The Killer Angels
Posted On March 2, 2017
The Killer Angels
January 12, 2012
In the book ???The Killer Angels??? is General James Longstreet wrong to obey General Lee??™s orders, even though he disagrees I believe the answers is no because if a commanding officer gives an order, unless it is illegal by law, one must follow it. What this shows is obedience, even though he really did not want to go ahead with the attack. He is very admirable because he did what was correct for his situation. General Longstreet also wanted to swing around behind the Union army and block them off from Washington, D.C., but he did not try to get the other generals to help him change General Lee??™s mind. General Longstreet knew that the others would do anything for their beloved, General Lee. He also knew not to try to take command from General Lee, so he just went along with him and hoped he would change his mind about the attack. But General Lee refused to change his mind and the three day war began!
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Imagine being stuck in a place where your only alternatives are to betray yourself or to die. Face it, being stuck in any situation can be one of the worst feelings in the world. You lose all sense of freedom while in confinement, with no way out. In The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, General James Longstreet of the Confederate Army was faced with this situation during the battle of Gettysburg, displaying much courage in doing what he knew was right, being obedient.
The South had finally advanced into northern territory, and they were anxiously awaiting a fight that would finally end the war. They got their battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. On July 1, 1863, fighting broke out between Gen. Harry Heths, a Southern Generals, corps and Gen. John Bufords army from the North. After the days fighting, Buford had held off Heths attack and managed to take the high ground around the town. On July 2, Gen. Robert E. Lee, commanding officer of the Confederate army, gave orders to his “right-hand man,” Gen. James Longstreet, to advance and capture the high ground, hoping to wipe out the Union army and open the wat to Washington D.C. Gen. Longstreet, however, disagreed with the plan. Gen. Longstreets predicament was this: the Union army had gained the high ground, a significant military advantage, and there was no possible way to get them out. Worse yet, however, was his respect for General Lee. “Longstreet sat alone, a forbidding figure. He was thinking: Lee has made up his mind; theres nothing you can do. Well. Then there will be a scrap. He took a deep breath” (181). Gen. Longstreet knew that once Lee made up his mind, there was no way of stopping him. The men would do anything for their beloved general, including an attempt at the impossible, even if suicidal. There was nothing left to do but go along and hope the man would change his mind later.
Gen. Longstreet courteously tried to explain to Gen. Lee that a direct charge at the hill would be detrimental to the physical strength and morale. Gen. Lee refused to budge from his stance. What one must understand is that this was the military: If a commanding officer gives an order, unless it is illegal by law, one must follow it. Gen. Lee was a very wise man, and he had been right time after time. Could he be right again Most likely. After all, they were all fighting for a common goal, victory over the tyrannical North. Gen. Longstreet could have complained to everyone about what a fool Gen. Lee was, he could have violated direct orders to charge and aborted the mission, or he could do the correct thing and obey Gen. Lee. Wisely, Gen. Longstreet went along with Gen. Lees plan. On July 2, the attack of the hill was not successful, they failed to capture the hill. Ironically, Gen. Longstreet was blamed for the failure of the attack, although the failed attack was Gen. Lees idea. On July 3, Gen. Lee once again summoned Gen. Longstreet for a conference. Once again, Gen. Longstreet expressed his opposing views in a calm, courteous manner. Upon hearing it, “Lee turned, frowned; the dark eyes flared for a moment. But he said nothing. Longstreet thought: I do not want to hurt this man” (286). This once again shows the respect that Gen. Longstreet has for Gen. Lees authority as a leader, as well as his feelings as a human. Finally, Gen. Longstreet once again saw that it was pointless to argue. He gave in to Gen. Lees wishes. Even to the moment of decision, Gen. Longstreet still had the chance to retreat, but “Longstreet said nothing, staring at him, staring, and Armistead (a Southern General) felt an eerie turning, like a sickness, watching Longstreets face, and then he saw that General Longstreet was crying. He moved closer. The General was crying. Something he never saw or ever expected to see, and the tears came to Armisteads eyes as he watched, saw Pickett beginning to lift his hands, holding out the note, asking again, and then Longstreet took a deep breath, his shoulders lifted, and then he nodded, dropping his head…” (319). What this shows is obedience, even though he really did not want to go ahead with the attack. He is very admirable because he did what was correct for his situation.
Although what General Longstreet did may have been strategically wrong, it was not his decision. It turned out that his plan of retreat would probably have been better, but that is only because we have the luxury of being able to look back and analyze past events. What if General Lee had been right General Longstreet would probably be put as the Gen. Lees successor and he would continue on to further glory. However, they lost the war, and he was blamed. General Longstreet is a very admirable person and soldier for obeying General Lees orders even though he knew that agreement wasnt what he wanted to do.
