Chamberlain said: “When did you eat last?”
There was no immediate answer from the mutineers. Finally one man said: “They been tryin’ to break us by not feedin’ us. We ain’t broke yet.”
Chamberlain nodded and said: “They just told us you were coming a little while ago. I’ve told the cook to butcher a steer. Hope you like it raw. There is not much time to cook. We’ve got a ways to go today and you’ll be coming with us, so you better eat hearty. The food has been set up for you back in the trees.”
No one moved. Not a single person moved. Chamberlain turned away. He thought: “What would he do if they would choose not to move?”
Finally, a scarred man stood and called out to Chamberlain. “Colonel, we got grievances. The men elected me to talk for ‘em.” “Right.” Chamberlain nodded. “You come on with me and talk. The rest of you fellas go eat.”
Chamberlain turned away and was pleased to hear the men were up and moving toward the food in the trees. He smiled at the spokesperson, extended a hand, and asked: “What’s your name?” The man stopped, looked at him for a long cold second. The hand seemed to come up against gravity, against his will. This was automatic courtesy and Chamberlain was relying on it. “Bucklin. Joseph Bucklin.” Chamberlain invited Bucklin to have coffee and then listened silently to the man’s story.
They were interrupted by the arrival of a courier. “Colonel Chamberlain, the Twentieth Maine is to move out and is instructed to take the first position in line.” Chamberlain instructed his aide to strike the tents and he turned to Bucklin. “We’re moving out. You better hurry up and go eat. Tell your men I’ll be over in a minute. I’ll think on what you said.”
His regiment was up and moving. Chamberlain shook his head. “God, I can’t shoot them. If I do that, I’ll never be able to go back to Maine when the war’s over.”
He walked slowly toward the prisoners thinking, at least, it’ll be a short speech. He stood in the shade, waited while they closed around him silently.
“I’ve been talking with Bucklin. He’s told me your problem.” Some of the men grumbled. “I don’t know what I can do about it. I’ll do what I can. I’ll look into it as soon as possible. But there’s nothing I can do today. We’re moving out in a few minutes and we’ll be marching all day. We may even be in a big fight before nightfall. But as soon as I can, I’ll do what I can.”
They were silent, watching him. He did not know what it was, but when he spoke most men stopped to listen.
“I’ve been ordered to take you men with me. I’ve been told that if you don’t come I can shoot you. Well, you know I won’t do that. Not Maine men. Here’s the situation. I’ve been ordered to take you along, and that’s what I’m going to do. Under guard if necessary. But you can have your rifles if you want them. The whole Reb army is up the road waiting for us and this is no time for an argument. I tell you this: we sure can use you. We’re down below half strength and we need you, no doubt of that. But whether you fight or not is up to you. Either way, you are coming along.”
Chamberlain bowed his head, not looking at eyes, and continued. “This Regiment was formed last fall, back in Maine. There were a thousand of us then. There is not three hundred of us now. Some of us volunteered to fight for the Union. Some came because we were ashamed not to. Many of us came because it was the right thing to do. All of us have seen men die. Most of us never saw a black man back home. This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you’ll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we’re different. We’re an army going out to set other men free. This is free ground. All the way from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow. No man is born to royalty. Here we judge you by what you do, not by what your father was. Here you can be something. Here’s a place to build a home.”
He had nothing else to say. No one moved. “I didn’t mean to preach. But I thought you should know who we are. Go ahead and talk for a while. If you want your rifles for this fight you’ll have them back and nothing else will be said. If you won’t join us you’ll come along under guard. When this over I’ll do what I can to see that you get fair treatment. Now we have to move out.”
Chamberlain moved to the head of the column. The troops were moving slowly, patiently, preparing themselves for a long march.
His aide came riding up with a big smile. “How many are going to join us?”
Chamberlain asked. The aide said: “Would you believe it? All but six!”
Part Three Lessons
There is one additional lesson that we can take from the resolution to the mutiny of the old Second Maine and apply them to ourselves:
7. Master the skill of persuasive speech.
Leadership is selling. And selling is talking. Ask yourself this: Do I have the communication skills to rise to the top? Do I have the star power to keep my company growing? Do I have the ability to persuade others?
If today is a world of change, it is also the age of the personality cult. Hollywood knows this. The political world knows this. The corporate world is learning this! Success today is more easily determined by those who possess the ability to deliver “a gravity-defying performance of style over substance” (NY Times; February 2001; re: Tony Blair).
So how do you master the skill of persuasive speech? You study the charismatic techniques of the greatest communicators and change makers in history (e.g., “Speak Like Churchill; Stand Like Lincoln” by James C. Humes). You adopt techniques such as – a power pause, a power opener, a power quote, a power parable, a power gesture, a power question, a power word, a power closer, etc. – to supply yourself with the presence, poise, and power to persuade others.