The day is July 18, 1862 and the events of this day would echo through history as one on the most unique, if not brazen, acts of the American Civil War. It was on this day that Colonel Adam “Stovepipe” Rankin Johnson and two confederate partisans left Henderson Kentucky and crossed the Ohio river in a canoe, walked boldly into the company of eighty-five union soldiers under the command of Colonel Bethel in Newburgh Indiana and demanded their surrender. Once the union soldiers surrendered the rest of Johnson’s men, only twenty-nine in number, made landing and sacked the city. The Newburgh Siege would go down in history as the war’s deepest incursion north of the Mason-Dixon.
How did Colonel Johnson succeed? He succeeded because he had both a brazen plan and two really loyal men at his side.
Before the raid Johnson had set up two “Quaker Canons.” One canon was made from a charred log and the other from a stove pipe, each with a set of broken wagon wheels propped up at their side. These canons were set up on hills overlooking Newburgh at such a distance that a spotting glass could just make out their form. When Johnson and his two men walked confidently into the Exchange Hotel at what is now the corner of County Road 850 West and West Jennings Street, they were immediately drawn upon by the union forces housed there. At the end of eighty-five union guns, Johnson boldly demanded their surrender. Handing the spotting glass to Colonel Bethel, and encouraging Bethel to look at the two hilltop canons and across the bank of the Ohio where his twenty-nine soldiers waited, he convinced Bethel that hope was lost and that the entire city of Newburgh was surrounded. The quick surrender afforded the confederacy with much-needed arms, food and medical supplies. The real irony here is Johnson’s men had very few working weapons, and almost no food. Any resistance whatsoever, and the plan would have failed.
As a leader you could learn much from Colonel Johnson. First and foremost, that it takes courage to be a leader, especially when so many of your directs are relying on you to lead them. They desire to see a man or woman who is unafraid, competent and willing to go ahead of them into the future. For me, the great takeaway from the Newburgh Siege is this; with a brazen plan and two good men at my side I can expand my territory beyond what reason, or anyone from the outside, would consider possible.
When was the last time that you, convinced of God’s purpose and desire for the future, marched boldly into the enemy’s camp and demanded his unconditional surrender?
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