Study Guide

Minor Characters in The Killer Angels

By Michael Shaara

Minor Characters

Major Moxley Sorrel

Sorrel is Longstreet's chief aide-de-camp, or assistant. He mainly serves as an information tool, stopping off to alert Longstreet to some new development or sitting around a campfire and trying to explain to Fremantle that the Confederate Cause isn't really about slavery.

Richard Ewell

Ewell, a Confederate General, let Lee down in a big way at Gettysburg. At first, Ewell did a good job: he forced the Union Army back through the town of Gettysburg, capturing the town itself in the process. But Lee wanted him to seize the high ground—Cemetery Hill and Culp's Hill—on the first day of battle, and did he do that? Nope. Why not? Because the somewhat sinister General Jubal Early, Ewell's subordinate, advised him not to attack.

Ewell and Early try to assault the high ground the next day, as Longstreet's troops attempt to take Little Round Top further south on the battlefield. But it doesn't work: the Union ends the day firmly entrenched, forcing the Confederates to launch Pickett's catastrophic charge on the third day.

Jubal Early

Shaara portrays Confederate General Early as being a bit of a jerk—with reason, considering the fact that after the war, Early was involved in the "Louisiana Lottery," a notorious scam. In The Killer Angels, Early comes off as a pretty lousy dude. For example, he gives General Ewell the really bad advice not to attack and capture the Union high ground on the first day of battle—which ends up making it impossible for the Confederates to take the ground on the days following.

A. P. Hill

Hill was a Confederate general. Although he was important on the first day of the battle (a general under him, Harry Heth, was the first to get into combat), he doesn't play a huge role in The Killer Angels. Historically, he was more important on the first day—which went really well for the Confederates—than on the second and third days, when the tide turned dramatically in favor of the North.

Ellis Spear

Spear is one of Chamberlain's officers. He plays a crucial role in the 20th Maine's "swinging door" bayonet charge, which pushes back the Confederates.

The Runaway Slave

On their way to the battlefield, Chamberlain and his troops come across a runaway slave who's been wounded by a bullet, and they help him. The slave can't speak English, so the soldiers can't understand him or his thoughts, but he does make the soldiers think about why they're fighting. Chamberlain is surprised at some of the racist thoughts that are suddenly pumping around his head, and he wonders if the Southerners are right about the supposed inferiority of Africans. He recovers from this temporary doubt, but he feels ashamed. He ends by wishing the runaway slave good luck and acknowledging their shared brotherhood as human beings.

Chamberlain's encounter with the runaway slave shows that ideals can be easy to hold when they're kept abstract and never tested. What's hard is holding on to your ideals even when it's hard and you have to break out of your comfort zone and work through your own prejudices.

Winfield Scott Hancock

Although he was important in the historical battle, Hancock, a Union General, isn't really a central character in The Killer Angels. We get more insight into his best friend, Lew Armistead, who has mixed feelings about fighting against his old pal. Armistead is a Confederate General, and now, despite the fact that he vowed never to raise a hand against Hancock, he finds himself at the vanguard of Pickett's Charge… which is headed straight for Hancock's position.

Armistead gets farther on the field than any other Confederate soldier before dying in battle. As he lies bleeding to death, he asks a Union soldier how Hancock is doing—it turns out he's been wounded, causing Armistead to send his deep regrets.

Armistead never had the chance to realize that Hancock wasn't mortally wounded; in fact, the dude would live on for another twenty-three years.

Richard Brooke Garnett

Garnett is another Confederate General who, like Armistead, dies during Pickett's charge. His leg is injured, and he can't walk, so he actually rides into battle. Armistead knows that Garnett will be killed if he rides at the head of his troops on a horse, and he tries to get Pickett to hold Garnett back—but to no avail. Garnett wants to redeem the honor he lost when Stonewall Jackson tried to court-martial him for cowardice. In death, he succeeds—at least to his way of thinking.

Harry Heth

Harry Heth is a Confederate general (under A. P. Hill) whose forces first encounter the Union Army near Gettysburg. Apparently, it's an accidental encounter—Heth's men were just searching for new shoes. Hey, we'd need a little retail therapy, too, if we were gearing up for Gettysburg. After fighting with Buford's cavalry, Heth's troops battle with John Reynolds's soldiers—killing Reynolds in the process—before finally driving back the Northerners with help from Ewell's troops. Heth is injured during the fighting.

Scheibert

Scheibert is an observer from Prussia staying with the Confederates. He's annoyed that no one else can speak German.

John Reynolds

Reynolds, one of the more talented generals in the Union Army, dies on the first day of the battle, as his troops are among the first to reach the Confederate line. (In the book, Buford acts as a witness to this.) Reynolds was an important figure in the Civil War as a whole, but you don't really need to know much about him as far as The Killer Angels is concerned.

