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Excerpt from Chapter XI:
"The Disbandment," from The Passing of the Armies

by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

image of Maltese Cross

To resume the narrative, on the first day of July, while encamped before Washington, we received an order, which, though expected, moved us most deeply. The first paragraph was this:


"June 28, 1865.

"By virtue of special orders, No. 339, current series, from the Adjutant General's office, this army, as an organization, ceases to exist."

What wonder that a strange thrill went through our hearts.

Ceases to exist! Are you sure of that? We had lately seen the bodily form of our army, or what remained of it, pass in majesty before the eyes of men; while part of it was left planted on the slopes of the Antietam, on the heights of Gettysburg, in the Wilderness, on the far-spread fields and lonely roadsides of all Virginia,—waiting the Resurrection.

The splendor of devotion, glowing like a bright spirit over those dark waters and misty plains, assures us of something that cannot die! The sacrifice of the mothers who sent such sons was of the immortal. All this must have been felt by those who gave the order. The War Department and the President may cease to give the army orders, may disperse its visible elements, but cannot extinguish them. They will come together again under higher bidding, and will know their place and name. This army will live, and live on, so long as soul shall answer soul, so long as that flag watches with its stars over fields of mighty memory, so long as in its red lines a regenerated people reads the charter of its birthright, and in its field of white God's covenant with man.


Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, The Passing of the Armies: The Last Campaign of the Armies, (Pennsylvania: Stan Clark Military Books, 1994), pp. 390-392.

Image of red Maltese Cross above, symbol of the Fifth Corps, by DLO.


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