Gettysburg and Leadership: Principles for Today’s Leaders from the Most Terrible Battle Fought in America

Gettysburg is a defining moment in our history when two great armies were on a collision course with each other and with history. The Civil War is arguably the pivotal moment in American history. This great battle was crafted by leaders who would be the stuff of legend, even after 150 years. The struggle provides an excellent moment to study leadership in all of its complexity.

The American code and culture cannot be understood without grasping the centrality of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. We can look at battlefields and talk of tactics and strategy. We can talk about the intriguing leaders who led thousands of civilians-turned soldiers into a maelstrom that no one now can even imagine (Gettysburg incurred ten times the number of causalities as D-Day). However, the Civil War is much more than this. The Civil War defined who we are as a people (this country, made up of separate states, was forged into a single nation). What emerged in the struggle were some of the most prominent and revered leaders this country and the world has ever seen.

Next to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln is the greatest leader in American history. At the little hamlet in south central Pennsylvania—the greatest leader and the greatest battle to be fought on American soil—where the battle's fulcrum lies, that convergence would be put into words. These were not just any words. They constituted the most elegant explanation ever placed before the American people regarding the nature and destiny of our nation.

--James P. Osterhaus

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