The Battle of Gettysburg brought the dueling North and South together to thesmall town of Gettysburg and on the threshold of splitting the Union. Gettysburgwas as close as the United States got to Armageddon and The Killer Angels givesthe full day-to-day account of the battle that shaped America’s future. Michael Shaara tells the story of the Battle of Gettysburg through the eyes ofthe generals and men involved in the action of the battle.
The historicalaccount of the Battle of Gettysburg gives the reader a chance to experience thebattle personally and not the history book manner taught in schools. Ahistorical novel gives the facts straightforward and provides no commentary bythe people involved in history. The historical account of the Battle ofGettysburg, as seen in Killer Angels, provides the facts of the battle as seenthrough the eyes of Generals Robert E. Lee, Joshua Chamberlain, James Longstreet,and John Buford.Order now
The feelings and inner-thoughts of each General and theconditions of the battle are seen, heard, and felt by the reader in thehistorical account. Shaara takes historical license with letters, the words ofthe men, and documents written during the three hellish days of the battle. Shaara avoids historical opinion and provides his own opinion towards the CivilWar and the people. The historical account of the Civil War, the Battle ofGettysburg specifically, in Killer Angels conveys the attitude to toward war,attitude towards the Civil War, and cause for fighting the war of General RobertE. Lee, Joshua Chamberlain, James Longstreet, and John Buford.
General Robert E. Lee gained stoic and legendary status as the heart and soul of the South in theCivil War, but many did not know his reasons and feelings for fighting the war. War and the slaughter of others did not interest Lee and he felt compassion forthe Union. Lee had contradictory feelings towards war and says, “He was notonly to serve in it but he was to lead it, to make the plans, and issue theorders to kill and burn and ruin. .
. he could not do that” (Shaara 263). TheCivil War is not in the taste of General Lee, but feels it is his duty, and hecannot just stand by and watch the war pass him by. Michael Shaara says ofLee’s reason for fighting the Civil War “, He found that he had nochoice. . .
Lee could not raise his hand against his own. And so what then? Tostand by and do nothing? It had nothing to do with causes; it was no longer amatter of vows” (Shaara 263). Shaara, through his commentary on General Lee,explains that Lee did not want to fight the war but had to. Lee felt it was hisduty to fight for his fellow countrymen, but not for a cause, land, or slavery. “So it was no cause and no country he fought for, no ideal and no justice. Hefought for his people, for the children, and the kin, and not even the land,because the land was worth the war, but the people were,” General Lee says (Shaara263).
General Lee fights for himself and has no choice but to fight, knowing inthe end that he might be wrong with his cause and pay the price someday. GeneralLee is not a proponent of war, but he will serve his country with honor and dutyif necessary. A man of ideals and honor represent the character of Union ColonelJoshua Chamberlain. Being a man of education, Chamberlain knows the demeaningand repulsive nature of slavery and has come to fight to end it. Chamberlainhates the whole idea of the Civil War and the death and destruction that goesalong with it.
“I used my brother to plug a hole. Did it automatically as ifhe were expendable,” says Chamberlain (Shaara 304). He hates the idea thatmen, including his brother, are dying out in the fight for slavery. The onlyreason he believes in the Civil War is that if he the North did not fightfreedom would be tarnished and a great travesty would occur. Chamberlain is nota man of war and blood and doesn’t relish war and its qualities. The idea ofwar in general to Chamberlain was ludicrous, as he once wrote “Man: The KillerAngel”.
Chamberlain believes all other wars have been unnecessary expect forthe Civil War because it is a different kind of war. He says, “This is adifferent kind of army. If you look at history you’ll see men fight for pay,or women, or some kind of loot. . . .
They fight because a king makes them. Butwe’re here for something new. . .
