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"The Vision Place Of Souls"

"The Vision Place Of Souls"
The 20th Maine Monument
Image Size 15" x 22"
Release Date: June 1998
Edition size 1000: 100 A/P: 60 w/ Col. Chamberlain remarque: 40 P/P

Price: Regular edition of 1000: $125.00 Unframed plus $10.00 flat shipping:

Price: Regular edition of 1000: $300.00 Handsomely and Professionally Framed plus $40.00 shipping:

“The Vision-place Of Souls”
20th Maine Infantry Monument

“But there was neither removal nor rest for us, till we had gone up the Round Top slopes to bid farewell to our dead. We found them there on the sheltered lawn where we had laid them, on the velvet moss fringed by low cedars that veiled the place with peace and beauty. We buried them there,….on the sunny side of a great rock, eternal witnesses of their worth - the rock and the sun.

I went – it is not long ago – to stand again upon that crest whose one day’s crown of
fire has passed into the blazoned coronet of fame; to look again upon the rocks whereon were laid, as on the altar, the lives of Vincent and O’Rourke, of Weed and Hazlett –all the chief commanders. And farther on, where my own young heroes mounted to fall no more… lifted high above self, pure in heart as they that shall see God;

I sat there alone. On the storied crest, till the sun went down as it did before over the
misty hills, and the darkness crept up the slopes, till from all earthly sight I was buried as with those before. But oh, what radiant companionship rose around, what steadfast ranks of power, what bearing of heroic souls. Oh, the glory that beamed through those nights and days. Unknown – but kept! The earth itself shall be its treasurer. It holds something of ours besides graves. These strange influences of material nature, its mountains and seas, its sunset skies and nights of stars, its colors and tones and odors, carry something of the mutual, reciprocal.

And so these Gettysburg hills, which lifted up such splendid valor, and drank in such high heart’s blood, shall hold the mighty secret in their bosom till the great day of revelation and recompense, when these heights shall flame again with transfigured light –“

Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain

“The Vision-place Of Souls” was inspired by the deeds of the 20th Maine, the writings of Joshua L. Chamberlain and the modest, unassuming strength of their monument at Gettysburg. The powerful, meditative atmosphere that pervades the now tranquil slopes of Vincent’s Spur on Little Roundtop, has always stirred my imagination. There I attempted to capture a moment when the early morning sun broke through the canopy of trees and enveloped the monument with transient dappled light. Colorful patterns reflecting off the foliage were created by the sunlight radiating through the branches and leaves and diffused by a lingering morning mist. This unusual iridescent glow created an effect similar to that of light passing through stained glass windows. The mist reminded me of the drifting smoke of battle and the drastic difference between this serene setting and the violent conflict that took place there so long ago. Three distinctive trees to the right of the monument appear reminiscent of crosses. The monument itself seemed transformed into an altar, adorned with a simple sprig of flowers left at the base as an offering by a previous visitor. The cathedralesque quality of the scene re-affirmed to me the sanctity of this hallowed place. The flowers represent a timeless gesture of reverence and romantic sentiment, adding the perfect symbolic final touch to the drawing.

Visions linger in shadows
Masking evasive presence
With a dappled edge

Paul R. Martin III

Late in the afternoon of July 2, 1863, General Meade’s Chief Engineer, Gen. Gouvernor K. Warren was scouting the south end of Cemetery Ridge. At the top of Little Roundtop, Warren realized that the commanding hill that he was standing on was the key to the Union position. He also discovered that no Union troops had been placed there. He saw the opening advance of Longstreet’s assault moving against the Union’s left flank out on the Emmitsburg Road. Quickly comprehending the disaster that would result if the Confederates were to seize Little Roundtop, Warren immediately sent messengers to find some troops to occupy the heights. Through the chain of command, the message was eventually received by Col, Strong Vincent. Vincent, in command of the 3rd Brigade of Gen. Sykes’ 5th corps had just had his Brigade placed at the eastern edge of the Wheatfield. He immediately sensed the urgency of the situation and quickly led his brigade to the hill. Vincent personally placed The 20th Maine at the end of the Union line. There, he ordered Chamberlain to “….hold the line at all costs!”.

Chamberlain had just enough time to place his men into position along a ledge on the Southern slope of the hill. “Ten minutes had not passed” before the Confederate assault approached them. The battle moved from right to left across the Union brigade front. The 20th Maine fell under attack from the 47th and 15th Alabama Regiments, under the command of Col. William C. Oates. The 47th was greatly understrength and ultimately withdrew, leaving only the 15th to carry on the fight. The battle ebbed and flowed for about 90 minutes in a series of attacks, withdrawals and lulls, while the Alabamians continually tried to turn the left flank of the 20th Maine. The Maine men repeatedly repulsed several charges by the Alabamians. Both sides were soon spent and exhausted. The Alabama troops were catching their breaths and regrouping at the base of the hill. Col. Oates had decided that another assault against Chamberlain’s position would be futile and he was weighing his next move.

