The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara Essay

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In a letter to the reader, Michael Shaara states that his purpose is similar to Stephen Crane's in The Red Badge of Courage. He wishes to display history not as cold facts, but rather in such a way that the reader can live the history. This is to be accomplished through extensive detail of the emotions of the men, the atmosphere of the battle, and strategies of the commanding officers. Accepting this as Shaara's intent, it can be justifiably stated that he succeeds in his objective. The Killer Angels does not merely relate what assaults and defenses where made by which colonels and generals. Instead, the book delves into the emotions of the major figures of the battle and what they endured physically and mentally as they planned for…show more content…
This is most evident in the third day, when Shaara alternates between Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the Union and James Longstreet of the Confederacy with one section focusing on Lewis Armistead. Chamberlain and Longstreet are the two major opposing officers, and we see the events from both perspectives. During Pickett's charge from Longstreet's view, it is conceivable to imagine that the Union forces are easily routing the charging Confederates. However, when the book looks at Chamberlain's side, we see that the Union forces are being hit fairly hard by Confederate artillery. By showing us the different characters' viewpoints, Shaara also shows us their personal feelings. For example, we learn of the deep friendship between Armistead and the Union Major General Winfield Scott Hancock. This changes the reader's view of Armistead's role in Pickett's charge. There is now a poignant touch of pathos in seeing Armistead falter with emotion and die at the top of the hill with apologies to Hancock. When the readers can look at the characters of history as human, it becomes easier to grasp not only what they have done, but also why they have done so. This is invaluable to understanding history. Shaara conveys the overall emotion of the armies as well as the personal feelings of the major characters. In one scene, Pickett's men are discussing what the war is being fought over with Fremantle. Later, Tom Chamberlain relates an incident with

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