. We’re an army going to set other menfree” (Shaara 30). Chamberlain is fighting the war because he believes everyman should have the right to freedom. “American’s fight for mankind, forfreedom; for the people, not the land,” says Chamberlain in regard to why heis fighting the war (Shaara 29). Chamberlain is fighting this war because “thefact of slavery upon this incredibly beautiful new clean land was appalling,”and “true freedom would eventually spread all over the world, but it startedhere.
. . Many of us came . . .
because it was the right thing to do” (Shaara29). James Longstreet was a General under-appreciated for the great talents andstrategies he possessed in regard to war. Longstreet was a glory man who lovedwar for its comradery and action it possessed. However, Longstreet doesn’tbelieve and hates the idea of fighting the Civil War.
He is put up against themen he commanded and served with before the war, and Longstreet feelstraitorous. “It came to him in the night sometimes with a sudden appallingshock that the boys he was fighting were boys he had grown up with,” saysShaara on behalf of Longstreet. General Longstreet aside from his feelings isvery professional and is out to win the war, no matter at what cost. He needs nocause except victory as Longstreet says, “He did not think much of theCause. . .
the Cause was Victory” (Shaara 63). General Longstreet does not knowwhy he is fighting the war except for the fact that he had to choose a side orget caught in the middle so he chose the South. “You choose your nightmareside. Once chosen, you put your head down and went on to win,” says Longstreeton behalf of his choice to fight. As General Longstreet says to General Lee,”You have no Cause. You and I, we have no Cause” (Shaara 63).
Longstreet isa lost soul among men and fights because he has to not because he wants to. Hefeels a great remorse and shame in fighting the men that he used to lead. He hada great love for battle and the army, but the Civil War has tarnished that. General John Buford may just be the reason the North won the Battle ofGettysburg.
With his grit and determination he holds down the whole Rebel armyuntil reinforcements arrive. Buford is a stoic and mild-mannered person whoseprofessionalism defines his attitude on the battlefield. Buford feels a duty tohis country and that’s his reason for fighting in the war. Michael Shaarasays, “Buford did not hate. He was a professional” (Shaara 45).
However,General Buford feels that the Civil War is sick and appalling as he says, “Theappalling sick stupidity that was so bad you thought sometimes you would gosuddenly, violently, completely insane” (Shaara 46). E. M. Forster, a writerinterested in the psychology behind personal relationship, once said, “I hatethe idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country andbetraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.
” TheSouthern Generals Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet would betray the countrybefore their friends, while the Northern Colonel Chamberlain and General Bufordwould pick their country. General Lee feels a strong sense of duty to his familyand friends over country as Shaara says, “He fought for his people, for thechildren and the kin, and not even the land, because not even the land was worththe war, but the people were. . . And so he took up arms willfully, knowingly, inperhaps the wrong cause against his own sacred oath and stood upon alien groundhe had once sworn to defend.
” (Shaara 263). Longstreet feels a sense of dutyto his friends including the ones on the Union side. Longstreet feels compassiontowards the Union soldiers, feeling that he has betrayed his friends, as he says”, Difficult thing to fight the men you used to command. ” ColonelChamberlain feels that his country is more important than friends are and he iswilling to kill to protect the Union. “He had grown up believing in Americaand the individual and it was a stronger faith than his faith in God,” saysShaara about Chamberlain.
This shows that he loves his country that he puts itabove his faith in God. Chamberlain automatically and autonomically places hisbrother in battle without even thinking about the consequences of losing hisbrother just to win a battle. General John Buford feels a sense of duty to hiscountry and serves as a professional. He believes that his country is moreimportant than his friends are. “When men take up arms to set other men free,there is something sacred and holy in the warfare,” said Woodrow Wilson, the28th President of the U.
S. and activist for world peace. General Robert E. Leefeels that the Civil War is very sacred and holy because he is fighting for thefreedom of his kin and people. He believes in his cause and is willing to goagainst the country and maybe the will of God to protect the rights of hispeople.
