The Killer Angels By Michael Shaara Summary and Analysis Wednesday, July 1, 1863 - 5. Longstreet

Summary

On the evening of the first day, Longstreet rides over the battlefield on his way back to his camp on the Cashtown Road. His mood is gloomy, and his staff stays clear of him. He reflects on the deaths of his children and on what he sees around him — the coming disaster for the army.

Fremantle, the British observer, joins him. He is cheery and light and amuses Longstreet. Fremantle discusses Lee and what a noble gentleman he is. Longstreet talks of several things: how the army is a Christian Army, the theory of evolution, Stonewall Jackson and his eccentricities, how Jackson knew how to fight, and how A.P. Hill does, too.

Fremantle notes that Virginians are different than other Southerners. Honor is everything to Virginians. The two men speak of Garnett, and Fremantle just accepts without question that Garnett will die to restore his honor. Longstreet returns to camp where as long as there is a campfire there is company, and as long as there is company, he can banish thoughts of his children.

Analysis

Shaara fleshes out Longstreet in greater detail through Longstreet's reaction to the battle and through his conversation with Fremantle. Longstreet's legendary black moods show up here, and his officers stay clear. Only the cheerful and oblivious Fremantle can break through the gloom.

Thoughts of his wife and his dead children break through, and Longstreet seeks the solace of campfire and company. He reflects on his dead son, on his wife who didn't even cry, and how he couldn't comfort her. It was the one strength he didn't have. The whole thing "pushed him out of his mind, insane, but no one knew it."

The Longstreet approaching Gettysburg is a much different man from the past, and he buries all his energy into his army. It is his only family now. His men are his boys, and Lee is his father. As to God, he didn't think God would do a thing like take his children. He doesn't believe there is a God listening out there.

Longstreet knows there is no talking Lee out of attacking the Union here. "Lee would attack in the morning . . . fixed and unturnable, a runaway horse." Longstreet smells disaster. It is his curse to see things clearly.

The themes of honor and of Virginians being special are also shown in this chapter. Fremantle sees traces of Englishmen in these Southerners, especially the Virginians, in spite of their earthiness and their crude habit of shaking hands. His thoughts on Lee show the attitudes of that aristocratic "gentlemen's" society: "Lee is a moralist, as are all true gentlemen. . . but he respects minor vice . . . in others." When Fremantle and Longstreet discuss the "new" theory of evolution, Fremantle's distaste shows through. He can't imagine a General Lee coming from an ape.

Honor also affects Garnett and his future actions. Disgraced by Jackson's accusations of cowardice and unable to clear his name because of Jackson's death, Garnett will most likely try to die in battle. This is the only way to restore his honor. Fremantle simply accepts it as the way things have to be. Longstreet argues in frustration that "the point of the war is not to show how brave you are and how you can die in a manly fashion, face to the enemy . . . it's easy to die." Longstreet feels a shrewd and defensive use of men and technology will win a war, and nothing is gained by honorable but wasteful deaths. However, in this group of Virginians and Englishmen, Longstreet's arguments fall on deaf ears.

In addition to being affected largely by honor, the Confederate Army is deeply religious. Fremantle notes that little whiskey can be found, and Longstreet confirms it is a mostly Christian army. Longstreet reflects on Jackson's religious fervor, noting he was a good Christian, and then ironically adds: "He knew how to hate." It is one of the many ironies of the war — Southern men fighting for their freedom but keeping slaves, devoutly Christian men killing with bloody and unforgiving zeal. It is the nature of this war.

The author uses razor sharp imagery to give a clear picture of the horrors of war: "Mounds of limbs like masses of fat, white spiders." The mounds of limbs are the amputated legs and arms of injured soldiers. Medicine at that time could do little for injured men other than to cut off limbs. The butchery at Gettysburg resulted in large piles of these limbs everywhere.

Glossary

hollow square battle formation used at that time where several ranks of soldiers are lined up on each side of a square formation, and the officers and unit colors are in the center.

Solferino in 1859, during the Italian battle for independence from Austria, a major battle took place outside the town of Solferino between the Austrians and the allied French and Italian forces. The battle was fierce and involved a number of brave and daring charges by the allied forces. These resulted in heavy casualties but a victory for the allied forces.

Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava during the Crimean war in 1854, the British 13th Light Dragoons were ordered to charge the well-defended Russian artillery. In spite of the hopelessness of the situation, the brigade charged over a mile under heavy fire and was destroyed. Their courage and honor was immortalized in Tennyson's poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

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




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