The Killer Angels
My Opinion about the Book The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
The Killer Angels is a historical novel written by Michael Shaara that is a very unique and gripping take on the Civil War. The main characters are General Robert E. Lee, General James Longstreet, and Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain. Lee and Longstreet battle for the Confederacy, while Longstreet is apart of the Union, otherwise known as the Army of the Potomac. Longstreet and Lee have a good relationship, as Longstreet has much respect for General Lee. It is stated in the book that Longstreet had always been opposed to the invasion but was overruled by Lee. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain is a very bright man as he was a professor before leaving for the war. The setting is the bloody battle of Gettysburg, which by the end of the battle had caused the death of around 50,000 men. The novel switches between the two sides and it goes through the thoughts and reactions of the generals throughout the battle.
The novel starts with a paid spy riding in the rain to warn General Longstreet of the Union Army approaching unexpectedly. Longstreet then tells Lee and they decide to move their army towards Gettysburg, where all the roads came together. Lee wants to destroy the Union Army here in the upcoming battle. From here on the battle of Gettysburg ensues as Shaara breaks it down by the days of the battle.On July 1st 1863, General Buford is attacked by confederate forces, who then alerts General Reynolds of the attack so that Reynolds can aid him. Reynolds comes just in time but is soon shot and killed. The Union forces continue to hold the line for as much as they can. Later on, now from Lee’s point of view, the Confederate army sends Union forces to a retreat towards Cemetery Ridge. On day two, Shaara continues show Chamberlain’s feelings, as his troops encounter a wounded slave. Chamberlain finds himself repulsed by the man and feels somewhat guilty for these feelings. Chamberlain is then informed that his troops are moving toward Little Round Top. Now back on the Confederate side. The differences between Longstreet and Lee reveal themselves in full force in this part of the novel as it starts to take a toll on the Confederate Army. All Longstreet wants is to fight a defensive battle while Lee is set on an offensive assault. Chamberlain and his men soon find themselves taking part in the fight for Little Round Top, which Chamberlain performs a brilliant move to win the fight, but at the cost of many casualties. Shaara then ends the novel with Pickett’s Charge in which the confederacy took major blows to their army which ultimately causes a Confederate loss in Gettysburg.
Overall I somewhat liked the novel. The parts I enjoyed were specifically the switching of points of view between the Union and the Confederacy. I think it made the novel much more interesting and also it gave me insight as to what the military leaders were thinking about during this historic battle. Some things I disliked was overall tone of the novel. Although the switching of view points added some excitement, I felt majority of the novel was somewhat boring and I believe Shaara spent too much time on insignificant conversations between generals which didn’t lead to important actions being taken. For example I think Shaara brought up the indecisiveness of Longstreet with Lee’s strategy many times even though Lee was certain he could crush the Union with an attack. I also just wanted more of Lee instead of Longstreet because Lee was the commander. Shaara seemed to focus much more on Longstreet’s opinions and feelings more than Lee.
The historical accuracy is somewhat accurate in this novel as Shaara himself states in the beginning that he gets much of the information from actual letters and documents of the men themselves. Also all of the characters were real people in the war. Shaara also then states the interpretation of the characters are his own, meaning their feelings and emotions are shown as how he envisions them. This hurts the historical accuracy because of course there is really no way we can know their exact thoughts during this battle. He also states that he altered the language men used so that we could comprehend it better. Some things I learned about the time period was that education seemed to be pivotal to success even though it still was not universally common for everyone to receive one. We see this with Chamberlain and his ability to stop the Confederacy charge with his brilliant move of using a bayonet charge at Little Round Top. We also see this with Robert E. Lee’s success. Although the Confederacy lost the Civil War, Lee had success early in the war and was a brilliant military leader.
Some stories I found interesting were about the military generals and leaders. I was intrigued with Longstreet’s dedication to a defensive battle and how he knew that an offensive attack would end in disaster. Still, even with Longstreet’s reluctance, Lee was set that an invasion would end the Union and win the war. It’s mind boggling that two very smart military leaders disagreed with a such a huge decision for the the Confederacy. I also thought the storyline with Chamberlain and his brother, Tom had. Chamberlain had trouble commanding his brother in war, knowing that he could he send him to his death at any moment. Chamberlain eventually decides that he must no longer command Tom as he will eventually kill him. This storyline adds much more emotion and drama to the novel.
