The Killer Angels

The Killer Angels

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“My favorite historical novel . . . A superb re-creation of the Battle of Gettysburg, but its real importance is its insight into what the war was about, and what it meant.”—James M. McPherson

In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation’s history, two armies fought for two conflicting dreams. One dreamed of freedom, the other of a way of life. Far more than rifles and bullets were carried into battle. There were memories. There were promises. There was love. And far more than men fell on those Pennsylvania fields. Bright futures, untested innocence, and pristine beauty were also the casualties of war. Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece is unique, sweeping, unforgettable—the dramatic story of the battleground for America’s destiny. 

Praise for The Killer Angels

“Remarkable . . . a book that changed my life . . . I had never visited Gettysburg, knew almost nothing about that battle before I read the book, but here it all came alive.”—Ken Burns

“Shaara carries [the reader] swiftly and dramatically to a climax as exciting as if it were being heard for the first time.”The Seattle Times

“Utterly absorbing.”Forbes

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345348104
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/12/1987
Series: Civil War Trilogy Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 17,715
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile: 610L (what's this?)

About the Author

Michael Shaara was born in Jersey City in 1929 and graduated from Rutgers University in 1951. His early science fiction short stories were published in Galaxy magazine in 1952. He later began writing other works of fiction and published more than seventy short stories in many magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, and Redbook. His first novel, The Broken Place, was published in 1968. But it was a simple family vacation to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1966 that gave him the inspiration for his greatest achievement, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels, published in 1974. Michael Shaara went on to write two more novels, The Noah Conspiracy and For Love of the Game, which was published posthumously after his death in 1988.

Read an Excerpt


He rode into the dark of the woods and dismounted. He crawled upward on his belly over cool rocks out into the sunlight, and suddenly he was in the open and he could see for miles, and there was the whole vast army below him, filling the valley like a smoking river. It came out of a blue rainstorm in the east and overflowed the narrow valley road, coiling along a stream, narrowing and choking at a white bridge, fading out into the yellowish dust of June but still visible on the farther road beyond the blue hills, spiked with flags and guidons like a great chopped bristly snake, the snake ending headless in a blue wall of summer rain.

The spy tucked himself behind a boulder and began counting flags. Must be twenty thousand men, visible all at once. Two whole Union Corps. He could make out the familiar black hats of the Iron Brigade, troops belonging to John Reynold’s First Corps. He looked at his watch, noted the time. They were coming very fast. The Army of the Potomac had never moved this fast. The day was murderously hot and there was no wind and the dust hung above the army like a yellow veil. He thought: there’ll be some of them die of the heat today. But they are coming faster than they ever came before.

He slipped back down into the cool dark and rode slowly downhill toward the silent empty country to the north. With luck he could make the Southern line before nightfall. After nightfall it would be dangerous. But he must not seem to hurry. The horse was already tired. And yet there was the pressure of that great blue army behind him, building like water behind a cracking dam. He rode out into the open, into the land between the armies.

There were fat Dutch barns, prim German orchards. But there were no cattle in the fields and no horses, and houses everywhere were empty and dark. He was alone in the heat and the silence, and then it began to rain and he rode head down into monstrous lightning. All his life he had been afraid of lightning but he kept riding. He did not know where the Southern headquarters was but he knew it had to be somewhere near Chambersburg. He had smelled out the shape of Lee’s army in all the rumors and bar talk and newspapers and hysteria he had drifted through all over eastern Pennsylvania, and on that day he was perhaps the only man alive who knew the positions of both armies. He carried the knowledge with a hot and lovely pride. Lee would be near Chambersburg, and wherever Lee was Longstreet would not be far away. So finding the headquarters was not the problem. The problem was riding through a picket line in the dark.

The rain grew worse. He could not even move in under a tree because of the lightning. He had to take care not to get lost. He rode quoting Shakespeare from memory, thinking of the picket line ahead somewhere in the dark. The sky opened and poured down on him and he rode on: It will be rain tonight: Let it come down. That was a speech of murderers. He had been an actor once. He had no stature and a small voice and there were no big parts for him until the war came, and now he was the only one who knew how good he was. If only they could see him work, old cold Longstreet and the rest. But everyone hated spies. I come a single spy. Wet single spy. But they come in whole battalions. The rain began to ease off and he spurred the horse to a trot. My kingdom for a horse. Jolly good line. He went on, reciting Henry the Fifth aloud: “Once more into the breech . . .”

