The Killer Angels

The Killer Angels

by

Michael Shaara

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A Major General in the Union Army, 37-year-old Buford is “a tall blond sunburned man” who served for years in the Indian wars. He is methodical and patient, though given to moodiness and occasional outbursts that startle his men. He is a Western cavalryman at heart and longs for freedom and open spaces; he is uncomfortable with the culture of the East, especially military hierarchy, and resents the necessity of appealing to superiors. He has an excellent eye for ideal battleground; when he and his brigades arrive in Gettysburg, they scout Cemetery Hill and claim it as a prime Union position—a move with great consequences for the outcome of the battle and thus the war. Despite this vital contribution to the Union effort, however, Buford is pushed aside while visiting headquarters for information, confirming his negative views about Eastern mindsets. Buford has taught his men to fight dismounted, as cavalrymen did out West, instead of through “glorious” charges. In this way, he is a Union counterpart to the visionary Longstreet.

John Buford Quotes in The Killer Angels

The The Killer Angels quotes below are all either spoken by John Buford or refer to John Buford. 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:
Honor Theme Icon
). 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 3 Quotes

It wasn’t the dying. He had seen men die all his life, and death was the luck of the chance, the price you eventually paid. What was worse was the stupidity. The appalling sick stupidity that was so bad you thought sometimes you would go suddenly, violently, completely insane just having to watch it. It was a deadly thing to be thinking on. Job to be done here. And all of it turns on faith.

Related Characters: John Buford, John Reynolds
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
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John Buford Character Timeline in The Killer Angels

The timeline below shows where the character John Buford appears in The Killer Angels. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Monday, June 29, 1863: Chapter 3: Buford
Old World vs. New World Theme Icon
Union commander John Buford rides up a hill beyond the town into the cemetery at its top. He overlooks... (full context)
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Buford senses something about to happen. He decides to scout the town. He waves toward the... (full context)
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Concerned, Buford sends a patrol to scout the Confederate troops north of Gettysburg and report to him... (full context)
Honor Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Buford sees the advantages of the high ground on the edge of town, but knows he... (full context)
Honor Theme Icon
Old World vs. New World Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Buford has a “brutally clear” vision of Union troops going up the long slope in a... (full context)
Old World vs. New World Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Buford has his men dig into the crest of the ridge just past the seminary on... (full context)
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Buford remembers past appeals for backup that never came, which further weakened his trust in leadership.... (full context)
Old World vs. New World Theme Icon
Buford walks around the cemetery and thinks about his own mortality; he knows he is slowly... (full context)
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Scouts return, confirming that Lee’s army is concentrating in the direction of Gettysburg. Buford sits down to send a message to Reynolds but is momentarily frozen by the memory... (full context)
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Buford sends the message to Reynolds and dozes against a gravestone, until Reynolds sends back orders... (full context)
Monday, June 29, 1863: Chapter 4: Longstreet
Honor Theme Icon
Old World vs. New World Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Slavery and Freedom Theme Icon
...with stars.” As the chapter concludes, it is the following dawn, and a boy on Buford’s picket line sees rows of Confederate skirmishers approaching in the rain. He fires the first... (full context)
Wednesday, July 1, 1863: Chapter 2: Buford
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Buford sits in the seminary’s cupola and watches dawn break. Then he hears the guns of... (full context)
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Buford talks with a commander, who informs him that, while they have only scrapped with a... (full context)
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Just as Buford is beginning to consider withdrawal, he looks to the south and sees Reynolds coming at... (full context)
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Buford and Reynolds ride out to place the troops. Against the Confederates’ 15,000, they can put... (full context)
Wednesday, July 1, 1863: Chapter 3: Lee
Honor Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
...what he’d thought was only a few militia has turned out to be dismounted cavalry, Buford’s men. He thought the encounter would be a “minor scrap,” but it turned into a... (full context)
Wednesday, July 1, 1863: Chapter 7: Buford
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Around two o’clock in the morning, Buford returns to the cemetery on the hill and watches the rest of the army arrive... (full context)
Old World vs. New World Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Suddenly, General Meade arrives, an “angry man with a squeaky voice.” Buford is pushed into the shadows as officers flock to see and hear the general. Buford... (full context)