The Killer Angels

by Michael Shaara

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In The Killer Angels, compare the relationships and complications between Union General Winfield Scott Hancock and Confederate General Lewis Armistead at Gettysburg.

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Union Major General Winfield Scott Hancock and Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Armistead were the best of friends when serving together in the pre-war U. S. Army in California. "They had been closer than brothers before the war. A rare friendship." Their wives were also friendly, and Armistead was particularly fond of Hancock's wife, Mira. When Armistead resigned his commission to join the Confederate cause, he promised Hancock that

 "... if I ever lift a hand against you, may God strike me dead."  (Armistead, The Killer Angels)

Armistead realized at the beginning of the battle that his brigade (of George Pickett's division of James Longstreet's corps) could eventually face off against Hancock's II Corps. Armistead even considered going across Union lines under a flag of truce to converse with Hancock before his men joined in the attack (Pickett's Charge) on the third day. He was encouraged to do so by Longstreet, but Armistead thought that it wouldn't be militarily "proper." On the final day, Armistead's brigade is one of the nine that makes up Pickett's force: Pickett's brigades will be attacking the center of the Union line--held by Hancock's corps. Armistead is mortally wounded after capturing a Union cannon but, while being attended to by a Union officer, Armistead learns that Hancock, too, has been wounded during the attack. Armistead wants to be taken to see Hancock, but he is told that Hancock's wound is too serious for visitors. With this, Armistead remembers his pledge and prays that at least one of the two men should survive: It will be easier for Mira Hancock if one of them lives.

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