A Leader’s Impact
In September of 1862, the Civil War tilted decisively in favor of the South. The morale of the Northern army dipped to its lowest point of the war. Large numbers of Union troops were in full retreat in Virginia. Northern leaders began to fear the worst. They saw no way to transform the beaten and exhausted troops into a useful army again.
There was only one general with the ability to possibly work such a feat. General George McClellan had trained the men for combat and they admired him. But neither the War Department nor the rest of the cabinet members saw this connection. Only President Abraham Lincoln recognized Gen. McClellan’s leadership skills.
Fortunately, President Lincoln ignored the protests of his advisors and immediately reinstated McClellan to command. He told the general to go down to Virginia and give those soldiers something no other man on earth could give them: enthusiasm, strength and hope. McClellan accepted the charge. He mounted his great black horse and cantered down the dusty Virginia roads.
What happened next is hard to describe. Northern leaders couldn’t explain it. Union soldiers couldn’t explain it either. Even McClellan couldn’t quite explain what happened. Gen. McClellan met the retreating Union columns, waved his cap in the air and shouted words of encouragement. When the worn-out men saw their beloved teacher and leader, they began to take heart once again. They were moved with an unshakable feeling that now things could be different, that finally things could be all right again.
Bruce Catton, the great Civil War historian, describes this excitement that grew when word spread that McClellan was back in command. “Down mile after mile of Virginia roads the stumbling columns came alive. Men threw their caps and knapsacks into the air, and yelled until they could yell no more . . . because they saw this dapper little rider outlined against the purple starlight. And this, in a way, was the turning point of the war.”
No one could ever quite explain how it happened. But whatever it was, it gave President Lincoln and the North a decided and needed advantage. And history was forever changed because of it.
The story of Gen. McClellan illustrates dramatically the impact a leader can have on the human spirit.
Are you beaten down and need a spiritual advantage or change? Consider our Spiritual Leader who has gone before us:
Hebrews 12:1-3 – Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.