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Civil War-era Medal of Honor donated to Maine museum

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Medal of Honor awarded to U.S. Civil War General Joshua Chamberlain has been returned to his home state of Maine after an anonymous donor found it in a book purchased at a church sale in Massachusetts.

The medal, the highest U.S. military honor, was given to Chamberlain for his service in the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, the Pejepscot Historical Society said in a statement on Tuesday.

The donation was made "in honor of all veterans" to the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum in Brunswick, Maine, and comes a few weeks after the 150th anniversary of the historic conflict, said the Society, which owns the museum.

The donor discovered the medal — a tarnished star topped by an eagle and red, white and blue ribbon — in the back of a book bought several years ago at a church sale in Duxbury, Massachusetts, according to the group.

The general's last surviving descendant, a granddaughter, left her estate to the church after she died in 2000, the group said.

Chamberlain, a native of Brewer, Maine, commanded the 20th Maine Infantry Regiment at Little Round Top during the Battle of Gettysburg, the defining clash of the U.S. Civil War. He was awarded the medal in 1893 for "distinguished gallantry" in the battle, the group said.

He attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, later becoming its president, and lived for most of his life in the coastal town about 25 miles northeast of Portland in a house that now serves as a museum.

After the Civil War, Chamberlain served four terms as governor of Maine.

The Society said it worked with experts at the Maine State Museum, the Library of Congress and the Department of the Army's Awards and Decorations Branch to confirm the medal's authenticity.

"All of the experts we've consulted believe it to be authentic, and we are tremendously honored to return the medal to Chamberlain's home in Brunswick," Pejepscot Historical Society Director Jennifer Blanchard said.

(Reporting by Daniel Lovering; Editing by Scott Malone and Nick Zieminski)

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