Overall, I would recommend this book if you have an interest American history as Shaara’s take on these military leaders is interesting and adds a unique feel compared to other historical fictions. I believe it was an okay read but nothing spectacular. I personally do not have much interest in historical fiction but this novel definitely had some interesting parts. I feel that there were many boring parts of the book, especially when battles were not actually being fought. I believe this novel provided a unique perspective of Gettysburg simply because of Shaara’s portrayal of men like Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, and Joshua Chamberlain. He adds a sense of emotion and feelings with his portrayals. I learned that with just a couple of strategic changes for the Confederacy, they could have won Gettysburg and maybe even won the Civil War. Also I did not know the impact of the lesser known generals were so large, especially generals Buford, Ewell, and Reynolds. The Killer Angels is a unique take on the Battle of Gettysburg and has emotional views and thoughts from the generals themselves.
A Main Theme in The Killer Angels Novel
Report on “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara When an author writes a book he has a message that he is trying to get across to the reader. This message is called a theme. In The Killer Angels Shaaras theme was freedom for the slaves. The Northerners truly believed that the slaves deserved to be free, and their desire to set slaves free was the cause of the Civil War. Just before the Battle of Gettysburg, Colonel Lawrence Chamberlain of the 20th Maine gave a speech to a group of mutineers. He told them that the war in which they were fighting was unlike any war in history.
The war in which they were fighting was not for money, property or power. It was a war to set other men free. After the battle began, Sergeant Tom Chamberlain asked a group of prisoners why they were fighting. They gave no answer, but asked him the same question. Sergeant Chamberlain answered, To free the slaves, of course. The South, however, was against freeing the slaves. The entire Civil War, whether the people were for or against the idea, was about freedom. The Killer Angels was informative, very fascinating and I liked it. I liked the book because I learned many things from it. Id never thought much about the importance of the Battle of Gettysburg until I read The Killer Angels. From this book I learned many things. I learned that the Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War. Prior to Gettysburg, the South had won most major battles. At Gettysburg, however, the North gained its first major victory. From then on, the North continued to gain momentum, winning virtually every battle for the following two years of the war. The Battle of Gettysburg exhausted both armies; greatly decreasing their reserves of ammunition and soldiers.
The North had more than twice as many men as the South, and since the North was industrialized, they could replenish their supplies of men and ammunition fairly quickly. The South, however, could not replenish their supplies quickly because of the lack of industrialization and manpower. The supplies lost in the Battle of Gettysburg ultimately lost the war for the South. I also learned that Confederate General Robert E. Lee was not a good military tactician. Evidently, he thought that, as in most of the previous battles, the Confederate army could win this one with a series of charges. On the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee ordered the first charge. In this charge, Confederate troops would make an uphill attack in an attempt to take a ridge from the Federal army. With an uphill advantage, the Federal troops drove the Confederate army into retreat. On the third day of battle, Lee ordered a charge that would take his army across more than a mile of open field. On the other side of the field, however, Federal troops released a continuous bombardment of artillery as the Confederate troops made their way across. The Federal army wiped out most of the Confederate troops before they were halfway across the field.
By the time the remaining Confederates reached the Federal army their numbers were so small the Federal army had no trouble defeating them. A good commanding general would have seen that both charges were hopeless. In both cases the Federal troops had fortified vantage points, while the Confederate army had no sufficient protection. Had Lee seen this, he would not have ordered the charges. Instead, he was too confident of the ability of his army and his overconfidence led him to defeat. Before I read The Killer Angels I knew that the Civil War brought many friends to fight against friends and family to fight against family. Until I read The Killer Angels, I never realized that this was true even in the higher ranks. General Hancock of the Federal army and General Armistad of the Confederate were extremely good friends.
