Tour of Gettysburg tells modern story Police officers study battlefield in search of leadership lessons

December 05, 1998|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- A group of police officers from around the region came to this historic site yesterday, trying to learn lessons from the monumental battle to make their streets safer.

The 25 officers looking up at Culp's Hill and peering down from Little Round Top were students in the Johns Hopkins University's Police Executive Leadership Program whose director, Sheldon F. Greenberg, brought them to Gettysburg to demonstrate that the principles of leadership apply across the years.

"Everything we try to teach in our classes about leadership happened in that battle," said Greenberg, a former Howard County police officer who went on to get a doctorate in management.

Bill O'Toole, a 44-year-old lieutenant from Montgomery County, said, "It [was] a reminder that no matter how good your technology, your planning and procedures, things never go according to plan. You have to deal with the situation as it evolves."

The day in Gettysburg was designed by Patrick A. Martinelli, 65, a former Air Force officer, businessman and professor of management who teaches in the Hopkins program and offers battlefield tours combined with classroom sessions to a variety of groups interested in seeing what lessons can be learned from the events of July 1-3, 1863.

"It's based on the concept of the staff ride, developed by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in 1870," Martinelli told the class of police officers that assembled in the Gettysburg Fire House. "The idea was to ride around a battlefield and get into the minds of the commanders, to find the moments of truth in the battle.

"Look for creativity out on the battlefield. You will see examples of it and examples of noncreativity, people whose minds were so fixed on their model that they couldn't break out of it," he said.

Back on the bus, tour guide Gary M. Kross began with the often-overlooked importance of the first day of the battle as outnumbered Union troops held off the approaching Confederates long enough to secure the high ground of Cemetery Ridge.

Kross emphasized that some of the fiercest fighting occurred on that first day. "Everybody in both armies, from the top officers to the lowest foot soldiers, understood the importance of this battle," he said.

He moved on to the second day, when Union troops fought off assaults at both ends of their three-mile line. At Culp's Hill on the right flank, 63-year-old Gen. George Green had his troops build substantial wooden walls that later allowed them to fend off a far larger Confederate force.

"He was determined to prepare for battle even when it was not clear that there was going to be a battle," Kross said of Green, who was the oldest soldier on the battlefield and died at the age of 99 when he was hit by a train in New York.

At Little Round Top on the left flank, the group looked over the rocky ground where Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, his men from Maine out of ammunition, ordered them not to retreat but to fix bayonets and charge into the oncoming Confederates. It worked.

In the middle of Cemetery Ridge, the police contingent surveyed the field that was the scene of Pickett's Charge on the battle's third day. When the 15,000 Confederates were turned back by the withering Union fire, the battle of Gettysburg was over.

Back at the fire station, Martinelli picked up on a theme he had used earlier -- the difference between the left and right sides of the brain.

"What do you think Green was, a left- or right-brained person?" he asked. "Left," someone answered, describing the mind that would build extensive defenses even when it appeared that the battle was elsewhere.

"And what about Chamberlain?" Martinelli asked, getting the right-brain response he sought for the officer who had the creativity to see the potential of an apparently desperate charge.

"On the left flank, you have a right-brained person. On the right, a left-brained," he said. "I like that. You need both sides. You are most effective with a whole-brain approach."

On the bus back to the Hopkins Columbia center, Baltimore police Lt. Tony Williams, 35, said he hadn't been to Gettysburg since his father brought him when he was 10 years old.

"It was an amazing day," he said.

Peter Peterson, 66, a retired Army colonel who teaches in the program, said the day showed that 135 years ago, the officers faced the same basic challenge that the modern-day officers do.

Pub Date: 12/05/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.