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The Killer Angels (1974)

by Michael Shaara

Series: Civil War trilogy (2)

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7,203157882 (4.3)368
This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic is the finest historical dramatization of the Civil War. The book centers around the key battle of the war: the battle of Gettysburg. In July of 1863, the Confederate Army, led by General Robert E. Lee, invaded the North, in order to deal a fatal blow to the Union Army. Lee's right hand man was the loyal General Longstreet. Opposing them was General George Meade, an unknown quantity at best. In the four most bloody and courageous days of the Civil War, their armies fought, one side for freedom and the other side for tradition. As the bodies piled up on the gory field, so did the dreams and hopes of the dead. Their futures were the ultimate casualties of war.… (more)
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This is a tricky book to rate - I will say that, just like in Gods and Generals, I tended to zone out a bit when the author goes into extreme detail about brigades, their positioning. The play-by-play of the battles are mostly for Civil War buffs, which I am not one of them. I do, however, enjoy learning about history and the Civil War and aside from a few repetitive bits, this is a tremendous book. Passages like the opening chapter of the Spy, or the chapter featuring the Englishmen, or Armistead's final chapter are masterful, beautiful writing. I had to stop several times at the gorgeous prose and tragedy of the whole battle. Shaara does a terrific job showing both sides, the chaos of battle and how the soldiers/generals felt. If there were more chapters like the ones I mentioned and fewer "and then they did this, and then they marched here, and then they dug in here" it would be an easy 5 stars. ( )
1 vote hskey | Sep 5, 2019 |
I have to read this again to try to muster up some more sympathy for Lee and some of the other un-modern Southern aristocratic types—not Longstreet— who I find rather difficult to get on with. What a proud group of men, you know, proud and occasionally pathetic. (Forget the guy’s name but:) “If risking my life in the battle is not enough to be considered brave, honorable and worthy, O high and noble king, then gladly will I intentionally die in bloody strife, if by this device only may I win your laud, O high and noble king.”

That and just, you know, fighting with *esprit* meant so much more for the South—attack until you collapse— than a strategy in line with their resources. It’s very Medieval Times-y, you know. “The Grey Knight! The Grey Knight! Hey, chicken-wench, another leg over here! Yeah, the Grey Knight, the Grey Knight!”

But there must be some way to respect people, even after you see the truth about them, right?
  smallself | Jul 9, 2019 |
Shaara takes an historical event-The Battle of Gettysburg-and writes about it in novel form, and the result is living the battle with the main characters. The characters were real people--Robert E.Lee, James "Pete" Longstreet, George Pickett, Lewis Armistead, Ambrose Powell Hill, Richard Ewell, Richard Brooke Garnett, J.E.B.Stuart, and Jubal Early--Confederate generals; General George Meade, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, John Buford, John Reynolds, and Winfield Scott Hancock--all Major Generals and all officers for the Union.

The story of the battle is told through their various points of view--the successes and the failures, as well as their personal struggles they must cope with while engaged in fighting. Lee is ill with heart disease; Longstreet still struggles with grief over the loss of three of his children in one week, due to an identified fever; Chamberlain missing his family in Maine and his realization he will do whatever it takes to win a battle--a realization he isn't comfortable with.

The Battle of Gettysburg lasted for three days in the suppressive heat and humidity of early July. it's one thing to read historical accounts about the battle; it's another to read about the battle as it unfolds and experiencing it from the point of view of the principal commanders involved--Chamberlain making a desperate decision when his men run out of ammunition and the Rebels are charging again in an effort to take Big Round Top--Longstreet arguing with Lee against Pickett's charge and being overruled--Armistead leading that disastrous charge in a last ditch attempt to break the Union lines--Lee's grief over the loss of men.

Recommended for readers of historical fiction and especially those with an interest in the Civil War. ( )
  Cheryl.Russell | May 25, 2019 |
This work in narrative fiction is beautiful, interesting and has a nice variety of perspectives from those fighting for the north and the south American Civil War. It is also excellent audiobook. ( )
  patl | Feb 18, 2019 |
Audiobook refresher. Still as good as I remember it! ( )
  TravbudJ | Sep 15, 2018 |
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This is an account of how the book came to be written...
added by danielx | editNew York times, Paul Leigh (Jun 29, 2013)
 
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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Epigraph
"When men take up arms to set other men free, there is something sacred and holy in the warfare."

- Woodrow Wilson
"I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."

- E. M. Forster
"With all my devotion to the Union and the feeling of loyalty and duty of an American citizen, I have not been able to raise my hand against my relatives, my children, my home. I have therefore resigned my commission in the Army. . . ."

- from a letter of Robert E. Lee
Mr. Mason: How do you justify your acts?
John Brown: I think, my friend, you are guilty of a great wrong against God and humanity---I say it without wishing to be offensive---and it would be perfectly right for anyone to interfere with you so far as to free those you willfully and wickedly hold in bondage. I do not say this insultingly.
Mr. Mason: I understand that.

- from an interview with John Brown after his capture
Mine eyes have seen the glory . . .
Dedication
To Lila (old George)
. . . in whom I am well pleased
First words
1. THE SPY

He rode into the dark of the woods and dismounted.
Quotations
...Chamberlain remembered it still: "What a piece of work is man...in action how like an angel!" And the old man, grinning, had scratched his head an then said stiffly, "Well, boy, if he's an angel, he's sure a murderin' angel."
…[W]e have a country here where the past cannot keep a good man in chains, and that's the nature of the war.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
The book tells the story of four days of the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War: June 30, 1863, as the troops of both the Union and the Confederacy move into battle around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and July 1, July 2, and July 3, when the battle was fought. The story is character driven and told from the perspective of various protagonists.

AR 4.7, 15 Pts
Haiku summary
In the Civil War
the battle of Gettysburg
is where many die.
(marcusbrutus)

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