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Killer Angels Civil War Book Essay, Research Paper


Entering Bowdoin College , Chamberlain studied the

traditional classical curriculum and showed particular skill

at languages. But first Chamberlain took his Bowdoin A. B.

degree, in the Class of 1852, and returned north for three

more years of study. Turning down the opportunity to become

a minister or missionary, he accepted a position at Bowdoin

teaching rhetoric. A good scholar, he was also an orthodox

Congregationalist, an important factor to his Bowdoin

colleagues, for the College was embroiled in the

denominational quarrels of the day.

Chamberlain knew little of soldiering despite a short

time as a boy at a military school at Ellsworth. When the

sectional crisis led to civil war in 1861, Chamberlain felt

a strong urge to fight to save the union. Although

sympathetic to the plight of the slaves, he is not known to

have been an abolitionist and showed little interest, after

the war, in the cause of the freedmen. But the college was

reluctant to lose his services. Offered a year’s travel with

pay in Europe in 1862 to study languages, Chamberlain

instead volunteered his military services to Maine’s

governor. He was soon made lieutenant colonel of the 20th

Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

He is best remembered for two great events: the action

at Little Round Top, on the second day of Gettysburg (2 July

1863), when then-Colonel Chamberlain and the 20th Maine held

the extreme left flank of the Union line against a fierce

rebel attack, and the surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern

Virginia at Appomattox, when Grant chose Chamberlain to

receive the formal surrender of weapons and colors (12 April

1865). Always a chivalrous man, Chamberlain had his men

salute the defeated Confederates as they marched by,

evidence of his admiration of their valor and of Grant’s

wish to encourage the rebel armies still in the field to

accept the peace.

Although never forgotten in Maine, Chamberlain largely

faded from national view for most of the 20th century. No

statue of him was ever erected at Gettysburg; few historians

studied his campaigns. But amid the surge of interest in the

Civil War in the 1990s he has re-emerged as an exemplary

figure among the Union generals, the very model of the



James Longstreet at age forty-two was the dean of corps

commanders at Gettysburg; he had been in corps command twice

as long as anybody else on either side. It was he who would

command of the Army of Northern Virginia if Lee were

incapacitated. He was a man who studied the averages and

calculated the odds carefully. Never one to force his

chances, he preferred to wait for a situation like the one

at Fredericksburg, where he could prepare his defenses on

advantageous terrain and wait for the enemy to shatter

himself against them. If the odds were not in his favor, he

would wait for the moment when he held the trumps.

Longstreet approached his business dispassionately. To him,

victory was the result of thoughtful planning, not heroism.

While he supported Lee’s bold strategic offensives, it was

always with an eye to fighting a defensive battle at the

climax of each campaign. His way of evening the odds with

the numerically superior Union army was to conserve his

men’s lives, not gamble them needlessly in costly assaults.

He thus dealt in human life with a conservatism lacking in

many military men, especially in the South. He showed

constant concern for his men’s well-being. At

When the bullets began to fly, Longstreet’s

immovability translated into a magnificent fearlessness.

Longstreet was a native of South Carolina who grew up mostly

in Georgia.

When the Civil War began in 1861 Longstreet joined the

Confederate army with no ambition for glory. Since he was

the ranking officer from Alabama, he was instead made a

brigadier general. On October 7, Longstreet was given

command of the Third Division of the army.

Lee said “Here comes my war horse from the field he has

done so much to save!”

“War Horse” to Lee, “Pete” or “Old Peter” to his men,

“Dutch” to his West Point pals, sometimes “Bull” or

“Bulldog,” Longstreet was a man who attracted nicknames. Few

colorful stories attached themselves to him, however,

because of his phlegmatic personality. Interestingly,

Longstreet in the first year of the war had been a popular

companion; his headquarters had been a center of

socialization where visitors could expect a good time, a

fine meal, plenty of whiskey. General Lee followed the

custom of pitching his tent close to Longstreet’s. Although

the two differed fundamentally in their philosophy of how

the war should be waged, Lee would continue to value

Longstreet even if he was at times presumptuous when he

advanced his recommendations to Lee, did not bother his

superior with unsolved problems. Perhaps this is the trait

which most endeared Lee to Longstreet Lee’s continuing

physical closeness with Longstreet indicated respect for his


Fredericksburg, for Longstreet, was the most

instructive battle of the war. His men, stoutly prepared,

repulsed division after division of Federal attackers. This

became the battle he sought to re-fight for the rest of the

war. Perhaps it spoiled him, giving him the notion that if

he got in position and stayed there, impatient Union

generals would crash headlong into his prepared defenses

like Union they did before. When Lee reunited the army for

the Gettysburg Campaign, Longstreet discussed grand strategy

with Lee, and somehow got the impression that Lee was

committed to fighting only defensive battles, the kind

Longstreet liked. Combined with Longstreet’s liabilities his

deliberateness when on the offensive and his habit of

sulking when contradicted. This misunderstanding would have

terrible consequences for the Army of Northern Virginia in

enemy territory.

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