“Captains Hill and Park suggested that I should order a retreat; but this seemed impractical. My dead and wounded were then nearly as great in number as those still on duty. They literally covered the ground. The blood stood in puddles in some places on the rocks; the ground was soaked with the blood of as brave men as ever fell on the red field of battle. I still hoped for reinforcements or for the tide of success to turn my way. It seemed impossible to retreat and I therefore replied to my captains, ‘Return to your companies; we will sell out as dearly as possible.’ Hill made no reply, but Park smiled pleasantly, gave me the military salute, and said, ‘All right, sir.’ On reflection a few moments later I saw no hope of success and did order a retreat, but did not undertake to retire in order. I sent Sergeant –Major Norris and had the officers and men advised the best I could that when the signal was given that we would not try to retreat in order, but every one should run in the direction from whence we came, and halt on the top of the BigRound Top Mountain. I found the undertaking to capture Little Round Top too great for my regiment unsupported. I waited until the next charge of the Twentieth Maine was repulsed as it would give my men a better chance to get out unhurt, and then ordered the retreat. The historian of that regiment claims that its charge drove us from the field. This is not true; I ordered the retreat. Colonel Chamberlain also reported it and doubtless believed it, but it was just as I state – I ordered the retreat. When the signal was given we ran like a herd of wild cattle……..”

Col. William C. Oates

At the top of the hill, Chamberlain was in a similar quandary. Determined to refuse his flank, he had already extended his line far to the left. It had been bent back like a bobby pin but had not broken. This extension stretched his defensive line into a single man front. Combined with the heavy casualties already taken, their effective fighting strength was drastically reduced. The men were exhausted and their ammunition was running low. Chamberlain felt that his regiment could not withstand another attack. In a moment of natural battle command intuition, Chamberlain made a decision that propelled him and the 20th Maine into one of the most legendary events of the Battle of Gettysburg. He ordered his remaining men to “fix bayonets”. The order signaled a countercharge down the slope of the hill right into the Confederates.

“My ammunition was soon exhausted. My men were firing their last shot and getting ready to “club” their muskets. It was imperative to strike before we struck by this overwhelming force in a hand-to-hand fight, which we could not have withstood or survived. At that crisis I ordered the bayonet. The word was enough. It ran like fire along the line from man to man, and rose to a shout, with which they sprang forward upon the enemy, now not thirty yards away. The effect was surprising; many of the enemy’s first line threw down their arms and surrendered. An officer fired his pistol at my head with one hand while he handed me his sword with the other. Holding fast by our right, and swinging forward our left, we made an extended “right wheel”, before the enemy’s second line broke, and fell back, fighting from tree to tree, many being captured, until we had swept the valley and cleared the front of nearly our entire brigade.”

Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain
20th Maine Infantry
Emmitsburg, July 6, 1863

Whether it was Chamberlain’s signal to charge, or Oates’ order to retreat that precipitated the final action, the outcome was the same. The oncoming rush of Maine men so shocked and stunned the equally tired and battle weary Alabamians, that they threw down their weapons and surrendered or broke into full retreat. The fight for Little Roundtop was over. The 20th Maine had held, “at all costs”, the end of the Union line.

Col. Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions on Little Roundtop that day. He was presented his Medal of Honor on August 11, 1893. The citation read:

“For daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round
Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on the Great Round Top.”

The monument to the 20th Maine was erected on the boulder where Color Sergeant Andrew J. Tozier held the regimental flag during the height of the battle. He would also be awarded the Medal of Honor in 1898 for his actions that July afternoon.

"At the crisis of the engagement, this soldier, a color bearer, stood alone in an advanced position, the regiment having been borne back, and defended his colors with musket and ammunition picked up at his feet."
M.O.H. Citation

“...I saw through a sudden rift in the thick smoke our colors standing alone. I first thought some optical illusion imposed upon me. But as forms emerged through the drifting smoke, the truth came to view. The cross-fire had cut keenly; the center had been almost shot away; only two of the color guard had been left, and they fighting to fill the whole space and in the center, wreathed in battle smoke, stood the Color-Sergeant, Andrew Tozier. His color-staff planted in the ground at his side, the upper part clasped in his elbow, so holding the flag upright, with musket and cartridges seized from the fallen comrade at his side he was defending his sacred trust in the manner of the songs of chivalry. It was a stirring picture.......”

Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain

On October 3, 1886 the monument was dedicated by the survivors of the 20th Maine, to the memory of their 38 comrades who were killed during the action, all of whose names are inscribed upon its side. It continues to silently honor the men of the 20th Maine, who defended so gallantly the left flank of the Union Army during the waning hours of July 2, 1863.

General Joshua L. Chamberlain gave an inspiring memorial address at the reunion and dedication ceremony. His unique foresight eloquently conveyed the essence of why thousands of Americans still journey to Gettysburg. He masterfully placed into historical and emotional context, the feelings and perceptions of so many people who visit the battlefield. It is my hope that this drawing visually expresses the significant power and meaning of Chamberlain’s words and that it evokes the poignancy and wonder of a very contemplative place on the Gettysburg battlefield, where, “......spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls.”

“No chemistry of frost or rain, no overlapping mould of the season’s recurrent life and death, can ever separate from the soil of these consecrated fields the life-blood so deeply commingled and incorporate here. Ever henceforth under the rolling sun, when these hills are touched to splendor with the morning light, or smile a farewell to the lingering day, the flush that broods upon them shall be rich with a strange and crimson tone, - not of the earth, nor yet of the sky, but mediator and hostage between the two.”

“In great deeds something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls. And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”

General Joshua L. Chamberlain
20th Maine Infantry
Dedication Speech, October 3, 1886

©1998 by Paul R. Martin III. Published by SILENT SENTINEL STUDIO, PO Box 551, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598. (914) 245-8903

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