Leadership Capstone Paper on The Killer Angels Novel by Michael Shaara

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

After reading The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain stood out the most as a valiant leader who was essential to winning the Battle of Gettysburg for the Union Army. I am going to be discussing Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain’s leadership styles, techniques, and his decision-making process. Chamberlain was a very analytic man who worked to encourage his subordinates and people around him with morale. He was a very transformative type leader because of his direct engagements with troops. He was offered the rank of Colonel but turned it down and instead became Lieutenant-colonel of the 20th Maine Regiment. He leads by example because he preferred to start leading from the ground up and by that he gained leadership experience to further help him in the future. He did not need prior military experience because he was already a very intelligent man and a professor at Bowdoin College. His primary vision was to see to it that he and his soldiers kept fighting to set other men free.

The speech he employed for the 120 new men from the 2nd Maine who had little to no morale left was inspiring. Chamberlain is given the order to shoot and kill any man who does not agree to his command. He directly informs tells the men that he is not going to shoot any of them because he understands the men and what they went through. He chose to speak and listen to the men despite him not needing to. Chamberlain could take everything into consideration including why he needed the men, the reproductions of killing the men, and what it says about his character if he does not try to try to recruit the men. Chamberlain gave his inspiring speech to all 120 of the men except 6 agree to fight with his regiment. Chamberlain says, ‘This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you’ll see men fight for pay, or woman, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we’re here for something new. (Shaara 30) He uses moral queues and logical reasoning to persuade the men. The men’s main issue was they were low morale and had already been through enough fighting, being used as pawns for the officers, and just wanted out of their contract. Chamberlain turns it around on them, that they are all fighting for a reason, and the reason is for the greater good of the United States. He says we must fight to free the other men, the Confederates, and to end slavery because the United States is built upon the land of the free and home of the brave. It is intriguing how incorporated symbolism of law and what is justice in his speeches.

The United States was created to stand under freedom, says the U.S constitution First Amendment, “The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely…” (1). The Confederates are trying to take freedom away from the Union by enslaving people and in that take away their rights to express themselves, earn a wage for themselves, or start industrial careers. Chamberlain helped the men, even though they may have been mutinous rebels, but he went down to their level, he gave them supplies and food and offered them a reasonable ultimatum that had a high chance being accepted. He expressed to the men everything he was told by his superiors, the situation the regiment and the army are in, and then gives the choice to either join his regiment and fight for justice or to stand as a guard of which Chamberlain will do what he can to make sure they are given fair treatment. He transforms what one of the men says that they cannot win the war with bad leadership, and instead in his speech says that if we lose the battle then we will lose the war and thus the freedom of the United States. His statement says that bad leadership is the least of their worries and that they can put their trust in him, in the fact that he won’t lead them astray like other regiment leaders have done.

Once Chamberlain was told his regiment is going to be conducting flanking maneuvers around Gettysburg on Little Round Top Hill, he was quick to start planning and agrees to the flanking maneuver strategies; unlike Confederate General James Longstreet who backs down after arguing with General Robert E. Lee about defensive strategies and showed inability to argue against his superior. After given further instructions that he is the “extreme left of the Federal line at Little Round Top” by Colonel Vincent (Shaara 210), his regiment must not retreat from the hill under any costs or else the Confederate army will be able to flank the main Union army. He was quick to take it all in and start making tactical decisions of where to position his men. He ordered soldiers to cover down left to prevent his regiment from being flanked and can get men to cover down when the prior man is gunned down. Chamberlain showed tactical thinking when preparing his men on Little Round Top Hill. He provided a voice of reason when asking the 6 remaining men if they wanted to fight, and thus 3 of the men join the fight.

Later, Chamberlain’s men are running out of ammunition and must retreat to reload. His regiment must at no costs leave the hill. Chamberlain showed a great deal of restraint and used the positioning at the top of the hill to his advantage. Chamberlin said, ‘Mounting a large rock, I was able to see a considerable body of the enemy moving by the flank in rear of their line engaged” ‘(Chamberlin 1). Little Round Top Hill already provided great cover, concealment, and fields of fire because of the terrain and a large number of rocks and Chamberlain could tactically position his men to counter the opposing flanks. Chamberlain worked with his men to equip bayonets to their weapons and shouts to charge with the bayonets downhill. Strategically speaking, the act of a downhill attack late in the battle was not a bad idea. Morale and ammo are low on both sides, the only obstacles would be the dead corpses which could also be used as cover. He was able to get the men to match his tempo according to, ‘The remaining eighty fighting men lifted their voices to match that of their leader. Charge! Charge! they cried tumbling over the wall into a history about which most people in our country have never heard. For when the Confederate troops saw Chamberlain, the leader of the opposition, mount the wall they immediately stopped, unsure as to what was happening” (Derrick 2011). Chamberlains ability to hold the Hill along with his regiment blocked the confederates from trying to overrun the Union army to the left and was a major victory in the Battle of Gettysburg. The one constraint he had during the battle was having his brother Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Chamberlain participate as a subordinate. He did not play favoritism and still placed his brother on the front lines to cover down for the dead or injured soldiers. Perhaps having a family member in the same regiment helped improve his decision making because he a had a relatable person by blood whom he could count on as being a voice of reason.

Chamberlains leadership style not only includes ordering soldiers from the rear but being at the right positioning in the battle at the right place and right time while showing engagement. Morale is hard to maintain among troops so in Chamberlains positioning he able to maintain it and give direct orders to soldiers. Chamberlain is injured several times but keeps fighting showing a great deal of perseverance and personal courage and is a role model for his men. He is an effective leader because he has a purpose, a mission as a goal, and trust of his regiment. His purpose was to lead a group of men into battle to defend a location no matter what happens and to not retreat because those were the orders he was given. And his ability to flip the orders around for his men so that they will keep fighting is outstanding. He is a transformational leader because he cares about his men and can transfer the vision of the Union Army to the 20th regiment. His pride for freedom as later stated and supported by President Abraham Lincoln, “This iconic speech of less than 300 words described a clear vision for the nation’s future – a new birth of freedom” (McCausland 2013), shows his vision was being inspired for multitudes of soldiers. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain was a very unique and inspirational leader and of all his tactical decision-making skills, the downhill charge with bayonets was one of his greatest displayed that helped keep the Union army in the fight. His easygoing attitude inspired all 120 of the rebellious regiment except 3 to agree to fight with his regiment. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain stood out the most as a valiant leader who was essential to the Unions victory and was one of the greatest leaders of all time during the Battle of Gettysburg.


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