The Killer Angels | Study Guide

Michael Shaara

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The Killer Angels | Part 3, Chapter 1 : Thursday, July 2, 1863: The Second Day (Fremantle) | Summary

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Summary

Fremantle awakes before dawn, delighted to participate in the camp breakfast. He thinks "what a joy to be with the winners! ... [but] the war would soon be over, and all this would end, and we would all go back to the duller pursuits of peace." He rides out with the other foreign observers and sees Lee consulting with his generals, looking at the enemy positions. Longstreet is accompanied by General John Bell Hood, one of his division commanders. Fremantle observes the Union-occupied Cemetery Ridge with two smaller hills to its south across the open fields. One hill is rocky; the other covered in trees. He asks why the Confederates have not prepared for the possibility of the Union attacking their position. Longstreet says it would be unlike Meade to do so.

As the battle is not predicted to begin for a couple of hours, the foreigners lie down in a field and chat casually. Fremantle is disappointed to learn Longstreet is from Dutch ancestry, not English. It mars his theory that the Southerners are really fellow Englishmen—"all gentlemen" deep down who would be happy to be reunited with England under the rule of the Queen "as it always should have been." Fremantle believes the fact that the South is like the "Old Country" and the North is not is the real reason for the war. According to the Englishman, society in the South, just like his home country, all comes "back to class." All the nonsense about "equality of rabble" is "rot," which he believes is evidence of the failure of "the great experiment" of democracy. He thinks that Southerners, like the English, "have that same love of the land and of tradition, of the right form, of breeding." He contrasts this social system as different from that of the North, where "the only aristocracy is the aristocracy of wealth." The South against the North is "the gentlemen against the rabble."

Analysis

Through Fremantle's eyes readers get a sense of the lay of the land on which the battle is about to begin. The South faces the enemy across open fields, and the enemy is fortified at the top of the hills opposite. Even readers unacquainted with battle strategy can gather that soldiers crossing the field to reach the enemy will have no cover as they move while the enemy fires from a protected position. The land puts the South at a disadvantage from the start.

Fremantle's delight at being among the Southern army in the calm before the battle paints a romantic view of war. He even imagines a fairytale ending for England, proposing a reunification with England, making things right, setting them back to "as it always should have been." Even as he surveys the battlefield where thousands of men will later die, he feels "continually rising excitement," possibly because he himself will be watching in safety, not coming under fire. A romantic view of war is all about valor and pride and a common enemy. Fremantle is thrilled to be a part of the Southern "we"—all gentlemen in the war against the "rabble."

The author explores class through Fremantle's conclusions and perspective of the South. Coming from England with a system of landed nobility that is not earned but runs in families, Fremantle finds much in common with the social order of the South. He is quite condescending toward democracy and what he believes is "the equality of rabble." Clearly he believes some people are better than others and more fit to lead, which gives new meaning to his previous comments about Lee being like an Englishman and a true gentleman. The author clarifies Fremantle's view further by his critique of the social order of the North and its lack of an aristocratic class save "an aristocracy of wealth." Fremantle thinks the difference between the class systems of the North and South is what the war is really about. The author portrays perspectives on class differences as something that divides the North and South but that Fremantle, at least, believes could unite the South with "The Old World."

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