The Killer Angels: Character Profiles
Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead
Brigadier General Lewis A. Armistead is one of Pickett’s brigade commanders. A widower, he is a shy man who does not say much. His nickname is Lo (short for Lothario), which is an ironic joke. Armistead is close friends with General Hancock on the Union side, which causes him some distress because when Armistead takes part in Pickett’s Charge, it is against a position defended by Hancock. Armistead comes from a military family and he performs well in the charge but is mortally wounded just as he reaches the Union-held wall.
Major General John Buford
Major General John Buford is a cavalryman, born in Kentucky. He is an experienced soldier and military tactician, having taking part in the Indian wars and in other Civil War battles. He has little patience with incompetent superiors. Buford is admired by his men, who remember how he held off Longstreet at Thorofare Gap for six hours when vastly outnumbered. Buford is the first soldier to arrive in Gettysburg, and he takes pride in the fact that he holds his ground against the Confederate assault on the first day of battle.
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain commands the Twentieth Maine regiment. He was formerly a professor of rhetoric at Bowdoin University and is presented as an ideal and heroic leader. He tries to persuade the mutineers that arrive from another regiment to fight by inspiring them with a speech about the Union cause rather than bullying them. Almost all of them respond positively. Chamberlain believes strongly in what he is fighting for, the equality of all men. His aide Kilrain and his brother Tom both revere him.
When under the greatest pressure, Chamberlain remains cool and decisive. He finds battle an exhilarating experience. When his men are out of ammunition, he orders the bayonet charge that routs the rebels, and during which he is wounded in the foot. Later he is complimented on his performance by General Sykes. On the third day of the battle, Chamberlain’s regiment is placed at the center of the Union line, and Chamberlain finds it a thrilling experience. He looks forward to more battles.
Lieutenant Tom Chamberlain
Tom Chamberlain is Joshua’s younger brother. He has been recently promoted to lieutenant, and he looks up to his older brother. Tom is described as “bright-faced, high-voiced” (p. 21), and in combat he is “calm and serene” (p. 127). He takes part in the Twentieth Maine’s bayonet charge and is uninjured.
Major General Jubal Early
Major General Jubal Early is the commander of one of Ewell’s divisions. He is described as a “dark, cold, icy man, bitter, alone” (xiii). He is a former prosecuting attorney and very sure of himself. During the battle, Ewell defers to Early’s judgment, but Longstreet dislikes him.
Lieutenant General Richard Ewell
Lieutenant General Richard Ewell is the commander of the Confederate’s Second Army Corps. He lost a leg in an earlier battle and has just returned to the army. Lee thought highly of him and promoted him following the death of Stonewall Jackson. Unfortunately for the Confederates, Ewell is not a successful commander at Gettysburg. He is too cautious and defers to the judgments of Early. He fails to attack Cemetery Hill on the first day of battle, and Lee realizes that appointing him to such a senior position in the army was a mistake.
Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Lyon Fremantle
Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Lyon Fremantle is an Englishman who accompanies the Confederates at Gettysburg as a military observer. Fremantle is a military officer himself, and he admires the Confederates, believing them to be like Englishmen in their respect for a traditional, hierarchical society. Fremantle has no doubt that the Confederates will win the war, and he even hopes, unrealistically, that the new country will once more become part of Britain.
Brigadier General Richard Brooke Garnett
Brigadier General Richard Brooke Garnett is one of Pickett’s brigade commanders. Garnett is under a cloud at Gettysburg because Stonewall Jackson accused him of cowardice and tried to court-martial him. The charge appears to be without foundation (Longstreet says Garnett is no coward), but Garnett is desperate to prove his bravery. He takes part in Pickett’s charge on horseback because he is so badly wounded he cannot walk. However, this makes him an easy target for the enemy, and he is killed.
Major General Winfield Scott Hancock
Major General Winfield Scott Hancock is the commander of the Union’s 2nd Corps. He is renowned for his leadership qualities. Joshua Chamberlain describes him as “tall and calm, handsome, magnetic” (p. 322). Hancock is an old friend of the Armistead and must face his friend in battle on the third day. Hancock is wounded but recovers.
Harrison is the Confederate scout, or spy, sent by Longstreet to report on the position of the Union army several days before the battle. He locates two Union Corps and rides to Confederate headquarters to convey the information.
Major General Henry Heth
Major General Henry (Harry) Heth is a commander of one of Hill’s divisions. On the first day of battle, he is ordered by Lee not to get into a major fight, but nonetheless he attacks Buford’s two brigades, thinking he is only facing a local militia. He is surprised when he finds himself facing not only cavalry but infantry too.
Lieutenant Colonel Ambrose Powell Hill
Lieutenant Colonel Ambrose Powell Hill has recently been promoted to commander of the Confederate 3rd Army Corps. Hill was a very effective division commander, but Lee wonders whether Hill, who is known to be impulsive, will be equally outstanding in command of an entire corps.
Major General John Bell Hood
Major General John Bell Hood, known as Sam, commands one of Longstreet’s divisions and has a reputation for getting the job done. During the battle he is injured in the arm.
Major General Oliver O. Howard
Major General Oliver O. Howard is the commander of the Union’s Eleventh Corps. His troops perform badly on the first day of the battle, not for the first time. Hancock took over command and rallied them. Since then all the other officers go to Hancock rather than Howard for their orders, even though Howard believes he outranks Hancock. Howard is angry about the situation.
