The Killer Angels By Michael Shaara Summary and Analysis Thursday, July 2, 1863 - 6. Lee

Summary

Lee is working late into the night, sitting in a rocking chair to minimize the chest pain. The following day will be Independence Day, and Lee wonders if it is an omen for today's coming battle, a message from God. He doesn't even want to dream on the possibility of it being a Southern Independence Day.

Lee sits alone with his horse and ponders the choice of moving to better ground or staying here to fight to the end. He thinks about the choices he has made in his life. He struggles with what to do next. His thoughts are interrupted by Stuart's arrival.

Lee chastises Stuart with an icy voice, the father giving a hard lesson. He wants the spirit in the man saved, just reined in. Stuart responds with anger and insulted honor, offering to have a duel with the person questioning his actions and then offers to resign. Lee is hard and cuts him off, telling him there is no time for this display. But Lee is also melting. He feels pity as Stuart leaves and realizes Stuart will now be reckless to prove himself.

Venable, his aide, returns from visiting Ewell and reports that the camp is in confusion. Ewell couldn't get his corps into attack position until hours after Longstreet had started. Rodes never attacked, Early attacked at dusk, hours late, and then quit. Johnson managed to capture some trenches. Lee reflects on how Jackson would have handled this. He knows he can now only depend on Longstreet with Pickett's fresh Virginians.

Lee makes his most important decision quickly and doesn't think of the men who will die. He will attack with Longstreet and use Pickett's men to hit the middle of the Union line. It will be weak since the Union has reinforced the ends of its lines. He will send Stuart around to the rear of the Union line, to finish it off. With his plans made, Lee prays.

Analysis

Divine influence and power play a large role in Lee's life. In this chapter, Lee ponders whether God is sending an omen for battle since tomorrow is Independence Day. He makes his decisions after praying, knows the outcome is out of his hands, and releases it all to God.

Lee feels his only power is over men's spirits. He has manipulated his men throughout the book. He understands what makes his men tick. By providing what each man needs emotionally, Lee can draw out the response he needs for victory.

Lee's sole allegiance has always been Virginia and his decision to join the Confederacy stems from that. He fights, not for the land because land is not worth war, but for his people and family. In this regard, he is similar to Chamberlain, who feels that home is wherever you are, and people don't fight for dirt. They only fight for something that means something to them. But still, Lee is aware he's breaking an oath by invading the North. He knows he will pay in some way for that breach of honor, and he accepts that.

While Shaara portrays Lee as obsessed with only the option of staying to fight, Lee gives consideration to all possibilities here. This flexibility seems to contradict, at least somewhat, Shaara's portrayal of the man. He decides to stay and fight not out of narrow-mindedness, but because he has no guarantee of better ground elsewhere and because the effect on the men's morale to leave the enemy in control of the field would be bad. He realizes that their morale, pride, and emotions are their most potent weapons, and he cannot afford to damage that.

Stuart is like the adolescent who needs a stern father once in a while. He is angry at the questioning of his honor and wants revenge. Lee has the bigger picture in mind and basically tells Stuart to take it like a man and learn. At the same time, Lee knows Stuart will now be reckless to redeem himself. While he notes this is something to beware of, this recklessness is exactly the response Lee wants from Stuart. A crazed and furious Stuart will wreak havoc on the enemy tomorrow in his attempt to redeem himself in Lee's eyes.

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