Unquestioned loyalty seems to be one of the themes that runs through The Killer Angels, and not only in the fictional characters created by author Michael Shaara but in the true historical context as well. General Robert E. Lee was revered in a near god-like manner by both his junior officers and enlisted men alike. His repeated battlefield triumphs against long odds had given him overconfidence in the capabilities of his troops; the soldiers were likewise overconfident, and they followed Lee's orders without question. Lee's top subordinant, Gen. James Longstreet, was more realistic. He preferred defensive posturing to Lee's often reckless frontal assaults, but Longstreet's own loyalty to his commander was firm. Longstreet's division commander, George Pickett, jumped at the chance to lead the fateful charge on the third day at Gettysburg--not so much out of loyalty to Longstreet or Lee, but because he yearned for glory that had eluded him up to that point. Pickett's men seemed anxious and confident, believing that Lee's decision to attack the Union center would be a victorious one.
On the Union side, Col. Joshua Chamberlain proves he is a realist, but his loyalty is strong to the Union cause, his state of Maine, and to the Maine men who follow him. Chamberlain's brother, Tom (a lieutenant) practically worships his older sibling. Buster Kilrain, the former sergeant upon whom Joshua Chamberlain relies, proves his loyalty time and again. All of them are ready to die during their last gasp stand on Little Round Top.