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MonkeyNotes-The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
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Lee on the "trap of soldiering"

" ‘Soldiering has one great trap...To be a good soldier you must love the army. But to be a good officer you must be willing to order the death of the thing you love. This is...a very hard thing to do...We are prepared to lose some of us...But never all of us. Surely not all of us. But...that is the trap You can hold nothing back when you attack. You must commit yourself totally. And yet, if they all die, a man must ask himself, will it have been worth it?’ " (p.191)

This total commitment ties into Longstreet’s earlier thoughts: " soldier in the army. If it can be done, he will do it. He and Pickett. My two. Oh God, there’s not enough of them. We have to spend them like gold, in single pieces. Once they’re gone, there will be no more." (p.188) Compare this to Lee’s comments on page 74: "He had a sudden rushing sensation of human frailty, death like a blowing wind: Jackson was gone, Stuart would go, like leaves from autumn trees."

Here’s another catch-22: Lee and the Confederates in general hold that one must honor family over state, one’s home is one’s top priority. But consider this: "Longstreet had known them all for twenty years and more. They had served together in the Mexican War and in the old 6 th Infantry out in California. They had been under fire together...It was more a family than an army." Problem is that some of the old "family" members from the Mexican war are now the enemy. So in an effort to protect their family, the Confederate soldiers often find themselves killing those ex-comrades who used to be "like brothers."

Minor Themes

Lee vs. Longstreet (Health):

"There was bright heat in Lee’s eyes, like fever." (p.183)

Lee vs. Longstreet (Strategy):

" ‘We must attack. I would rather not have done it upon this ground, but every moment we delay the enemy uses to reinforce himself. We cannot support ourselves in this country. We cannot let him work around behind us and cut us off from home. We must hit him now.’ " (p.184)

Lee vs. Longstreet (Stuart’s Absence):

"If Stuart had appeared at that moment Longstreet would have arrested him." (p.195)

Lee vs. Longstreet (God):

" ‘The issue is in God’s hands. We will live with His decision, whichever way it goes.’ " (p.191)

Lee vs. Longstreet (Strategy):

"But he [Lee] thinks I love the men too much. He thinks that’s where all the talk of defense comes from. My God...But there’s no time [to convince him otherwise and talk him out of charging the Union line]." (p.192)

" ‘General, you know, I’ve not been well lately...I want this to be the last battle.’ " (p.193)

War Truths (Luck plays a large part):

"On little things like that--a cup of water--battles were decided. Generalship? How much of a factor is it, really?

Soldiers’ Past Experiences:

"There were some very good men in that outfit...Some of them ahead now, waiting for us." (p.191)


"It troubles me sometimes," Longstreet said. His mind rang a warning, but he went on grimly, as you ride over rocks. "They’re never quite the enemy, those boys in blue." (p.191)

Duty (Family vs. State):

" ‘I used to command those boys...Difficult thing to fight men you used to command...Swore an oath too...But...couldn’t fight against home. Not against your own family. And yet...we broke the vow.’ " (p.191)

Human Nature (self-critical):

"Captain Johnston was shattered: it was all his fault. Longstreet propped him up. If it was anybody’s fault, it was Stuart’s." (p.195)

Human Nature (anticipation):

"But he was feeling better. Any minute now it would all begin. All hell would break loose and then no more worrying and fretting and fuming." (p.198)


"The only fear was not of death, was not of the war, was of blind stupid human frailty, of blind proud foolishness that could lose it all." (p.198)

Communication & Lost Opportunity:

"So Hood had found an opening to the right. Of course...Lee was miles away. If I got to him now...Too late." (p.200)

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MonkeyNotes-The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara


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