A capable leader and a “boy general” at the age of twenty-seven, he was the first Union soldier in the Civil War to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions at the first battle of Bull Run. His severe discipline in training a group of Maine men earned the same medal for their next commander, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, who led them on the second day at Gettysburg. The hard discipline he demanded overshadowed the admiration he earned for his own heroism. Recruits did not give him loyalty, nor did he expect it.
Yet something happened at Gettysburg that could have been predicted. The same Maine men, who once hated Ames for his austere training and seemingly inhuman demands, fought gallantly. They were the first Union force to defeat an undefeated Confederate regiment from Alabama. Ames once considered his trainees despicable, but they exercised his brand of discipline to win. Even though Ames was somewhere else on the battlefield that day, his influence made all the difference on another part.
Chamberlain’s men later realized that had it not been for the man they had learned to hate, they would not have survived or received the honorable distinction they earned. After the war, Chamberlain’s regiment developed a life-long and affectionate relationship with Ames, the man whose uncompromising demands for discipline not only saved their lives, but was partly responsible for winning the battle on the second day.
Ames was a leader who understood the perils of war, and had the vision for what was needed to prepare men for dangerous risks. He trained them so well that his superiors never complained of high casualty rates under his command. Despite his low profile, his dedication to his own principles of hard discipline exercised the greatest influence.
Reflect on the few teachers in your past who gave you too much homework, prodded you to achieve excellence, and made your life seem difficult. Acknowledge that you are a better person today for having learned from them, for having been blessed with their insistent urgings. These tutors taught you not just the rules of survival, but the techniques of excellence. You learned that you have within you the ability to achieve almost anything if you exercise the proper discipline. It allows you to believe in yourself, the most valuable starting point for achievement. The skills learned as a result of the self-discipline you exercise will lead you to wholesome and invigorating successes in your life.
Demand excellence of followers.
To impart the discipline you require of others, communicate the pains they must experience to achieve excellence. Expect no thanks or rewards. They will come in the form of self-satisfaction. Be a mentor, a powerful influence, and enjoy the kind of appreciation that continued for Ames until his death at the age of ninety-three.
Copyright 2012 Paul Lloyd Hemphill