To Be Like Hazlett


On July 2, 1863, as he analyzed the crest of Little Round Top and eyed the boulders and trees, Lt. Charlie Hazlett made a decision.  There was no space for his men to operate their cannons among the boulders, and it would be a lot of work to get the guns up.  Literally tons of work, actually, since each of the six Parrott rifled guns weighed over 1,000 pounds.  In addition, his cannons wouldn’t be able to aim low enough to fire at the Confederates advancing up the slope, pressing Col. Vincent’s brigade hard.  The only target for the guns would be the enemy in Devil’s Den, across the little valley.  The hill was, as Gen. Warren told him, “no place” for artillery.  But Hazlett had already made up his mind.

“Never mind that,” he replied.  “The sound of my guns will be encouraging to our troops and disheartening to the others, and my battery’s of no use if this hill is lost.”

Over the next hour or more, his artillerymen sweated and strained, hauling the guns up the hill by hand.  Finally, the first gun opened fire on Devil’s Den.  Below them, the Confederates advanced in a final charge, overlapping the right of Vincent’s line and pressing in as close as 20 yards from the 44th New York, the right-center of the line.  Hazlett’s guns could not fire on the Confederates…what possible good was the artillery to Vincent’s infantry?

Later, Captain Eugene Nash of the 44th New York recalled the sound of the first shots and his feelings at the moment.  “No military music ever sounded sweeter, and no aid was ever better appreciated.”

Did you catch that?  “Aid.”  But the guns weren’t really “aiding” the 44th New York, were they?

Lt. Hazlett made his decision based on what Vincent’s men needed.  He knew the psychological effect the sound of his “big guns” would have.  And he was right.  Did his guns give the infantry a little more pluck and determination as they faced the Confederates 20 yards away, just knowing the big guns had their backs?  Did the sound of the artillery help them hold their ground?  I don’t know.  But Capt. Nash seemed to think so.

Let me encourage you (and me) to be more like Hazlett.  Take notice of people around you and see if you can help them out.  Our society encourages us to focus on “Me Me Me.”  As a result, many of us go through life feeling ignored, left out and alone, at the end of our ropes, wishing someone would notice us.  Some of us go off the brink—and another tragedy ends up in the headlines.  But what if some of those tragedies could be prevented?

Employers, figure out what motivates each employee as an individual.  Let them know they’re not just cogs in a machine.  Employees, look around—does a co-worker seem withdrawn?  Depressed?  Stressed?  Lend a listening ear.  Let them know that they’re not alone.  Maybe you’ll prevent a workplace shooting.  Kids, is there a student in your class that is an outcast?  Who gets picked on or put down?  Get to know them—they’re probably pretty cool.  You might prevent a school shooting.

Lt. Hazlett was not thinking of himself and his personal safety.  In fact, he ended up paying for his decision with his life.  He was not even thinking strictly in terms of duty.  Both he and Gen. Warren recognized that the crest was useless for artillery—duty did not require him to bring his battery onto Little Round Top.  Instead, Hazlett thought in terms of the greater good (the army’s security) and what he could do to ensure that (help the infantry hold their position).  But he couldn’t help the infantry physically.  I think most of us would quit there, figuring at least we tried.  But Hazlett cared so much for his fellow soldiers and their needs that he went beyond what was required of him and thought “outside the box” to find a way to help Vincent’s men know they weren’t alone—and they held their ground.

How can you help someone know that they are not alone?  It might mean “sacrificing” your schedule and phone time to have lunch and a conversation with a friend, or it might mean holding the door open for a stranger.  It doesn’t have to be a big act, but they’ll know you care.

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