Late that afternoon he came to a crossroad and the sign of much cavalry having passed this way a few hours ago. His own way led north to Chambersburg, but he knew that Longstreet would have to know who these people were so close to his line. He debated a moment at the crossroads, knowing there was no time. A delay would cost him daylight. Yet he was a man of pride and the tracks drew him. Perhaps it was only Jeb Stuart. The spy thought hopefully, wistfully: If it’s Stuart I can ask for an armed escort all the way home. He turned and followed the tracks. After a while he saw a farmhouse and a man standing out in a field, in a peach orchard, and he spurred that way. The man was small and bald with huge round arms and spoke very bad English. The spy went into his act: a simple-minded farmer seeking a runaway wife, terrified of soldiers. The bald man regarded him sweatily, disgustedly, told him the soldiers just gone by were “plu” soldiers, Yankees. The spy asked: What town lies yonder? and the farmer told him Gettysburg, but the name meant nothing. The spy turned and spurred back to the crossroads. Yankee cavalry meant John Buford’s column. Moving lickety-split. Where was Stuart? No escort now. He rode back again toward the blue hills. But the horse could not be pushed. He had to dismount and walk.

That was the last sign of Yankees. He was moving up across South Mountain; he was almost home. Beyond South Mountain was Lee and, of course, Longstreet. A strange friendship: grim and gambling Longstreet, formal and pious old Bobby Lee. The spy wondered at it, and then the rain began again, bringing more lightning but at least some cooler air, and he tucked himself in under his hat and went back to Hamlet. Old Jackson was dead. Good night, sweet Prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest . . .

He rode into darkness. No longer any need to hurry. He left the roadway at last and moved out in to a field away from the lightning and the trees and sat in the rain to eat a lonely supper, trying to make up his mind whether it was worth the risk of going on. He was very close; he could begin to feel them up ahead. There was no way of knowing when or where, but suddenly they would be there in the road, stepping phantomlike out of the trees wearing those sick eerie smiles, and other men with guns would suddenly appear all around him, prodding him in the back with hard steel barrels, as you prod an animal, and he would have to be lucky, because few men rode out at night on good and honest business, not now, this night, in this invaded country.

He rode slowly up the road, not really thinking, just moving, reluctant to stop. He was weary. Fragments of Hamlet flickered in his brain: If it be not now, yet it will come. Ripeness is all. Now there’s a good part. A town ahead. A few lights. And then he struck the picket line.

There was a presence in the road, a liquid Southern voice. He saw them outlined in lightning, black ragged figures rising around him. A sudden lantern poured yellow light. He saw one bleak hawkish grinning face; hurriedly he mentioned Longstreet’s name. With some you postured and with some you groveled and with some you were imperious. But you could do that only by daylight, when you could see the faces and gauge the reaction. And now he was too tired and cold. He sat and shuddered: an insignificant man on a pale and muddy horse. He turned out to be lucky. There was a patient sergeant with a long gray beard who put him under guard and sent him along up the dark road to Longstreet’s headquarters.

He was not safe even now, but he could begin to relax. He rode up the long road between picket fires, and he could hear them singing in the rain, chasing each other in the dark of the trees. A fat and happy army, roasting meat and fresh bread, telling stories in the dark. He began to fall asleep on the horse; he was home. But they did not like to see him sleep, and one of them woke him up to remind him, cheerily, that if there was no one up there who knew him, why, then, unfortunately, they’d have to hang him, and the soldier said it just to see the look on his face, and the spy shivered, wondering, Why do there have to be men like that, men who enjoy another man’s dying?

Longstreet was not asleep. He lay on the cot watching the lightning flare in the door of the tent. It was very quiet in the grove and there was the sound of the raindrops continuing to fall from the trees although the rain had ended. When Sorrel touched him on the arm he was glad of it; he was thinking of his dead children.

“Sir? You asked to be awakened if Harrison came back.”

