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

Summary

The battle begins, seen from Buford's side. The attack comes at dawn near Seminary Ridge but is short-lived. The Rebels try again and again, but Buford's men repel them. Buford expects his opposing commander will probe his line to define his position and strength, but that doesn't happen. They try to flank Buford's men by coming around through an unfinished railroad trench, but Buford's men hold.

There is a quiet period as the Rebels regroup. Buford realizes that by the afternoon, all of the Army of Northern Virginia will be there and hit them with everything they've got. Buford rearranges the placement of his men to make it look like he has more men than he does, trying to buy time for Reynolds and the Union infantry to get to Gettysburg.

Finally, the attack starts. Buford stays down in the line, adjusting his men and watching. They repulse Rebel breakthroughs, though the Union line is wavering. Back in the seminary cupola, Buford sees thousands of Rebel troops coming from the west, death and destruction on the field in front of him, and to the rear — Reynolds riding alone up the road.

Reynolds assesses things, immediately sees the need for high ground and sees what Buford has achieved. Reynolds hurries his men into place, relieving Buford and his men. The enemy is unaware fresh troops are about to hit them. Reynolds sends messengers to Meade and his commanders and then warns civilians to stay clear. The attack starts, and within minutes, Reynolds is dead on the ground.

Analysis

As the chapter opens, you see Buford's instinctiveness and experience as a commander. He can't see his enemy or the battle, but he can tell from the silences and the sounds where they are, what they're doing, and how many of them are attacking. From his own experience, Buford knows what his opposing commander should be doing next and chuckles when his opponent fails, thus giving Buford the advantage.

Buford is also able to "read" a situation well. He knows who's out in front of him now, and who will be coming soon enough. This ability allows him to plan his strategy so as to trick his enemy, use his own men to the best advantage, and buy as much time as possible. Buford's quick thinking and sharp abilities most likely saved the high ground for the infantry arriving later.

The theme of knowing your opponent is reinforced in this chapter. The opposing commanders are not unknowns. Buford knows whom he is dealing with and vice versa. This is a war of brothers and friends, not of faceless enemies.

The Rebel yell is introduced here and appears many times in the book during the battle scenes. It is a psychological tool first used by Stonewall Jackson at Bull Run. It is meant to terrify the enemy and whip the attacking Rebels into a frenzy so they are unstoppable in their attack.

Glossary

flank/flanking to pass around the side of an enemy unit so as to attack behind the enemy's front line.

The Black Hats, Simon Cutler's Iron Brigade this reference is incorrect. The Black Hats or Iron Brigade was the First Brigade of I Corps' First Division. It was actually commanded by Brigadier General Solomon Meredith. Simon Cutler was most likely Lysander Cutler, who commanded that division's 2nd Brigade.

6th Wisconsin regiment that was part of the Iron Brigade and commanded by Major Rufus Dawes.

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