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MonkeyNotes-The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
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CHAMBERLAIN (Chapter 4 of Part III)

Victory at Little Round Top

Chamberlain and Kilrain are awakened by the artillery of Longstreet’s attack. Chamberlain is ordered to move his troops from their position behind Cemetery Ridge to a defensive position on the hills just south of the ridge. The situation is especially urgent because General Sickles moved his men forward from their planned position on the ridge down to the road below. As Sickles is being routed by Longstreet, Chamberlain has his men march double-time to reach the hills they must protect.

After reaching the hill (Little Round Top) Chamberlain is reminded by Colonel Vincent that as the extreme left of the Union line, he must hold his position at all costs. (The position is so important because if Rebels make it past Chamberlain they can flank the entire army.) Chamberlain ponders the concept of total sacrifice, the possibility that his entire regiment might get wiped out in defending the hill, before positioning his men.

Chamberlain’s men are well dug in when the Rebels appear through the thick forest. The defenses hold against the first advance, but the Rebels keep coming in waves. As the attack goes on, Chamberlain’s regiment grows low on manpower and ammunition. Chamberlain orders his men to spread out to prevent from being flanked, orders the remaining defenders to take ammunition from the dead, and reflexively uses his brother Tom to plug a hole in the line. Although Tom comes out of the battle unwounded, this split-second decision by Chamberlain to use his brother haunts him from that moment on.

As more Rebel soldiers charge the hill, the situation gets desperate. Without enough bullets to continue defending, and without the option to retreat, Chamberlain makes the risky move of ordering his men to fix their bayonets and charge down upon the oncoming Rebels.


The Confederate force is caught by surprise and surrenders, making Chamberlain’s charge a huge success. But the victory did not come without cost: nearly half of Chamberlain’s 300 man regiment is dead or wounded, Kilrain is taken to the hospital for a bullet in the armpit, and Chamberlain himself was shot in the foot.

The chapter ends with Chamberlain moving his men down to Big Round Top. After an emotional exchange between Chamberlain and the wounded but proud Kilrain, Chamberlain feels elated over his victory.

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