Place and Time Setting

The setting and time of my novel plays a key part in the storyline. The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara, is about the Battle of Gettysburg, so it is set in Gettysburg, PA around the early 1860s.  The town is important in the battles because the terrain is situated so that whoever had control of the hills is at an extreme advantage. This plays a large role in the Northern victory, because they have control of the hills. 

There isn’t much of a moral advantage for the North despite being on their own ground in Pennsylvania, so this isn’t much of a factor for their army. However, the terrain definitely favors the North because they are able to be successful with their conservative style because a hill is very easy to defend.


There are several main characters in The Killer Angels, but the main three are the famous Robert E. Lee, Josh Chamberlain, and James Longstreet. Lee and Longstreet are Southern generals who are close friends but are broken up by Longstreet’s questioning of Lee’s military decisions.

Chamberlain is a Northern colonel from Maine who is very loyal to people from his home state. He is a true hero of the Gettysburg battle. No physical description is really given of any, but an approximate age is known. Chamberlain is in his low 30’s, Longstreet is in his 40’s and an exact age is not known for Lee, but he is quite old. There are many significant character traits for each character however. Lee is very aggressive, which reflects his style of fighting.

He talks a lot and wants to know what is going on. This is shown when he is constantly sending scouts to scout the area for Union troops. He must always know what is going on. Longstreet is a much more conservative person, also reflecting his fighting style. He won’t talk to someone unless they talk to him. This is shown with the British reporter who is staying with the Southern army. The British man talks to Longstreet a lot, but Longstreet doesn’t say much back. Chamberlain is a true motivator.

He is able to get a large number of problem troops who have been kicked out of a few regiments to fight for him with a speech that sends chills down their spines and inspires everyone. His army may have taken out a lot of southern troops because they truly want to win for him. The most interesting character is Arthur Fremantle, the Brit staying with the Southern army. He is interesting because he is so naïve to the people of America. He still thinks America should be owned by Britain and still thinks that will happen.

Main Conflict

The obvious main conflict in the novel is North vs. South, but the Civil War went much deeper than this. The main conflict in the novel is America vs. America. What this means is that nobody won the Civil War. It is America vs. itself.

This war could have been easily avoided, but it had to be fought because neither side would ever budge, and this novel shows that in a very clear manner. It is shown through the characters’ personalities, mostly the southerners.

This novel gave Lee, Longstreet, and other southerners an air of cockiness I believe they have in real life, and this showed that the south is determined on becoming part of America only through bloodshed. The Northerners such as Chamberlain don’t seem to want to be fighting this war. It seems as if they wonder why they’re dying for a few states they don’t want as part of their fine country.

The Civil War truly exposes everything wrong with mankind, and how a country can kill itself with a few key mistakes. The Killer Angels shows this in a realistic manner.

Main Theme

The main theme of The Killer Angels is that enemies have more in common than they believe they do. The north and south actually have a lot in common in this book. They share extremely different views on slavery, but they both share the same positive qualities. Both fight with honor and courage against all odds, and both show respect for their enemy.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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