Mission Command Analysis

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MISSION COMMAND ANALYSIS:
COLONEL JOSHUA CHAMBERLAIN AT THE BATTLE OF LITTLE ROUND TOP

In late June 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia passed through western Maryland and invaded Pennsylvania. General Lee believed that by invading the North, he could draw the Union Army of the Potomac away from their defenses and force them to come after him. He also assumed the people of the North would be so demoralized if the Union were to lose another major battle, especially if it was fought on Northern soil, that President Abraham Lincoln would be forced to negotiate a settlement of the Civil War. On 01 July 1863, then Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, and his 20th Maine received word to begin movement to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where the Union Army had already engaged the Confederates. After marching more than 100 miles in five days with only two hours of sleep, COL Chamberlain and his men arrived on 02 July 1863 and immediately began preparing to establish a defensive position on top of Little Round Top, the extreme left of the Union line. The hill, which dominated the Union position, was previously left unprotected do to a failure in communications. Using the six steps of the operations process, this study will demonstrate COL Joshua Chamberlains’ ability to properly use mission command which ultimately led to the Union’s victory at Little Round Top. Using lessons learned in comparison to current Army doctrine on mission command, this study is an analysis of COL Chamberlain’s role throughout the operations process on 02 July 1863 during the Battle of Little Round Top. According to Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-0, mission command philosophy is, “the exercise of authority and direction by the commander using mission orders to enable discipline initiative within the commander’s intent to empower agile and adaptive leaders in the conduct of unified land operations.”1 Commanders execute mission command throughout all phases of the operations process. ADP 5-0 states that, “Commanders drive the operations process.”2 The six steps that allow Commanders to drive the operations process are: understand, visualize, describe, direct, lead, and assess.3 These steps will be used to analyze COL Chamberlain’s ability to properly execute mission command. COL Chamberlain’s first step in the operations process was to understand the operational environment and the problem. His realization of the problem did not occur until he was on the way up the slope of Little Round Top where COL Strong Vincent, his Brigade Commander, was placing his men from right to left: 16th Michigan, 44th New York, 83rd Pennsylvania, and finally on the far left, the 20th Maine. After placing the 20th Maine, COL Vincent turned to COL Chamberlain to make sure he understood his responsibility serving as the extreme left of the Union line and that a desperate attack was expected in order to turn that position. COL Vincent concluded by telling COL Chamberlain, “that the position he was placing him in must be held at all hazards.”4 ADP 5-0 states that, “To understand something is to grasp its nature and significance.”5 Even though his given commander’s intent was rather vague, COL Chamberlain understood the significance of defending Little Round Top and protecting the left flank of the Union Army. He also understood the tactical significance of this key terrain and that if the Confederate Army could control Little Round Top they could flank the Union Army and drive them from Cemetery Ridge. COL Chamberlain was fairly certain that the Confederates would attack at some point, but did not know exactly when, how, or in what strength. He also was unsure of exactly how his men would perform, as they were exhausted and had little to eat. To add to these uncertainties the relative position of his men with his given commander’s intent did not allow him to draw a scripted conclusion from his training. Although COL...
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