Leadership Tips From Civil War Generals

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Fourth of July calls to mind the great generals on this country’s battlefield and how their leadership qualities can make a company victorious.

By Grant Casleton

While growing up, my family and I took our vacations primarily by car. Some may dread long drives and hours cooped up in a van, but I seemed to always look forward to it.

My favorite trips were those where we stopped at Civil War battle sites and museums. My family spent countless hours walking in the hot sun along routes marched and fought on by many Americans. My father read every single monument plaque and wanted to take pictures of my brother and me at every cannon.

With today being the Fourth of July, my mind wanders to those times of men and women being braver than I ever could be. Each side, a country divided, fighting for the things they believe in the most, just like those who did during the Revolutionary War. I decided to pick four quotes from Generals and Presidents from the Civil War who had leadership qualities applicable to life and business.

1. “Duty, then is the sublimest word in our language. Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more; you should never wish to do less.” – Robert E. Lee

When being a leader, you have a job that is expected of you. There is also only so much you can do as a leader when it comes to finishing goals and getting your work done. I like to think that duty is related to work that needs to be accomplished. There may be certain goals your company has that you want to accomplish by a certain date. If you are doing all you can to reach those goals, nothing more can be asked of you, and you shouldn’t want to do anything less to see them reached.


2. “Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.” –  Abraham Lincoln


Commitment can be the one thing that may separate accomplishment from failure. Having the commitment to go the extra mile while helping those around you and those working for you can make your colleagues look up to you. If you are able to promise something and see that promise accomplished, you can be counted on as someone who gets things done. This is a great leadership quality.


3. “Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.” – Ulysses S. Grant


Hard work and dedication can get you a long way when it is focused and dedicated to what you want to accomplish. Those who work hard all the time for something that they believe in can become leaders who believe in what they are doing, who believe in those working for them. That hard work can rub off on employees. It boosts morale and improves how the progress of the project.


4. “There stands Jackson, like a stone wall,” – Bernard E. Bee, Brigadier General (CSA)

This quote is how Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson got his nickname. It is disputed whether it is an insult or word of praise; I like to think it was the latter. He had the courage to stand firm in the face of the oncoming troops and hold his ground. This type of courage is why he was successful in repelling the Union advancement and was promoted after the battle.

Having this courage is a must for a leader. It helps others look up to you and believe that anything is possible. Being able to hold your ground and accomplish what needs to be done can make a company succeed in places it may not have thought possible.



Grant Casleton is the Media Associate at Forefront Magazine

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