Harriet Beecher Stowe, "the little lady who started this big war", started writing her influential anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin in Bowdoin's Appleton Hall while her husband was teaching at the college, and Brigadier General (and Brevet Major General) Joshua Chamberlain, a Bowdoin alumnus and professor, was present at the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House in 1865.
Chamberlain, a Medal of Honor recipient who later served as governor of Maine, adjutant-general of Maine, and president of Bowdoin, fought in Gettysburg, where he was in command of the 20th Maine in defense of Little Round Top.
Bowdoin College was chartered in 1794 by the Massachusetts State Legislature and was later redirected under the jurisdiction of the Maine Legislature.
It was named for former Massachusetts governor James Bowdoin, whose son James Bowdoin III was an early benefactor.
The college was a Founding Member of its athletic conference, the New England Small College Athletic Conference and has a historical connection with Bates College and Colby College, all of whom are part of the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Consortium.