Study Guide

The Killer Angels Identity

By Michael Shaara

Identity

Could you ever travel in the South again? Probably not for a while. But they had great fishing there. Black bass rising in flat black water: ah. Shame to go there again, to foreign ground. Strange sense of enormous loss. Buford did not hate. He was a professional. 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. But it would be a great shame if you could never go south anymore, for the fishing, for the warmth in winter. Thought once of retiring there. If I get that old. (1.3.77)

Even though Buford's fighting for the North, he stills feels a sense of loss in thinking about the South. It's not that he regrets the end of slavery; it's more that he'll miss the nice things about it. Of course, a lot of those "nice" things were propped up economically by slavery…

"A little eccentricity is a help to a general. It helps with the newspapers. The women love it too. Southern women like their religious and a little mad. That's why they fall in love with preachers."(2.5.64)

Longstreet speaks these lines, and maybe he had Stonewall Jackson in mind. General Jackson died at the Battle of Chancellorsville, but before that, he was a professor of theology with a ton of eccentricities. For example, he believed that eating black pepper made his legs ache, and he insisted on riding his horse with one arm in the air, claiming it was necessary to keep his balance.

Fremantle enjoyed himself enormously. Southerners! They were Englishmen, by George. Fremantle was at home. (3.1.12)

As covered in the "Society and Class" section, Fremantle (a real person) loved the South. Somehow, he was able to overlook slavery and just enjoy all the aristocratic sort-of-Englishness about it… At any rate, he wrote a real book predicting a Southern victory. He was, of course, totally wrong.

In the South there was one religion, as in England, one way of life. They even allowed the occasional Jew—like Longstreet's Major Moses, or Judah Benjamin, back in Richmond—but by and large they were all the same nationality, same religion, same customs. A little rougher, perhaps, but… my word. (3.1.81)

Fremantle continues to enthuse about the Southerners. We've got to point out that this dude loves him some conformity and sameness: he has no appreciation for societies more diverse than his own.

Heat and Spanish moss. Strange hot land of courtly manners and sudden violence, elegance and anger. A curious mixture: the white-columned houses high on the green hills, the shacks down in the dark valleys. Land of black and white, no grays. The South was a well-bred, well-mannered, highly educated man challenging you to a duel. (3.2.3)

Chamberlain finds the South kind of tough to understand. It's different—alien, even. He thinks the people there are very absolute about things, seeing everything in black and white—except, ironically, for the moral issue of slavery. There's an intensity and a pride in the Southern disposition that seem foreign and exotic to a Mainer.

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