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Chamberlain is the main Union voice in the novel. He provides
a different view of the war than that of Lee or Longstreet, since
as a colonel, he is significantly lower in rank than they. But Chamberlain
is one of the most interesting Union soldiers of the Civil War,
and certainly one of the most popular. Chamberlain led a fascinating
life. He was a professor at Bowdoin College at the time of the war,
left the college to fight, and distinguished himself as an excellent
soldier by the end of the war. It was Chamberlain who accepted the
surrender of the Confederate forces at Appomattox. The novel tries
to strike a delicate balance between describing Chamberlain as a
college professor and as a soldier. Compared to many of his fellow
soldiers, he is quite educated and thoughtful. For many, he is the
easiest character with which to identify, since he is not only a
citizen-turned-soldier, but is also lower ranked than the
generals. Chamberlain is the idealized citizen-soldier, the man
who chooses to forsake his comfortable job for his country and lives
to become a renowned soldier.
Throughout the novel, Chamberlain constantly evaluates
everything he sees, often poetically. He analyzes what he sees around
him, and he has a much closer, more hands-on experience with the
battle than many of Shaara’s other characters. He is also in a difficult
position because his brother, Tom, is one of his aides. Chamberlain
realizes during the novel that he may be required to order Tom into harm’s
way, perhaps even to his death. Chamberlain is the soldier with
the soul of a poet, and he provides the novel with some of its best
and most insightful analysis of the feelings and motivations of Union
soldiers during the Civil War.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Killer Angels!