A great storm breaks out, washing away much of the blood and bodies, and cleansing the land. Chamberlain and Tom return to their regiment prepared to continue fighting.
The Confederate leaders, especially Longstreet, are quick to grasp the significance of the defeat. Lee, his confidence weakened by the loss, requests to be relieved of duty in August. Longstreet attempts to resign the following winter, claiming that he does not believe the South can win the war. Neither man is granted their request—the Confederate leaders will not let Lee resign, and Lee will not relieve Longstreet of duty. This knowledge may be part of what inspires the exchange between the two men in Chapter 5, in which both suspect that the war has just been lost, but they also know that they must continue to fight. Both men serve until the end of the war.
After Gettysburg, the battles on the eastern front of the war—between Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and the Union’s Army of the Potomac—plodded slowly to a drawn-out, bloody Union victory almost two years later. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, and Chamberlain received the Confederate surrender. Chamberlain ordered his men to salute the surrendering soldiers as they marched by, a gesture of great respect.
Lee died in 1870 from heart disease. Longstreet spent the rest of his life an unpopular man after writing a memoir blaming Lee for the loss at Gettysburg, and for many years he was the target of biased historians, particularly those sympathetic to the Confederacy. Chamberlain went on to lead an impressive career: he served as governor of Maine for four years, and then as the president of Bowdoin College for twelve years. He was given a Congressional Medal of Honor in 1893 for gallantry at Gettysburg and wrote several books about the war. He died in 1914 at the age of eighty-three.