Killer Angels

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Killer Angels



The Killer Angels
The Battle of Gettysburg brought the dueling North and South together to
the small town of Gettysburg and on the threshold of splitting the Union.
Gettysburg was as close as the United States got to Armageddon and The Killer
Angels gives the 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
of the generals and men involved in the action of the battle. The historical account
of the Battle of Gettysburg gives the reader a chance to experience the battle
personally and not the history book manner taught in schools. A historical novel
gives the facts straightforward and provides no commentary by the people
involved in history. The historical account of the Battle of Gettysburg, as seen in
Killer Angels, provides the facts of the battle as seen through the eyes of Generals
Robert E. Lee, Joshua Chamberlain, James Longstreet, and John Buford. The
feelings and inner-thoughts of each General and the conditions of the battle are
seen, heard, and felt by the reader in the historical account. Shaara takes historical
license with letters, the words of the men, and documents written during the
three hellish days of the battle. Shaara avoids historical opinion and provides his
own opinion towards the Civil War and the people. The historical account of the
Civil War, the Battle of Gettysburg specifically, in Killer Angels conveys the
attitude to toward war, attitude towards the Civil War, and cause for fighting the
war of General Robert E. 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 the Civil 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 for the Union. Lee had contradictory feelings towards war
and says, “He was not only to serve in it but he was to lead it, to make the plans,
and issue the orders to kill and burn and ruin…he could not do that” (Shaara
263). The Civil War is not in the taste of General Lee, but feels it is his duty, and
he cannot just stand by and watch the war pass him by. Michael Shaara says of
Lee’s reason for fighting the Civil War “, He found that he had no choice…Lee
could not raise his hand against his own. And so what then? To stand by and do
nothing? It had nothing to do with causes; it was no longer a matter 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 his duty 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. He fought 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 (Shaara 263). General Lee fights for
himself and has no choice but to fight, knowing in the end that he might be wrong
with his cause and pay the price someday. General Lee is not a proponent of war,
but he will serve his country with honor and duty if necessary.
A man of ideals and honor represent the character of Union Colonel Joshua
Chamberlain. Being a man of education, Chamberlain knows the demeaning and
repulsive nature of slavery and has come to fight to end it. Chamberlain hates the
whole idea of the Civil War and the death and destruction that goes along with it.
“I used my brother to plug a hole. Did it automatically as if he were expendable,”
says Chamberlain (Shaara 304). He hates the idea that men, including his brother,
are dying out in the fight for slavery. The only reason he believes in the Civil War
is that if he the North did not fight freedom would be tarnished and a great
travesty would occur. Chamberlain is not a man of war and blood and doesn’t
relish war and its qualities. The idea of war in general to Chamberlain was
ludicrous, as he once wrote “Man: The Killer Angel”. Chamberlain believes all
other wars have been unnecessary expect for the Civil War because it is a
different kind of war. He says, “This is a different 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. But we’re here for something new. …We’re an army
going to set other men free” (Shaara 30). Chamberlain is fighting the war because
he believes every man should have the right to freedom. “American’s fight for
mankind, for freedom; for the people, not the land,” says Chamberlain in regard
to why he is fighting the war (Shaara 29). Chamberlain is fighting this war
because “the fact of slavery upon this incredibly beautiful new clean land was
appalling,” and “true freedom would eventually spread all over the world, but it
started here… Many of us came . . . because it was the right thing to do” (Shaara
29).
James Longstreet was a General under-appreciated for the great talents
and strategies he possessed in regard to war. Longstreet was a glory man who
loved war for its comradery and action it possessed. However, Longstreet doesn’t
believe and hates the idea of fighting the Civil War. He is put up against the men
he commanded and served with before the war, and Longstreet feels traitorous.
“It came to him in the night sometimes with a sudden appalling shock that the
boys he was fighting were boys he had grown up with,” says Shaara on behalf of
Longstreet. General Longstreet aside from his feelings is very professional and is
out to win the war, no matter at what cost. He needs no cause except victory as
Longstreet says, “He did not think much of the Cause… the Cause was Victory”
(Shaara 63). General Longstreet does not know why he is fighting the war except
for the fact that he had to choose a side or get caught in the middle so he chose the
South. “You choose your nightmare side. Once chosen, you put your head down
and went on to win,” says Longstreet on 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 is a lost soul among men and fights because he has
to not because he wants to. He feels a great remorse and shame in fighting the
men that he used to lead. He had a 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 of
Gettysburg. With his grit and determination he holds down the whole Rebel army
until reinforcements arrive. Buford is a stoic and mild-mannered person whose
professionalism defines his attitude on the battlefield. Buford feels a duty to his
country and that’s his reason for fighting in the war. Michael Shaara says,
“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, “The appalling
sick stupidity that was so bad you thought sometimes you would go suddenly,
violently, completely insane” (Shaara

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