How does The Killer Angels' author Michael Shaara characterize Confederate General Lewis Armistead?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Brigadier General Lewis Armistead (1817-1863) is portrayed by author Michael Shaara as a romantic character--perhaps the greatest romantic among a soldierly sea of romantics. He dreams of being with Richard the Lionheart in the Crusades.

"The Crusades must have been a little like this. Wish I’d a been there. Seen old Richard and the rest."

Armistead's nickname is "Lo"--short for Lothario--a joking reference to the shy widower who apparently only had eyes for two other woman: His beloved dead wife; and "Mira," the wife of his oldest and dearest friend, Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, one of the Union's best corps commanders. Armistead is a career soldier and gentleman from an old Virginia family. His widow was a cousin of General Robert E. Lee, and he came from a long line of distinguished Virginians--congressmen, governors and soldiers. Unlike many of the other high-ranking officers, Armistead has no particular desire for promotion, and he fights because--like Lee--he cannot imagine fighting against his home state. Armistead loves life: He enjoys the company of friends, "Always loved music," and he desperately misses his true love, his dead wife. He thinks constantly of Hancock and worries that his brigade may eventually face his old friend's corps on the battlefield--which he does during the desperate Pickett's charge.

     He was a brave and courtly man, a soldier all his life. He had a martial bearing and the kind of a face on which emotion rarely showed, a calm almost regal quality... he was a good soldier, a dependable soldier, and all his life he had felt things more deeply than anyone knew--except her, so very briefly, before she died... as she was dying.

Armistead's men advance deeper into the Union lines than any other Confederate brigade in the charge--the "high water mark of the Confederacy"--and Armistead reaches the intended goal: The stone wall. Waving his hat high above his head on the tip of his sword, he manages to reach one of the abandoned Union cannon before he is hit. He receives three wounds and is captured at the stone wall. Yet he only worries about his old friend, Hancock, and he requests to the Union officer who tends to him that he be taken to his old friend. But the officer tells Armistead that Hancock, too, has been wounded.

     "No," Armistead said. He closed his eyes. Not both of us... please dear God.
     "Will you tell General Hancock, please, that General Armistead sends his regrets... Will you tell him... how very sorry I am..."


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