Before the war they served together in California, but when they war began they parted ways. Throughout the Battle of Gettysburg, both generals were constantly asking for permission to go under flag of truce to the opposing army hoping to see the other. During the battle both generals were wounded, and they never got another chance to see each other. General Armistad was mortally wounded, and in his dying words he asked a messenger to send his apologies to General Hancock that it had to end the way it did. The Civil War tore families and friends apart, all the way up to the highest military ranks. The Killer Angels was an exceptional book, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who is interested in the thoughts and fears of both armies during the Civil War. The Killer Angels was filled with action, suspense and drama, and it is perhaps the most accurate account of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s Character and the Power of Persuasion
Considering the impact of different aspects in an argument is the key to accomplishing effective rhetoric. In the case of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the success of his persuasion depended upon his knowledge of his purpose, audience, speaker, and subject. The purpose of his argument was to convince the audience, mutineers from the Second Regiment of Maine, that the extended enlistment was not something to dread since the Civil War was about maintaining their freedom as Americans rather than abolishing slavery. As the speaker, Chamberlain recognized the subject of controversy was deployment contracts, so he integrated his own thoughts and feelings as well as the audience’s into his rhetoric. These factors led to the success of his rhetoric.
For all forms of persuasion to be effective, the audience must feel a connection to the speaker. Chamberlain utilized comfort, or cognitive ease, to soften his audience. Cognitive ease is an ethos-related tactic that involves consoling the primary audience and countering dissatisfaction by keeping things simple, empowering the audience, and putting them in a better mood. Chamberlain adopted a calm, informal tone with the Regiment’s designated speaker in order to establish a feeling of trust. The excerpt states, “..Chamberlain said with the same light, calm, pleasant manner that he had developed when talking to particularly rebellious students who had come in with a grievance and who hadn’t yet learned that the soft answer turneth away wrath” (p. 23). Chamberlain was aware that the mutineers were wary of him, so he managed to redirect their frustration enough for him to convince them to fight alongside him. In his speech, he kept his words simple and honest; Chamberlain sided with the mutineers because he knew that by empowering them, they would be willing to fight. His choice to use comfort as a rhetorical tactic gained enough of the Regiment men’s trust for them to listen and relate to his argument.
In effective rhetoric, it is important for a speaker to establish a connection between the audience and the goal of the argument. The overall intention of Chamberlain’s speech in The Killer Angels was to evoke patriotism in order to identify the commonplace between him and the mutineers. A commonplace is a shared public opinion the speaker uses to convince their audience their goal is the best option; patriotism is an ethos-related tactic, as well as one of the strongest persuading emotions, that attaches the speaker’s intent to the audience’s sense of identity. Chamberlain talks about the vitality of the Union and its connection to freedom by saying, “This is free ground. All the way from here to the Pacific Ocean. No man has to bow…Here you can be something…It’s the idea that we all have value” (p. 30). He attached a commonplace between the regiments by stating, “What we’re all fighting for, in the end, is each other” (30). In summary, he effectively explained that they had the same goal in mind; the preservation of the Union. Once the men recognized this perspective, the majority opted to join Chamberlain and his men.
In some forms of persuasion, showing doubt or weakness may decrease the effectiveness of the argument. However, Chamberlain uses rhetorical doubt to his advantage. Dubitatio involves projecting uncertainty on how to start or proceed with a speech. It lowers an audience’s expectations, which allows the speaker to surprise them with facts later in the argument. It is a pathos-related tactic that evokes pity and sympathy. Chamberlain starts by timidly explaining how the war had affected his regiment. He states, “There were a thousand of us then. There’s not three hundred of us now” (p.29). By admitting to the radical decline of his soldiers, he revealed his doubt in himself and the war. The excerpt also states, “He spoke very slowly, staring at the ground” (p.29). Dubitatio focuses on conveying an illusion of doubt. By avoiding eye contact with the mutineers, he is convincing his audience that he doubts his rhetorical ability. Chamberlain’s strategy was to stimulate sympathy from the Regiment members, opening them up to his upcoming argument. Since the mutineers responded poorly to authority, Chamberlain deliberately portrayed himself the way a fellow soldier would, which would lead Regiment men to be more responsive. His attempts at dubitatio are effective since the audience saw him in a new, more humble light, which further inclines them to consider his argument.