General James “Pete” Longstreet– a symbol of wisdom and conservatism in the Confederate Army. In Micheal Shaaras The Killer Angels, Longstreet is one of the few high ranking officers not from Virginia. He has three children up until the Civil War when all three of them die from fever the winter before Gettysburg. It seems as if part of him dies when his children die, because he no longer partakes in games like poker which once lured him. Longstreet is second in command to General Robert Lee. The two generals, Lee and Longstreet, come into conflict about strategy because the two are very different. Longstreet uses defensive strategies unlike Lee and the rest of the Confederate Army which utilizes an all out Napoleaonic attack on the North, as witnessed by Longstreet: “there??™s no strategy to this bloody war. What it is is old Napoleon and a hell of a lot of chivalry. That??™s all it is” (251). General James Longstreet, with his defensive strategies, tries to take warfare to a new level at Gettysburg, but under the scrutiny of General Robert Lee, his attempts die, and with it a number of good and honest men that he considers family.
General Longstreet is General Lee??™s right-hand man. Lee sometimes refers to him as his “old war horse,”(XVII) meaning that Longstreet is dependable when Lee really needs him to be. Lee counts on him to tell the honest truth, even though Lee may not want to hear it at the time. However, Lee also knows Longstreet is a very stubborn man, and if there is a disagreement, it will be difficult to persuade Longstreet to think in terms of Lee: “He wanted no argument now. He had been down this road before, and Longstreet was immovable, and there was no point in argument. . .”(84). Longstreet, a very knowledgeable man, advises defensive strategies during the Battle of Gettysburg. However, all of his suggestions are shot down. After the first day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, Longstreet suggests disengaging and cutting the Union army off from the rear. Longstreet does not want to risk an all-out attack, which Lee favors, because he knows the north occupies high ground, a tremendous advantage, and a large amount of lives would be lost if Lee??™s plan is carried out. This is the reason Longstreet does not want to attack because he is “under the impression that it would be our strategy to conduct a defensive campaign, wherever possible, in order to keep this army intact” (111). However, the army receives heavy casualties during the second day at Gettysburg when they try to attack the heavily fortified Union position.
On the third day, Longstreet again tries to persuade General Lee of using a defensive strategy by saying, “Sir, I??™ve found a way south that seems promising” (285). Lee does not listen to Longstreet : “General, the enemy is there and there??™s where I??™m going to strike him” (285). Lee??™s tactic is to attack the center of the Union line, hoping that the North has fortified the flanks overnight, since previous attacks took place there, leaving the center weak and vulnerable. Lee is dead wrong. The south loses a lot of good men on the third day of Gettysburg.
Longstreet hates to see his men go down like flies and says to Fremantle, “I appreciate honor and bravery and courage . . . but 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. God knows it??™s easy to die. Anybody can die” (133). Some of the fellow officers, such as John Hood, agree with Longstreet??™s proposals but their input is not really valued. Once the army is out on the field nothing can be done to change the orders of Lee or else the whole master plan would be ruined. The main reason why Longstreet has a defensive standpoint to the war is because he is out on the battle field, participating, and watching the terrors of war, men suffering and men dying. Lee, however, does not participate in the battles, so it is easy for him to come up with a plan knowing that many soldiers will die because he is not involved.
Longstreet is a very sensitive man. Having lost all of his children from illness, Longstreet knows what it is like to lose somebody who is loved. Longstreet remembers the deaths of his children and the “sweet faces: moment of enormous pain” (127). This image continually haunts him throughout the war. In relation to Longstreet??™s children, his children at the present time are his soldiers. He knows that for every soldier out there, someone is going to miss them greatly if they die in the war, and he does not want to create a life of mourning for the fallen soldier. On the third day of the battle, Lee orders a full out attack on the Union army down the middle of Cemetery Hill. Lee hopes to split the army in two. However, Longstreet knows that Lee??™s plan is going to be a disaster because the Union troops will pick off the waves of men as they walk in the open for a mile. Longstreet can only protest, knowing that nothing will be done. When the time comes to start the attack, “Longstreet was crying” (319). There is an overwhelming sense of emotion knowing that it could be the last time a friend is seen alive because Longstreet knows that there is going to be tremendous casualties, more than the Confederate army has ever seen. Longstreet watches helplessly from a “rail fence, hugging his chest with both arms” (330) and “the neat military lines beginning to come apart as they crossed the road and no order beyond that but black struggling clots and a few flags in the smoke, tilting like sails above the white sea, going down one by one” (330). Longstreet is lost in a world of his own as he contemplates his actions, knowing many good men will die or are already dead.
