The Killer Angels

The Killer Angels

by

Michael Shaara

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James Longstreet Character Analysis

Nicknamed “Pete” by his men, Longstreet is Lieutenant General of the Army of Northern Virginia and Lee’s second-in-command. He is haunted by the deaths of his three children from a fever the previous winter, though he never speaks of his grief. He is described as “grim and gambling” in contrast to the pious Lee, with whom he enjoys an unusual friendship. The two have grown very close over the course of the war, though conversation can be difficult because of Longstreet’s reticence and Lee’s formality. Longstreet even thinks of Lee as a father figure, replacing the God in whom he no longer believes. He is also close to Pickett, Armistead, Garnett, and Kemper, having served with all of them in the Mexican War. He does not share the vocal idealism about the Southern “cause” of many of his men, but he tries to keep his skepticism to himself. He further rejects Southern notions of honor common among the men, seeing Garnett’s fixation on redeeming himself as foolish. Longstreet also has a surprising liking for the cheerful Fremantle, and their conversations offer clearer insight into Longstreet’s oft-concealed opinions, likely because Fremantle is a neutral outsider. Longstreet is fascinated by tactics and strategy and has a far-reaching outlook on the future of warfare, which creates tension between him and other generals, especially Lee. His clarity of insight does not translate to persuasive ability, however; he is inarticulate and slow to express himself. In addition, his love for Lee is such that, even when angered by Lee’s insistence on offensive tactics, he finds it nearly impossible to speak against him, and he remains loyal to the last—though, after the failure of Pickett’s Charge, he realizes he will never quite forgive Lee for effectively forcing him to order men to their deaths. Nevertheless, he still pities his friend and promises the help Lee asks of him.

James Longstreet Quotes in The Killer Angels

The The Killer Angels quotes below are all either spoken by James Longstreet or refer to James Longstreet. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ballantine edition of The Killer Angels published in 1974.
Monday, June 29, 1863: Chapter 4 Quotes

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 …

Related Characters: James Longstreet (speaker), Lewis Armistead
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:

“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.”

Armistead squinted.

“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?”

Related Characters: James Longstreet (speaker), Lewis Armistead (speaker), Robert E. Lee
Related Symbols: Angels
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
Wednesday, July 1, 1863: Chapter 5 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: James Longstreet, Robert E. Lee
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: James Longstreet, Robert E. Lee
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:

“Honor,” he said. “Honor without intelligence is a disaster. Honor could lose the war.”

Fremantle was vaguely shocked.

“Sir?”

“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.”

Related Characters: James Longstreet (speaker), Arthur Lyon Fremantle (speaker)
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
Thursday, July 2, 1863: Chapter 3 Quotes

“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.”

Related Characters: James Longstreet (speaker), Robert E. Lee (speaker)
Page Number: 181
Explanation and Analysis:
Thursday, July 2, 1863: Chapter 5 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: James Longstreet (speaker), Robert E. Lee
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

“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.”

Related Characters: James Longstreet (speaker), Arthur Lyon Fremantle
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: James Longstreet, Robert E. Lee
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

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.

Related Characters: Lewis Armistead (speaker), James Longstreet, Arthur Lyon Fremantle
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:
Friday, July 3, 1863: Chapter 5 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: James Longstreet, Robert E. Lee
Page Number: 324
Explanation and Analysis:

“You were right. And I was wrong. And now you must help me see what must be done. Help us to see. I become … very tired.”

Related Characters: Robert E. Lee (speaker), James Longstreet
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:
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James Longstreet Character Timeline in The Killer Angels

