The Speech that Changed the Course of the US Civil War

by The Architect on Jun 6, 2018

This inspirational blog post is up from the Hub archives. We did the same for Robert Kennedy's speech on the night of MLK's death, where compassion won against hatred (with video!).

This story's obviously pre-video, but none the less powerful. The original is put together from David Taylor's The Naked Leader.

We all know of the Gettysburg address, but there was another speech that historians argue changed the course of the US Civil War.

Colonel Chamberlain was speaking to 120 deserters that had been presented to him a day before his famous holding of Little Round Top, which turned the war in favour of the North. This speech was made entirely off the cuff.

He needed every last soldier that could be spared.

As you read his speech, 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. - Phil

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

Colonel Chamberlain  “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, you're 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 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 the other 4 joining up later.

SOURCE: David Taylor's The Naked Leader

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