Summary—Chapter 5: Longstreet

Evening, Confederate camp just west of Gettysburg. Longstreet rides aimlessly on his horse and broods, examining the battlefield. He is anxious about the hills, because he recognizes the strategic importance of the high ground. Longstreet knows that Lee will attack the next day. Lee is “fixed and unturnable, a runaway horse,” and Longstreet believes that Lee is making a mistake. But Lee will not listen to Longstreet, and Lee’s reticence makes Longstreet depressed. Longstreet starts to think about his children, all three of them dead from fever over the winter, and he becomes even more depressed. He knows that the army is all that he has left.

Fremantle, the British observer, fumbles his way next to Longstreet. Fremantle is giddy with pleasure at having seen the fighting earlier that day. He is impressed by the Southern people, since they often seem similar to the English. He says that Lee is an English general, and that Lee has gained a reputation in Europe—mostly because Americans are never thought of as gentlemen. Fremantle adds, “You cannot imagine the surprise. One hears all these stories of Indians and massacres and lean backwoodsmen with ten-foot rifles and rain dances and what not, and yet here, your officers. . . . Why, do you know, your General Lee is even a member of the Church of England?” Fremantle hopes that the English and the Confederacy can become allies. England, however, never enters the war against the Union because the Confederates support slavery, to which England is opposed.

Fremantle and Longstreet also discuss “Stonewall” Jackson, Lee’s former right-hand general who was killed before the Battle of Gettysburg. Another Confederate officer, Dick Garnett, was shamed when Jackson accused him of cowardice in retreating from an impossible fight, and Jackson tried to have Garnett court-martialed. Garnett, who now serves under General Pickett, had no chance to clear his name before Jackson died, and now he is depressed because of his dishonored reputation. “Honor without intelligence . . . could lose the war,” Longstreet says, referring obliquely to Lee and his style of gentlemen’s warfare. Longstreet describes how he believes a new form of fighting should be introduced, one that takes advantage of new weapon technology such as repeating rifles. But Lee, Longstreet thinks, “would rather lose the war than his dignity.”

Summary—Chapter 6: Lee

Lee meets with generals Ewell, Early, and Rodes. Lee wants to know why Ewell has not taken Cemetery Hill. Ewell claims that he did not think it possible. Early adds that there were rumors of Union forces to the north that had to be confirmed before they could make an attack, so they decided to wait for another general, Johnson, to arrive with his forces. Early adds that Cemetery Hill “will be a very strong position” for the Union forces.

Annoyed, but ready to move on, Lee asks Ewell if he can attack the right (northern) flank of the Union army the next day. Early thinks it would be a difficult fight, but if Longstreet attacks the left flank, it might draw enough Union troops to the south to make an attack by Ewell and Early worthwhile. Lee mentions Longstreet’s suggestion that they move the army southeast and come between the Union army and Washington, D.C. Ewell thinks that to leave the town, which they have captured, would demoralize the troops, and Early thinks it unwise to move an entire army around the high, fortified position that the Union forces are holding. Privately, to himself, Lee agrees that it would be extremely difficult to move the army without Stuart and his cavalry to guide them.

Lee leaves and meets General Isaac Trimble, who is furious with Ewell for not having taken Cemetery Hill. Trimble tells Lee that he offered to take the hill with no more than a regiment, but Ewell made no response: he simply froze. Lee retires to his headquarters in an old house and considers his options. Lee sends for Ewell. Ewell arrives, somewhat sheepish, and tells his commander that he and Early think they should attack the right flank, as Lee suggested. Ewell apologizes for being too “careful” that day, and Lee, a gentleman, accepts the apology and does not chide Ewell very much. Lee goes to sleep, wondering where Stuart is.

Analysis—July 1, 1863: Chapters 5–6

Shaara decides to focus his novel on the Confederacy’s view of the Battle of Gettysburg for several reasons. The battle is often referred to as the “high tide of the Confederacy,” because it was as close as the Confederate States of America ever came to achieving their independence. They had invaded Northern territory and were now attempting to destroy the Union army once and for all. Lee knows that if they successfully destroy the Union army, the war will be over. This desire to completely vanquish his opponents may be part of the reason why Lee is so intent on attacking the Union troops instead of moving to the defensive posture Longstreet continually suggests.

In Chapter 5, Longstreet begins to take a central role in the novel. By focusing on his character, Shaara advances the idea, once very popular among historians, that Longstreet was a visionary tactician who understood the nature of modern warfare before there really was such a thing. In an extended discussion with Fremantle, Longstreet explains how a single man with a rifle can kill at least three men on a battlefield, on average, when in a defensive posture—behind a tree, or in a trench. This view of Longstreet is partially based on Longstreet’s own writings after the war, when it was very obvious that the Confederacy could have benefited from more defensive tactics. Shaara bases his characterization of Longstreet on a number of the man’s own writings, so all the discussion of futuristic tactics and Longstreet’s frustration at the backward or old-style strategies of Lee must be taken with a grain of salt. Longstreet became an advocate for defensive warfare after seeing it work well at Fredericksburg, but his enthusiasm was not necessarily based on a realization of the nature of modern warfare—he had seen defensive warfare work well, and so he thought it should be used more often.