Gods and Generals
The American Civil War was a military conflict between the United States of America (the Union), and 11 secessionist Southern states, organized as the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). It was the culmination of four decades of intense sectional conflict and it reflected deep-seated economic, social, and political differences between the North and the South. Many books have been written on this “first modern war” describing how over 620,000 men were killed. Jeff Shaara goes deeper and explores the personal conflicts of four historical figures, two from the South and two from North: General Lee, General Jackson, Colonel Chamberlain, and Hancock.
Robert E. Lee’s story began with a dilemma; he had to decide whether to stay to fight with the army he has been serving for 30 years or to resign and go to Virginia to defend his home. Life in the army had ruined his life, “He had missed a father’s great joy of watching his children grow and learn... [and] try not to think about what his career had done to his family.” (Pg. 11) Throughout Part 1, Lee feels something missing from inside him: the feeling of action, of war. While in Texas, General Winfield Scott asks Lee to serve as second in command of the Union Army, but due to the possibility that Virginia could also secede, he declines. Still yearning for action, he accepts the command of the Provisional Army, the defense forces for the state of Virginia. He goes on to recruit Major Thomas Jackson, Jackson replies by saying, “If they do not run, then they die.” (Pg. 135)
“I will do whatever I must to defeat my enemies.” (Pg. 135) This describes Major Jackson’s general attitude towards war and towards God. Jackson is extremely pious and does all he can to please God and to follow His path. Newspaper coverage of his battles quickly publicized him and the title Hero was given to Jackson. Throughout the war, Jackson shows dedication, going beyond his orders and chasing away his enemies. He also shows an immense concern for his troops, he “had seen the bare feet, the bloody impressions, and he felt a deep pain, a sadness.” (Pg. 289) His men were shabby compared to the forces of Hancock and Chamberlain.
Winfield Scott Hancock, named after General Winfield Scott, has the talent of making himself “indispensable in any assignment he is given...” (Pg. 5) Due to this talent, he is the best suited to take the role of Quartermaster. After various locations, he is transferred to California, where his story begins. Like Lee, he feels he belongs on the battlefield, and not in...