Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews December 6, 2023
November 29, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
See discount terms and conditions.
Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary
devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.
Loyalty is essential for an army to function
well, as soldiers have to trust their officers in order to follow
them successfully. The idea of loyalty appears many times in The
Killer Angels: Kilrain is loyal to Chamberlain; Goree and
Sorrel are loyal aides to Longstreet; and most important, the entire
Confederate army is fiercely loyal to Robert E. Lee.
But loyalty can be a double-edged sword, as
Longstreet learns. Despite his absolute certainty that Pickett’s
Charge will fail and result in the death of thousands of men, he
cannot bring himself to ask his fellow officers to turn against
Lee. He knows that the other officers and the other soldiers would
never follow him instead of Lee. But he cannot refuse to lead the
charge himself because he is bound by his own loyalty to Lee and
to Virginia—he is the best and only man for the job. Loyalty has
helped bring about many of the Confederacy’s victories, but at Gettysburg
it contributes to the loss.
Most of the primary characters in The Killer Angels are
generals, or at least colonels. Each of these men is in command
of a vast number of soldiers, and so each of their mistakes is magnified.
The history of the Battle of Gettysburg consists of a series of
tactical mistakes, and, in each case, the result is the death of
hundreds, even thousands of men. For the Confederacy, the trouble
begins early, when General J. E. B. Stuart, commander of the Confederate
cavalry, fails to report promptly on the movements of the Union
army. This absence prevents Lee from having accurate and timely
information about the size and position of his enemy, and it allows
the Union an unexpected element of surprise. The next mistake is
Generals Ewell and Early’s failure to take the high ground when
they have the chance. This mistake is partially Lee’s fault as well,
since he does not make it clear how necessary it is to take the
hill. The results are ultimately disastrous: without the high ground,
the Confederacy must fight a losing battle when it chooses to attack.
Later, Longstreet again has inaccurate knowledge of the Union position,
and he is forced to lose hours of time by countermarching his troops
to another position. Of course, the greatest failure is Pickett’s
Charge, which, in hindsight, was one of the worst tactical decisions
of the Civil War. The charge cost thousands of lives and, in the
opinion of many historians, broke the back of the Confederate war
Since much of the book is written from the perspective
of the Confederate leaders, we are given a close look into the high
society of the Old South. Lee and Pickett in particular are examples
of the “Southern gentleman,” and represent values that they believe
would be erased by a Union victory. Historically, the Union army
was much more ethnically diverse than the Confederate army, being
filled with immigrants and the children of immigrants. While the
Union commanders were primarily white Anglo-Saxons, they were not
necessarily rich white men. The Southern commanders, on the other hand,
were primarily rich white men of British ancestry, with a few exceptions
such as Longstreet, who was not as wealthy and was part Dutch. In The
Killer Angels, this motif manifests itself in a few ways. For
Buster Kilrain, the war is less about freeing slaves than it is about
leveling the social playing field: “The point is that we have a country
here where the past cannot keep a good man in chains, and that’s
the nature of the war. It’s the aristocracy I’m after. ‘All that lovely,
plumed, stinking chivalry. The people who look at you like a piece
of filth, a cockroach, ah.’” On the other side, Arthur Fremantle,
the British observer, can think of nothing better than seeing the Confederacy
win and preserve the class system inherited from the Old World—to
him, the point is that the people of the South “do it all exactly
as we do in Europe. And the North does not. That’s what the war
is really about. . . . The Northerner doesn’t give a damn for tradition,
or breeding, or the Old Country. . . . Of course, the South is the
Old Country. They haven’t left Europe. They’ve merely transplanted
it. And that’s what the war is about.”
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Killer Angels!