The Killer Angels By Michael Shaara Summary and Analysis Wednesday, July 1, 1863 - 4. Chamberlain

Summary

Chamberlain's group is moving west through the heat. Chamberlain is still sick from heat stroke, and though he wants to march with his men, Color Sergeant Tozier tells Chamberlain to get back on his horse and act like an officer. They don't want another new commander. Chamberlain is surprised by his men's looks of concern for him.

Bands play as they march. Tom Chamberlain and a man from the 2nd Maine discuss many things, including the unit's special bugle call, and how the smallpox inoculations kept the 20th Maine from fighting at Chancellorsville.

Chamberlain reflects on a number of things: the nature of marching itself, army life, the battle at Fredericksburg, winter in Maine, and home. He thinks of his mother who wanted him to be a preacher, and his stern father who showed so much pride when Chamberlain had given an oration at school on Man, the Killer Angel.

Colonel Strong Vincent, Chamberlain's brigade commander, comes by. Vincent tells Chamberlain about the new brigade colors, orders them to march through the night to Gettysburg, and relates rumors about the fighting that day. There is also a rumor that General McClellan is in charge again, something the men want desperately to believe. They finally reach Gettysburg about midnight.

Analysis

The main thing to note in this chapter is the further characterization of Chamberlain. He is an unusual man, a college professor turned regiment commander, and he views the war and the people around him much differently than a West Point graduate would. He is more a philosopher, and it shows in the things he thinks about.

Chamberlain ponders the army life; for all its inconvenience and discomforts, he loves it. He also thinks about the Battle of Fredericksburg, where his group was unable to retreat in the dark, pinned down near the stone wall all night, using dead bodies to shelter them from enemy fire.

He thinks of his father — the silent, hard-working, instinctive man — and remembers a conversation from his boyhood. Chamberlain told his father of a line from Shakespeare about man being an angel, and his father responded that man must be a murdering one. It inspired Chamberlain to deliver an oration at school on Man, the Killer Angel. His father was so proud, something he rarely showed, and Chamberlain wonders now how proud his father might be, given Chamberlain's current role in the war. He also reflects on "home," and that is home anywhere you are. Any one place is just dirt and rock. Home is within.

As they march and Chamberlain sees rows of dead Confederates from a battle when Stuart came through, he wonders, "Would the people here let the buzzards have them?" Chamberlain has a basic, unbiased concern for the welfare and rights of all individuals, not just Yankees.

He also cares for his men. Chamberlain took command of the 20th Maine from the previous commander, Ames, who was a tough man unconcerned about love. But Ames' advice stuck with Chamberlain: "You must care for your men's welfare. You must show physical courage." Chamberlain's approach toward his men, even the mutineers, is one of gentle nurturance for their basic needs. At the end of the chapter, he assesses his performance and decides that today he's cared for their welfare. Tomorrow he'd see about courage.A minor theme touched on in the chapter involves interactions within the Union Army. At the lower unit level, strong loyalty exists, as seen in the care Chamberlain's men show him. Toward the high-level leadership, a lack of trust dominates. And between individual units, much disdain exists. Respect for a fighting unit was not guaranteed because you were on the same side. The element of disease and how it ravaged troops shows up in the discussion about inoculations, and Shaara continues with strong descriptive elements, such as portraying a dead body in battle as "a wet leg of blood."

Glossary

Butterfield's Lullaby the bugle call written by General Dan Butterfield and meant for his unit. This tune later become known as "Taps."

Battle of Fredericksburg took place Dec. 12, 1862. Fredericksburg was a fiasco for the Union, which had to attack uphill. The Union soldiers spent the night pinned down under fire, incurring heavy losses.

Chancellorsville the battle took place on May 1 to 3, 1863. Lee's army, outnumbered 2 to 1, won a major victory over General Hooker and the Union Army. Lee, again, displayed his courage by flaunting military rules and splitting his army, not once, but twice as he manuevered around Hooker to defeat him.

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