Chamberlain believes the actions of the Union army are very holy and themost righteous deed done in the history of the world. “This hasn’t happenedmuch in the history of the world. We’re an army going out to set other menfree; What has been done to the Black is a terrible thing” (Shaara 179). JamesLongstreet is a very technical man and felt there was nothing sacred and holy inthe Civil War. He felt there were no ideals and fights only to win, “. .
. TheCause was Victory” (Shaara 63). Buford is a professional and sees nothingsacred and holy either. He is in the war to serve and win. He has no ideals andfreedom to protect.
The Civil war shattered futures and broke the innocence ofmany young lives. Michael Shaara uses the horrific details of the Civil War toteach the reader that war is not as valiant and courageous as men make it seem. The vivid details included in the book help to draw and etch the gory picturesof war into one’s mind. The generals each relay their feelings about the deathand destruction of the war to the reader. The reader gets the feeling that theauthor is communicating only the negative aspects of the war and not too much ofthe glory. All the Generals, Colonels, and men involved cannot seem to stoptalking about the lives they’ve seen lost and men wounded.
General Lee and theother men explain that they’ve has lost many great comrades and officers inthe battle. Shaara keeps sharp attention to all the blood and bullets’ flyingaround the whole time so the reader feels that war is hell in essence. Robert E. Lee is the heart and soul of the South and people depended on him to lead theSouth into victory. The South admired him for the pride he brought and the Northadmired him for his military prowess.
One man goes as far as to say, “Wellmaybe you are come from an ape, and maybe I am come from an ape, but GeneralLee, he didn’t come from no ape” (Shaara 131). Robert E. Lee is the saviorand leader for the people of the South, and they worshiped him. No man in theNorth or South doubted his military genius or ever went far enough to challengewhat he said.
Fremantle explained that Lee was a mythical hero even in England,he was a gentleman’s man. “Well. They love him. They do not blame him. Theydo impossible things for him,” says Fremantle (Shaara 162). Men would doanything make Lee proud.
The Northern generals were afraid to go against him attimes and respected his power. However, General Longstreet through the course ofthe book begins to doubt the old man’s power to make decisions. Longstreetkeeps to himself to not offend anybody, especially since General Lee was a lovedman by all. Longstreet feels that Lee is too powerful and sometimes makes thewrong decisions without somebody being able to tell him he is wrong.
“The menshield from blaming Lee. The Old Man is becoming untouchable,” says Longstreet(Shaara 240). Longstreet feels that Lee’s mythical status is getting in theway of the war and might end up hurting him. The overall impression of Lee isthat he is a mythical and legendary person to most, but Longstreet quietly doesnot see him as the superhuman he is made to seem. The Civil War was the greatestbattle ever waged on American soil and once it was over the battlefield lay inruins. The men, the fortunate one’s who survived, moved on to bigger andbetter battles.
However, the battle scars, both emotional and physical, remainedforever. General John Buford is greatly weakened by his wounds from the battleand fights through the summer. In December 1863 Buford goes down with Typhoidfever and dies without receiving recognition for saving the high ground andperhaps the battle. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain is given a brigade after thebattle of Gettysburg but is wounded six times. He is regarded as one of thegreatest soldiers in American history, and receives numerous medals for honorduring the Battle of Gettysburg. Ulysses Grant gives him the honor of MajorGeneral for heroism and is chosen by Grant as the officer to receive theSouthern surrender at Appomattox.
Chamberlain is elected the governor of Maineand eventually elected President of Bowdoin College. He dies from his wounds inJune 1914 at the age of eighty-three. General Longstreet asks to be relieved ofcommand after the Battle of Gettysburg, but Lee makes him stay. After the war heblames Lee for the loss of Gettysburg, and this does not sit well with people. His theory of defensive war is very advanced for the time. He serves asPresident of Washington College until his death in 1904.
General Lee remains thesymbol of all that is proud and noble in the South. He asks to be relieved ofhis command but it is denied. After the war he asks for pardon from Congress andit is denied until 1970. Lee dies of heart disease in 1870.