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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
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
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