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Killer Angels and Glory Essay

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Essay title: Killer Angels and Glory Essay

Every soldier in an army seems to have their own story of why they choose to fight in a war, yet when one looks at a war they see one army against another, the individual no longer matters. There is no such thing as an individual in battle or in war. When war is studied there are the armies that fought and the leaders that led those armies. The leaders are the ones that are credited for a win and reprimanded for a loss. The Killer Angels, a historical fiction by Michael Shaara that recounts the events of the Battle of Gettysburg by giving a personal account of the key figures in the war, and Glory, a movie directed by Edward Zwick about the union’s fifty fourth all black regiment and their growth throughout the civil war, both show how the individual is no longer important during wartime, but how the leaders in the war, Robert E. Lee, Joshua Chamberlain, Robert Gould Shaw, must work to bring honor and victory for their soldiers and prove themselves to be worthy of being called leaders and the representatives of their soldiers.

Robert E. Lee realizes that to win the war would immediately deify him as a hero, but to lose the war is to make his military career a failure. Because Lee knows this unspoken agreement, he takes full responsibility for losing the battle of Gettysburg.

No blame can be attached to the army for its failure to accomplish what was projected by me. . . . I alone am to blame, in perhaps expecting too much of its prowess and valor . . . could I have foreseen that the attack on the last day would fail, I should certainly have tried some other course . . . but I do not know what better course I could have pursued. (Shaara 349)

If he had won the glory of victory would have been his.

Throughout the story Lee is the embodiment of the confederate army. His soldiers follow him without question. There is only General Lee and the rest of the army. The soldiers’ identities are unimportant. It was Lee that made the decisions of what the army would do and when they would do it. His decision to charge the union army at the end of the battle was the finishing blow to the confederate army in the battle, and Lee knew this. He also knows that in order to be a good leader he must step up and take the blame for his actions as the general of the confederate army. However, Lee was able to win over the hearts of his soldiers and their unconditional respect. Even after he made the fatal decision that lost the battle, his faithful soldiers and countrymen blamed it on Longstreet. Because of his leadership capabilities, he never lost his followers even after he failed.

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a leader who was empathetic towards his men, yet he still had to think of his army as a thing and not individual human beings in order to be a good leader. He showed his leadership skills in the battle of little round top when he had to use his own brother to fill a spot on his line. When he did this he couldn’t have been thinking about who the individual was that he was filling the hole with or else he would not have been able to do it. He had to think past his own personal feelings in order to be a successful leader.

While Lee was greatly respected by his men, Chamberlain had his soldier’s friendship along with their respect. Because Chamberlain had this close bond with his men, he had to switch his mind set from when he was their friend and when he was their general. As their friend he went around to every individual soldier after a battle to make sure everyone was in good health and anyone who needed medical attention got it. As their general, he had to be able to send them into battle knowing that many would be killed. He is a true leader fighting with his men every step of the way to gain their respect. During the course of battle he was, “Wounded six times. Cited for bravery in action four times…Breveted Major General for heroism at Five Forks…” (Shaara 354) Chamberlain leads by his actions and in this way he earns the respect of the union.

Chamberlain shows off his skills as a natural born leader when he convinces 114 of 120 mutineer soldiers to stay with the army. When he addresses the mutineers he becomes the cause he is fighting for. He is not himself when he is convincing the men to join up with his regiment, but he is the representation of freedom. When convincing the men to join he states how the army is made up of individuals, but those individuals become the cause they are fighting for so that their own lives are no longer what is important.

It’s the idea that we all have value, you and me, we’re worth something more than the dirt. I never saw dirt I’d die for, but I’m not asking you to come join us and fight for dirt. What we’re all fighting for, in the end, is each other. (Shaara 30)

Chamberlain is one of the only people in the book that could make this statement because

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