The timeline below shows where the character James Longstreet appears in The Killer Angels. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Monday, June 29, 1863: Chapter 1: The Spy
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As he rides, Harrison wonders about the “strange” friendship between “grim and gambling” James Longstreet and “formal and pious” Robert E. Lee. He proceeds cautiously through the dark until he... (full context)
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Longstreet is lying awake in his tent, thinking of his dead children. When informed that Harrison... (full context)
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In light of this intelligence, Longstreet decides to wake General Lee. If Harrison is right that the Union is nearby and... (full context)
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As they go to meet Lee, Harrison tells Longstreet that Joseph Hooker has been replaced by George Meade as commander of the Army of... (full context)
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Lee emerges from his tent, bareheaded and haggard-looking in the rain. He and Longstreet ignore Harrison’s obsequious behavior and examine the Union positions he has reported. After questioning the... (full context)
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Longstreet tells Lee that the army must turn and concentrate its position, so as not to... (full context)
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The two have an awkwardly affectionate parting, as “Lee was ever formal and Longstreet was inarticulate, so they stood for a long time side by side without speaking.” The... (full context)
Monday, June 29, 1863: Chapter 4: Longstreet
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In Longstreet’s camp, the men are teaching Colonel Fremantle, an English war observer, to play poker. Longstreet... (full context)
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Longstreet broods, instinctively sensing “an odor of trouble.” He is briefly diverted when Fremantle approaches him... (full context)
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Garnett tells Longstreet, with formality, how much he appreciates Longstreet assigning him as a brigade commander under Pickett.... (full context)
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Longstreet and Pickett introduce Pickett’s officers to Fremantle. Armistead jokes that the army is called “Lee’s... (full context)
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A little later, Pickett steps aside to speak to Longstreet. He complains that his division had not participated in the battles at Chancellorsville or Fredericksburg... (full context)
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Longstreet and Armistead discuss the fact that the war has lasted longer than either of them... (full context)
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Armistead, however, isn’t interested in talking tactics and returns to the subject of Hancock. Longstreet encourages him to see his friend should the opportunity arise—he can simply get a messenger... (full context)
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...on a Holy War,” he claims. “The Crusades must have been a little like this.” Longstreet is skeptical, pointing out that the Crusaders never captured Jerusalem. Armistead is dismissive. Lee’s presence,... (full context)
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Longstreet shakes his head at Armistead’s idealistic talk, as he “did not think much of the... (full context)
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Armistead changes the subject to Longstreet’s theories of defensive warfare. He allows that Longstreet is correct in his views, but that... (full context)
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Longstreet knows that Armistead is probably right about Lee, and it worries him. He thinks that... (full context)
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Pickett explains to Longstreet that, according to Fremantle, the English find support of the Confederacy to be a touchy... (full context)
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Longstreet stands in silence as the other men agree with one another that the war is... (full context)
Wednesday, July 1, 1863: Chapter 1: Lee
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...army is concentrated. He strongly feels the vacancy left behind by Stonewall Jackson; other than Longstreet, many of the generals are new to command. (full context)
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Lee is heartened to see Longstreet and his staff appear, trailed by the foreign observers. After chatting a bit, Lee tells... (full context)
Wednesday, July 1, 1863: Chapter 3: Lee
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...placing blame or issuing further orders until he has better information about enemy strength. Without Longstreet near, something feels off about the day. (full context)
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...inspire men with his presence, he worries about the whereabouts of the various generals; perhaps Longstreet is right that command is too loose. He hears that Heth has been injured. Soon,... (full context)
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...sends word that General Ewell should take the hill if possible. He thanks God for Longstreet’s spy, Harrison. (full context)
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Lee is pleased to see Longstreet riding up to join him, and together they savor this initial victory. Lee explains that... (full context)
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Longstreet looks as if he is suppressing his thoughts. Lee urges him to speak. Longstreet says... (full context)
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...important thing. He remarks to himself that docile men don’t make good soldiers. He thanks Longstreet for engaging Harrison’s services as a spy, but Longstreet doesn’t show pleasure at the compliment.... (full context)
Wednesday, July 1, 1863: Chapter 5: Longstreet
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Longstreet rides toward headquarters in a depressed mood. He knows that Lee will attack in the... (full context)
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In his dark mood, Longstreet thinks helplessly of his children’s sudden deaths in Richmond the previous winter. Unbeknownst to anyone... (full context)
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Longstreet sees Fremantle approaching and welcomes the Englishman’s cheering presence. Fremantle has been enjoying himself, “continually... (full context)
