View Full Version : Chamberlain's Salute at Appomatox

08-15-2012, 12:28 PM
I read about the salute from Union General Joshua Chamberlain to the Confederate soldiers surrendering at Appomattox. Not sure I understood how it was achieved. I have a good understanding of modern military drill, and specifically the position of "Present Arms" ..but according to the historical record, Chamberlain ordered his unit to something other than "Present Arms" . Was there some form of honorific salute that was short of "present arms" during the Civil War?

Ross L. Lamoreaux
08-15-2012, 02:24 PM
Chamberlain mentions in his autobiography that he ordered the men to "carry arms", which is basically shouldering their arms. This is considered a salute in that the men were brought to attention and maintained their martial bearing by elevating arms. This has been argued by historians for decades as not a "true salute" but for a soldier commanding men accepting the surrender of a conquered foe, I believe Chamberlain's intent was to salute the men of the south without breaking protocol of actually presenting arms in a salute. By maintaining the position of the soldier (at attention elevating arms), that was his small way of showing respect. Other's opinions vary, but that is a logical argument in many's eyes.

08-15-2012, 08:01 PM
As a side note, remember that coming to "carry arms" is the salute that troops on parade under arms should render to reviewing officers. Not "eyes right/left."

08-15-2012, 09:13 PM
not sure I yet understand. Modern military command is "port arms" where soldiers are directed to hold their weapons in front of them... never understood this to be an honorific. What exactly is a soldier to do when given a command of "carry arms"?

Guess another question is why did it drop from the modern drill?

08-16-2012, 07:43 AM
In SCOTT'S "Carry Arms" was the command to go from "Rest" back to "Shoulder Arms". It's essentially coming more formally to "Attention" and hence a mark of respect. Here it would seem to be going from "Order Arms" to "Shoulder Arms", again a small sign of respect.

I found this online, from the 1901 Boston Journal:

"At such a time and under such conditions I thought it eminently fitting to show some token of our feeling, and I therefore instructed my subordinate officers to come to the position of 'salute' in the manual of arms as each body of the Confederates passed before us.
"It was not a 'present arms,' however, not a 'present,' which then as now was the highest possible honor to be paid even to a president. It was the 'carry arms,' as it was then known, with musket held by the right hand and perpendicular to the shoulder. I may best describe it as a marching salute in review.