The Killer Angels By Michael Shaara Summary and Analysis Wednesday, July 1, 1863 - 1. Lee

Summary

In the early morning hours, Lee is struggling with chest pains and declining health. He has a strong sense of urgency in him to finish this war before his time, and that of the South, runs out. The attitudes of his men toward him show clearly. They view him with reverence and speak in hushed tones around him. Lee's aide, Taylor, comes through as arrogant and condescending, something Lee knows, but gracefully chooses to overlook.

There are momentary reflections of Jackson's death, and that others, such as Stuart, will die, too. Lee discusses the spy's news with Taylor, though Taylor airily discounts it. Lee decides to send a search party for Stuart if he does not show up by evening.

Taylor continues to update Lee on things: complaints from local people; Hill's lead division will go in to Gettysburg for shoes; Ewell is on his way; Hill discounts Pettigrew's claim that Union cavalry are at Gettysburg. Lee, though, questions this last one and knows that if Union infantry is coming, cavalry would be first. He repeats his orders with emphasis: The enemy is not to be engaged until his whole army is concentrated.

Lee meets with aides Marshall and Venable. Marshall wants to court-martial Stuart, and Venable wants Lee to speak to General Pender about a letter he received from his wife, who feels he will die as God's punishment for invading the North. Lee also meets with Longstreet to discuss strategy, and the two disagree on the course of action. Noting the foreign observers, Lee comments that there will be no help from those governments. They discuss their division leaders and disagree about what to do with the missing Stuart. Longstreet adds that his spy has confirmed the soldiers in Gettysburg are Union cavalry, not militia, something that disturbs Lee. Cavalry means Meade is coming, and fast. They are interrupted by the sounds of artillery. Lee rides off to see what's happening.

Analysis

You see firsthand Lee's heart problems and what he feels about his health. It is interesting to note that Shaara himself had heart problems.

Lee's basic gentleness and goodness show in how he treats his horse; his fairness in dealing with the local people's complaints; in his religiousness; in his concern about Stuart, and his faith that Stuart will not fail him. Lee's men react to those qualities with reverence, awe, and a willingness to do anything for him and excuse anything in him. Lee's gentleness even extends to irritating and condescending sorts, such as his aide, Walter Taylor.

The chapter also reveals the importance of the code of chivalry to many of the men of that time: Fremantle's eagerness for dashing saber battles and charges; Longstreet's mention of how Hill once challenged him to a duel; and Longstreet's observation that this is not an army but a gentleman's club.

The future is an element that comes up in this chapter. When Lee reflects on Stonewall Jackson's death, he also notes that they will all go, including Stuart, "like leaves from autumn trees." Lee is aware the war is coming at a high cost, and it will eventually claim all of them. Stuart will in fact be killed later in the war.

Shaara also does a more immediate foreshadowing of problems that will arise in this battle: Taylor's discounting of the spy's information on Union cavalry; Hill's belief that there is only militia; and Lee's concern that his new corps commanders, Hill and Ewell, will not live up to the standards Jackson set. Lee senses something coming and reinforces his orders not to engage the enemy. His unrest is dramatized when his heart beats irregularly as he learns more and more of what's happening ahead.

The letter from General Pender's wife shows concern over moral choices. She feels they are wrong to invade Pennsylvania and thus can no longer pray for her husband. Lee's aides also express their concern about the morality of the invasion, but Lee brushes it off with the thought "God protect us from our loving friends." He feels God's will and judgment will be made clear and that it is all in God's hands. However, even Lee ponders the fact that he's breaking the oath he took to protect the North, made when he was in the Union Army. He, too, struggles with the cloudiness of morality here.

With regards to morality and God, there is a touch of irony at the end of the chapter. Lee prays, "Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my fingers to fight and my hands to war." Lee believes deeply in God, a God who will even help him kill.

In the chapter, you glimpse Lee, the family man, and his personal relationships. He thinks of his wife — the tragic face of that frail, unhappy woman — and of his mother, with her stone strong face. He wishes the war would be over so that he can play with his grandchildren. The war is too late in his life for him to care about the fame. He would have enjoyed that more as a younger man.

Lee's relationship with Longstreet is portrayed more fully here. He takes joy in Longstreet's company, needs his support and strength, and depends on him. He notes Longstreet is not a "gentleman," and not a Virginian, but a strong steady, magnificent soldier, the rock of the army, and Lee is concerned for Longstreet's safety. This display of caring surprises but touches Longstreet, who is so in need of human emotion and fathering.

However, there are conflicts between the two men, and they come up whenever they discuss Jeb Stuart or battle strategy. Longstreet wants Stuart court-martialed. Lee feels docile men make bad soldiers and prefers to "reproach" Stuart instead. Longstreet correctly assesses that Lee could reproach Stuart and achieve results, but no one else could.

This shows Lee's power to manipulate his men because of their emotional connection to him as a father figure. Lee also understands that the kind of soldier he wants is one who rides the edge of the rulebook. Daring soldiers will sometimes err, but he needs that daring. So reproach rather than dismissal is the best tool in his mind. Lee is a psychological commander, motivating his men through their emotions, not the rulebook. However, there is no question Stuart pushes the limits and causes a fair amount of anger amongst the other officers. Even Lee's aides want to court-martial Stuart.

With regards to battle strategy, both Lee and Longstreet agree Union cavalry in Gettysburg means Meade is coming fast with infantry. And both know John Buford's reputation. Longstreet really wants to swing south around the Union Army and make the Union Army come to them. Lee is determined to fight here. Lee knows Longstreet's opinions about defensive warfare, wants Longstreet's honest answers, tolerates the differences of opinion, but will not yield in the final strategy decision. Lee will fight here.

Music is a strong theme throughout the book and starts to be noticed in this chapter. There are bands playing, giving an air of adventure as the Southern officers ride like plumed knights of old. The song, "Bonny Blue Flag," will appear again and again, usually in honor of Lee. The songs and their sentimental themes are a reminder of happier times, past friendships, and the splits between friends and brothers today.

Glossary

Maryland people refers to men under Confederate Major Harry Gilmore of Ewell's Corps (in this case, a group led by James D. Watters), who were from Maryland, knew the area, and were renowned for their raiding abilities in the area.

British/hollow square method of fighting off an attacking group by having the infantrymen form a square facing out on all sides with the officers in the center.

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