During our recent vacation we visited several Civil War battle sites, including Gettysburg. It was my second visit in the last 6 months, I had visited back in March with my son’s 8th grade class, and I was surprised that the emotional impact was just as strong on the second visit as it was on the first. I am in awe of the thousands of men who gave their lives to preserve the union and in particular, the thousands of slaves who flocked to the Union side to fight for their freedom. I was glad to see that the tour guides and displays emphasize the role of African-American soldiers in ensuring the victory of the Union troops.
As the various generals and leaders in the war were discussed, one trait that seemed to come through as important to maintaining moral and loyalty, was a leader’s willingness to stand with his troops. Although this cost several commnaders their lives, it also ensured victory in many instances. Troops are more likely to stick to a cause when they see that their leader is there in the fray with them. He is one of them.
I didn’t know that President Lincoln visited Richmond not long after it fell to Union troops. His presence bolstered the spirits of Union troops and newly freed slaves. The rangers told us that Lincoln would often make an appearance at nearby battlefields. He clearly knew that it was important for him to show his support in person, despite the danger he put himself in.
Being a leader means being able to put yourself in the place of those who work for you, to understand what sacrifices they are making and having empathy for the lives that they are leading. We are all better off when we work together towards a common purpose.
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” excerpt from the Gettysburg address.