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The Killer Angels: an Inside Look at the Battle of Gettysburg

The Killer Angels: An Inside Look at the Battle of Gettysburg The Killer Angels written by Michael Shaara, is a historical fiction novel that describes in great detail the events that took place during the battle of Gettysburg. In the forward we are given an in depth view of each of the main characters and key figures of the battle. For instance, we are told that that General Robert Edward Lee is an honest man with no vices who does not believe in slavery, he is also suffering from heart trouble.

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He leads the confederate army.

And then we have Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who has a brother, Thomas, who serves in the Twentieth Maine as an aide to his brother. The story begins on June 29th, 1863 with the introduction of a spy for the Confederate army. He comes to General Longstreet with information about the whereabouts of the Union army, who to Longstreet’s surprise, are nearby. This causes the Confederate army to reposition at Gettysburg. The battle begins on July 1st when the Confederates attack some of the Union army in the hills nearby Gettysburg.

General Lee believes that the Confederates should be able to win this battle and engages the union armies utilizing varying tactics, he attacks the Union army’s left and right flanks and then attempts to divide they’re central strength to win the battle that way. But this method fails, the Union Army gained the upper hand when during the first day of battle they retreated and secured most of the higher ground giving them a fatal advantage. The story mainly follows the Confederates and General Lee as the protagonist, and it tells us what went wrong for them during this battle.

We are given a detailed depiction of war tactics used during this time, and how the Union Army was able to win the battle by taking a defensive position on the higher hills of Gettysburg. The fact that the Union Army had higher ground coincides with the weapons that were utilized by both armies. Because the key losses that occurred took place when Chamberlain’s men ran out of ammunition and were successful only by charging their enemy with bayonets and when Pickett’s men attempted to charge the center strength of the Union army, I would say that momentum and visibility were key factors in a battle with the weapons that were available to them.

It is also apparent that Lee’s heart problems seem to be affecting his decision- making throughout the story. Perhaps he has become more foolhardy with his own mortality so tangible. The amount of death and losses that the Confederates suffer seem to echo the thoughts he has of himself. It becomes quite apparent that the Confederate army will fail after General Longstreet’s continual insistence that they should swing southeast towards Washington, D. C. and take a defensive position.

If General Lee had heeded Longstreet’s advice, perhaps the Confederate Army could have won the Civil War. In conclusion, The Killer Angels is a book that uses great detail and epic dialogue to describe the events that took place at the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It gives us a closer look at the tactics and strategies utilized by our forefathers during that time period and not only allows us a glimpse of the personalities of some of the key leaders of the Civil War but shows us how these personalities influenced this battle.