Study Guide

The Killer Angels Part 3, Chapter 2

By Michael Shaara

Part 3, Chapter 2

Chamberlain

  • Early in the morning, Chamberlain thinks about how he's grown less detached over the years. He's become less of a New Englander and has come to identify more with humanity as a whole.
  • Chamberlain tells a soldier that McClellan isn't really in command again.
  • Chamberlain remembers a dream he had of his wife last night as well as a nice letter she wrote him.
  • Captured Confederates are marching down the road, and some of Chamberlain's men go over to talk to them. Chamberlain remembers how much his wife liked the South when they had visited.
  • Kilrain comes over and tells Chamberlain that he's discovered a black man. Chamberlain goes to see him.
  • The man, a runaway slave, is lying on the ground and bleeding from a bullet wound. He finishes the coffee the soldiers give him and says something the soldiers can't understand; Chamberlain doesn't think the man knows English. The soldiers finally realize he's saying thank you.
  • The soldiers feed the now-freed slave. Chamberlain is fascinated: he hasn't seen too many African Americans.
  • Chamberlain suddenly feels a jolt of revulsion, which makes him feel ashamed; he hadn't realized he had any racist inclinations. He remembers a Southern minister's racist arguments against emancipation.
  • Tom comes up and tells Chamberlain that some of the Confederate prisoners said they were fighting for their "rats." They meant "rights," but the accent made it sound that way to the Northerners.
  • Chamberlain feels sympathetic toward the wounded runaway slave. He imagines what it must be like to be in America, a strange and alien land, having recently been kidnapped and brought here.
  • It turns out that a woman in town actually shot the slave for some reason, though the wound isn't fatal or serious.
  • Chamberlain thinks he's done all he can for the runaway. He says "God bless you" before marching on.
  • The soldiers wait in a field to be reviewed, but nothing happens. Chamberlain chats with Vincent for a little, and then they move on.
  • Meade sends an order, which Chamberlain reads to the troops. The order reminds them that anyone who refuses to fight will be put to death. This embarrasses Chamberlain.
  • The men sit around, sleeping and writing letters. Kilrain tells Chamberlain that the runaway is still with them.
  • Chamberlain thinks about how dependable Kilrain is. He asks Kilrain what he thinks of black people.
  • Kilrain says he has reservations but refuses to judge by the group: a few black people have totally earned his respect.
  • Chamberlain says he sees no difference at all between the races: everyone has the divine spark. Kilrain says nothing.
  • Chamberlain tells Kilrain about how a Southern minister and professor visited him and his wife, and they all ended up arguing about slavery. The Southerners didn't think that black people were even human; they viewed them as property, something you could own, just like a horse.
  • The professor seemed like a good man, while the minister was obnoxious—but they both shared essentially the same views. Chamberlain realized that he would need to kill them and the people who viewed the world as they did in order to free the slaves. Nevertheless, sometimes he still has pangs of doubt.
  • Kilrain says that he's not fighting for equality; he's fighting to prove he's a better man than most. He wants to destroy the Southern aristocracy, since it judges people based on birth and not on merit.
  • Kilrain reveals he doesn't know who his father was.
  • Kilrain also says that freed black people probably won't turn out better than free whites. But the point, he says, is to dismantle the unfair aristocratic class system.
  • Kilrain also doesn't like religion; he thinks killing ministers does the world a favor. He mentions that some people burned a Catholic church recently, killing the nuns. He doesn't approve of this, but he does jokingly call it a "divine spark."
  • The conversation ends, and Chamberlain reads a little. Kilrain bets him that nothing will happen today—but Chamberlain has the sense that something will.

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