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Report On “The Killer Angels” Essay, Research Paper

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“The Killer Angels”

by Michael Shaara

When an author writes a book he has a message that he is trying to get

across to the reader. This message is called a theme. In The Killer Angels

Shaara?s theme was freedom for the slaves. The Northerners truly believed that

the slaves deserved to be free, and their desire to set slaves free was the cause of

the Civil War. Just before the Battle of Gettysburg, Colonel Lawrence

Chamberlain of the 20th Maine gave a speech to a group of mutineers. He told

them that the war in which they were fighting was unlike any war in history. The

war in which they were fighting was not for money, property or power. It was a

war to set other men free. After the battle began, Sergeant Tom Chamberlain

asked a group of prisoners why they were fighting. They gave no answer, but

asked him the same question. Sergeant Chamberlain answered, ?To free the

slaves, of course.? The South, however, was against freeing the slaves. The entire

Civil War, whether the people were for or against the idea, was about freedom.

The Killer Angels was informative, very fascinating and I liked it. I liked

the book because I learned many things from it. I?d never thought much about the

importance of the Battle of Gettysburg until I read The Killer Angels. From this

book I learned many things. I learned that the Battle of Gettysburg was the turning

point of the Civil War. Prior to Gettysburg, the South had won most major battles.

At Gettysburg, however, the North gained it?s first major victory. From then on,

the North continued to gain momentum, winning virtually every battle for the

following two years of the war. The Battle of Gettysburg exhausted both armies;

greatly decreasing their reserves of ammunition and soldiers. The North had more

than twice as many men as the South, and since the North was industrialized, they

could replenish their supplies of men and ammunition fairly quickly. The South,

however, could not replenish their supplies quickly because of the lack of

industrialization and manpower. The supplies lost in the Battle of Gettysburg

ultimately lost the war for the South.

I also learned that Confederate General Robert E. Lee was not a good

military tactician. Evidently, he thought that, as in most of the previous battles,

the Confederate army could win this one with a series of charges. On the second

day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Lee ordered the first charge. In this charge,

Confederate troops would make an uphill attack in an attempt to take a ridge from

the Federal army. With an uphill advantage, the Federal troops drove the

Confederate army into retreat. On the third day of battle, Lee ordered a charge

that would take his army across more than a mile of open field. On the other side

of the field, however, Federal troops released a continuous bombardment of

artillery as the Confederate troops made their way across. The Federal army

wiped out most of the Confederate troops before they were halfway across the

field. By the time the remaining Confederates reached the Federal army their

numbers were so small the Federal army had no trouble defeating them. A good

commanding general would have seen that both charges were hopeless. In both

cases the Federal troops had fortified vantage points, while the Confederate army

had no sufficient protection. Had Lee seen this, he would not have ordered the

charges. Instead, he was too confident of the ability of his army and his

overconfidence led him to defeat.

Before I read The Killer Angels I knew that the Civil War brought many

friends to fight against friends and family to fight against family. Until I read The

Killer Angels, I never realized that this was true even in the higher ranks. General

Hancock of the Federal army and General Armistad of the Confederate were

extremely good friends. Before the war they served together in California, but

when they war began they parted ways. Throughout the Battle of Gettysburg, both

generals were constantly asking for permission to go under flag of truce to the

opposing army hoping to see the other. During the battle both generals were

wounded, and they never got another chance to see each other. General Armistad

was mortally wounded, and in his dying words he asked a messenger to send his

apologies to General Hancock that it had to end the way it did. The Civil War tore

families and friends apart, all the way up to the highest military ranks.

The Killer Angels was an exceptional book, and I strongly recommend it to

anyone who is interested in the thoughts and fears of both armies during the Civil

War. The Killer Angels was filled with action, suspense and drama, and it is

perhaps the most accurate account of the Battle of Gettysburg.

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