The Killer Angels
Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. One of the major conflicts in the novel is the disagreement between Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet on how they should fight the battle. What does each man think the army should do and why? What is significant about Longstreet’s plan?
2. The main characters on the Confederate side are all generals: Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, George Pickett, and Lew Armistead. But the main character on the Union side is a colonel, Joshua L. Chamberlain. Why would the author choose to use Chamberlain instead of the Union generals?
3. Why did the Confederate army lose the Battle of Gettysburg?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Is Longstreet wrong to obey Lee’s orders, even though he disagrees? Should he have tried to get the other generals to help him change Lee’s mind? Why doesn’t Longstreet try to take command from Lee?
2. Why is Chamberlain so bothered about having his brother serving with him in his regiment? Why would he want to order his brother out of the regiment?
3. Author Michael Shaara changes some of the historical facts about the battle—for instance, he puts Chamberlain in the middle of the Union line during Pickett’s Charge, when in fact Chamberlain was more than a mile south at the time. Why do you think Shaara does this? Do you think it is good or bad to change the facts in a historical novel?
4. Discuss how the issue of slavery is dealt with by the characters in The Killer Angels. Be sure to cite examples from both Confederate and Union characters.
5. Discuss death and the way it is dealt with by the characters in The Killer Angels.
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