Historian Discusses Leadership Lessons from the Civil War

Noted historian Ed Bearss lead a seminar on the topic, "Leadership Lessons for the Warfighter: Vicksburg" at RAND's Washington office on March 4, 2003. RAND's Arroyo Center sponsored the seminar, which drew 40 participants.

Mr. Bearss, a former Chief Historian of the National Park Service, focused on this critical battle of the American Civil War to analyze the leadership skills of Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Vicksburg took on great importance for both the North and South because by the Spring of 1863, it remained the only part of the Mississippi River that had not fallen to the Union. Confederate forces under General John C. Pemberton hung on.

In sum, Grant successfully dealt with deploying large numbers of Union troops over a wide geographical area held by the enemy and saddled with poor roads. To Bearss, the Vicksburg campaign demonstrates Grant's flexibility, adaptability, and maneuverability, as well as his luck. Although the Confederates in the area outnumbered Grant's troops overall, Grant continually maneuvered his forces so that his Union forces outnumbered the enemy when battles were fought. Although General "Stonewall" Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1862 is often cited as an example of maneuverability, to Bearss, Grant's success easily outrivals Jackson's efforts. When the Confederates finally surrendered at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863 leading to the capture of their 29,000 man garrison, Abraham Lincoln could with justification remark, "The Father of the Waters once again goes unvexed to the sea."