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The Killer Angels (Gettysburg)

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.

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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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