The Killer Angels
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.
The Juxtaposition and Dualism of Lee and Longstreet in the Killer Angels, a Novel by Michael Shaara
Lee and Longstreet contrasted each other in three major ways in the chapter. First we see that Longstreet is a realist and Lee an idealist. Second, we see that Lee’s health is failing and Longstreet’s is not, and third, that Lee trusts in God’s will whereas Longstreet does not. First of all, Longstreet believes that attacking now cannot produce a victory. For example, he tells Lee, “Do you expect me to attack again that same high ground which they could not take yesterday at full strength…it is my considered opinion that a frontal assault here would be a disaster” (pgs. 302,4). Lee, on the other hand, is confident and says, “ I want you to move your corps forward and take those heights, in the center, and split the Union line” (p 302). Second, Longstreet is healthy while Lee’s health and well being is failing him. For example, Lee tells Longstreet, “I’m an old man…” (p 307) and the author also says that Longstreet, “spoke looking at the weary face, the ancient eyes” (p 309). Third, Lee and Longstreet have different opinions about God’s role in this battle. Lee tells Longstreet, “Well, we have left nothing undone. It is all in the hands of God” (p 317). Lee realizes that he and his commanders have done their best to control the situation but it is, like everything in life, up to God and his ultimate will. Longstreet, however, is confused by Lee’s statement and disagrees in his mind. He thinks, “It isn’t God that is sending those men up that hill” (p 317). Longstreet does not trust in God’s sovereignty and doesn’t believe that God could possibly send so many men up that hill to their deaths. This chapter in The Killer Angels really draws out and portrays the differences between Lee and Longstreet.