Now Available: Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War

The latest biography in the Emerging Civil War Series is now out: Passing Through the Fire: Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain in the Civil War by Brian Swartz. Brian is the author of the Maine at War blog, an ECW partner. This is the 40th book in the series, published by Savas Beatie—which has copies available with free signed bookplates (order here).

Every Civil War buff knows about Chamberlain’s role in the famous stand of the 20th Maine on Little Round Top in Gettysburg. What most people don’t realize is that there was far more to Chamberlain’s wartime story than the episode made famous by The Killer Angels, Gettysburg, and Ken Burns’s The Civil War. Brian’s book explores the colorful career of one of the war’s most famous citizen solderis.

Passing Through the Fire features a foreword by historian Thomas Desjardin, one of the foremost experts on Maine’s Civil War history, and eleven original maps by cartographer Edward Alexander. Appendices include a piece by Dr. Ashley Towle about the complicated relationship between Chamberlain and his wife and a piece by ECW’s Ryan Quint (a native Mainer) about Chamberlain in memory, plus there’s a guide to Chamberlain-related places to visit in Maine.

About the Book:

As the brigade he commanded attacked a Confederate battery on a hill outside Petersburg in July 1864, a bursting shell blew Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain from the saddle and wounded his horse. After the enemy battery skedaddled, the brigade took the hill and dug in, and up came supporting Union guns.

Chamberlain figured the day’s fighting ended. Then an unidentified senior officer ordered his brigade to charge and capture the heavily defended main Confederate line. Chamberlain protested the order, then complied, taking his men forward—until a bullet slammed through his groin and left him mortally wounded.

Miraculously surviving a nighttime battlefield surgery, he returned home to convalesce as a brigadier general following an impromptu deathbed promotion. Struggling with pain and multiple surgeries, Chamberlain debated leaving the army or returning to the fight.

His decision affected upcoming battles, his family, and the rest of his life.

Passing Through the Fire chronicles Chamberlain’s swift transition from college professor and family man to regimental and brigade commander. A natural leader, he honed his fighting skills at Shepherdstown and Fredericksburg. Praised by his Gettysburg peers for leading the 20th Maine Infantry’s successful defense of Little Round Top—an action that would eventually earn him Civil War immortality—Chamberlain experienced his most intense combat after arriving at Petersburg.

Drawing on Chamberlain’s extensive memoirs and writings and multiple period sources, historian Brian F. Swartz follows Chamberlain across Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia while examining the determined warrior who let nothing prevent him from helping save the United States.

About the Author

Raised on Chamberlain Street in Brewer, Maine, Brian F. Swartz has worked as a newspaper reporter, editor, and photographer for 34 years and has published several books. He writes the Maine at War blog post, published weekly at, and lives with his wife, Susan, and their cat Getty (short for “Gettysburg”) in Hampden, Maine.


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