The Battle of Gettysburg was a turning point in the Civil War. The north gained momentum from this battle and used it until the south surrendered at Appomattox two years later. Longstreet feels, to his dying day, that what General Lee did was wrong and he should have used a more defensive tactic during the Battle of Gettysburg. However, all Longstreet can do in the war is make suggestions because General Lee is the commander in chief. Longstreet is a man of honor whose ideas could have helped the Confederate Army be victorious at Gettysburg, but in the end is ignored by General Lee.
The dictionary defines the word noble as dignified, decent, righteous, and splendid. In the quote by Churchill he describes the civil war as being the noblest of conflicts, but the only noble thing about it was the fight against slavery. The war was not just fought over slavery, but also regionalism, and for power. Right before the war every president except for Adams was from the South, but after the South started to loose power they decided to separate. So the war was fought not only for freedom of slavery, but also greed and power. The war was also not very noble because men were basically fighting their friends and sometimes even brothers. This whole issue of war broke up families and relationships that could never be mended again. Yet even though the war as a whole was fought for these reasons the men who fought in it had many different reasons and many were of noble causes. There were quite a lot of people during that war that had many different beliefs for what they fought for, and what they felt about the military.
Robert E. Lee was one of the most predominant leaders of the Confederate army. He never lost a battle in the war until the battle of Gettysburg, which he paid for dearly. Now Lee was a very devote man of God. He always placed everything in the hands of God. “Gods will. My trust in Thee. Oh Lord, bless You and thank You.” (P. 107) God was ultimately in control of everything. Lee fought did not fight for anything that started the conflict. “So it was no cause and no country he fought for, no ideal and no justice.” (p .263) He fought for the thing he loved most people. “He fought for his people, for the children and the kin, and not even the land… the land was not even worth the war the people were.” (p .263) Lee would agree with Churchills statement because he knew for himself, Lee fought nobly because he fought for the people; the things that matter.
Right under Lee was Longstreet one of Lees right hand men, but after the loss at Gettysburg Longstreet began to hate Lee. Now Longstreet was a very practical man. He figured that do have courage and no intelligence is stupid. “Honour without intelligence is a disaster.” (p. 133) Longstreet most likely fought for states rights because he became an ambassador. Longstreet would agree because he fought for something just and moral.
Fremantle a British soldier was sent to observe the war for England on the confederate side. Fremantle being the some what arrogant and naive British that he is believes that the war is fought over the return to the old ways of the English. “But the point is they do it all exactly as we do in Europe. And the North does not.” (p. 164) He would feel the war is very noble because it is supporting going back to old ways of the British.
Chamberlain, a northerner, although not being extremely popular as Lee had been was still a very predominant man during the war. Chamberlain fought for the freedom of slaves. “But were here for something new. I dont …this hasnt happened much in the history of the world. Were an army going out to set other men free.” (p. 30) He felt that in order to be a good officer he must love his men and show courage, he also would try to be as level with them as possible. He was a very kind and understanding man. He would agree with Churchill because to him the war was to free men from bondage and give them a chance in life like everyone else.
Buford another Yankee was a very good strategist. He had a way for finding good land to fight on. Buford fought for his state, Pennsylvania. He saved the war because of his ability to choose good ground. He would have thought that the war was a noble cause because he was fighting for the cause of many of the Union officers.
Kilrain one of Chamberlains close men was a very fiery fighter. He only reason for fighting in the war was to see how much better he was than other people. “What I am fighting for is the right to prove I am a better man than many.” (p. 178) He didnt have any other reason not even for the slaves. Kilrain did not respect the blacks at all and almost hated them. He would have disagreed with Churchills statement because he was fighting for no cause what so ever it was just to prove that he was better.
Many officers during the war followed under the rules that you must care for your mens welfare, show physical courage and in order to be a good officer you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love. Chamberlain cared for his mens welfare because understood them. When he received a bunch of men who he was suppose to kill if they didnt obey, but Chamberlain said he never would kill them, but instead he took them fed them and gave them a choice. (p. 30) All the Southern generals such as Armistead, Pickett, Lee, and Longstreet at Picketts Charge had to show great courage because they knew many people would die, but they had to show courage so that the men would follow and not loose heart. These same men also were good officers because they had to be willing to kill what you love. They know that many men will die in any battle, but they had to have the courage to send them to their death, in order to accomplish things. The officers on both sides had to show all these attributes because that is what made them great.