How does the Lewis Armistead and Winfield Hancock relationship define the war in The Killer Angels?

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

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The American Civil War has always been described as one in which brothers often fought brothers and where friends often met face-to-face on the battlefield. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain claims that the war is about

“Killing of brothers. This whole war is concerned with the killing of brothers.”

Such was the case of Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Armistead and Union Major General Winfield Scott Hancock. Before the war, they were best friends, "closer than brothers," and Armistead seems to have had a spiritual if not romantic connection with Hancock's wife, Mary. Armistead, a brigade commander in Major General George Pickett's infantry division, has long worried that he may one day face off against Hancock on the battlefield. He wants to see Hancock one last time, but not under fire. Armistead even considers crossing enemy lines to pay Hancock a visit under a flag of truce, a notion suggested and approved by his corps commander, Lieutenant General James Longstreet. But Armistead doesn't consider it proper, and instead he hopes that Hancock's Union corps will not be engaged when Armistead's men are sent into action. But such is not the case: In a simple twist of fate, Hancock's II Corps will defend the center of the Union line on the final day of battle, and Pickett's division--with Armistead's brigade--will take direct aim at Hancock's men. Armistead is distracted at the time of the attack; he is thinking of his last meeting with Hancock's wife, remembering his farewell: "It may be for years, it may be forever." And it is Hancock's men who fatally wound Armistead, who manages to ask a Union officer to take him to see his friend. But Hancock has also been badly wounded, Armistead learns, and Armistead

"... sends his regrets. Will you tell him... how very sorry I am..."  (Friday, July 3, 1863--Chapter 4)

One man dies--Armistead--and one man lives--Hancock--joining the tens of thousands of other Gettysburg casualties in blue and grey, but Americans all.

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