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Thread: Chamberlain's Salute at Appomatox

  1. #1
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    Default Chamberlain's Salute at Appomatox

    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?

  2. #2
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    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.
    Ross L. Lamoreaux
    Tampa Bay History Center
    www.tampabayhistorycenter.org
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  3. #3
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    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."
    Marc A. Hermann.
    The Daybreak B'hoys.
    Liberty Rifles - Hardtack Society.
    Oliver Tilden Camp No. 26, SUVCW.

    Descendant of Pvt. E. Hermann, 45th PA Militia - Capt. Wm. K. and Lt. Geo. W. Hopkins, 7th PA Reserves - Pvt. Jos. A. Weckerly, 72nd PA Infantry - Pvt. Thos. Will, 21st PA Cavalry.

  4. #4
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    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?

  5. #5
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    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.

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