July 3: Gettysburg and the Hawthorne Effect

You know what you don't get, in the age of e-mail? 90-page letters to your brother about what you've been up to. But then most of us have not been up to the battle of Gettysburg, and tucked into volume 43, American Historical Documents, we have account of it all by Frank Haskell, who was an aide-de-camp to one of the generals.

To give you the full the-past-is-another-country flavor, here's a taste:

Onward they moved—night and day were blended—over many a weary mile, through dust, and through mud, in the broiling sunshine, in the flooding rain, over steeps, through defiles, across rivers, over last year’s battle fields, where the skeletons of our dead brethren, by hundreds, lay bare and bleaching, weary, without sleep for days, tormented with the newspapers, and their rumors, that the enemy was in Philadelphia, in Baltimore, in all places where he was not, yet these men could still be relied upon, I believe, when the day of conflict should come. “Haec olim meminisse juvabit.” We did not then know this.
Nowadays, of course, we would be a little more colloquial and say, "It was a total haec olim meminisee juvabit situation." (The reference, I hardly need to say, is from The Aeneid, but you can see from the link that of course I had to Google it.)

Given the excerpt-licious prinicple of the DRG we are only directed to read until the end of the first day of the battle (which makes me wonder why it wasn't assigned to July 1, but that's a matter to take up with my imaginary anonymous clerk in a high collar who had to make the list a century ago). So the magnificence of Pickett's Charge, Shelby Foote, etc. is not covered. What is covered here, among other things, is Management Secrets of the Union Generals. The biggest emotional point in the excerpt involves a change at the top. The Union starts out marching against the Rebels under Hooker:
Then, I believe, the army in general, both officers and men, had no confidence in Hooker, in either his honesty or ability. Did they not charge him, personally, with the defeat at Chancellorsville? Were they not still burning with indignation against him for that disgrace? And now, again under his leadership, they were marching against the enemy! And they knew of nothing, short of the providence of God, that could, or would, remove him. For many reasons, during the marches prior to the battle, we were anxious, and at times heavy at heart.
But then, sunshine!
On the 28th...we breathed a full breath of joy, and of hope. The Providence of God had been with us—we ought not to have doubted it—General Meade commanded the Army of the Potomac. Not a favorable time, one would be apt to suppose, to change the General of a large army, on the eve of battle, the result of which might be to destroy the Government and country! But it should have been done long before. At all events, any change could not have been for the worse...From this moment my own mind was easy concerning results
Immediately I thought of the Hawthorne Effect -- the theory that any change in an organization's environment can produce short-term gains in productivity. Lincoln's Steinbrenerrian ways with his generals has turned up a Bob Lemon.

Another thing to note is that, even when you're leading people who know Virgil and write complicated sentences, simple handsomeness goes a long way:
Hancock is just the man for such an emergency as this. Upon horseback I think he was the most magnificent looking General in the whole Army of the Potomac at that time. With a large, well shaped person, always dressed with elegance, even upon that field of confusion, he would look as if he was “monarch of all he surveyed,” and few of his subjects would dare to question his right to command, or do aught else but to obey. His quick eye, in a flash, saw what was to be done, and his voice and his royal right hand at once commenced to do it.
As I have always suspected, existence is biased toward the tall, and now I have the Harvard Classics to prove it.

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