Civil War Tactician And Leader Essay

1272 words - 5 pages

On the morning of June 29, 1863, the streets of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania were deserted as Confederate Soldiers searched the town for shoes and other supplies. Little did Confederate General Henry Heth know that a corps of Union Cavalry, led by Brigadier General John Buford, was approaching the small city from the south. The decisions that Buford will choose to make over the next two days will later give Gettysburg the name, "the turning point of the Civil War for the Union Army" and leave Buford's name in the history books.

Founder of the Institution for Global Ethics, Rushworth M. Kidder, discusses the different types of courage in his book Moral Courage. He first divides them up into two categories, moral and physical. He defines physical courage using words such as bravery, dauntlessness, gallantry, and heroism. Kidder says, "Heroism, the common theme of these stories, often suggests an outsize, extreme, or radical sort of valor." Heroism is often used to remind us that courage is contextual and that exceptional valor is usually held in the eye of the beholder. Kidder quotes Scottish novelist, Compton Mackenzie, saying, "Moral courage is readiness to expose oneself to suffering or inconvenience which does not affect the body. It arises from firmness of mortal principle and is independent of the physical constitution." Judging by this definition, there is a list of potential downers including mockery, banishment, demotion, or loss of job. Moral courage does not require any physical courage, but it can be ruled out by the weakness or lack of physical actions. Specifically in military terms, moral courage is the act of making a decision based upon the risk for a leader's reputation in order to achieve the ultimate goal, victory. Understanding what moral courage is, judging right and wrong behavior through mental and moral strength, persevering and withstanding danger or fear, allows for the analysis of different situations, such as the various dilemmas from The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara.

In a time of war, both kinds of courage are used. In separating the two, taking into consideration that physical courage has many morally courageous objectives is necessary. Kidder talks about the qualities of humility that truly express moral courage. He uses William Ian Miller's definition, which says, "The capacity to overcome the fear of shame and humiliation in order to admit one's mistakes, to confess a wrong, to reject evil conformity, to denounce injustice, and also to defy immoral or imprudent orders." In looking at the battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, there are many opportunities for generals, as well as soldiers, to demonstrate both types of courage. General John Buford was the first Union General in Gettysburg. He and his men were given a mission: "hold Gettysburg at all hazards until supports arrive." Little did Buford know by how much he was out numbered. On June 30, in downtown Gettysburg there was a skirmish between...

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