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The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

The Killer Angels (original 1974; edition 1987)

by Michael Shaara

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5,701134746 (4.31)272
Title:The Killer Angels
Authors:Michael Shaara
Info:Ballantine Books (1987), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:Fiction, Civil War, Gettysburg, Lee, Chamberlain, Longstreet

Work details

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1974)

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The Killer Angels] is a novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, focusing on the thoughts and actions of but a few of the hundreds of thousands of combatants on those fateful three days in July 1863. It was awarded the Pulitzer for fiction in 1975, and served as the basis for the epic movie Gettysburg. I've seen the movie, visited the battlefield, read quite a few Civil War histories. I loved this book and recommend it.

In a prefatory note, Shaara asserts he relied primarily on the words, letters, and documents of the participants, rather than historical opinion, that he hasn't altered facts (though he admits to some condensation for the sake of brevity), and that interpretation of character is his own. Maps—they are a great feature—show the alignment of confederate and union forces at critical times.

The novel touches on every aspect of the war, from the mindsets and morale of individual foot soldiers, the epic casts, the logistical challenges, the impact of personalities. Rather than lay out information in PowerPoint, Shaara conveys it in man-to-man confrontations, in vignettes. The dominant viewpoint is southern, the core tension that between Lee, who is determined to fight at this place, and Longstreet, his most trusted general, who wants to withdraw and fight another day in terrain and circumstances more auspicious to them.

The key figures in Shaara's telling:

General James Longstreet, who sees a fight his Confederates can't win.

General Robert E. Lee, revered commander of all Confederate forces, who sees a fight that must be won.

General John Buford, first Union officer in Gettyburg, who recognizes the high ground and determines to hold it against advancing Rebs, hold it until the main Union force arrives.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, former Bowdoin College rhetorics professor, charged with holding Little Round Top—at the very end of the Union line—with an undermanned unit.

Confederate General Lewis Armistead, who longs for one last visit with General Winfield Scott Hancock, a lifelong friend who is fighting for the Union.

General George Pickett, champing to get into the fight, on the third and final day.

Englishman Arthur Fremantle, a journalist following the Southern forces, cheering them on to what he confidently believes will be a glorious victory. ( )
  weird_O | May 20, 2015 |
A remarkable and unique re-creation of one of the bloodiest and hard fought battles of the Civil War. Shaara has you looking through the eyes of the officers on both sides, so that you can try too relate what the atmosphere was like during this conflict. It gave me a totally different objection about this battle. ( )
  Gatorhater | May 18, 2015 |
This book is often shown as being second in the "civil war trilogy", which I think is misleading: this book was written first, and the other two book in the so-called "trilogy" were written by someone else. So I consider this a stand-alone book.

As a British person, I didn't know much about the battle of Gettysburg other than it was the first big defeat for the confederacy and marked the turning of the tide for the American civil war. I think the book expects you to know a bit more about the battle, as it makes comments that are ironic or pathetic when you know the final outcome.

So I'd recommend that people who don't know much about the battle do a bit of research first, as that will help the enjoyment of the book. ( )
1 vote Pondlife | May 11, 2015 |
It takes a great writer to get me interested in a military battle, generals, strategies, etc. This author makes Gettysburg come alive by making the participants into real people. ( )
  anitatally | Feb 3, 2015 |
I loved this novel. The Civil War fascinates me, as I think it does many others, and it makes me so sad. The section on Pickett's charge made me bawl. I obviously don't ultimately wish that the South had won, but reading this made me want to yell, "Don't do that!" My heart broke for Lee and Longstreet and all the other Southerners involved in the Civil War. I have fond memories of watching this movie with my Dad, but the book blows the movie away. ( )
  carebear10712 | Dec 31, 2014 |
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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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Important places
Important events
Related movies
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"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 . . .
To Lila (old George)
. . . in whom I am well pleased
First words

He rode into the dark of the woods and dismounted.
...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."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

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)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345348109, Mass Market Paperback)

This novel reveals more about the Battle of Gettysburg than any piece of learned nonfiction on the same subject. Michael Shaara's account of the three most important days of the Civil War features deft characterizations of all of the main actors, including Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, Buford, and Hancock. The most inspiring figure in the book, however, is Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, whose 20th Maine regiment of volunteers held the Union's left flank on the second day of the battle. This unit's bravery at Little Round Top helped turned the tide of the war against the rebels. There are also plenty of maps, which convey a complete sense of what happened July 1-3, 1863. Reading about the past is rarely so much fun as on these pages.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:24 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought for two dreams-- freedom, and a way of life. Memories, promises, and love were carried into the battle but what fell was shattered futures, forgotten innocence, and crippled beauty.

(summary from another edition)

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