The Killer Angels By Michael Shaara Summary and Analysis Wednesday, July 1, 1863 - 6. Lee

Summary

Lee heads north through town to see Ewell and find out why he did not attack Cemetery Hill that afternoon. In town, all of Lee's men are celebrating the day's "victory." With tears in their eyes, they watch him pass by.

Lee meets with Ewell, Early, and Rodes. He waits to hear what happened. Ewell is nervous, chatty, awkward. It is Early who supplies Lee with the condition of their forces and other details. Ewell defers to Early, something Lee does not miss. Rodes is silent as Early coolly states that they decided to wait for reinforcements and not take the hill. All agree the hill is now being reinforced as they speak and will be very hard to take. Lee feels Jackson's presence in the room, watching.

Ewell, led by Early, proposes that Longstreet handle the next major offensive, at the other end of the Union line. His forces have not been engaged. Longstreet could draw the enemy from Cemetery Hill, and then Early and Ewell can take it. Early derides Longstreet's defensive strategy of going south around the Union Army.

Lee reflects on Early, the man. Longstreet can't stand him. Lee ponders that, as well as their suggestions. His leaders have let him down. And the hill remains untaken. Lee leaves, pondering options. It is risky to withdraw so many men through the narrow mountain passes, and it is bad for morale to withdraw an army from the face of the enemy.

He returns to camp and dispatches one of Harry Gilmore's raiders, who is familiar with the Maryland area, to find Stuart and bring him back. He meets with an angry Trimble who feels Ewell botched it. Trimble emotionally asks for reassignment. Lee sends him off to rest for the time being.

Lee is worried and wants to see Longstreet, his War Horse, but Longstreet isn't around. Ewell comes by later, apologetic and eager to try again for Cemetery Hill. Lee is relieved, moved, nurturing. He sends the man off to rest and reflects on what losing a leg might do to a man's resolve to fight.

Lee's sleep is fitful because he is worried about Stuart and what to do. Saying a prayer, even for his dead opponent, Reynolds, Lee puts things out of his mind, leaves everything to God, and sleeps.

Analysis

Lee is frustrated with his leaders, but slow to comment or judge. He waits to hear their side and wants to give them every opportunity to succeed. He observes his commanders, their personalities, flaws, and strengths and reads the interactions between the men. He learns what makes his men tick so that he can use it to motivate them to the desired result — victory.

In spite of his frustration with Ewell, Lee reflects that Ewell is not a Jackson, and he can't be. He wonders if a man loses something when he loses a leg, even though a man's spirit is not in his leg or any other part. Yet Lee does not judge, acknowledging the wound has not happened to him and so he cannot understand. Instead, when Ewell returns later, apologetic and upbeat, looking to please Lee, Lee responds with nurturing and a recognition of what Ewell has managed to achieve. Lee lets Ewell know he realizes it's hard to be a new commander.

Lee's faith in God shows up, particularly at the end of the chapter. So much anxiety and so many questions crowd his mind. Yet he prays, turns it all over to God, and falls asleep.

The close relationships between enemy commanders are apparent as Lee thinks of the dead Union general, John Reynolds. He even prays for him. There is the respect for a worthy opponent, a fellow gentleman.

There is a glimpse of Lee's family relationships — his wife, "that troubled woman," and his wounded son.

The various personality conflicts of Lee's staff come through in this chapter. Early despises Longstreet and vice versa. Ewell is nervous and defers to Early. And none have the leadership skills of the legendary Jackson, whose loss continues to be felt as this battle progresses. His ghost haunts them.

The Lee/Longstreet strategy conflict comes up here. In a way, though Shaara is portraying Lee as obsessed with attacking, Longstreet is the dogmatic one. Longstreet has one strategy — take the defense. Lee continues to be confronted with problems, plans gone awry, commanders who don't fulfill missions, and he just keeps rolling with it. Lee takes what's there, not what he wishes for, and works with it. He rethinks it, makes new plans, looks for the new opportunity, and never loses faith. Lee is aware this battle may affect the outcome of the war. Longstreet shows no such creativity or flexibility.

Shaara's descriptive skills continue to be powerful: "Ewell had the look of a great-beaked hopping bird . . . his voice piped and squeaked like cracking eggshells . . . Ewell . . . was like a huge parrot, chortling." These words convey the image of an insecure commander more effectively than if Shaara just tells us that.

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