The Killer Angels

The Killer Angels

by

Michael Shaara

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The Killer Angels: Wednesday, July 1, 1863: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Longstreet rides toward headquarters in a depressed mood. He knows that Lee will attack in the morning, “fixed and unturnable, a runaway horse.” Longstreet looks toward the Union campfires on Cemetery Hill and “[smells] disaster like distant rain.” Longstreet’s clarity of sight is also his curse. He can see situations clearly, but is slow to speak and not gifted at persuasion.
Longstreet clearly sees the chasm between himself and Lee and believes, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, that Lee is unstoppable. Though he knows a better path, he doesn’t believe he has the ability to stop the track that Lee is on.
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Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
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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 else, the pain of their loss has driven him out of his mind and shattered his belief in God. With tears in his eyes, he reminds himself that Lee is a father to him, in place of God.
Longstreet is tortured by a grief he can’t express. This grief drives him to trust in Lee, silencing his critique of his friend more than he realizes.
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Longstreet sees Fremantle approaching and welcomes the Englishman’s cheering presence. Fremantle has been enjoying himself, “continually amazed at the combination of raw earth and rough people, white columned houses and traces of English manner” he finds in America. Fremantle talks with Longstreet about the remarkable figure of Lee, who, he has been surprised to discover, is an English gentleman.
Fremantle’s temperament is opposite to Longstreet’s and provides a welcome distraction. Fremantle’s perspective on America, on Southern culture, and on Lee is through the eyes of an English aristocrat.
Themes
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Longstreet talks about Lee’s avoidance of vice and the reverent regard in which he is held by his men. He also talks of Stonewall Jackson’s colorful character, describing him as a man who was both “a good Christian” and who “knew how to hate.” They discuss various other men in the army, such as Garnett. Longstreet is troubled that Garnett believes his honor is gone and that he “will have to die bravely to erase the stain.”
Reverence of personalities is much more characteristic of the Confederates than the Union in the book. Such personalities, like Jackson’s, cast a long shadow that a disgraced figure like Garnett can’t escape. This is because honor attaches to personalities as well, meaning that when Jackson tars Garnett with dishonor, Garnett has no easy way of vindicating himself.
Themes
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Old World vs. New World Theme Icon
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Longstreet feels depressed when he sees that Fremantle agrees with Garnett. Longstreet sees Garnett’s fate as “unturnable, ridiculous.” He goes on to tell Fremantle, “Honor without intelligence is a disaster. Honor could lose the war.” He tries to explain to the shocked Englishman that honor and bravery have their place before God, but that exhibiting these qualities is not the point of war.
Unburdening himself to the outsider, Longstreet tells Fremantle that naked honor is pointless and doesn’t win wars. It must be wedded to intelligent strategy if it is to be effective.
Themes
Honor Theme Icon
Old World vs. New World Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Disillusionment Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Longstreet continues trying to explain. In the earlier days of war, he tells Fremantle, two sides faced each other in the open, fighting from a distance with bows and arrows, or face to face with swords. But now, though few have yet realized it, a well-hidden soldier with a repeating rifle can kill several men before they can reach him across an open field. But Longstreet breaks off, knowing that Fremantle “would not see.”
Even changes in the technology of weaponry are part of the discussion about honor. What looks most “brave” might in fact lead to unnecessary deaths in this new mode of warfare. However, Longstreet perceives that Fremantle isn’t open to seeing what he sees.
Themes
Honor Theme Icon
Old World vs. New World Theme Icon
Longstreet has tried to explain these realities to his own men, but they find his ideas “vaguely shameful.” Fremantle, too, is bewildered, protesting, “But, sir, there is the example of Solferino. And of course the Charge of the Light Brigade.” Longstreet gives up, knowing that Fremantle, “like all Englishmen … would rather lose the war than his dignity.” That night he stays up late in the company of his men, trying to avoid the memory of his dead children’s faces.
Fremantle, like Longstreet’s own men, continues appealing to precedents from other nineteenth-century wars, like the Italian war of independence and the Crimean War. He sees these as exemplars to be imitated rather than exceptions to a trend. Longstreet gives up, lonely in his minority views as well as in his private grief.
Themes
Honor Theme Icon
Old World vs. New World Theme Icon