Ronald C. White

On Great Fields

The Life and Unlikely Heroism of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

On Great Fields Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

To be published October 31, 2023

Before 1862, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain had rarely left his home state of Maine, where he was a trained minister and mild-mannered professor at Bowdoin College. His colleagues were shocked when he volunteered for the Union army, but he was undeterred and later became known as one of the North’s greatest heroes: On the second day at Gettysburg, after running low on ammunition at Little Round Top, he ordered his men to wield their bayonets in a desperate charge down a rocky slope that routed the Confederate attackers. Despite being wounded at Petersburg—and told by two surgeons he would die—Chamberlain survived the war, going on to be elected governor of Maine four times and serve as president of Bowdoin College.


How did a stuttering young boy come to be fluent in nine languages and even teach speech and rhetoric? How did a trained minister find his way to the battlefield? Award-winning historian Ronald C. White delves into these contradictions in this definitive, cradle-to-death biography of Chamberlain, from his youthful formation, his tenacious, empathetic military leadership, and his influential post-war public service, exploring a question that still plagues so many veterans: How do you make a civilian life of meaning after having experienced the extreme highs and lows of war?

Chamberlain is familiar to millions from Michael Shaara’s classic novel of the Civil War, The Killer Angels, Ken Burns’s miniseries, The Civil War, and Jeff Daniels portrayal of Chamberlain in the movie Gettysburg. In On Great Fields, White captures the complex and inspiring man behind the hero.”<em>Ronald C. White has given us a vital and vivid portrait of an unlikely military hero who played a key role in the preservation of the Union and therefore in the making of modern America. From his bookish days as a professor at Bowdoin to the fields of Gettysburg, Joshua Chamberlain was a man of principle and of action, a surprising officer whose conviction and courage made all the difference. A marvelous book.</em>”
—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle

Ronald C. White

Ronald C. White is available for select readings and lectures.

To inquire about a possible appearance with Ronald C. White, please contact Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau. Stasia Whalen: or phone: 212-782-9208.

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Please note which events are virtual: 💻
I am signing personalized bookplates for each of these events.

    2022 Events

    The year 2022 will mark the bicentennial of the birth of Ulysses S. Grant.

      Leadership Lessons from Lincoln & Grant

      Ronald C. White discussed what the lives and presidencies of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant can teach us about leadership with the Library’s Colleen Shogan.


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      On Great Fields Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

      Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

      Ronald White is writing a comprehensive biography of Chamberlain to be published by Random House in September 2023

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      American Ulysses

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