Mr. Esselman ap u. S. History February 1, 2012 Character Analysis on

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Abbey Oster

Mr. Esselman

AP U.S. History

February 1, 2012

Character Analysis on The Killer Angels

The Killer Angels showed a lot of characters and their views on the war, both on the Union and on the Confederate side. Two characters I found interesting were Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet. They were both on the confederate side, yet they disagreed quite a bit. Sure they both wanted to have the same end result, but how it should have happened was a different story. Longstreet has great ideas and wishes to pursue them, but Lee wishes he still had Jackson with him which results in him barely ever listening to Longstreet. The disagreement between these two characters might have caused the loss for the south in the battle of Gettysburg, according to this book.

Robert E. Lee was head of the Confederate Army. He was extremely traditional and wanted to take on the Union from an offensive side. He was brilliant with everything about war. He had two problems. One, he had heart problems, which meant he couldn’t do too much arguing with anyone who disagreed because he had to stay calm. The heart issues also caused him to think as well as he probably could. During a conversation with Longstreet he was having a heart episode, which went unnoticed by Longstreet. Lee was trying to hear Longstreet out, but he had to “put his hand to his eyes. He was fuzzy-brained” (Shaara 84). His second problem, he kept Stonewall Jackson in his head when it came to making decisions about the Battle of Gettysburg. He didn’t want to listen to Longstreet. Lee was all about honor and dignity, and he felt playing by Longstreet’s rules would be playing by dishonorable rules. That was his biggest problem with Longstreet, he wanted to go a different route in the war and Lee felt very annoyed when it came to Longstreet and his defensive tactics. He longed to have Jackson still there for Gettysburg. Lee considered Jackson the rock in the army. He kept things stable, and when he died, he was forced to start listening to Longstreet. Longstreet was someone Lee respected, but didn’t want to listen to his ideas. In Lee’s opinion, “Longstreet loved defense. But all the bright theories so rarely worked” (Shaara 84).

James Longstreet became Lee’s second in command when Jackson died. He was pretty depressed while dealing with the death of his children and entered the war with high hopes for the Confederate side. He was a man ahead of his time and knew it would take proper use of technology to win the war. He wanted to use defensive tactics in the war, rather than offensive. He had ideas and wanted to try them, but anytime Lee actually tried his ideas, they failed. He thinks his ideas are great and he doesn’t blame himself, but in fact the Confederate army suffered significant losses in the second and third day. This gives Lee, in Lee’s opinion, the right to just not listen to Longstreet. Longstreet believed using defensive tactics was much safer and would lead them to a victory in the war. Longstreet always becomes depressed when Lee doesn’t listen to his ideas and just wants Lee to think of him as he did Jackson.

While at Gettysburg, Longstreet sees the hills and wanted to use that to their advantage. He believed it would be extremely strategic to use the high ground and attack from below. Lee on the other hand thought that kind of fighting is considered dishonorable. Like I stated before, Lee was all about honor, this wasn’t good according to Longstreet. While having a conversation with Fremantle, Longstreet says, “Honor without intelligence is a disaster. Honor could lose the war” (Shaara 133). He also says, a little bit later in the conversation, “I appreciate honor… 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” (Shaara 133). Longstreet believes in defensive tactics, like hiding behind trees, because it is much safer and much more efficient in killing the other side, which is an important part of war.

On Thursday, the second day in this novel, Lee and Longstreet have a discussion concerning the Battle at Gettysburg. Longstreet refused to listen to Lee’s plan and only really wanted to do his plan of defensive warfare. Longstreet finally goes along with the plan, but isn’t too satisfied. He believes it might work, but there will be plenty of losses. The interesting part of this chapter though was not that Longstreet eventually gives in, but the conversation Longstreet and Lee later have. It was a more heart-felt conversation. Lee decided to tell him he was ill and then said, “I hope my illness has not affected my judgment. I rely on you always to tell me the truth as you see it…. No matter how much I disagree” (Shaara 193). At this moment is when I felt a shift in their relationship. Longstreet took a step back and realized Lee was worried for him and cared about his safety, not just his honor and dignity.

There was a shift in the relationship between Lee and Longstreet, where the greater shift occurred on Longstreet’s side. Longstreet finally understands that Lee does respect him and his words.

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