In The Killer Angels
by Michael Shaara, the author takes us on a journey with important army
generals on both sides of the Civil war, specifically during the Battle of
Gettysburg. The battle begins on Monday, June 29, 1863, and lasts to the third
day, Friday, July 3, 1863. On the first day, General James Longstreet is
greeted by Harrison, a confederate spy, who rode throughout the night to relay
information of how the Union army was quickly approaching. However, Longstreet
is blindsided with this information, as General J.E.B Stuart was in charge of
using his cavalry to track the Union army. As a result of this communication,
Longstreet decides to swing the Confederate army to the southeast, in order to
intercept with the Union at the small town of Gettysburg. When General Robert
E. Lee awakens to the news of Stuart’s absence, he curses, and begins to worry,
as he has no way of knowing the Union’s location without him. When Longstreet
mentions the idea of defensive warfare, he butts heads with Lee, who wants to
take out the Union army in one aggressive battle. The second section is
narrated by Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. He is left in charge of the
prisoners of war, also known as the Second Maine. As a result of not wanting to
murder the men, they are forced into joining his regiment, the Twentieth Maine,
where all but six men complied. The battle at Gettysburg begins after the
Confederate army attacks John Buford’s men, where he is able to hold them off
until General John Reynolds makes an appearance with his men. However, he is
soon found dead, and Lee arrives to the full swing of the battle. When
Chamberlain finally descends upon Gettysburg with his regiment, he places them
atop Little Round Top. On the third, and final, day of battle, Confederate
armies take a march on the Union, however, soon retreat after the Union uses
cannons and large artillery to blow massive casualties within the Confederate
army. Once George S. Pickett loses over 60% of his cavalry, the Confederates
make their final retreat, ending the bloody Battle of Gettysburg. Throughout
this book, Michael Shaara focuses on the high ranking officials of the
Confederate army, whereas, he uses lower rankings, such as Chamberlain and
Buford to tell the story of the Union’s fight, in order to appeal to his
audience and to focus on the actions of war at the Battle of Gettysburg.

            By using
the points of view of lower rankings such as Joshua Chamberlain and John Buford
within the Union army, Shaara is appealing to his audience by allowing the
reader into the most interesting aspects of the most well-known battle of the
Civil War. Whilst Union generals were more involved in the warfare tactics and
strategies, Brigadier General John Buford and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain were
in the middle of the fight, holding off Confederate armies and fighting
alongside their brigades. This tells a more interesting story of the Battle of
Gettysburg, therefore providing Shaara with more appeal to his audience. This
can even be seen in the numerous historical facts that were changed or altered
throughout the book. However, by allowing the audience insight from the high
rankings of the Confederate army, Shaara is opening his readers to the legacies
made by General Robert E. Lee and Lieutenant General James Longstreet. A number
of commanding generals within the Confederates grow to be the most well-known
of the Civil War, providing Shaara with an opportunity to profit and provide an
intellectually stimulating story to his readers. The Union commander, George
Meade, rarely makes an appearance throughout the book, as he does not even
appear until the night of July 1st, the first official day of battle. This
clearly shows his lack of involvement in the battle. Meade had a mere
reputation compared to that of General Robert E. Lee, and even his own Union
officer Joshua Chamberlain. Chamberlain showed his involvement where he
received the Confederate Surrender at Little Round Top. By telling the Union
story through the eyes of the lower ranking, instead of the higher rankings
like the way he portrayed the Confederates, Shaara is providing the reader with
a better understanding of why exactly the Union army pulled off the victory of
the Civil War.

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            Yet another
reason why Michael Shaara uses lower rankings as the eyes of the Union is to
better bring to life the actions of war. Union generals spent a majority of
their time directing defensive maneuvers, as Longstreet suggested to Lee a
number of times. This left many of the battles to the lower ranking officers,
such as Chamberlain and Buford. At the line of battle at the Battle of
Gettysburg, Chamberlain was the farthest soldier in the line, giving him no
room to retreat. This forced him into battle, a decision made by himself, as he
wanted to be the officer fighting alongside his troops. Buford did everything
he was capable of in order to hold back the troops at the battle that kicks off
the Battle of Gettysburg. This proved that the lower rankings of Union armies
were more involved with warfare than the higher generals. Shaara focuses more
on the generals of the Confederates because they were the ones involved in
every aspect of the war against the Union. The only real excuse as to why the
higher rankings make little to no appearance in the Union’s sections of the
books is due to their lack of actions. The heroics of the likes of Chamberlain
at Little round Top and Buford holding off the Confederates easily overshadow
the poor reputation of their commander, George Meade. Meade was a poor excuse
for a general, not coming close the credentials of Lee and even his
replacement, Ulysses S. Grant. The likes of Chamberlain and Buford provide
Shaara with a better view of the final battle of the Civil War.

            By the end
of the book, Michael Shaara does a great job of providing the reader with an
almost completely accurate view from the insides of the Civil War. Although
readers can not get insight to the the thoughts of high ranking officers, such
as George Meade, his reasoning behind it is completely understandable and it
provides an even more interesting point of view to the reader. Shaara knew
where his greatest strengths would lie, and that was with the lower officials
of the Union army and the higher rankings of the confederates. 

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