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One of the definitions of persistence is “to go on resolutely or stubbornly in spite of opposition, importunity, or warning.” We see persistence everyday. We also see incidences when people gave up. William Fuller, a Georgian, exemplified what it means to be persistent.

PIn April 1862, James Andrews and a small group of Yankees disguised themselves and headed south to Marietta, Georgia. Their goal was to steal a train, head for Chattanooga, burning bridges and tearing up rails as they went. They wanted to isolate Chattanooga, making it ripe for capture—as it was, Chattanooga was not “captured” for seventeen months, and then it’s capture was achieved when the Federal army retreated into it from the battle at Chickamauga; but that’s another story.

Andrews and his man stole the locomotive The General at Big Shanty, Georgia (modern day Kennesaw) and headed north for Chattanooga. This episode from the Civil War was later made into at least two movies, one by Disney.

William Fuller

William Fuller

As The General pulled out of Big Shanty, someone shouted to William Fuller, “someone is stealing your train!” Fuller began the pursuit—on foot! Imagine that for a minute in your mind—imagine chasing a train, on foot. Fuller was persistent, even when it looked as if his goal was impossible. After a few miles, Fuller and the men with him, found a hand car and continued the pursuit—this was not your traditional hand car; it had to be pushed with poles. After more than 10 miles, Fuller came upon the locomotive Yonah and continued the chase. Meanwhile, The General was delayed in Kingston (between Rome, Georgia and Cartersville, Georgia) and Fuller and his men almost caught up to the bandits.

The General on display in Kennesaw, Georgia

The General on display in Kennesaw, Georgia

Two locomotives later, Fuller and his men commandeered The Texas, and really began to close the distance between himself and his train, The General. Andrews and his men, feeling the close pursuit of Fuller, did not have time to stop and destroy railroad or bridges. Near the Tennessee border, Fuller and his men caught the bandits when The General ran out of steam. Some of the raiders later escaped, but many, including James Andrews were hung as spies in downtown Atlanta.

If not for the persistence of William Fuller, Andrews’ Raiders would have succeeded, Chattanooga may have fallen—scholars continue to debate what effect that would have had on the Civil War. How persistent are you? Do you find yourself giving up or do you persist in spite of obstacles?

Leadership Lessons

  1. Even when it seems impossible, keep going. You never know when circumstances may change and turn the impossible into possible.
  2. Use the tools at hand, however inadequate they may seem (push cart).
  3. Take ownership of your work—Fuller didn’t own The General, but he considered its theft  a personal affront.
  4. You never know how your persistence may pay off—Fuller probably saved Chattanooga
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