Don’t Yield an Inch
By the end of the first day of Gettysburg (July 1), both commanders had realized that a battle was going to be fought on this ground. The Union forces were deployed in a “horseshoe” shaped formation on high ground around Gettysburg. The Confederates were determined to break through the “horseshoe.” They quickly realized that one point overlooked the Union positions: a large rocky hill known as Little Round Top. The Union generals knew that they had to send soldiers to occupy Little Round Top. A courier was sent with an order to redistribute troops to this critical spot. Colonel Strong Vincent met the courier and asked where he was going. He replied that he was going to ask General Barnes to send a brigade to occupy Little Round Top. “I will take the responsibility of taking my brigade there,” replied Colonel Vincent.
Colonel Vincent distributed the four regiments of his brigade on Little Round Top just before a heavy Confederate assault crashed against his position. Vincent’s men held their ground against one and then two heavy attacks. But another regiment of Confederates arrived and a third assault was launched—this time against the 16th Michigan, which did not contain nearly as many men as it was supposed to. Colonel Vincent knew that these men had to hold their position. He climbed on top of a boulder and shouted “Don’t yield an inch or all is lost!” Shortly after, the colonel was hit by a bullet. But the 16th held on long enough for the 140th New York to come to their assistance and secure Little Round Top.
The Civil War was an important era in the history of our nation. Heroes were revealed both from the Blue and the Gray. Every state sent troops to one army or the other (a few sent troops to both sides!) I chose Michigan for a number of reasons. I was born in Michigan and have lived there my entire life. But more importantly, I have at least one ancestor that served in a Michigan unit during the Civil War. His name was Joseph Stadler, and his unit was the 16th Michigan—the same 16th Michigan that held Little Round Top.
His family had emigrated from Germany in 1852. Joseph Stadler enlisted on January 27, 1864, to serve either 3 years or the duration of the war, whichever was shorter. His service included the dreadful Battle of the Wilderness, the brutal siege of Petersburg, and, ultimately, the surrender of Lee’s army. Following his honorable discharge, he served against the Indians in the 2nd United States Cavalry. His discharge papers from the 2nd U.S. Cavalry contain a short description of his character while on service: “Good conduct.”
Is not a commendation like that what we as Christians should be striving for? Yet this does not usually come by one great act. Instead it consists of many small acts—in short, doing the duty set out for you. Sometimes this daily service is more difficult than anything else. But we are looking for the commendation: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)