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The Killer Angels | Study Guide

Michael Shaara

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The Killer Angels | Part 2, Chapter 7 : Wednesday, July 1, 1863: The First Day (Buford) | Summary



Union soldiers fortify their position along Cemetery Ridge. Buford rides in search of a commander to give him his next orders for his remaining cavalry. At headquarters there is some dispute among the soldiers over whether General Oliver Howard or General Winfield Scott Hancock is in charge. Howard angers Buford by claiming Buford didn't do enough in battle to support his men. Buford, who is wounded and tired, just wants to rest. He goes inside to speak with Hancock, who tells him to refit his men in preparation of the coming battle the next day. General Meade arrives and says the ground they have chosen had better be good. Buford looks for his aides to relay the orders but learns both are dead. He will need new lieutenants. He tells Reynolds they "held the ground."


The second part of the novel returns to Buford's perspective high atop the ground he strategically claimed and held for the Union. Although the Union has been pushed back, they have held the high ground that Buford so valued. It is his primary achievement and contribution to the battle, one for which he receives no credit from the likes of Howard and Meade. Cemetery Ridge will be the site of the deciding moments of the battle to come, and one of the contributing factors to the Union's victory, thanks to Buford.

The author shows the leadership of Union Army to be in a state of disarray before Meade arrives. After the death of Reynolds, it is unclear who is in charge of the army, Howard or Hancock. There are disputes among their soldiers. Buford has to go looking for someone to give him orders. The Union leadership is a disorganized mess, far from the well-oiled machine of command readers might expect from the army that is to defeat the venerable General Lee.

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