Brig. Gen. Joshua L. Chamberlain with Confederate Gen. John B. Gordon’s troops as they surrender with dignity. Courtesy photo

Pejepscot History Center, which owns and operates the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum, presents the inaugural Chamberlain Legacy Lecture at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, at the Brunswick Hotel.

The event evolved from the organization’s previous Chamberlain Days program, which for three decades hosted talks and activities related to one of Maine’s most famous figures. The new event falls near Chamberlain’s birthday, Sept. 8.

Keynote speaker Kanisorn “Kid” Wongsrichanalai, a 2003 Bowdoin College graduate and director of research at Massachusetts Historical Society, will deliver an address titled “Who shall tell what is past and what survives? Why Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain still matters.”

“I am deeply honored and humbled,” Wongsrichanalai said. “I became an historian because of Joshua Chamberlain. I went to Bowdoin because of Joshua Chamberlain. To be asked to deliver the inaugural Chamberlain Legacy Lecture is truly a profound honor.”

A recorded video welcome from famed documentarian Ken Burns — whose PBS series, “The Civil War,” helped set off a wave of interest in Chamberlain in the early 1990s — will  precede the keynote address.

“We are beyond thrilled at how this has come together,” says PHC executive director Larissa Vigue Picard. “Having heard Kid speak, and being entirely enthralled, I know he will take this exactly where we are hoping it will go. And when Ken Burns agreed to record this very personal, heartfelt video welcome, we were floored. It will be a great evening.”


Dr. Wongsrichanalai’s address will touch on themes directly related to the mission of the Chamberlain Legacy Lecture: how the experiences, events, disciplines, and Chamberlain’s ideas continue to resonate in the world.

This story of the college professor turned soldier whose tenacity helped save the United States Army at the Battle of Gettysburg made Chamberlain a national hero almost overnight. In him, audiences saw the North’s answer to the better-known legends of the Confederacy. When historians started paying attention to Chamberlain, however, they quickly discovered that he was a much more complicated figure than many presumed.

Dr. Wongsrichanalai addresses this question: In an age when 19th century heroes, with their deeply flawed beliefs and worldviews, are being recast, how does a character like Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain remain relevant? His talk explores the modern rise of Chamberlain’s legend and ponders what this college professor might still teach us today.

Dr. Wongsrichanalai is the author of “Northern character: College-educated New Englanders, honor, nationalism, and leadership in the Civil War era” and co-editor of “So conceived and so dedicated: Intellectual life in the Civil War-era North.” He earned his bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Virginia.

A dessert reception, with birthday cake, follows the keynote.

Tours at the Chamberlain Museum on Friday, Sept. 10, and Saturday, Sept. 11, are free. A walking tour of “Chamberlain’s Bowdoin,” conducted by Bowdoin College historian John Cross, takes place on Sunday, Sept. 12 at 1:30 p.m..

Tickets for the Lecture and related events are available at For information, call (207) 729-6606.

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