“Yes.” Longstreet got up quickly and put on the old blue robe and the carpet slippers. He was a very big man and he was full-bearded and wild-haired. He thought of the last time he’d seen the spy, back in Virginia, tiny man with a face like a weasel: “And where will your headquarters be, General, up there in Pennsylvania? ’Tis a big state indeed.” Him standing there with cold gold clutched in a dirty hand. And Longstreet had said icily, cheerily, “It will be where it will be. If you cannot find the headquarters of this whole army you cannot be much of a spy.” And the spy had said stiffly, “Scout, sir. I am a scout. And I am a patriot, sir.” Longstreet had grinned. We are all patriots. He stepped out into the light. He did not know what to expect. He had not really expected the spy to come back at all.

The little man was there: a soggy spectacle on a pale and spattered horse. He sat grinning wanly from under the floppy brim of a soaked and dripping hat. Lightning flared behind him; he touched his cap.

“Your servant, General. May I come down?”

Longstreet nodded. The guard backed off. Longstreet told Sorrel to get some coffee. The spy slithered down from the horse and stood grinning foolishly, shivering, mouth slack with fatigue.

“Well, sir”—the spy chuckled, teeth chattering—“you see, I was able to find you after all.”

Longstreet sat at the camp table on a wet seat, extracted a cigar, lighted it. The spy sat floppily, mouth still open, breathing deeply.

“It has been a long day. I’ve ridden hard all this day.”

“What have you got?”

“I came through the pickets at night, you know. That can be very touchy.”

Longstreet nodded. He watched, he waited. Sorrel came with steaming coffee; the cup burned Longstreet’s fingers. Sorrel sat, gazing curiously, distastefully at the spy.

The spy guzzled, then sniffed Longstreet’s fragrant smoke. Wistfully: “I say, General, I don’t suppose you’ve got another of those? Good Southern tobacco?”

“Directly,” Longstreet said. “What have you got?”

“I’ve got the position of the Union Army.”

Longstreet nodded, showing nothing. He had not known the Union Army was on the move, was within two hundred miles, was even this side of the Potomac, but he nodded and said nothing. The spy asked for a map and began pointing out the positions of the corps.

“They’re coming in seven corps. I figure at least eighty thousand men, possibly as much as a hundred thousand. When they’re all together they’ll outnumber you, but they’re not as strong as they were; the two-year enlistments are running out. The First Corps is here. The Eleventh is right behind it. John Reynolds is in command of the lead elements. I saw him at Taneytown this morning.”

“Reynolds,” Longstreet said.

“Yes, sir.”

“You saw him yourself?”

The spy grinned, nodded, rubbed his nose, chuckled. “So close I could touch him. It was Reynolds all right.”

“This morning. At Taneytown.”

“Exactly. You didn’t know any of that, now did you, General?” The spy bobbed his head with delight. “You didn’t even know they was on the move, did ye? I thought not. You wouldn’t be spread out so thin if you knowed they was comin’.”

Longstreet looked at Sorrel. The aide shrugged silently. If this was true, there would have been some word. Longstreet’s mind moved over it slowly. He said: “How did you know we were spread out?”

“I smelled it out.” The spy grinned, foxlike, toothy. “Listen, General, I’m good at this business.”

“Tell me what you know of our position.”

“Well, now I can’t be too exact on this, ’cause I aint scouted you myself, but I gather that you’re spread from York up to Harrisburg and then back to Chambersburg, with the main body around Chambersburg and General Lee just ’round the bend.”

It was exact. Longstreet thought: if this one knows it, they will know it. He said slowly, “We’ve had no word of Union movement.”

The spy bobbed with joy. “I knew it. Thass why I hurried. Came through that picket line in the dark and all. I don’t know if you realize, General—”

Sorrel said coldly, “Sir, don’t you think, if this man’s story was true, that we would have heard something?”

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“My favorite historical novel . . . a superb re-creation of the Battle of Gettysburg, but its real importance is its insight into what the war was about, and what it meant.”—James M. McPherson

“Remarkable . . . a book that changed my life . . . I had never visited Gettysburg, knew almost nothing about that battle before I read the book, but here it all came alive.”—Ken Burns
“Shaara carries [the reader] swiftly and dramatically to a climax as exciting as if it were being heard for the first time.”—The Seattle Times
“Utterly absorbing.”—Forbes

