The Killer Angels Essay

1321 words - 5 pages

The novel starts out when Harrison, a Confederate spy, reports to James Longstreet that 80,000 to 100,000 Union soldiers have marched within 200 miles of Lee's position near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Harrison also bears news of a change in Union leadership. Major General George Meade had replaced "Fighting Joe" Hooker as commander of the Union Army. Lee sees this change as an opportunity to strike while the new commander gets his bearings. He decides to concentrate on Gettysburg, the small town where several roads in the area converge, where he intends to cut the Union army off from Washington, D.C. First shots are fired at dawn as Rebels attack Buford's dismounted cavalry. Later that day Lee orders Ewell to take control of Cemetery Hill. Ewell did not follow orders and the union gained control of the Hill instead. Late in the afternoon, on the second day, Colonel Chamberlain's 20th Maine regiment is moved into the woods. Colonel Vincent orders Chamberlain not to withdraw from his new position at the left flank of the Union line. The Confederates engage with the Union troops and Chamberlain's 20th Maine time and time again. Finally when ammunition is low Chamberlain gives the order to "fix bayonets," and charges down the hill driving the rebels back. That same day Lee orders Longstreet to attack the Union center, and Longstreet advises against it. "They will break," Lee insists. He directed Longstreet to take three divisions. Longstreet passes the order along to his generals Pickett, Pettigrew, and Trimble. Pickett and other commanders lose most of their men in the battle. As the survivors pull back, Lee finally admits his error to Longstreet, who gives his order to retreat.The two personalities that stand out the most in my mind are Robert E. Lee and Joshua Chamberlain. Lee and Chamberlain share many similarities. They are idealistic, optimistic, and have faith and pride in their men. Both care about their men, yet do not hesitate to use them, including Chamberlain's own brother, for the sake of the cause. The men under Lee and Chamberlain show them a great deal of respect. Chamberlain is somewhat of a father figure to his men, as is Lee to James Longstreet. Joshua Chamberlain is an unusual man, formerly a college professor, and views the war and the men around him more as a philosopher then a military man. On his march toward Gettysburg he sees a row of dead confederates from a previous battle, and wonders whether the town's people will give them a decent burial or leave them for the buzzards. He is fair and unbiased, even towards the enemy. When Chamberlain speaks with the mutineers from the 2nd Maine he sympathizes with them, letting the words come from his heart. He tells them they will not be shot, knowing they have already done their share of fighting, and he instead talks about reasons for being there. At the time this may not have been that important, but the 114 men that decided to take up arms and fight might have...

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