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Longstreet talks about Lee’s avoidance of vice and the reverent regard in which he is held... (full context)
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Longstreet feels depressed when he sees that Fremantle agrees with Garnett. Longstreet sees Garnett’s fate as... (full context)
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Longstreet continues trying to explain. In the earlier days of war, he tells Fremantle, two sides... (full context)
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Longstreet has tried to explain these realities to his own men, but they find his ideas... (full context)
Wednesday, July 1, 1863: Chapter 6: Lee
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...on the Union’s strong point at Cemetery Hill would be costly and inadvisable. Lee mentions Longstreet’s proposal to retreat and occupy a defensive position between Meade and Washington; the two generals... (full context)
Thursday, July 2, 1863: Chapter 1: Fremantle
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Sorrel passes by and encourages Fremantle to stay near Longstreet, as that is where the action will be. Longstreet lets Fremantle ride with him as... (full context)
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Fremantle asks Longstreet why his men have not entrenched, as there is nothing to stop the Yankees from... (full context)
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...wonders if he has stumbled upon a profound theory. He asks a nearby Major if “Longstreet” is an English name. The Major replies that it’s actually Dutch. The theory is not... (full context)
Thursday, July 2, 1863: Chapter 3: Longstreet
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Longstreet is considering the Union position on Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill when he is summoned... (full context)
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Lee looks questioningly at Longstreet, who says nothing, having resigned himself to an offensive attack. Lee reiterates his argument for... (full context)
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Lee orders Longstreet to attack en echelon, taking Cemetery Hill in reverse with the support of Hill, Pender,... (full context)
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The men begin to prepare for battle. Longstreet talks with Lee’s engineer, Johnston, explaining that the attack on the Union flank must be... (full context)
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Lee rides up to join Longstreet on the march. Longstreet gets “the mulish foolish hungry feeling” of anticipating an assault and... (full context)
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Longstreet goes on to admit that sometimes he feels troubled about breaking his oath to defend... (full context)
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...for a while, Lee speaks up in a strange, soft tone of voice. He tells Longstreet that “soldiering has one great trap.” While a good soldier must love the army, a... (full context)
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Longstreet feels a chill down his spine. He realizes that Lee thinks Longstreet’s talk of defense... (full context)
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...the last battle, since he is not well and may not have long to live. Longstreet is surprised by Lee’s uncharacteristic admission. Soon Lee reluctantly takes his leave. As they shake... (full context)
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After Lee rides off, Longstreet feels depressed. Soon the army draws to a halt, and Longstreet rides ahead to discover... (full context)
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...make more sense to move around the ridge and attack from the rear. “Sonny boy,” Longstreet tells the messenger in disgust, “I been telling General Lee that same damn thing for... (full context)
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Longstreet receives a further report from Hood that the Yankees have uncovered the ridge and are... (full context)
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Longstreet finds Hood, who explains that the ground is strewn with large boulders that make it... (full context)
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Hood tells Longstreet that he will lead the attack under protest. Longstreet understands, mutely bidding the general goodbye.... (full context)
Thursday, July 2, 1863: Chapter 5: Longstreet
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Longstreet visits Hood in the hospital. Hood has been drugged while the medics work on his... (full context)
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Longstreet rejoins his silent staff, thinking of how many have died that day. There is a... (full context)
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As Longstreet rides toward Lee’s headquarters, he tells himself that he must restrain his anger, but that... (full context)
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...show of his arrival on the field, having not been needed in that day’s action. Longstreet is encouraged by the prospect of five thousand fresh men. As he rides toward Lee’s... (full context)
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Lee approaches Longstreet and takes his hand. The loving concern in Lee’s eyes “flicked all [Longstreet’s] defenses aside... (full context)
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Lee continues, “I could see … an open road to Washington.” Longstreet feels “an extraordinary confusion.” He feels silenced by the man’s greatness and does not know... (full context)
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Outside, Longstreet is stopped by another officer who asks him to intercede for him with Lee, who... (full context)
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Longstreet is approached by Fremantle, who congratulates him on his “victory.” Fremantle praises Lee effusively, sure... (full context)
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Longstreet can’t contain his words. “There’s no strategy to this bloody war,” he tells Fremantle; it’s... (full context)
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Fremantle appears shocked by the outburst. Longstreet, too, is alarmed by what he has said, “something long sunken … in the dark... (full context)
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Longstreet is reminded of the moment in church when, faced with his children’s deaths, he prayed... (full context)