George Gordon Meade

Meade was the commander of the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Gettysburg… which may lead you to think that he might have a bigger role in this book. But not so: Meade briefly appears as a character, but he stays primarily off-stage. It's Chamberlain and Buford who are the main Union characters in The Killer Angels.

Even though he was appointed head of the army a mere three days beforehand, Meade seems to have done a pretty decent job at Gettysburg, despite the fact that he apparently wanted to withdraw after the second day. He did beat Lee, after all, and Lee was one of the most celebrated generals in history. Some say Meade's biggest mistake was not to try to pursue Lee's army and totally destroy it after Gettysburg, which is what Lincoln really wanted. Instead, Meade chose to give his soldiers a little time to rest and recuperate.

Ross, the Austrian Military Observer

Along with Fremantle, this dude is one of the foreign observers hanging out with the Confederates. These guys are trying to determine whether to back the Confederates against the Union or not. (After Gettysburg, that decision came down to a more obvious "no.") Ross wears a weird, colorful uniform with a helmet that looks like a chamber pot—and that's all you really need to know about him.

J. E. B. Stuart

General Stuart, a cavalry commander, is absent from the book for a decent amount of time. He's been out "joy riding," as Longstreet puts it—raiding and wasting time, without keeping Lee fully informed about the Union position. (Some scholars now dispute this, claiming that people tried to scapegoat Stuart, when it was really Lee who was responsible for losing the battle.) When Stuart finally arrives at the end of the second day of the battle, Lee rebukes him, and Stuart tries to resign. Still, in the end, all is forgiven, and Lee allows Stuart to keep his command.

John Bell Hood and Lafayette McLaws

Hood and McLaws are Confederate generals under Longstreet's command who lead the attack on Little Round Top and other Union positions south of Cemetery Ridge on the second day of the battle. Hood gets wounded in the process, but he manages to recover and survive the war.

Dorsey Pender

General Pender, a Confederate, is mortally wounded on the second day of the battle as he tries to take Cemetery Hill back from the Union. His wife actually doesn't appear in the book, but her opinions are mentioned: she believes that this was part of God's judgment on the Confederate Cause; she thinks that since the Confederates invaded the North by marching into Pennsylvania, they're now in the wrong, and the wrath of God is coming down on them.

James Johnston Pettigrew

Pettigrew is a Confederate general who leads men during Pickett's Charge. Along with everyone else involved in the Confederate attack, he suffers from the catastrophe, getting injured in the process. He will be wounded again, this time mortally, just eleven days later.

Isaac Trimble

A Confederate general, Trimble gets into a big argument with General Ewell about trying to take high ground from the Union. Lee told them to do it if they could, and Trimble flips out when Ewell won't give him permission to launch the attack. He complains to Lee and requests another assignment (he doesn't get one). Afterwards, he helps lead Pickett's Charge, which costs him a leg.

Joseph Bucklin

Joseph Bucklin is one of the 120 soldiers from the old Second Maine regiment—a disbanded unit—sent to fight with Chamberlain's 20th Maine. These guys thought that they had only signed up to fight until the Second Maine was discontinued, but they had actually signed three-year contracts. They're locked in. Hence, they're threatening not to fight.

Bucklin explains the men's grievances: they've fought so hard and so long (Bucklin's been in more engagements than Chamberlain) and have had to deal with incompetent leaders who keep getting them killed. Technically, Chamberlain could have these guys shot for mutiny, but instead he settles for convincing them to pick up their guns again. Chamberlain's speech about the reasons the Union soldiers are fighting—basically, to free the slaves and create a more equal society—resonates with the potentially mutinous Mainers, and all but six of them decide to fight.

Porter Alexander

Alexander is the Confederate officer who directs the massive artillery bombardment before Pickett's Charge.

George Sykes

Sykes is the Union general in charge of the Fifth Corps, which contains the 20th Maine Regiment. He praises Chamberlain for a job well done.

Glazier Estabrook

Estabrook is an older man, serving in the 20th Maine and helping Chamberlain out on occasion.

Strong Vincent

Colonel Vincent commands Chamberlain's brigade. He dies during the fighting on Little Round Top.

Walter Taylor, Charles Marshall, and T.J. Goree

Taylor and Marshall are aides to Lee, and Goree is an aide to Longstreet.

Gamble and Devin

Gamble and Devin are Union cavalry officers, leading brigades under Buford.

William Barksdale

A Confederate general from Mississippi, Barksdale dies during the second day of the battle.

James L. Kemper

Another Confederate general who participates in Pickett's Charge.

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