Fighting for a Cause

Topics: American Civil War, Battle of Gettysburg, Confederate States of America Pages: 5 (1530 words) Published: November 22, 2009
Megan Hood

History 1301 MWF 8a.m.

Motivations for Fighting in The Killer Angels
Fighting for a Cause

Man. The killer angel. [1] Since the dawn of civilization humanity has fought to protect what they hold dear. Whether that be freedom, religion or land, the body politic has been at war, even within their own borders. Civil War is defined as a war between regions of the same country.[2] Throughout the course of the four and a half year Civil War, many battles were fought, but none quite as pivotal as the Battle of Gettysburg. Had Lee obliged Longstreet in his persistence of a defensive strategy, the Confederate Army very well could have won the war. Instead, the Union succeeded in holding their ground atop a hillside and thus defeating the Confederate Army and ultimately winning the war. One contemplates the motivations of both the Confederates and the Union soldiers in the United States Civil War. Was it money? Power? Dominance? Michael Shaara, author of The Killer Angels suggests alternative motives. In his novel about the pivotal battle, he suggests that even though it was commonly perceived that soldiers were fighting solely for (Confederate) or against (Union) slavery, the soldier's also fought for honor and social status. The polarization of lifestyles between the highly industrialized urban cities of the North, and the religious plantations of the South had successfully pulled a great country into shambles by pitting friends and family members against one another. If it were not for the memories of loved-ones and the friendships of their fellow soldiers they would not have survived except by putting one foot in front of the other day after day.

Slavery. The greatest misconception of the Civil War is that it was based wholly on the issue of slavery. Shaara uses the Confederate viewpoint to make it clear that the issue was not slavery alone. In a conversation between two Confederate soldiers, Kemper and Pickett, they discuss how the general population believes that slavery is the issue. They say:

'...most Englishman figured the war was all about, ah, slavery,
and then old Kemper got a bit outraged and had to explain to
him how wrong he was, and Sorrel and some others joined in,
but no harm done.'
'Damn fool,'Kemper said. 'He still thinks it's about slavery'...[3] Shaara also uses a conversation of Union soldiers with rebel prisoners to illustrate what the Confederacy was fighting for. A rebel prisoner, when asked by a Union soldier why they were fighting in the war he responded “...they was fightin' for their 'rats'...[they] kept on inistin' they wasn't fightin' for no slaves, they were fightin' for their 'rats'”.[4] Although Shaara was ambiguous as to which rights they were referring to, it can logically be deducted that the Confederate soldier was referring to state rights, as that was a large issue surrounding the secession of the southern states. The Union view remained firm in the belief that the Southerners were fighting strictly on the basis of their right to own slaves as exhibited in a conversation between Chamberlain and his brother Tom, when Tom says:

'If it weren't for the slaves, there'd never have been no war,
now would there?'
'No,' Chamberlain said.
'Well then, I don't care how much political fast-talking you
hear, that's what it's all about and that's what them fellers
dies for, and I tell you, Lawrence [Chamberlain], I don't
understand it at all.'[5]
The opposing viewpoints divided the nation in two, wrecked havoc on many families, not just of the soldiers, but of all residents.
Besides fighting for slavery, honor, as is common in soldiers, was a main driving force in the two armies. Soldier was synonymous with honor, and should you loose your honor, you are not a good soldier, let alone a good man. Honor, prestige and glory were cornerstones to the morale of each army. At one point in The Killer Angels a man, Garnett, was seriously...

Cited: "civil war." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 19 Nov. 2009. .
Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. 2004 Modern Library ed. New York: Random House Inc., 2004. Print. pg. 156
-----------------------
[1] Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. 2004 Modern Library ed. New York: Random House Inc., 2004. Print. pg. 114
[2] "civil war." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
[3] Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. 2004 Modern Library ed. New York: Random House Inc., 2004. Print. pg. 62
[4] Shaara, Michael
[5] Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. 2004 Modern Library ed. New York: Random House Inc., 2004. Print. pg. 329
[6] Shaara, Michael
[7] Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. 2004 Modern Library ed. New York: Random House Inc., 2004. Print. pg. 126
[8] Shaara, Michael
[9] Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. 2004 Modern Library ed. New York: Random House Inc., 2004. Print. pg. 119
[10] Shaara, Michael
[11] Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. 2004 Modern Library ed. New York: Random House Inc., 2004. Print. pg. 156
[12] Shaara, Michael
[13] Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. 2004 Modern Library ed. New York: Random House Inc., 2004. Print. pg. 26
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