The Killer Angels By Michael Shaara Summary and Analysis Thursday, July 2, 1863 - 1. Fremantle

Summary

It is 3 a.m., and Fremantle reflects on the coming battle and what an uncivilized hour it is for things to begin. Breakfast has an air of "seize the day," and Fremantle is anxious not to miss the battle today.

Fremantle observes the command meeting with Lee, Longstreet, and Hood. His emotions are high, and he feels a part of this group of "Americans," Americans who are really "Englishmen." He thinks much about the similarities and differences of Southerners and Englishmen, and Northerners and Englishmen. He feels the war is really about the South being like Europe and the North being different, and he concludes the great democratic experiment has failed.

Moxley, Longstreet, and Hood all indicate that the battle will be a bit later, although Longstreet really wants to wait as long as possible for Pickett to arrive. Fremantle rejoins the other Europeans to discuss Napoleon, theories of war, and women.

Analysis

Fremantle lives for the joy of battle, knightly honor, and daring exploits, as seen in this quote: "There was even an air of regret at the table, a sense of seize the day, as if these bright moments of good fellowship before battle were numbered, that the war would soon be over, and all this would end, and we would all go back to the duller pursuits of peace." He experiences a momentary sliver of reality when he sees Hood and realizes that he might not see him again alive. But the thought is lost amid the excitement of coming battle and visions of glory.

Fremantle's assessment of Southerners is that in spite of some odd and earthy quirks, they are Englishmen at heart. They tried the democratic experiment, realize it has failed, and will be back under the Queen soon. The slavery part he finds distasteful, but is certain they will dispose of that soon enough. The Southerners will be the victors in this war because they are Englishmen. In fact, Fremantle believes the cause of the war is that the South is like Europe, and the North is not.

Fremantle sees the North as this rabble of huge cities, many nationalities, and many religions. Their only aristocracy is wealth, they have no breeding, and they hate the "Old Country." But Southerners — they are the Old Country. His theory takes a blow when he thinks Longstreet is English and finds out Longstreet's really Dutch from New Jersey. But Fremantle shrugs it off. After all, Longstreet's not a Virginian, and even Fremantle senses that to most of the men in camp, the South is Virginia.

The Southerners' attitude toward the North shows up in the breakfast discussion laced with disdain for the Yankees, and the sarcastic response to Fremantle's question about why there are no defenses in case Meade attacks. It also shows in Fremantle's assessment of how the North is different from the South. Aside from Lee and Longstreet, who have a respect for some of the men they will fight because they commanded some of them, most of the Southerners feel nothing but contempt for the Union Army.

The elements of music and the rebel yell surface again. The bands in camp play lively polkas to rouse the men for the fight, then switch to marches as the battle begins. And Fremantle and Ross note the bone-chilling rebel yell and speculate if it came from the Indians.

Glossary

C'est le sanglant appel de Mars a reference to the bloody, screaming call of battle, referring to Mars, the god of war in Roman mythology.

Napoleons and Parrots types of cannons.

theories of Jomini Swiss writer Antoine-Henri Jomini who was one of the three major war theorists that emerged after the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars.

Bloody George George III, King of England during the American Revolution.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

General Lee's flexibility in battle is demonstrated by what characteristic?




Quiz