Oh Let Me Consol You, James Longstreet
I was shelving books in the "Prize-winners" section and happened upon this old friend. "The
Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara is one of the most personal, moving narratives of the Civil War I've ever read. It tells the story of Ghettysburg and the monumental efforts of both sides, resulting in terrible chaos and loss. It shows vulnerability in the face of supreme heroism, it describes the almost savage (yet tender) love of country and fellow soldiers. It raises the question "Is 'honor' worth commanding thousands of men to their death?"
Conferderate General James Longstreet captures my heart the way Robert E Lee does, and Joshua Chamberlain from the Union. These men were intelligent, compassionate and relentless in their vision of their duty. Longstreet, Lee's "Old Man", his "War Horse" and his best hammer during the battle of Ghettysburg was a man wracked with sorrow. He had just lost his 3 children to fever before the battle, and knew that his entire division would die on the charge up Cemetary Hill. He tried to dissuade Lee from this attack, but Lee was in declining health and had a dilusional urgency in him that wouldn't listen to good advice. Led by the boyish and fearless and charmingly dandy George Pickett, Longstreet's corps paid dearly for their brave and 'honorable' charge. Between 46,000 - 51,000 soldiers were killed on both sides.
Longstreet survived the war and went on to serve in Grant's administration. He was the last of the high officers of the Civil War to die, in 1904.