Effective Leadership Qualities Illustrated by a Unique Story From the Civil War
I am a fan of Civil War history. I also like to study leadership and effective leadership qualities. This article tells the story of Joshua Chamberlain, a highly decorated Union officer. The objective of the article … highlight a great gesture of effective leadership.
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Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was an American college professor from the State of Maine, who volunteered during the American Civil War to join the Union Army.
Although having no earlier education in military strategies, he became a highly respected and decorated Union officer, reaching the rank of brigadier general. Chamberlain achieved fame at the Battle of Gettysburg, where his valiant defense of a hill named Little Round Top became the focus of many publications and stories, including the novel The Killer Angels and the film Gettysburg.
On the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Union forces were recovering from initial defeats and hastily regrouping into defensive positions on a line of hills south of the town. Sensing the momentary vulnerability of the Union forces, the Confederates began an attack against the Union left flank.
Sent to defend the southern slope of Little Round Top, Chamberlain found himself and the 20th Maine at the far left end of the entire Union line. He quickly understood the strategic significance of the small hill, and the need for the 20th Maine to hold the Union left at all costs.
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Time and time again the Confederates struck until the 20th Maine was almost doubled back upon itself. With many casualties and ammunition running low, Col. Chamberlain recognized the dire circumstances and ordered his left wing to initiate a bayonet charge. From his report of the day, battlefield conditions make it unlikely that many men heard Chamberlain’s order; most historians believe he initiated the charge.
The 20th Maine charged down the hill, with the left-wing wheeling continually to make the charging line swing like a hinge, capturing 101 of the Confederate soldiers and successfully saving the flank.
For his “daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance…