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[316] Without them an army is a mob, or at most a spiritless machine. With them it becomes capable of the sublimest exhibitions of valor and devotion.

But, essential as is this magnetic power in the leader to draw all hearts, to quiet jealousies, to compel obedience, and to fuse the thoughts and passions of thousands of individual men into a single mass of martial ardor, all these gifts may be present and the true commander absent. Politicians have had these gifts, soldiers even have had these gifts, and utterly failed in the command of armies. To all these rich endowments there must be added an imperturbable moral courage equal to any burden or buffet of fortune, and physical intrepidity in its highest and grandest forms—not only the valor which carries a division commander under orders with overmastering rush to some desperate assault, like Cleburne's at Franklin, or makes him stand immovable as a stone wall, as Bee saw Jackson at Manassas, but an aggressive and unresting ardor to fall on the enemy, like that which burned in Nelson, when he wrote: ‘I will fight them the moment I can reach their fleet, be they at anchor or under sail— I will not lose one moment in fighting the French fleet—I mean to follow them if they go to the Black Sea—not a moment shall be lost in pursuing the enemy. * * * I will not lose a moment in bringing them to action.’

With this fierce passion for fight, the general must unite the self-control, which will refuse battle or calmly await attack, and, not least, the fortitude which can endure defeat. For weeks and months he must be ready at any moment of the day or night to draw on these vast resources without ever showing weakness under the protracted strain. And over and above all there must preside some God-like power, which, in the crisis of strategy or the storm of battle, not only preserves to the commander all these high faculties, but actually intensifies and expands them. In those irrevocable moments, when the decision of an instant may determine the destiny of States, mere talents must spring into genius, and mind and outward eye send flashes of intuition through the smoke of battle and the dark curtain on which the enemy's movements are to be read only in fitful shadows. In that hour of doom, a nation's fate, a people's ransom may be staked on one man's greatness of soul.

It is the recognition in Lee of the principal elements of this high ideal—courage, will, energy, insight, authority—the organizing mind with its eagle glance, and the temperament for command broad-based upon fortitude, hopefulness, joy in battle—all exalted by heroic purpose

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James Nelson (1)
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