Killer Angels Reflections Essay Sample
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Killer Angels Reflections Essay Sample
The Civil War was one of the nation’s bloodiest wars in history, and there is so much more to it than the average person knows. “Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara does a fantastic job of ‘opening the doors’ into the true struggles of the Civil War. The book begins from a spy’s perspective, on his way to Longstreet to inform him of the Union Army’s position. The news caught Longstreet off guard because General Stuart was supposed to be on the lookout for the Union Army. It takes a while for him to convince his colleagues that they need to trust this spy because most of them want do not believe that Stuart would leave them blind as he gallivants around, getting publicity in the north. Longstreet decides to trust the spy and moves towards Gettysburg. At this point, the generals have no idea of the violent battle that is about to take place in Gettysburg. Meanwhile, Colonel Chamberlain is informed that men disbanded from the Old Second Maine. These men have decided not to fight in protest. Chamberlain delivers a very inspiring speech, and great detail is given describing his excellent speech giving skills. All but six of the men decide to join Twentieth Maine.
Longstreet is completely astounded by this, but grateful. On the morning of July 1st, Stuart is still nowhere to be found. Stuart is very important to the Confederate Army; he is their eyes when it comes to knowing the location of the Union Army. Meanwhile, the battle at Gettysburg begins when the Confederates attack Buford’s men. Day one at Gettysburg ends with the Union retreat into the hills. This makes Longstreet anxious; hills are very good defensive positions. Though they should swing around to attack from behind, he knows that is not what General Lee wants to do. The next day, Chamberlain wakes up and his regiment begins moving towards Gettysburg. They run into an escaped slave on the way, and Chamberlain ponders his feelings towards the war and race. Chamberlain’s regiment is put on Little Round Top as soon as they arrive at Gettysburg. He is then told that he is the extreme left of the Union line. Chamberlain’s regiment holds the hill against many confederate attacks, until the run out of ammo.
Chamberlain orders a bayonet charge, forcing the confederates to flee. Lee suffers heavy losses in the peach orchard, and has decided to charge through the middle of the Union Army, split it in two, and fight each half individually. Ironically, the next day Chamberlain is in the middle of the Union line, where he is not expecting much action. Longstreet tells lee that his plan will fail, and he needs to swing the army towards Washington, D.C., but Lee’s ego is in the way. Pickett is placed in charge of the assault to the center of the Union line. Soon Chamberlain finds himself in the middle of the attack, and survives intact still. Confederate Army shot too high and did not do as much damage as they thought they would. The attack begins with Confederate troops marching towards the Union troops, in plain sight. The Union line then open fires and kills hundreds of men. Pickett suffers too many losses to continue, and retreats, ending the Battle of Gettysburg. Overall, the book provided a refreshing insight into the civil war.
We got to know not just the facts, but the emotions involved. When the war began, soldiers from both the Confederate Army and the Union Army had joined for many different reasons. Some joined for the peer pressure, not even knowing what they were fighting for. Even the some generals were doing it for an opportunity to move up in the society. The spy had said in the beginning, “He had no stature and a small voice and there were no big parts for him until the war came, and now he was the only one who knew how good he was,” (Shaara 4). Some men, supported by patriotic glow, were eager for the action of the war. Maybe they even wanted to impress a girl by being a ‘big hero’ and going off to war so she can miss him. As the war went on, this ‘need for action’ quickly cooled as the reality of war became apparent. Some may not have wanted to stick around after that. Constant danger cast a shadow onto both the armies only pushed the desire to live. Not to mention the long to be home with their families.
Most men did stay and fight. What kept them from leaving though? They personally weren’t fighting for anything, why should they stay? To shed American blood on American soil? The civil war is referred to as the bloodiest war in American history. Brother against brother, the war was fought against our very own people. Once the soldiers saw what the war was all about, they were fed delusions that independence and the “good of mankind” were being preserved. Most men however only fought for the protection of the other men in their regiment. After signing their contract to fight, they couldn’t really go anywhere, even once they no longer wanted to, so they fought for survival and protection of the loved ones. Soldiers from both armies believed they were fighting for freedom and liberty along side with notions of duty honor and manliness. The North, however, believed to be fighting for the freedom of other men (slaves), which Chamberlain notes is the first war to be fought for so. In the final days of the war, it became obvious that whichever army had the most motivation left at that point would receive the victory. When all men were fighting for their lives, the North was focusing on the freedom of other men, while the Confederate army, having suffered much loss at this point, really was fighting for survival at this point.
General Robert E. Lee was fifty seven years old at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, and was having heart problems. Some historians say that Lee may have even had a heart attack at Gettysburg. Lee is a very well trained commander with years of experience, but he is constantly contradicted by General Longstreet, who is more defensive in his tactics. Lee is a very traditional commander, and that ends up losing the war for the South. At Gettysburg, Lee refused to listen to Longstreet, who advised swinging around and attacking them from behind which they were not expecting. Longstreet knew Lee’s plan to split down the middle of the Union Army would fail, but was forced to comply. Lee, however, inspired his troops. The wounded soldiers after Picket’s charge begged him to let them attack again. Lee helped to maintain the morale of the Confederate Army. However, he overestimated his army, which led to the failure of Picket’s Charge. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain is ranked lower than the confederate generals, so he provides quite a different view on the war. Chamberlain was a very unique soldier in the Civil War. He was a professor at the time of the war, but left to fight, and stood his ground well.
He built himself a reputation as a leader. Compared to other soldiers in the war, Chamberlain is very well educated and insightful. Chamberlain almost had the “man of the people” feel to him, a citizen soldier. He connected well with the men in his regiment, and delivered an excellent speech to the one hundred and twenty men who had not wanted to fight. Chamberlain does not seem to realize the power of his speaking skills. He is a good man, and is represented that way throughout the novel. He couldn’t hurt anybody, especially not someone from his home state. Chamberlain is very analytical. He has a more hands-on view of the battle than other generals in the book. Chamberlain has the soul of a poet, and provides some deep insight into the motivations of the soldiers in the war. Chamberlain connects with his regiment as if they were his brothers. He is very highly respected throughout the Union after the war, not only for resisting Picket’s charge, but also for being so kind and smart with his men.
General James Longstreet was General Lee’s second in command. He recently suffered the death of all his children, causing his depression. However, he had high hopes of winning Gettysburg, if Lee would swing the army and cut off the Union from Washington, D.C. Longstreet thinks this will force the Union to attack the confederates, and they could destroy them as they attacked. This disagreement is a main conflict in the story, and truly did lose the Battle of Gettysburg for the south, because Longstreet had no choice other than to do as Lee says. Lee is annoyed by Longstreet’s stubbornness, and Longstreet is aggravated by Lee’s stupidity. Longstreet knows warfare very well, and knows you can only win with proper technology.
He believes offensive warfare will become difficult in the future with the technological advances soon to come, and he was indeed correct. Longstreet had some very advanced ideas, but none of them were used during the course of the war. Though Shaara portrays him as a “man ahead of his time”, history doesn’t line up with that fact per say. Lee had a number of victories before the Battle of Gettysburg, but in this particular instance, Longstreet’s idea would have worked well. Longstreet receives little blame for the loss of Gettysburg in the novel. Longstreet and Lee’s conflict was the central conflict for the confederates during this battle. Overall the book was insightful and interesting. Not many authors have managed to capture the emotions and poetic views of the civil war, let alone the bloodiest battle of them all. When it came down to it, the North had the motivation to win the war, while the South needed to return home to their families.