James Longstreet Quotes in The Killer Angels
War has changed, Lewis. They all expect one smashing victory. Waterloo and all that. But I think that kind of war is over. We have trenches now. And it’s a different thing, you know, to ask a man to fight from a trench. Any man can charge briefly in the morning. But to ask a man to fight from a trench, day after day …
“But the morale is simply amazing. Really is. Never saw anything like it in the old army. They’re off on a holy war. The Crusades must have been a little like this. Wish I’d a been there. Seen old Richard and the rest.”
Longstreet said, “They never took Jerusalem.”
“It takes a bit more than morale,” Longstreet said.
“Oh sure.” But Longstreet was always gloomy. “Well, anyhow, I’ve never seen anything like this. The Old Man’s accomplishment. Incredible. His presence is everywhere. They hush when he passes, like an angel of the Lord. You ever see anything like it?”
It was Longstreet’s curse to see the thing clearly. He was a brilliant man who was slow in speech and slow to move and silent-faced as stone. He had not the power to convince.
He had tears in his eyes. Turn away from that. He mastered it. What he had left was the army. The boys were here. He even had the father, in place of God: old Robert Lee. Rest with that, abide with that.
“Honor,” he said. “Honor without intelligence is a disaster. Honor could lose the war.”
Fremantle was vaguely shocked.
“Listen. Let me tell you something. I appreciate honor and bravery and courage. Before God … but the point of the war is not to show how brave you are and how you can die in a manly fashion, face to the enemy. God knows it’s easy to die. Anybody can die.”
“They’re never quite the enemy, those boys in blue … Swore an oath too,” Longstreet said. He shook his head violently. Strange thought to have, at the moment. “I must say, there are times when I’m troubled. But … couldn’t fight against home. Not against your own family. And yet … we broke the vow.”
Lee said, “Let’s not think on this today.”
“Yes,” Longstreet said. There was a moment of dusty silence. He grumbled to himself: why did you start that? Why talk about that now? Damn fool.
Then Lee said, “There was a higher duty to Virginia. That was the first duty. There was never any doubt about that.”
“Guess not,” Longstreet said. But we broke the vow.
Lee said, “The issue is in God’s hands. We will live with His decision, whichever way it goes.”
Longstreet said, “It wasn’t that close.” But Lee’s eyes were gazing by him at a vision of victory. Longstreet said nothing. He rubbed his mouth. Lee’s eyes strange: so dark and soft. Longstreet could say nothing. In the presence of the Commander the right words would not come.
“God in Heaven,” Longstreet said, and repeated it, “there’s no strategy to this bloody war. What it is is old Napoleon and a hell of a lot of chivalry. That’s all it is.”
He remembered that day in church when he prayed from the soul and listened and knew in that moment that there was no one there, no one to listen.
Don’t think on these things. Keep an orderly mind. This stuff is like heresy.
Longstreet shook his head. That was another thing he did not think about. Armistead said disgustedly, “They think we’re fighting to keep the slaves. He says that’s what most of Europe thinks the war is all about. Now, what we supposed to do about that?”
Longstreet said nothing. The war was about slavery, all right. That was not why Longstreet fought but that was what the war was about, and there was no point in talking about it, never had been.
After a while Lee came. Longstreet did not want to see him. But the old man came in a cluster of men, outlined under that dark and ominous sky, the lightning blazing beyond his head. Men were again holding the bridle of the horse, talking to him, pleading; there was something oddly biblical about it, and yet even here in the dusk of defeat there was something else in the air around him; the man brought strength with his presence: doomed and defeated, he brought nonetheless a certain majesty. And Longstreet, knowing that he would never quite forgive him, stood to meet him.