Oh Thunderer, surveying Rome's walls from the Tarpeian Rock. Oh Phrygian house gods of Iulus, Clan and Mystery of Quirinus who was carried off to heaven, Oh Jupiter of Latium seated in lofty Alda and Hearths of Vesta, Oh Rome, equal to the highest deity, favor my plans! Not with impious weapons do I pursue you. Here am I, Caesar, conqueror of land and sea, your own soldier, everywhere, now too, if I am permitted. The man who makes me your enemy, it is he who be the guilty one." Then he broke the barriers of war and through the swollen river swiftly took his standards. And Caesar crossed the flood and reached the opposite bank. From Hesperia's Forbidden Fields he took his stand and said, "Here I abandoned peace and desecrated law; fortune it is you I follow. Farewell to treaties. From now on war is our judge!" Hail Caesar! We who are about to die salute you!

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: All these thousands of men. Many of them not much more than boys. Each one of them some mother's son, some sister's brother, some daughter's father. Each one of them a whole person loved and cherished in some home far away. Many of them will never return. An army is power. Its entire purpose is to coerce others. This power can not be used carelessly or recklessly. This power can do great harm. We have seen more suffering than any man should ever see, and if there is going to be an end to it, it must be an end that justifies the cost. Now, somewhere out there is the Confederate army. They claim they are fighting for their independence, for their freedom. Now, I can not question their integrity. I believe they are wrong but I can not question it. But I do question a system that defends its own freedom while it denies it to an entire race of men. I will admit it, Tom. War is a scourge, but so is slavery. It is the systematic coercion of one group of men over another. It has been around since the book of Genesis. It exists in every corner of the world, but that is no excuse for us to tolerate it here when we find it right infront of our very eyes in our own country. As God as my witness, there is no one I hold in my heart dearer than you. But if your life, or mine,is part of the price to end this curse and free the Negro, then let God's work be done.

Sgt. Buster Kilrain: [Chamberlain meets Kilrain for the first time]
Sgt. Buster Kilrain: Mornin' to ya, sir. Colonel Ames sent me to get ya. Thought you'd be needin' a drop o' this.
Sgt. Buster Kilrain: [offers Chamberlain a mug of coffee]
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Oh, thank you. Uh...
Sgt. Buster Kilrain: Kilrain, sir, Sergeant Kilrain. Glad to be of service. You know, Colonel... the boys, well... we've been watchin' you, sir. That we have. You've learned fast. It's becomin' a pleasure to serve under ya.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Yes, well, thank you. Are you a veteran, Sergeant?
Sgt. Buster Kilrain: Aye, sir. I suppose you could say that. Did me duty in the regular army for a while. Did the great long walk with General Scott down south of the Rio Grande.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: Hmm. Some of the men you fought with in Mexico are on the other side. Almost all of their generals.
Sgt. Buster Kilrain: Oh, it gets worse than generals, Colonel. Some o' the lads that I left Ireland with are on the other side as well. Imagine that. We left together to escape a tyranny... and end up shootin' at one another in the Land of the Free.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain: I, too, have friends on the other side, Sergeant. And enemies.
Sgt. Buster Kilrain: Yes, sir. No shortage of enemies, that's for sure.