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The Killer Angels 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 495 reviews.
SWA7X More than 1 year ago
The Killer Angels written by Michael Shaara, is a very interesting book that describes the Civil War in vivid detail, specifically the Battle of Gettysburg. If you are an individual who is enthusiastic about learning about our nation's history and past, then it will be a great choice to purchase this book. In addition, this book is, for the most part, historically accurate, and will create an image in your mind of the landscape and the various skirmishes it details. Ever since I visited Gettysburg myself, I have had a passion for understanding and learning more about the battle itself, and I feel that this book has enhanced my knowledge of it and given me a new perspective on the events leading up to, and after, the battle. I really enjoyed the way in which Shaara used the point of view of multiple characters throughout the story, on both sides of the war, to truly involve the reader in the feeling and emotions of both the Union and the Confederacy, and allow the reader to view their perspectives in terms of the reasoning behind their judgments and reasons for being involved in such a war. When detailing a major historical event such as the Battle of Gettysburg, numbers and statistics are not always the best way to involve a reader, which is why Shaara presented the story from the perspective of a single soldier or general on either side of the war, to allow the reader to experience what the individual had felt and thought. When a reader becomes emotionally involved in a book, they are more apt to have a greater understanding of the material within, and have a much better overall experience in reading the story. I enjoyed the book because I became somewhat emotionally involved, and I greatly enjoyed the presentation of the Battle of Gettysburg through several different perspectives and points of view. In the case of any historically significant book that has conflicting points of interest, there is bound to be some sort of bias or historical inaccuracy, and the latter of which is present in this book. One major historical inaccuracy in the book is that Shaara detailed that the 20th Maine brigade of the Union army was present to defend General Pickett's charge. According to several historians, the 20th Maine brigade was defending the Union's left flank, and could not have defended against Pickett's charge, which brings forth the presence of a historical discrepancy. I believe that Shaara portrayed the 20th Maine defending against Pickett's charge to add appeal and zest to the story. The presence of a historical discrepancy did not detract from the overall detail and meaning of the book, however it did slightly detract from the point in the plot detailing Pickett's charge. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to anyone who has a desire to learn about the Civil War, The Battle of Gettysburg, or any of the significant military leaders. The way in which Shaara presented the information about the logistics of the Battle of Gettysburg through various viewpoints and perspectives greatly interested me, and allowed me to become very involved with the book, which is why I finished it in two days. I would recommend this book to an audience of individuals who are mature enough to handle the violence and loss of life that the story entails, and are conscious enough to keep up with the multiple story lines.
drjei More than 1 year ago
I didn't know what to expect from this book- probably got it for my nook based on the overall rating given by others. I have been to Gettysburg, but it has been years, and I was tired and hot when I went, so didn't get much of a feel for it. This book changed all that. The unique approach of looking at the war from the different soldiers/generals perspective was refreshing and thought-provoking. The conflicting emotions of the southern leaders of wanting to fight for their homes and lifestyle vs. the guilt of fighting against dear friends from earlier times was presented in a striking way. I found myself looking for times I could read this book over lunch at work, while waiting for my next appointment, etc. It kept me up late, and gave me things to think about throughout the day. All in all, I'd love to read this book again just before going to visit Gettysburg. I think it would be a profound experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not a war strategy enthusiast, but when I read this for school I loved it for its ability to make you rethink the Civil War from a new perspective, an idea this book focuses on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first, when I decided to read Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, I was not extremely enthusiastic, thinking it would be just another history book concerning only the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. Yet I sincerely enjoyed reading this novel, and it definately helped expand my grasp of the perspectives and justifications of individuals in both the Union and the Confederacy. Shaara states that this novel's purpose was to help readers actually experience what it would be like to be at the Battle of Gettysburg (xiii). He completely accomplishes this goal. I actually felt like I was a part of the story, experiencing the victories and defeats along with each of the characters. This book made these characters, famous individuals like Robert E. Lee and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, feel like real human beings with varying personalities and morals, unlike pieces in a chess game as most history books or lessons make them out to be. I genuinely loved this book because it read more like a novel then a textbook or the listing of facts. It became personal, making the novel more enjoyable and educational. I highly recommend anyone to read Killer Angels by Michael Shaara if they are in search of a novel that provides insight into the Civil War, makes historical figures seem more like people you could meet today, and just gives readers an entertaining and educational story.
