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Military Leadership

The effectiveness of any military unit has always depended in large part on the quality of its leadership and how the leaders were perceived by the men. The 20th Ohio had one of the best in Manning F. Force (shown below). The 37 year old lawyer began the conflict as a lieutenant colonel and ended as a breveted major general. Lt. Dwight said of him: "(He) took the deepest interest in our welfare and so was very strict with our follies. We all respected him for his justice and manliness, and before long I had learned to love him like a father." It also helped that Force understood his men. In his memoirs printed after the war, Force stated: "When lying there (in the trenches outside Vicksburg) it sometimes occurred to me, what a transformation it was for these men, full of individuality and self-reliance, accustomed always to act upon their own will, to so completely subordinate their wills to the wills of other men...Their practical sense had told them an army differs from a mob only in discipline, and discipline was necessary for self-preservation."

Such leadership was a necessity for men who were expected to stare death in the face. Shelby County resident and 57th Ohio soldier Dayton Rike (shown below) wrote to his wife on June 22, 1864, describing what it was like. "The soldier marches towards the enemy as the air (is) filled with deadly fire but still they go and fear not...they make a charge and the commanding officer tells his men such is to be done they will with one voice say they are ready...and when the bugle calls them...they will go till their object they have gained."

Other Shelby County units were not as fortunate. The 118th Ohio had as its leader in May of 1864 General Henry Judah. Because of previous problems with alcohol and poor battlefield performance, Judah was warned on the eve of the Battle of Resaca by his superior, General James Schofield, that he would be given one more chance. In a panicked effort to succeed, he ordered 270 men of the 118th Ohio through a creek bed and into the teeth of a well-fortified Confederate line. The disastrous results will be discussed later. His men never forgave him.

Drinking was a serious problem with the officers in some units. Dr. Albert Wilson wrote to a sister in Sidney on December 21, 1861, "It is a lamentable thing that the vice of intemperance is very common in the army and especially in high places."

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Dayton Rike
General Manning F. Force

'Civil War' segment written in July, 1998 by Rich Wallace

 

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