Updated: Mar 5, 2019
“This is the great reward of service, to live, far out and on, in the life of others; this is the mystery of Christ – to give life’s best for such high stakes that it shall be found again unto life eternal.” – Brigadier General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
As you may know, I was raised in Maine, and in addition to being the home of a longer coastline than California (it’s true!), beautiful vistas, lobster rolls, and unreasonably low temperatures, it is the home state of Civil War hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. Popularized by Jeff Daniels’ character in the 90s movie, Gettysburg, Chamberlain was an American Renaissance man and a preview of the scholar-soldier mold Teddy Roosevelt would later inhabit and expand..
An academic by nature, Chamberlain excelled in college and developed a close relationship with one of his professors, Calvin Ellis Stowe. Stowe’s wife, Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and prior to its publication, Chamberlain heard the novel read aloud after Sunday dinners at her home. It was a relationship that proved to be impactful. In 1861, inspired to participate in what he believed to be a noble war, (He often spoke of the “higher cause” of the Union, and was himself a firm abolitionist.) Chamberlain, who was now a rising star professor at Bowdoin College, asked for a sabbatical to fight in the Union Army. His request was denied. Undeterred, Chamberlain re-submitted, instead asking for leave to further his language studies. He was approved. Once granted his leave from campus, Chamberlain enlisted.
As an officer, Chamberlain was reliable and adept. Upon assuming command of the 20th Maine Regiment at the Battle of Gettysburg, Chamberlain led a daring maneuver against a larger and better-armed Confederate attack and secured the extreme flank of the Union line. As the reward for his heroism, Chamberlain was asked to oversee the surrender of Lee’s troops at Appomattox and was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Following his wartime heroics, Chamberlain returned to Maine, served as Surveyor of the Port of Portland, a 4-term governor, and Commander of the Maine State Militia, a role in which he famously stared down an armed rebellion from the statehouse steps. His was truly a life of service. Too old to be drafted, and secure in a stable and fulfilling career, Chamberlain could have avoided the war with no ill-effects, but he wanted to serve. His aim was “to give life’s best for such high stakes that it shall be found again unto life eternal,” and ultimately, he did. Wounded several times in battle, Chamberlain is considered by many to be the final casualty of the Civil War. His death in 1914 was ruled to be the result of complications from a wound he suffered at Petersburg.
Much like my last post, the connection between Chamberlain, his life of service to others, and The Oaks lies in our distinctives as a school. We exist to develop the whole child – mind, body, and spirit – and to prepare students for their future work, building the kingdom, spreading the Gospel, and loving their neighbors. That is why many of our Fridays are spent serving others. While our Friday service opportunities may not have the immediate impact, coverage, or consequences of Chamberlain’s contributions, they are foundational experiences that shape their priorities, worldview, and sense of community. We prepare students at The Oaks for lives of service so that after they leave our hallways, when they have opportunities to serve others in ways large or small, they will be equipped, confident, and eager to serve both God and their neighbor.
You see, Chamberlain’s life shows a habit of service – educator, soldier, governor - and it’s clear from his words that his actions were inspired by the eternal, and the joy he knew awaited him there. As a school, it is our joy on earth to partner with families in fostering an eternal mindset through revealing the pleasure of serving God and others, while examining the wonder of creation. In all these ways and more, we are creating something more than a hope for our children and their future, we’re establishing a habit, a lifestyle of looking to the eternal, and living for it on earth.
We'd love for you to experience our unique approach to education, and see the difference an education at The Oaks can be.
All the best,