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Shaara as describes a cemetery’s white angel statue as standing in "stony silence." The statue is used as a minor symbol and comes up again when Buford is unable to find it after his cavalry unit is decimated and the Union army has retreated south of town. (p.36 & 150)
Shaara uses storms to represent coming trouble. The "darkness in the mountains, black sky, a blaze of lightening," it all sets the scene for the horrible battle that is imminent. (p.38) Michael Shaara’s son Jeff uses a similar symbolism in the first part of Gods and Generals. (Gods and Generals was written after The Killer Angels but takes place during the four years preceding the Gettysburg battle.)
Alliteration: "He had thrown away the silly sabers and the damned dragoon pistols…" (p.41)
Alliteration is consecutively using words that begin with the same sound.
Vernacular Dialogue: " ‘Ye’d be doin’ ‘em a gracious favor, just wi’ yer presence." This quotation is an example of the vernacular Shaara uses sparingly. Writing as people really talk, known as the vernacular, was popularized by Mark Twain. Another example of the vernacular is found on page 157: " ‘What you do, man, you look like you swallowed some mice.’ " And another on page 168: " ‘Tang oo, tang oo, baas.’ " And another on page 219: " ‘And a few minutes off me feet. Me brogans are killin’ me.’ "
Buford’s mental tirade against Washington and valiant, but risky, charges (p.38 & 40) not only touches on just how important good ground is, but also sets up a parallel between Buford and Longstreet. Both represent the new age of warfare. Both have disdain for gentlemen and chivalry. Both are the book’s realists. Evidence of their representation of new military strategy: Longstreet says stay defensive and build trenches; Buford says "Your great fat horse is transportation, that’s all he is, with no more place on a modern battlefield than a great fat elephant." (Buford’s elephant comment is on page 44. Another Buford attack on the old Napoleonic cavalry charges strategies can be found on page 41.)
Buford’s disdain for chivalrous but stupid military moves is evident is his reaction to one of his officer’s grumbling: "The damned fool wanted to charge the Reb picket line." (p.41) See the Buford/Longstreet parallel further down for more on Buford’s angst against the old ways of war.
Buford’s contempt for "gentlemen" is apparent in his seeing himself as a professional. Buford does not hate the Confederacy because he is a professional soldier and it would be un-professional to be passionate. In Buford’s eyes gentlemen epitomize being overly passionate. These men are therefore unprofessional. Buford goes further than that: "The only ones who even irritated him were the cavaliers, the high-bred, feathery, courtly ones who spoke like Englishmen and treated a man like dirt. But they were mostly damn fools, not men enough to hate." (p.41&45)
Buford’s disgust with the Rebel officer who bows formally is comparable to Longstreet’s belief that gentlemanly honor will lose the war for the Confederacy.
Like Longstreet, Buford is a realist. Buford realizes that he had excited his troops for battle. He reflects that, unlike himself, "they were young enough [and idealistic and inexperienced enough] to be eager for this [battle]."
And from the next chapter: " ‘A Holy War,’ Longstreet said. He shook his head. He did not think much of the Cause. He was a professional: the Cause was Victory." (p.63)