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MonkeyNotes-The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
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Major Theme

Total Sacrifice

"Fewer than two hundred now. And there on the rock, sitting star down at the long line of dark men shapeless under dark trees, he felt for the first time the sense of the coming end. They were dwindling away like sands in a glass. How long does it go on? Each one becoming more precious. What’s left now is the best, each man a rock. But now there are so few. We began with a thousand and so whittled down, polishing, pruning, until what we had yesterday was superb, absolutely superb, and now only about two hundred, and, God, had it not been for those boys from the Second Maine...but the end is in sight. Another day like yesterday...and the Regiment will be gone. In the Union army that was the way it was: they fought a unit until it bled to death. There were no replacements." (p.281) Compare Chamberlain’s thoughts with Longstreet’s reflections on page 188 and Lee’s considerations on page 74.

Chamberlain, for example, is not willing to sacrifice his brother to winning the war. Or is he?

"I used him to plug a hole. My brother. Did it automatically, as if he was expendable. Reached out and put him there, as you move a chess piece." (p.276) Simile.

The extreme end of the Union line (p.275)

Minor Themes

War truths (live for the moment):

"They had left Union Mills with three days’ worth [of rations], but the troops had philosophically eaten most of that first chance they got." (p.276)

War truths (War is exciting):

"It will be hard to go home again after this....Yesterday was...a dream....There was an exultation, a huge delight. I was alive." (p.276 & 278)


"After a moment he said, without thinking, ‘I will miss old Buster.’ (p.277)

Human nature (avoiding the unpleasant):

" ‘I don’t like bayonets...One thing about war I just don’t like. Different, you know? Not like guns and cannon.... I couldn’t use mine...couldn’t stick nobody.’ " (p.277)

Idealism vs. Realism:

" ‘We only got about two hundred men,’ Tom said thoughtfully. Not with worry, but with calculation, a new realist, assessing the cold truth." (p.278)

Good ground:

"[Little Round Top,] It was a very good position. The hill was flat across the top, about thirty yards of flat rock, an occasional tree, but the ascent on all sides was steep." (p.279)

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MonkeyNotes-The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara


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