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Longstreet sits down under a tree. In the distance, he watches an enthusiastic Pickett telling a... (full context)
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Armistead joins Longstreet, and they discuss the day. Armistead shares his concerns for Dick Garnett, who is sick... (full context)
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...the war is about slavery and wonders what they are supposed to do about that. Longstreet says nothing. He thinks to himself that the war certainly is about slavery, though it... (full context)
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Armistead wants Longstreet to join the group around the fire. Longstreet resists, knowing his presence will create awkwardness... (full context)
Thursday, July 2, 1863: Chapter 6: Lee
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Lee feels affection for Stuart as the chastened man walks away. He knows Longstreet will not approve, but Lee believes that court-martial would have destroyed such a spirited soldier.... (full context)
Friday, July 3, 1863: Chapter 2: Longstreet
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Longstreet sits alone in the dawn, smelling rain. Lee appears, looking majestic in the mist, a... (full context)
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Lee explains his plan to split the Union line, with Longstreet leading the charge. Longstreet asks to speak. He tells Lee that his two divisions, Hood... (full context)
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Longstreet fears hurting Lee, but presses on, asking if he has ever seen a worse position.... (full context)
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Meade moves earlier than expected, engaging Ewell. Lee and Longstreet move toward the front, met by the soldiers’ cheerful morale. At last Lee assigns Pickett’s,... (full context)
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Longstreet struggles to meet Lee’s eyes, thinking of him as “more than father of the army,... (full context)
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Lee returns and calmly asks Longstreet if he has any questions, reminding him that everyone has to do his duty. He... (full context)
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Longstreet pictures the charge. The troops will have to walk more than a mile under fire;... (full context)
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Excited, Pickett asks Longstreet how much time they have left. Longstreet hears a morbid overtone in the question but... (full context)
Friday, July 3, 1863: Chapter 4: Armistead
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Armistead watches the assault begin. Longstreet sits motionless on a fence rail, and Pickett yells with joy. Armistead sees Union shells... (full context)
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...who “looked on war as God’s greatest game.” Armistead walks away, admiring the solidity of Longstreet’s unmoving presence in the distance; it reminds him of his friend Hancock, but he cannot... (full context)
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...getting too old for this business. He rides back into the woods and looks at Longstreet, still sitting on the fence, and feels a “bolt of almost stunning affection” for the... (full context)
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Pickett runs up to Longstreet suddenly, carrying a message from the artilleryman that if they are going at all, now... (full context)
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Remembering Longstreet’s tears, Armistead feels an acute depression for the first time. He thinks how desperate their... (full context)
Friday, July 3, 1863: Chapter 5: Longstreet
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Longstreet sits on the rail fence, his mind a “bloody vacancy, like a room in which... (full context)
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...who moments before had been cheering wildly, grasps the reality of the situation and offers Longstreet a flask, which he refuses. He is filled with weariness, helpless rage, and disgust. He... (full context)
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...first line of dead men. He sits motionless and talks to the men around him. Longstreet watches, knowing he will never forgive Lee. Tears run down his cheeks. Lee begins to... (full context)
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...crowd and smoke with a “stiff, set look” and empty eyes. He points out to Longstreet in a “soft, feathery” voice that the North appears to be forming for attack in... (full context)
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Longstreet turns away. He tells his gathering staff that he intends to go and meet the... (full context)
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Goree tells Longstreet that it is no good trying to get himself killed; the Lord will come for... (full context)
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Clouds gather in the west, and as evening advances, they see lightning in the distance. Longstreet automatically places his men in a defensive line and then sits by the fire drinking... (full context)
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...a while, distant lightning blazing beyond his head. Men are still walking alongside him, pleadingly; Longstreet sees “something oddly biblical about it.” Even in this air of defeat, Lee conveys strength... (full context)
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Longstreet looks into Lee’s stony face and drops his eyes. Lee requests a few moments alone... (full context)
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Lee sits with his hand over his eyes. He tells Longstreet that he is very tired. Longstreet asks what he can do. Longstreet feels “a shudder... (full context)
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Longstreet thinks that there has been too much death, and that it is time for reality;... (full context)
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...“Was that ever really the question? Will God ask that question, in the end?” As Longstreet helps the tired man rise, Lee looks into his eyes and says, “You were right.... (full context)
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...his lecture on the previous day. He explains that he had been trying to warn Longstreet. Unlike their men, he says, they have no Cause; they have only the army. But... (full context)