The Speech that Changed the Course of the US Civil War

Phil Dourado's picture

This is up from the Hub Archives. There is so much good stuff buried in there that is hard to find that we are pulling up the inspiring stuff to the front of the shelves regularly now. Hope that's useful to you. Phil.

Below is from David Taylor's great newsletter The Naked Leader Week. Scroll down to the bottom for how you can subscribe to it.

Colonel ChamberlainThe speech that rekindled loyalty and arguably won the US Civil War... Was not the Gettysburg address, it was the speech that Colonel Chamberlain gave to a large group of deserters that had been given to him the day before the biggest battle of the entire war. He desperately needed them to join his Northern Maine regiment for the upcoming battle.

...in that battle many historians agree that it was Colonel Chamberlain’s holding of Little Round Top that won the day, and was the turning point in the whole war, in favour of the North.

As you read his speech, made entirely off the cuff, note his skills at using the word "we", his constant linking of the overall aim of the war with the present choice the men face, and most of all his repeated use of three points together, as he spoke, one of the most powerful techniques in presentations. I have underlined the threes, because of their power.

Colonel Chamberlain approached all of the deserters just after they arrived, and spoke to them together, as a group:

“I’ve been ordered to take you men with me, I’m told that if you (laughs quietly) don’t come I can shoot you. Well, you know I won’t do that. Maybe somebody else will, but I won’t, so that’s that. Here’s the situation, the Whole Reb army is up that road aways waiting for us, so this is no time for an argument like this, I tell you. We could surely use you fellahs, we’re now well below half strength.

Whether you fight or not, that’s up to you, whether you come along is... well, your coming.
You know who we are and what we are doing here, but if you are going to fight alongside us there are a few things I want you to know.
This regiment was formed last summer, in Maine.
There were a thousand of us then, there are less than 300 of us now.
All of us volunteered to fight for the Union, just as you have
Some came mainly because we were bored at home, thought this looked like it might be fun
Some came because we were ashamed not to
Many of came because it was the right thing to do
And all of us have seen men die
This is a different kind of army
If you look back through history you will see men fighting for pay, for women, for some other kind of loot
They fight for land, power, because a king leads them, or just because they like killing
But we are here for something new, this has not happened much, in the history of the world
We are an army out to set other men free
America should be free ground, all of it, not divided by a line between slave states and free – all the way from here to the Pacific Ocean
No man has to bow. No man born to royalty
Here we judge you by what you do, not by who your father was
Here you can be something
Here is the place to build a home
But it’s not the land, there’s always more land
It’s the idea that we all have value – you and me
What we are fighting for, in the end, we’re fighting for each other
Sorry, I didn’t mean to preach
You go ahead and you talk for awhile
If you choose to join us and you want your muskets back you can have them – nothing more will be said by anyone anywhere
If you choose not to join us well then you can come along under guard and when this is all over I will do what I can to ensure you get a fair trial, but for now we’re moving out
Gentlemen, I think if we lose this fight we lose the war, so if you choose to join us I will be personally very grateful."
114 out of 120 deserters joined with the regiment immediately, with another 4 joined up later.

SOURCE: David Taylor's weekly email newsletter. You can subscribe here: The Naked Leader

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