A vital question considered by rhetoricians is how to deal with a reluctant audience. In the excerpt, mutineers were livid about having to stay at war while others in their Regiment were permitted to return home. Reluctance is the illusion that a speaker is forced to reach their conclusion despite their own beliefs and desires. It relates to ethos because it convinces the audience the speaker believes in their commonplace but is compelled to draw a different conclusion due to undeniable logic. Chamberlain uses this tactic to convince the audience of his hesitance to follow orders. As stated in the excerpt, “‘I’ve been ordered to take you along, and that’s what I’m going to do…The whole Reb army is up the road a ways waiting for us and this is no time for an argument like this’” (p. 29). Chamberlain used reluctance to convince his audience he supported their commonplace but was forced to bring them to the battlefield, regardless of their desires. Chamberlain knew associating himself with their cause would lead them to be more receptive, which was effective since the men felt as though their grievances were being heard.
M. Shaara’s The Killer Angels: A Comparative Analysis of Leadership Styles Utilize by Two Generals
In The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, the styles of leadership of confederate Generals Robert Edward Lee and James Longstreet differ greatly, and it is this that ultimately determines the outcome of The Battle of Gettysburg. While Lee is more of an offensive general, always looking to strike his enemy first, Longstreet is more cautious and prefers trench warfare. By setting up a strong defense and waiting for the enemy to come to him, Longstreet believes that it is the best way to fight. Unfortunately, when Lee and Longstreet disagree, Lee ends up getting his way as a result of his higher status.
In war, most army generals are cold and unforgiving because they know that they cannot afford to make any mistakes. General Longstreet, on the other hand, is not. He puts his trust into a seemingly untrustworthy spy, named Harrison. General Lee, though, is rather reluctant to deal with this mercenary. “lee glanced again at Longstreet…He Longstreet moved to the map table, under the awning…Lee came slowly to the table, watching the man. After a moment he said to Harrison ‘I understand that you are General Longstreet’s’—a slight pause—‘scout’… Lee would not use the word spy…Lee listened without expression.”. Even though it is apparent that the man is trustworthy and knowledgeable, Lee is still reluctant to trust him. “Do you believe this man…Am I to move on the word of a paid spy?.
In some ways, though, Lee is too trusting with his own men and he doesn’t realize that there is a time when some people are simply not to be trusted anymore. Lee is wondered and a bit frustrated with one of his officers named Jeb Stuart that has, after a long time, has not given a report of his position or the enemy’s position. “’There should have been something from Jeb Stuart…’
‘Stuart would not have left us blind…’
‘Longstreet says this time you ought to stomp him, really stomp him…’
‘Stuart would not leave us blind’”. Lee still, after it is obvious that Jeb has failed him, puts his trust into Stuart, whereas Longstreet feels that he should be severely punished for his failure, which he should. Longstreet now ponders why Lee does not use one of his other officers to do the job properly. “Longsteet grimaced. He thought: we have other cavalry. Why doesn’t the old man send of a look? Tell you why: he can’t believe Stuart would let him down” (52). Longstreet knows what is right whereas Lee does not.
The Union forces are positioned strategically on a hill, and Longstreet knows it would be slaughter to go for a head on attack, right for the center of the Union line, but Lee thinks it will be a great strategy. “Longsteet said again. ‘Sir, I’ve discovered a way south that seems promising. If we would move— ‘’ General the enemy is there—‘’’ Lee lifted his arm and pointed up the ridghe in a massive gesture —–and there’s where I’m going to strike him”. Lee is stubborn and doesn’t listen to longsteet. Later Lee makes up his mind: “Genreral we will attack the center”.
In the end, lee’s poor tacktics cost the confederates the Battle of Gettysburg. If only he had thought of the consequenbces of his audacious assault rught up the center of the Union line. The outcome of the battle would have been quite different though if lee had taken longstreet’s advice and thought through his plan of action before he actually executed it. Lee obviously didn’t know what he was doing. Always before making a major desicison one should consult his./ her aides before actually doing anything.