Many times in history, it’s the little things that are critical. You may know about how at the Battle of Gettysburg, Union General G. K. Warren found a critical spot in the Union line that was unoccupied and organized its defense on his own initiative. Otherwise, the battle could’ve been lost. Also in that battle, a Confederate unit was running out of water and gave their canteens to a squad to have them refilled. The squad was captured by a Union patrol and lost all the canteens. Decisive? Remember Gettysburg was fought in July.
There was also Caesar Rodney, a Delaware representative to the Continental Congress, who rode 70 miles through a thunderstorm to break a tie in theDelaware delegation and vote for independence. And don’t forget Senator Edmund G. Ross of Kansas, who cast the deciding vote that allowed President Andrew Johnson to stay in office after being impeached.
I’ve just learned of another one.
The PBS show Secrets of the Dead has aired a program entitled “The Man Who Saved the World” (originally on 10/23/2012, now at http://video.pbs.org/video/2295274962/). The Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world as close as it ever has been to nuclear war. Now we’re learning it was very close. Have you every heard of Vasili Arkhipov? (Me neither.) A Soviet submarine was under attack during the crisis in an attempt to force it to surface. The sub had lost contact with Moscow and assumed war had already started. It was armed with nuclear torpedoes. Should it use them and take out the U.S. fleet around Cuba? Three officers had to agree; two said yes, but one (Arkhipov) said no.
That’s how close we came.