The Killer Angels: Novel Summary: Chapter 5 - 7
July 1, 1863: Chapter 5: Longstreet
In the evening of the first day of battle, Longstreet rides back from Gettysburg to his headquarters on the Cashtown Road. He is depressed because he knows that Lee will ignore his advice to establish a defensive position and attack in the morning. He thinks it will be a disaster. He thinks back to the previous winter, when all his three children died of fever within a week in Richmond, Virginia. He knows he must cheer himself up somehow, and he discusses the day’s events with the Englishman, Fremantle. Fremantle is there as an observer, and he plans to write about the war. He admires the Confederates and thinks the war will soon be over. He also admires Lee, who reminds him of an English general, and tells Longstreet he hopes that England and the Confederacy will become allies. Longstreet relates some stories about the ruthlessness and eccentricity of Stonewall Jackson, the Confederate general who was killed less than two months before Gettysburg. Longstreet also argues once again the case for defensive rather than offensive war, explaining to Fremantle how the evolution of warfare and weapons makes attacking strategies obsolete.
July 1, 1863: Chapter 6: Lee
That evening, as Lee rides through the town, his men all cheer him because of their success. Lee meets with Ewell, Early, and Rodes, wanting to know why Cemetery Hill was not taken.
Ewell explains that he did not attack the hill because it was not practical to do so. His men had fought all day, and Lee’s orders had been to avoid a general engagement. Early confirms that it had been better to wait, for a variety of reasons. Lee asks if they can attack in the morning, and Early replies that the hill will be strongly fortified and they should not attack. He suggests that the rest of the army attack on the other flank of the enemy.
Lee explains Longstreet’s preferred strategy, of getting between the Union army and Washington (thus threatening the capital and forcing Meade to attack) but Ewell and Early favor attack rather than defense. If Longstreet’s forces can be brought up on the right, Early says, the hill can be taken by the following evening. Lee is inclined to agree with him, but he makes no orders.
Lee rides off and meets General Trimble, who is furious with Ewell for not attempting to take the hill beyond Cemetery Hill (Culp’s Hill), and ignoring his, Trimble’s request to do so. He thinks it would have been easy to take, but now it is fortified and an assault will cost many lives. Trimble tells Lee he refuses to serve under Ewell any longer and requests another assignment.
Lee returns to his headquarters, where Ewell arrives and apologizes for being too careful during the day’s fighting. Lee realizes Ewell has been too cautious, but he speaks kindly to him. Alone later in the night, Lee resolves to attack the following afternoon, when his entire army is assembled. He believes the outcome of this battle will determine the outcome of the war.
July 1, 1863: Chapter 7: Buford
At two o’clock in the morning, Buford rides along Cemetery Hill as his men dig in, fortifying the hill against attack. He is in pain from an arm wound. He goes to a farmhouse where officers are gathered and when he asks who is in command, two majors argue about whether General Hancock or General Howard is the officer in command. A friend of Buford’s named Gibbons explains that Howard is the senior officer, the commander of Eleventh Corps, but they did not perform well in battle. Hancock rallied those troops and now everyone is going to him for orders.
Buford says he needs orders, and Gibbon replies that he will get them for him. Then Gibbon tells him that Howard has complained that Buford did not support Howard’s right flank. Gibbon explains that he thinks Howard is just looking for someone to blame. Buford is angry.
Buford then explains to Hancock his involvement in the previous day’s action, which Hancock had not known about. Hancock tells him to get his men refitted because he may be needed in the morning.
Meade arrives. Buford cannot get close to him, and he rides back towards the cemetery, where he talks to the dead Reynolds, saying that they held the ground.
Analysis, July 1, 1863: Chapters 5-7
The emphasis in these chapters is on the disagreement between Longstreet and Lee over strategy and also on the failure to take Cemetery Hill. This brings the focus on Ewell, who has just taken over some of Stonewall Jackson’s command. He has twenty thousand men under his command but he is failing the test. Lee thinks that some of the resolution that Ewell formerly had has gone from him now he only has one leg. Whatever the cause, Ewell is a disappointment.
Historians will agree with Shaara’s presentation of Ewell at this point. Champ Clark, for example, writes in Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide, that “Ewell had been gripped that day by a curious mental inertia” (p. 66). Early and Brigadier General John B. Gordon (who does not appear in The Killer Angels) urged Ewell to attack the hill but Ewell reportedly replied, “General Lee told me to come to Gettysburg and gave me no orders to go farther.” Clark also reveals that Ewell was puzzled by the phrase “if practicable” in the order from Lee to take the hill. Ewell had been used to serving under Stonewall Jackson, who never left any ambiguity in his orders. (In The Killer Angels, Lee’s order appears in chapter 4 of the First Day, and the wording is “I do want to take that hill, if he [Ewell] thinks practicable, as soon as possible.” p. 116.)
In Shaara’s account, Lee is notable for the grace and kindness with which he deals with Ewell. He does not reproach him. Lee’s religious nature is also emphasized again at the end of the chapter, when he falls to sleep with the Lord’s Prayer on his mind.