Monday, July 4, 2011

Joshua Chamberlain - Profile in Leadership

Joshua Chamberlain Was A Tower Of Union Force

An excerpt from an article entitled: "Gut It Out: His Little Round Top rush riddled the rebels" by Jason Ma, INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY

Honor and genius converged in Joshua Chamberlain to produce one of the unlikeliest heroes of the Civil War. A professor of languages at Bowdoin College in Maine, he gave up a comfortable life in academia to fight in what would be the bloodiest war in U.S. history — and to battle with unusual distinction at Gettysburg 148 years ago this week. “He truly did serve with distinction throughout the war,” said Glenn LaFantasie, a professor of Civil War history at Western Kentucky University.

Chamberlain (1828-1914) was said to be fluent in 10 languages, including Arabic, Hebrew and Syriac, an Aramaic dialect. As the academic year wound down in the summer of 1862, he weighed an offer from Bowdoin to send him to Europe , where he could use his Greek, Latin, French, Italian, German and Spanish. But with the war dragging on and casualties rising, he offered his services to Maine’s governor. Chamberlain made it clear he thought volunteers needed to step forward to fight. He also suggested he could help recruit his former students. “I fear, this war, so costly of blood and treasure, will not cease until the men of the North are willing to leave good positions, and sacrifice the dearest personal interests, to rescue our country from desolation, and defend the national existence against treachery at home and jeopardy abroad,” he wrote in a July 1862 letter to the governor. “This war
must be ended, with a swift and strong hand; and every man ought to come forward and ask to be placed at his proper post.”

The transition from college professor to soldier seemed to come easily. Within a year of his enlistment, Chamberlain was promoted to colonel, in command of the 20th Maine Regiment. Chamberlain is perhaps best known for his exploits in the southern Pennsylvania town, and in 1893 received the Medal of Honor for preventing a key hill from falling into Confederate hands. From the Union’s left flank at Little Round Top, the 20th Maine held off repeated attacks from the 15th Alabama on July 2, 1863.

To take a tougher defensive stance, Chamberlain ordered his men to array themselves into an inverted V, a maneuver called “refusing the line.” Reshuffling his troops in the thick of combat, without opening a gap in his lines, was daunting, especially for someone with minimal military experience leading troops who were hardly battle tested.

But the Mainers’ numbers were growing thinner, and their ammunition was running out. Seeing that his troops couldn’t defend against another assault, Chamberlain chose to go on the offense and ordered a bayonet charge. His men took the rebels by surprise and quickly overran them.

While Chamberlain’s heroics at Gettysburg grab the most attention among Civil War followers, he saw even more combat during the Siege of Petersburg from the summer of 1864 to the spring of 1865. Just south of the Confederate capital Richmond, Va., The Siege of Petersburg became the scene of grinding trench warfare as the South desperately tried to hold off defeat. It was there that Chamberlain’s habit of leading from the front nearly got him killed. Despite being a brigade commander, he continued to put himself in danger, and his troops revered him for it.

During a battle on June 18, 1864, Chamberlain was shot through the hip. Instead of falling, he drew his sword and propped himself up to continue rallying his men. After several minutes, he collapsed from blood loss. He was expected to die, and Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant gave him a battlefield promotion to brigadier general. Somehow he survived, then took command of the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, V Corps. Ready for the knockout blow, he led an attack in March 1865 on a rebel fortification.

Chamberlain was picked to accept the official Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 12, 1865. It was a high honor and an indication of how much
respect his fellow officers had for him. By then, he had been wounded six times and had the rank of brevet major general, a special authorization to wear a second star. As the defeated filed past the victors to surrender their weapons, Chamberlain ordered his men to carry arms — a gesture where the musket is held by the right hand as though marching and rendering a salute of respect — to honor what he later called the “embodiment of manhood” passing before him. “Men whom neither toils and sufferings, nor the fact of death, nor disaster, nor hopelessness could bend from their resolve,” he wrote in his memoirs. For his magnanimous behavior that day and subsequent admiration for his former adversaries, Chamberlain was revered almost as much in the South as he was in the North,

After the war, Chamberlain thought about staying in uniform, but decided to leave
because he would’ve lost his rank in a downsized Army, LaFantasie says. Chamberlin continued to correspond with wartime comrades. He missed the military, but tried his hand in politics, serving four one-year terms as Maine ’s Republican governor from 1867 to 1871, and although was not highly regarded as a Governor, Chamberlain stayed popular with the public as lawmakers resented the rigidity that served him well in the war.

After leaving office, he returned to Bowdoin to serve as its president from 1871 to 1883. He saw himself as a reformer and modernized the curriculum with new science and engineering courses. Chamberlain also tried to make military drill mandatory among the students, but they refused and boycotted it. Ever the commander, he expelled them. He later offered them a chance to return, as long as they performed drill. All but three came back. He once described his experience as president “about the most thankless, wearing and wasteful life that can be undertaken.”

Afterward, Chamberlain handled other public jobs, including commander of Maine ’s
state militia. All the while, he never gave up on returning to combat. Despite lingering pain from his Civil War wounds, he tried to volunteer for the Spanish-American War in 1898 at almost age 70, but was rejected. In 1914, he finally succumbed to his wounds and died.

Indeed, his Confederate counterpart at Appomattox called him “one of the knightliest soldiers of the Federal Army.”

One of the best books you can ever read is "Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara, detailing Gettysburg and Joshua Chamberlain's role.

1 comment:

  1. People belongs from defense and marine are always having good attitude, personality and leadership quality. During training period they are getting proper information and classes on leadership. Therefore we have found several leadership example in marine; those are always ready for serving the nation through their die hard leadership quality.
    Leadership Coach


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