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The Killer Angels

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Summary

July 2, 1863: Chapters 1–2

Summary July 2, 1863: Chapters 1–2

Chamberlain again muses on the black man. He tells Kilrain that in his mind, there was never any real difference between black men and white men—black men have the same “divine spark” as other human beings. Kilrain says that while he has some reservations about blacks as a race, he thinks there are good ones and bad ones, just like white men. Chamberlain recalls an argument he had with a Southern preacher, who said that a Negro was not a man. Chamberlain left the room angrily. Another Southerner, a professor, came to him and apologized for the preacher’s behavior, but he said he could not apologize for his views. He tried to persuade Chamberlain intelligently, as Chamberlain had tried to do with the preacher, and he had asked Chamberlain, “What if it is you who are wrong?” At that point Chamberlain found that he wanted to kill the Southern professor, despite his mild nature, and it was then that Chamberlain realized that this disagreement might come to war. Yet he also had his doubts. Kilrain calls Chamberlain an idealist.

Analysis—July 2, 1863: Chapters 1–2

Chapter 1 reasserts Fremantle’s belief in the gentlemanly, Englishlike nature of the Confederacy. Fremantle, as a European, gives a perspective on Confederate culture from the outside. The Confederate forces are primarily white Anglo-Saxons, and the regular soldiers are mostly poor farmers and workers while the officers are all wealthy landowners. This class-based system also exists in England, and, consequently, Fremantle approves of it. He even hopes for a second that the Confederacy might rejoin the British Empire, which reveals just how misguided Fremantle’s opinions are. Shaara makes Fremantle into a foppish, silly figure, but since Fremantle’s part is based primarily on the book of memoirs the Englishman wrote just a few months after the battle, the characterization is probably one of the most accurate in the book.

Chapter 2 is the only chapter in the novel that deals with the issue of slavery. Shaara does not generally address the South’s attitudes toward slavery, instead portraying the Confederate officers as fighting for “the Cause”—to protect their homeland and their way of life. There is little examination of the view that their way of life embodies racism and depends on slavery. The officers become indignant whenever slavery is brought up, and we never see nor hear the Confederates saying anything derogatory about blacks or slaves. Nor does Shaara try to paint the Northerners as noble comrades of African-Americans: Chamberlain, a Northerner, finds himself fighting feelings of revulsion when he meets an escaped slave who arrived recently from Africa. The slave is immensely muscled and he cannot speak English, and his traits give Chamberlain an unwelcome, animalistic impression of the black man.

The discussion between Chamberlain and Kilrain, and the treatment of the black man by the Union soldiers, is perhaps a bit unrealistic. While there are jokes about selling the slave back to the Confederacy, the Union soldiers are mostly kind to him. In fact, however, prejudice existed just as much in the North as in the South. But thoughtful, intelligent Chamberlain shows some of the attitudes Union soldiers had toward the men they were fighting to free. By 1863, many soldiers, especially those on the Union side, had forgotten the reasons for the war and knew only that they had to fight, day in and day out. They were becoming disillusioned by numerous losses at the hands of the Confederates. The scene with the slave helps remind us, as well as Chamberlain, of one of the reasons why the Union is fighting the Confederacy. But Chamberlain is also sufficiently contemplative about whether or not that freedom is worth the cost of so many lives.