William Starke Rosecrans had little formal education but read every book he could get. He won an appointment to West Point on the strength of his reading and impressed a congressman who had retained an appointment for his own son but gave it to Rosecrans instead. Rosecrans graduated fifth in a class that included the famed James Longstreet and D.H. Hill.
Rosecrans took over the Army of the Cumberland and defeated Confederate General Braxton Bragg at the Battle of Stones River. After the battle, Rosecrans drove the Confederates out of Tullahoma, Tennessee all the way south of Chattanooga to a small creek called Chickamauga.
No one really knows why, but at Chickamauga Rosecrans lost sight of the battlefield and moved a regiment out of position causing a gaping hole in the line. It was at that particular moment that Confederate Gen. Longstreet (who had arrived only hours before from Virginia) ordered Tennesseans to attack the vulnerable Union center which rolled the Union army back on the road to Chattanooga in headlong retreat. Had it not been for a defense mounted by Union Gen. George H. Thomas, the Union army might have been destroyed.
Rosecrans showed marvelously gifted leadership abilities during most of the campaign, but at Chickamauga gave up that position to become a spectator. It seems amazingly unlikely that such a gifted leader would join a host of refugees running for safety to Chattanooga, but that is what happened. It is sad that what is remembered is that when the panic ensued, Rosecrans was in the same group of disorganized men hurrying away from the battlefield.
It is supposed that poor communication was the reason why Rosecrans allowed the movement of those troops out of the line of battle. Without a proper system of communications between commanders, it was difficult to make certain divisions and regiments were moved precisely at the right time.
Poor communication continues to be a reason why problems occur in groups like armies or even churches. When people have difficulty talking to one another important things that should be done remain undone. In the church, our work is more effective when we talk to one another kindly, lovingly and plainly.
Good communication is hard work and it takes concentration and cooperation: those are two things that are not easily done. But, if we continue to try to treat one another with brotherly love and compassion and continue to work together united toward the Lord’s desire for the church to grow we can succeed.