Neeson88 More than 1 year ago
Great book. The author brought you into the battle. I couldn't put the book down. You got to know the generals, the officers and what they were thinking behind the scences of the most important battle of the civil war. Can't wait to read books from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Highly recommend Killer Angels to all civil war buffs. To get a better flavor of the intensity of what these brave soldiers endured one must take the time to visit Gettysburg. Truely an amazing sight. Sent chills up my back to envision the thousands of men walking into death for what they believed in. No stronger convictions.
Airborne_Alpha More than 1 year ago
I don't think five stars are enough for The Killer Angels. The book is a work of art. Despite a few inaccuracies (such as a newly imported slave), and a bad characterization (Lee comes off as borderline senile when seen from Longstreet's POV), The Killer Angels is a modern Epic. Everything from Buford's Cavalry making its historic stand, to Chamberlain's charge on Little Round Top, and Pickett's Charge, the entirety of the Battle of Gettysburg is depicted here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Killer angels is a must read 4 anyone who likes the civil war. I knew the basics of the civil war but I didn't know that Pickett's Charge George Pickett wasn't supposed to do much this is a great read but it os a little bit confusing at first. ( you will not like this grandma)
Mahuenga More than 1 year ago
cyderry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"They all died, and they accomplished nothing."The words keep reverberating in my mind. This book is a fictitious though historically accurate account of the Battle of Gettysburg from the viewpoint of several of the highest ranking officers from both the Union and Confederate Armies.The reader sees the indecision and heartbreak related to the commands of Robert E Lee and General Longstreet for the Confederates and Col. Chamberlain for the Union. We are also gifted with the stunning facts that if a few changes had been made, the outcome could have been quite different. Robert E. Lee is frequently touted as a superb tactician but here we are exposed to a failure on his part to listen to his second in command with .But after all is said and done, "They all died, and they accomplished nothing."
ragwaine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good writing, I liked the afterword finding out what happened to everyone after. Only 4 days for 400 pages. No big surprises.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The impact of this one built with each chapter. I didn't get far in my first attempt at this book years ago. The style is Hemingwayesque. Spare prose, mostly simple sentence structure, repetitive phrasing, a rather staccato rhythm. I felt on first read that it was too dry, too much like a novelized narrative history. In essence, that is what this novel of the turning point battle in the American Civil War--Gettysburg--is about. However, the battle scenes are rendered more clearly than I can ever remember reading in military fiction or non-fiction and the drama makes all the more impact because of the restraint of the prose. Each of the four sections covers a day--the day before the battle, the first day, the second day, the aftermath. Within the sections are chapters named after the primary character, although the novel is omniscient throughout, often giving an eagle-eyes view of the battle. The viewpoint is mostly neutral, but tilted somewhat to the Confederacy, with a dozen chapters devoted to characters on that side compared to ten to the Union side. Robert E. Lee is presented very sympathetically, and we're told he "does not own slaves nor believe in slavery." (I've read historical accounts and watched documentaries that dispute both points.) To me though the character on the Southern side that stood out is General James Longstreet, who opposed Lee's strategy and felt his decisions cost them the battle and war. There's a poignancy in this man determined to do his duty despite believing they were headed to disaster, and that in invading the North he and Lee had broken their oath taken as American officers to protect and defend this soil. I certainly learned much about the officers on that side of the conflict to win them my grudging sympathy (grudging, because I don't sympathize with the Confederate cause.) There is Pickett, of Pickett's charge, who was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. And there's Lewis Armistead whose best friend, Winfield Scott Hancock, fought at Gettysburg on the other side. Colonel Lawrence Chamberlain of Maine is the officer that largely gives voice to the Union side, who comes closest to giving us a soldier's view of battle as he fights with his men to hold a crucial hill. He's the man who gives the novel its title. He once quoted to his father, Hamlet's lines on "what a work is action how like an angel." A "murdering angel" is how his father responded. In the character of a British observer, Fremantle, we're able to see the possible impact of a Confederate victory. Northern and Southern, maybe a Western American nations armed and contending against each other for territory. Perhaps Britain entering on behalf of the South if those states would return to the empire--a vastly different history might have resulted. The book made me feel the weight and contingency of a few days that made all the difference to the United States.
