Gods And Generals Essay, Research Paper
The American Civil War was a military conflict between the United States of America (the Union), and 11 secessionist Southern states, organized as the Confederate States of America (the Confederacy). It was the culmination of four decades of intense sectional conflict and it reflected deep-seated economic, social, and political differences between the North and the South. Many books have been written on this “first modern war” describing how over 620,000 men were killed. Jeff Shaara goes deeper and explores the personal conflicts of four historical figures, two from the South and two from North: General Lee, General Jackson, Colonel Chamberlain, and Hancock.
Robert E. Lee’s story began with a dilemma; he had to decide whether to stay to fight with the army he has been serving for 30 years or to resign and go to Virginia to defend his home. Life in the army had ruined his life, “He had missed a father’s great joy of watching his children grow and learn… [and] try not to think about what his career had done to his family.” (Pg. 11) Throughout Part 1, Lee feels something missing from inside him: the feeling of action, of war. While in Texas, General Winfield Scott asks Lee to serve as second in command of the Union Army, but due to the possibility that Virginia could also secede, he declines. Still yearning for action, he accepts the command of the Provisional Army, the defense forces for the state of Virginia. He goes on to recruit Major Thomas Jackson, Jackson replies by saying, “If they do not run, then they die.” (Pg. 135)
“I will do whatever I must to defeat my enemies.” (Pg. 135) This describes Major Jackson’s general attitude towards war and towards God. Jackson is extremely pious and does all he can to please God and to follow His path. Newspaper coverage of his battles quickly publicized him and the title Hero was given to Jackson. Throughout the war, Jackson shows dedication, going beyond his orders and chasing away his enemies. He also shows an immense concern for his troops, he “had seen the bare feet, the bloody impressions, and he felt a deep pain, a sadness.” (Pg. 289) His men were shabby compared to the forces of Hancock and Chamberlain.
Winfield Scott Hancock, named after General Winfield Scott, has the talent of making himself “indispensable in any assignment he is given…” (Pg. 5) Due to this talent, he is the best suited to take the role of Quartermaster. After various locations, he is transferred to California, where his story begins. Like Lee, he feels he belongs on the battlefield, and not in an office. Hancock visits General McClellan and is told, “We need leaders, Mr. Hancock. I believe that includes you.” (Pg. 160) And so, his duty is now assigned.
One of the many patriots, Joshua Chamberlain enlisted in the Union Army to defend his country. It is ironic because “he had never enjoyed shooting anything…” (Pg. 36) and yet he is willing to kill in pride for his country. A teacher Bowdoin, he receives high recommendations to the army, and Governor Washburn offers him a command position. He accepted this, and felt as if he were betraying his family. His wife, Frances, sternly states, “You can’t mean this, Lawrence. You’re not a soldier.” (Pg. 217) He happens to lead the Twentieth Command, the same assembly of volunteers his brother is in. Chamberlain does not see action till the end, but learns much from Colonel Ames.
As the war moves on, Stonewall Jackson wins his reputation by a series of stinging victories over ineptly led Union forces. Lee, finally given command of the Confederate forces, recognizes that this devout and dangerous man is his greatest weapon. For a time, it truly seems as if God is on their side and that Lee will lead his army to final victory against overwhelming odds. Lee had given a prayer, “Thank you for this place, for this ground,” (Pg. 288) thanking God for the advantage. At the Battle of Fre*censored*sburg where, for the first time, all four men meet on the same field and experience the exhilaration and raw horror of battle from four very different points of view. But it is in the next great fight, the Battle of Chancellorsville, that Lee’s brilliant strategy and Jackson’s supreme achievement are futile when Jackson is mortally wounded by his own men. This loss is the turning point of the war. Lee sees that against the ever-growing number of Union forces, he can only win by a direct threat to Washington. So the battle-hardened armies of the Confederacy begin their fateful invasion of the North, toward an obscure crossroads in Pennsylvania called Gettysburg.
This novel brings to life an important segment of United States history. The Civil War shaped history and still affects many today. One can still find the son or daughter of a Civil War veteran, and be amazed with their stories. Bitterness and sores still exist deep in the South, where the war has still not ended in their minds. Gods and Generals help to understand the truth behind the war. There were no bad guys, only everyday people fighting for their home. President Lincoln was able to say that “it’s a good war, a war for what is right.” (Pg. 100)
just the book itself…