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The Killer Angels | Study Guide

Michael Shaara

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The Killer Angels | Motifs



The novel contains three different vows. The first is the vow Longstreet and Lee made to uphold the Union when they became military officers before the South seceded. Longstreet is bothered that he "broke the vow" when he joined the Rebels, yet he couldn't fight against his own family. Neither could Lee. Both men regret not keeping that vow though. Another solemn vow is the one Armistead makes to his friend Hancock. Armistead says he won't raise a hand against his friend, and he "meant it as a vow." It isn't surprising that dashing, romantic Pickett has made a vow too, not to his men or the army but to his sweetheart, Sallie. He has promised not to drink, and he keeps his vow.

Rebel Yell

The Rebel yell signals the attack of the Confederate Army. It is a "scream of a flood of charging men" that strikes fear in the hearts of their enemy. Chamberlain at first thinks it is "the sound of a man in awful pain, many men," before he realizes what it is. It's meant to intimidate and fluster the Union troops to whom it sounds like the "inhuman screaming of the onrushing dead." Ross calls it a "godawful sound." The Rebel yells accompany nearly every Confederate charge in the novel.

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