raised his saber, let loose the shout that was the greatest sound
he could make, boiling the yell up from his chest: Fix bayonets!
Charge! Fix bayonets! Charge! Fix bayonets! Charge! He leaped down
from the boulder, still screaming, his voice beginning to crack
and give, and all around him his men were roaring animal screams,
and he saw the whole Regiment rising and pouring over the wall and
beginning to bound down through the dark bushes, over the dead and
dying and wounded. . . .
This passage is from July 2,
Chapter 4. While The Killer Angels tells the
story of a terrible, real-life battle, it is at its heart an adventure story,
and there is no greater action scene in the novel than the charge
of the Twentieth Maine down Little Round Top. For over an hour,
the regiment has held off the Confederate soldiers attempting to
climb the hill. They have hidden behind trees and rock walls and fired
downward. But now they have run out of ammunition, and the Confederates
are still coming. They have been told they cannot withdraw from
the battle. Chamberlain sees only one chance: to charge down the
hill, bayonets and swords aloft, and try to get the Confederates
to flee. The plan works perfectly: the Confederates flee in terror
from the screaming Union soldiers. It is a powerful moment, and
this scene is also the centerpiece of the film Gettysburg. The
novel and film have made the fighting on Little Round Top almost
as famous as the Battle of Gettysburg itself.