Brigadier General James Kemper
Brigadier General James Kemper serves under Pickett. A former politician, he is wounded in Pickett’s charge.
Private Buster Kilrain
Private Buster Kilrain is an aide to Chamberlain. A grizzled veteran, he is much older than Chamberlain and has a fatherly attitude to him. Chamberlain relies on him. Kilrain is a former sergeant who was demoted for hitting an officer when drunk. He is wounded twice and finally dies of a heart attack. He is described as having “white hair, a battered face,” and is “scarred round the eyes like an old fighter” (p. 185).
General Robert E. Lee
General Robert E. Lee is the fifty-six-year-old commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. At Gettysburg he does not feel well, and this is presented as the early signs of heart disease. He is often weary but has immense dignity and a gentlemanly manner. He has none of the common vices of drinking or gambling, and his men revere him, regarding him almost with awe. Lee has been a very successful military leader up to this point, and that is why his army is so confident of victory at Gettysburg. Lee never complains or loses patience or shows harshness. He has no interest in court-martialing Stuart, for example, even though he has good cause.
Lee loves his home state of Virginia, although he took up arms in the Confederate cause only reluctantly. He is troubled by the fact that he took an oath to defend the union and now he is an invader in Pennsylvania. He is a religious man who believes the result of the battle is in the hands of God. Going against advice from Longstreet, he insists on attacking the Union army, and he is willing to take the blame when that strategy fails.
Lieutenant General James Longstreet
Lieutenant General James Longstreet commands the Confederate First Army Corps and is Lee’s second in command following the death of Stonewall Jackson. Longstreet “gave an impression of ominous bad-tempered strength and a kind of slow, even, stubborn, unquenchable anger” (p. 85). The other officers regard him as rather dour, and unlike many of the other others, he is not a Virginian. Longstreet has his own reasons for his depressed mood, since the previous winter all three of his children died of fever, and since then he has become withdrawn.
However, everyone agrees that Longstreet is a “magnificent soldier . . . the rock of the army” (p. 85). He is Lee’s most trusted commander and confidant. Lee values the advice Longstreet gives him because Longstreet always tells him the truth. However, the two men disagree over tactics. Longstreet is aware of how the practice of war is changing with the times, and he favors defensive tactics, but many of his fellow officers, as well as Lee, are unconvinced by his arguments. Longstreet believes Lee’s decision to order the charge at the center of the Union line on day three of the battle to be a serious mistake, and in the disaster that follows his judgment appears to be vindicated.
Major General George Gordon Meade
Major General George Gordon Meade was appointed commander of the Union Army only two days before the battle of Gettysburg. He is a minor character in the novel and is not presented in the best of light, being described as “Vain and bad-tempered, balding, full of self-pity” (xv).
Brigadier James Johnston Pettigrew
Brigadier James Johnston Pettigrew is Heth’s brigade commander. He is one of the few intellectuals in the army and has written a book. He gives a copy of it to Longstreet. When Heth is injured, Pettigrew takes command of his division. He sustains a minor hand wound during Pickett’s charge on the third day of battle. He is killed ten days later, as the Confederates withdraw. the retreat.
Major General George E. Pickett
Major General George E. Pickett is Longstreet’s division commander. When he arrives at camp he is described as “bronze-curled and lovely, hair down to his shoulders, regal and gorgeous on a stately mount” (pp. 57-58). Pickett is a romantic warrior who longs to be involved in the battle. Longstreet knows Pickett can be relied upon, even though Pickett finished last in his class at West Point. Picket is excited to lead the charge on the third day of battle, but the result is disastrous, and his division suffers 60 percent casualties. Pickett blames Lee for the disaster that befalls his men.
Major General John F. Reynolds
Major General John F. Reynolds is the commander of the Union First Corps. He has a reputation as an excellent soldier. He is killed on the first day of battle, soon after arriving at Gettysburg in support of Buford’s forces.
Colonel James M. Rice
Colonel James M. Rice leads the 44th New York regiment in Vincent’s brigade.
Major General Daniel Sickles
Major General Daniel Sickles commands the Union Third Corps. He used to be a New York politician and is notorious for having shot his wife’s lover. Sickles moves his men without authorization to the peach orchard on the second day of the battle.
Major Moxley Sorrel
Major Moxley Sorrel is Longstreet’s chief of staff.
Lieutenant General J. E. B. Stuart
Lieutenant General J. E. B. Stuart commands a Confederate cavalry division. Lee sent him out to report on the position of the Union army, but he completely fails in his mission, not returning until it is too late. Many officers, including Longstreet, want him court-martialed but Lee merely rebukes him.
General Sykes is a Union general who congratulates Chamberlain on his bayonet charge.
Major Walter Taylor
Major Walter Taylor is a twenty-four-old aide to General Lee.
Brigadier General Isaac Trimble
Brigadier General Isaac Trimble is nearly sixty years old. He is infuriated by Ewell’s indecision on the first day, believing that they could have taken the hill had they tried. He refuses to serve under Ewell any longer. He is appointed one of three division commanders in Pickett’s charge, and he is wounded during the assault. His leg is amputated but he survives.
Colonel Strong Vincent
Colonel Strong Vincent is Chamberlain’s new brigade commander, from the 83rd Pennsylvania. He is known as a good soldier but he is mortally wounded on the second day of battle, dying several days later.