HAMPDEN, Maine — The Interstate-95 northbound rest area was dedicated Monday in honor of Civil War hero and Brewer native Joshua Chamberlain.
Rep. Arthur “Archie” Verow, D-Brewer, penned the bill that led to the dedication at the Hampden site. Verow was inspired after he noticed that New Jersey rest areas were dedicated to that state’s historic figures.
“I thought that would be a good way to recognize [Maine’s] history,” Verow said at the dedication, noting it is the first of its kind at a Maine rest area. “Chamberlain had a memorable life.”
The Chamberlain rest area is close to Brewer’s Chamberlain Freedom Park, which includes a memorial to Chamberlain as well as a historically significant Underground Railroad site, Charlotte Thompson, president of the Brewer Historical Society, told attendees.
Chamberlain is best known for his leadership of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1863 during the Battle of Gettysburg, which earned him the Medal of Honor, the country’s highest military honor.
He also accepted the Confederate Army’s surrender of arms at Appomattox when the Civil War ended, at the direction of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Verow said.
“He had his men salute” the Confederate troops, Verow said, which led southern leaders to respect his actions. They “still remember Chamberlain with the highest esteem,” the Brewer state representative said.
Chamberlain, who achieved the rank of general, was wounded six times in battle and had horses shot out from underneath him but still continued on, according to Sen. Andre Cushing, R-Newport.
“To me, it’s the epitome of what Maine has done for our country,” Cushing said.
After the war, Chamberlain served as Maine’s governor and was president of Bowdoin College, his alma mater.
“Chamberlain’s legacy is not only of statewide but also national importance,” Verow said in a press release. “More people should know he was born and raised in Brewer. Naming the rest area for him is an opportunity to celebrate our local history and invite visitors to spend time in our area.”
Chamberlain died in 1914 at the age of 86.
“Any opportunity to honor Chamberlain’s legacy in the state and the nation is one we should take, not to mention the chance to encourage visitors to spend time here,” Rep. Jim Davitt, D-Hampden, who co-sponsored the measure, said in the press release.
“He clearly never forgot the part of Maine where he came from and I’m sure he’d be pleased today to learn that we haven’t forgotten him,” said Larissa Vigue Picard, executive director of the Pejepscot Historical Society in Brunswick, which operates a Chamberlain Museum in a home the historic figure once owned.