brodiew2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It has been many years since I have been so profoundly affected by a piece of literature. I am no Civil War buff, and cannot remember why I picked up this book. However, I am eternally grateful that I did. Shaara's style is at once sad, foreboding, and so richly human. There is an honor in the prose that I could not escape; a truth which drew me further and further into the lives of the featured characters. I am astounded by the depth of emotion felt by these military leaders. So often the soldier, especially officers, are portrayed without feeling. This war was utterly personal on so many levels. I was moved by General Longstreet's dilemma: refuse Lee's order and quit or send thousands of men to most certain death. An impossible choice for a career soldier. Shaara's narrative genius did not stop at the depiction of inner dialogue and military tactics. Just when I thought the novel was going to stay out of the action, I was plunged into the thick of it. But description of combat was so rich and again personal that I felt like I was there; especially on day three of the battle. Chamberlain's experience of the Rebel's artillery bombardment had me mesmerized. And, General Armistead's lone chapter, describing Pickett's Charge, was arguably the most emotionally stirring of he novel. These men had honor, loyalty, and heart. From Buford holding the high ground to Longstreet's guilt over leading Pickett's Charge to Chamberlain's final wisdom on the war and it purpose, this novel is very moving. I highly recommend you give it a chance.
wfiester on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For many years, (probably 30 or so) this book has remained in my mind with an unusual presence. Probably the overall best war book I've read.
speedy74 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While I love social history, I have never been a fan of military history. Skaara, in his well written fictionalized account of the Battle of Gettysburg brings history alive in The Killer Angels. Through extensive research, Skaara makes the battle come alive in his depiction of the various leaders on both sides of the battlefield. While I found some of the military strategy boring, I sense that it was well written and understandable for military history enthusiasts. I, however, focused more on the inner conflicts in the stories of the generals. Definitely an interesting piece of historical fiction which has its place in the American History classroom.
JGolomb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've lived in the Washington D.C. area for most of my life and Virginia for the last 16. I love history, but the U.S. Civil War never really held my interest. I live only minutes from the great battlefields that dot the landscape surrounding D.C., and Gettysburg is only a 90-minute drive away, but it was completely off my personal radar.One week ago, my wife who teaches sixth grade took our family north, just over the Maryland border into Pennsylvania to see the hallowed Gettysburg ground.The experience simply blew me away. Gettysburg is peppered with monuments and misted in history. The physical location is so unique (and beautiful), buffeted by the Blue Ridge Mountains on the western horizon, and rolling hills and pastures in the east, you're able to view the entire battle site from multiple locations. One can't help but hear the whispers of cannon fire, and the scream of the Rebel yell. We toured by car and on foot, and I found myself thirsting to learn more. My wife suggested I read Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels", a superbly realistic historical novel of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, a 3-day blood bath, that served as a turning point for the North in the Civil War."Killer Angels" is built upon a foundation of intense and realistic characterizations. While angling his point of view from the perspective of different players in this Civil War drama, Shaara focuses on General James Longstreet from the South and Corporal James Lawrence Chamberlain from the North. As the story of this battle is meticulously exposed, the reader is deftly introduced to the landscape (both physical and cultural) and perspectives that drove the war, as well as the raw emotional mindsets of its' participants.The Civil War started when America was less than a century old. The generals leading the campaigns were barely a generation removed from Americans who could remember that being free was not a given. Wars, battles and military technology were evolving. General Longstreet ponders how fighting had altered, "When we were all young, they fought in a simple way. They faced each other out in the open, usually across a field. One side came running. The other got one shot in, from a close distance because the rifle wasn't very good at distance, because it wasn't a rifle. Then after that one shot they hit together hand to hand, or sword to sword, and the cavalry would ride in from one angle or another." Longstreet was a man of advanced strategic thinking. A running theme for his character is his advocacy for defensive battle schemes; dig trenches, and dig in deep, and let the enemy force you out. But he points out that not everyone has actualized that times are different, and a changed environment and advanced technology requires different thinking. Thinking that he had...and, as he points out, that General Robert E. Lee didn't. Much of Shaara's dialogue is brief with the exception of cases where he utilizes his characters to convey a particular theme. Motivations for the war are explored numerous times and from a number of viewpoints.Was the South defending slavery? Not according to most of the Rebels in the book, but it wasn't always clear what they WERE defending. General Lee was a Virginian, but as a leader of the U.S. military, had been offered command of the Union Army. He turned it down. In one passage, Shaara reflects on Lee's decision to join the Rebels: "The war had come. He was a member of the army that would march against his home, his sons. He was not only to serve in it, but actually to lead it, to make the plans and issue the orders to kill and burn and ruin. He could not do that...Lee could not raise his hand against his it was no cause and no country he fought for, no ideal and no justice. He fought for his people, for the children and the kin, and not even the land, because not even the land was worth the war, but the people were, wrong as they were, insane even as many of the were, they were his own, he belonged with his
