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The Killer Angels

Michael Shaara

Character List

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

General Robert E. Lee  -  Confederacy. The Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, or Confederate army. At the age of fifty-seven, Lee has become one of the most famous—and most revered—men in the South. He has led his army through a string of victories. At the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee is having heart trouble, and he eventually dies of heart disease in 1870. In his foreword, Shaara writes that Lee is “a man in control. He does not lose his temper nor his faith. He believes absolutely in God. He loves Virginia above all, the mystic dirt of home. He is the most beloved man in either army.”

Read an in-depth analysis of General Robert E. Lee.

General James Longstreet -  Confederacy. Lee’s second in command and, since the death of “Stonewall” Jackson, his most important general. At forty-two, Longstreet is full-bearded, slow talking, and crude. He is aware of the new nature of warfare, and he knows that military tactics have to change with new technology. He is very stubborn, but he has great respect for Robert E. Lee, and ultimately he defers to his commander’s judgment, though not without a good deal of argument. All three of his children were killed by a fever during the winter before the Battle of Gettysburg. This loss has sunk the usually jovial Longstreet into a depression that is severe at times.

Read an in-depth analysis of General James Longstreet.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain -  Union. Thirty-four years old, Chamberlain has left his home in Maine and a comfortable professorship at Bowdoin College to come to war. He is the colonel of the Twentieth Maine Infantry regiment. He was an excellent student at school, speaks seven languages, and has a lovely singing voice, but all his life he has wanted to be a soldier. He lied to Bowdoin and told them he was going on sabbatical to France because they would not let him go to war. He is an intellectual, given to brooding and poetic thoughts.
General John Buford  -  Union. A cavalry commander, Buford comes from the great plains of the Midwest, and dislikes the tame and political East. He has an eye for finding the best ground on a battlefield. He has been given two brigades and ordered to follow the movements of the Confederate army.
Arthur Fremantle  -  An Englishman sent to observe the Confederate army in action. Many people in the Confederacy hold out hope that England will come to their aid, since the South still bears many of the traditional aspects of English society, particularly in its class structure. But realists like Lee and Longstreet know that England will never help the Confederacy as long as it endorses slavery. Fremantle is tall and thin and reminds Longstreet of Ichabod Crane. Fremantle is dismayed by the rough manners of many of the soldiers, but he is also amazed at how much the Southerners are like Englishmen. He especially admires Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet. He is very enthusiastic about the battles, but he rarely has any idea of what is really going on.
General George Pickett  -  Confederacy. Perfumed, with bouncing curly hair, George Pickett is a true dandy. Last in his class at West Point, Pickett has nonetheless risen to the rank of major general, and he leads an entire division. He is in love with a girl half his age and, in his typical melodramatic style, he has sworn to her that he would never drink. His division has not seen action in battle yet, and he longs for a chance to prove himself and his men.
General J. E. B. Stuart -  Confederacy. Stuart is the cavalry leader assigned by Lee to track the movements of the Union army. A fun-loving publicity hound, Stuart is off joyriding for the first two days of the battle, and it is his negligence that causes the Confederate army to lose track of the Union troops in the first place. Because of Stuart’s absence, during the first two days the Confederates never know where the Union troops are or what the surrounding area looks like.
Thomas Chamberlain  -  Union. Joshua’s brother and aide, also in the Twentieth Maine. Not as smart or as brooding as his brother, Tom is more social, funnier, and more easygoing. While he has been a calming presence to his brother, he soon becomes a liability when Joshua Chamberlain realizes that he might, at some point, order his brother to his death.
General Lew Armistead  -  Confederacy. At forty-six, Armistead is a widower, and his wife’s death constantly causes him sorrow. A general serving in Pickett’s division, Armistead knows that his old friend, Winfield Hancock, is on the other side of the war, serving as a general in the Union army. Armistead and Hancock will both be at the Battle of Gettysburg.
General Richard Ewell  -  Confederacy. Recently chosen to replace part of “Stonewall” Jackson’s command, Ewell has become unsure of himself after suffering an injury that cost him his leg. As Jackson’s replacement, Ewell has a great amount of responsibility, which is a source of concern to Lee. Lee is particularly troubled by the way that Ewell defers to Jubal Early.
General Jubal Early  -  Confederacy. A young, ambitious, and cold general. Like Ewell, he has been given a part of Jackson’s old command. He accepts this responsibility easily. He is capable and confident, but also pushy, particularly with Ewell. Though Ewell technically has the greater responsibility and the greater control, he defers to Early. Longstreet and Armistead despise Early.
Private Buster Kilrain -  Union. A former sergeant who was demoted to private for drunkenly assaulting a fellow officer. A big, stocky Irishman, Kilrain is getting old and knows he does not have many fights left in him. He becomes a friend and mentor to his colonel, Joshua Chamberlain.
General John Reynolds  -  Union. An intelligent infantry general who has a gift for positioning troops, Reynolds refuses to become the commander of the Union army, a position that is then given to George Meade. Reynolds is killed shortly after the action begins at Gettysburg.
General George Meade  -  Union. Recently appointed commander of the Union armies, Meade arrives a bit late to the Battle of Gettysburg. Cautious but intelligent, he makes only a brief appearance in The Killer Angels.
Sorrel  -  Confederate. An aide to Longstreet. Sorrel is a competent but not very sociable man.
General John Hood  -  Confederate. A major general under Longstreet’s command, Hood is Longstreet’s most competent soldier. Like Longstreet, he prefers defensive strategies, and he understands that the nature of war is changing.
General Isaac Trimble  -  Confederate. An old general who participates in Pickett’s Charge.
General Winfield Scott Hancock  -  Union. A competent, important general of the Union army, who directs much of the action at Gettysburg. He is an old friend of Confederate General Lew Armistead, who fights on the other side at Gettysburg.
General Ambrose Powell Hill -  Confederate. A general whose troops do much of the fighting on the first day of the battle, first with Union General John Buford’s cavalry, then John Reynolds’s infantry.

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by lcstrasser, October 08, 2013

Possible on doing something is better than nothing. Because the Calvary scout did not do his job the rest of the confederate side was blind to the upcoming battle. Also the general whom was ordered to attack the union on top of the hill failed to do so which also contributed to the failure of the confederates in this battle.

other Note: chamberlain is very tactically well rounded and was smart enough to win the battle defensively, general lee's over aggressiveness ended up being his downfall.

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