Tanasi1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent piece of historical fiction that follows the great generals of the Civil War. The dialogue adds humanity to names that many only associate with a horrible chapter in our nation¿s history.
meroof30 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book gets inside the heads of the military leaders involved in the Battle of Gettysburg. An historical novel that shows the true horror of a war that pitted relatives and friends against each other. I couldn't put it down
marient on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A novel about the four days of Gettysburg. and the principals involved. Lee, Longstreet, Chamberlain, Buford, etc. Book club is reading.
SaraPoole on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book for the first time in 1975, shortly after it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Since then, I've lost count of how many times I've returned to read it again; suffice to say I could probably recite large portions of it from memory. Plainly and simply, it is my idea of the ideal historical novel, pitch perfect from beginning to end. If you're a Civil War buff, chances are you already know this book well. On the slim chance that you do not, you're in for a huge treat. If the Civil War isn't your thing, read it anyway. You won't find a better historical novel for any period.
annbury on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Terrific novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, seen through the eyes of several historical characters who played central roles in the battle. The Union character with the largest role in the book is Maine's Colonel Chamberlain, a professor who led a dramatic charge down Little Round Top. The Confederate who bulks largest in the novel is General Longstreet, a soldier who seems to have shared the realistic view of war of Grant and Sherman, rather than the chivalric dreams of many Confederate officers. We all know how the battle tuned out, but following it's progress in this novel is engrossing and sometimes moving.
sturlington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is probably the definitive Civil War novel; it won the Pulitzer Prize, and it really deserves all the accolades. Shaara has made the Battle of Gettysburg come alive and put it in human terms that are much more complex and nuanced than the usual black-and-white (or, in this case, blue-and-gray) retellings of famous battles. Told from the point of view of major players on all sides, primarily General Longstreet for the Confederates and Colonel Chamberlain of the Federal Army, events unfold with tension, horror and sympathy for everyone involved.
creighley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Acknowledging my weak knowledge of all of the main characters from the Civil War, I found the beginning of the book confusing as the characters are introduced. However, that was remedied as the book progressed. A vivd portrayal of that battle and the horrific reality of it.
Jthierer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Probably the best book about war I have ever read. The focus on just a few main characters makes the story of the Battle of Gettysburg clear and easy to follow for the casual reader, but the level of detail about those characters should satisfy the history buff as well.
anterastilis on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Review I had to write for class:It is the summer of 1863. The Civil War has been raging for three long years, and the armies are regrouping. The advantage is about to shift: led by the legendary General Robert E. Lee, the South is on the offensive for the first time. The Union is now protecting its own land ¿ the bucolic countryside town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Telling each chapter from the perspective of a different player in the War Between the States ¿ Buford, Hill, Lee, Chamberlain, and others - Shaara weaves military strategy with vivid characterization and historical fact to create one of the most highly acclaimed accounts of the Civil War. The winner of a Pulitzer Prize, The Killer Angels gives the reader insight into the history of our country: the men who fought and the reasons for which they were willing to give their lives. Highly recommended for upper-level high school students and Civil War buffs.What I personally thought:Meh...I'd be lying if I said that war novels are my thing.I had to read an Historical Fiction for my class and as you can see from the corny annotation above, I chose The Killer Angels. I'd never read anything about the Civil War before, and this book was A) short and B) highly acclaimed. I didn't get through it. I read most of it and skimmed the rest of the way. I was bored, confused, and thoroughly uninterested. The characters were dull and the reasons behind the battle, although noble, were lost. This book is often given to high school students - I can see why. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if had been more dense, more informative. It seemed kind of like "Civil War Lite". Too much war! Not enough personal information. I wasn't enchanted. I was bored.My displeasure with this book led me to complain about it in a more public forum, and people from all sides started waving Gone with the Wind at me. Okay okay okay!!! I'll read it before the summer is out, I promise that I'll give the Civil War another chance.