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The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

The Killer Angels (original 1974; edition 1987)

by Michael Shaara

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6,115143670 (4.31)315
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

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The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1974)


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I began reading this book after my visit to Gettysburg and the realization of how little I knew about a part of American history that, growing up in Canada, I've heard so much about. It is a heartbreaking read but also such a beautifully written account of the battle of Gettysburg that I understand why this book has, at times, been mandatory reading for cadets at a number of military academies.

This novel, based on actual letters and diaries, is not only a glimpse into the minds of those engaged in the battle but also a very clear telling of how the battle unfolded. I walk away with a much greater understanding of the complex issues behind the civil war and the people who took part. ( )
  wordbyword | Nov 26, 2016 |
Wonderful novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863. It’s easy to see why this book has won so many prizes and enjoys the popularity that it does. With lots of maps, and discussions between the participants, it is easy to follow the three day battle. On the Confederate side, we get into the mind of Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet. On the Union side, we get into the minds of General John Buford, and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. My only disappointment is that we don’t get into the minds of the commanding Union general or anybody on his staff. A ‘must read’ for anybody interested in the Civil War, but will probably be enjoyed by the general reader. ( )
  ramon4 | Nov 23, 2016 |
Though I have previously read some accounts of the battle of Gettysburg, I never understood it so well until reading The Killer Angels. It provides an inspired approach to tell the story: through the eyes of key officers on both sides. By doing so, not only are the tactics employed better explained, but it is in the context of such immediacy that the reader feels he is in the midst of the incident.

It also helps explain how the revered Robert E Lee could have engaged in such an epic blunder, exemplified by the catastrophe of "Picket's Charge."

The Killer Angels won the Pulitzer Prize, and though I don't know what its competition was in the year it won, it certainly can be counted worthy. ( )
  kvrfan | Aug 19, 2016 |
What a phenomenal book. It is part of history that, growing up in the South, was shoved down my throat to the point of nausea. But as an adult trying to understand the complexities of war this book is a must-read. Michael Shaara does a wonderful job explaining the troop movements and the landscape of these three days in July and how they were a turning point in the War. His attempts at fleshing out historical individuals, such as General Lee and James Longstreet, kind of fall flat, but that is so often the case with historical writers who write for a popular audience that I do not fault him for it. Shaara excels when he describes the landscape, the decisions made, and the reasons for there to have been a Pickett's Charge. I think the movie gave more air time to this one battle than the book, but it is such a part of war's mythology that seeing this desperate battle is really more moving. ( )
  threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
This is the story of the battle of Gettysburg as seen through the eyes of officers on both sides of the battlefield.

For the South - General Robert E. Lee, Lt. General James Longstreet,Major General George Pickett, Brigadier General Lewis Armistead and many more.

For the North - Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, Major General John Buford, Major General John Reynolds, Major General George Meade, Major General Winfred Hancock and others

I knew very little about the American Civil War prior to reading this novel. It seems to be quite historically accurate, being structured based on diaries of the time. Several things struck me as I read the book, first of all was the utter loyalty of most of the soldiers on each side to their leaders and how they willingly marched into certain death (most of them anyway as there was mention of shootings of those who might change their mind). Secondly, many of the officers on either side knew each other, might even wave to each other across the battlefield before a fight. Thirdly, though the war started because of a fight to free slaves, on the battlefield the issue of negro slaves seemed to be VERY secondary... I don't know how true that was in reality but that is what was portrayed here.

The novel shows the battle through the leaders eyes. You see the good decisions and the bad. I was surprised at how bad General Lee was shown by ignoring good advice from junior officers, yet he is still beloved by his men. There is a true fog of war. Unless you had good spies and cavalry, the officers were blind... thousands of men can be maneuvered invisible in a forest or behind a hill. Some of the battle scenes were intense, some gore but not gratuitous, but you see the agony of the leaders in the front lines having to make decisions that most certainly send their men to certain death.

It was not as depressing as another war novel I had read. It was very well written with a nice balance between the battles and recovery between them. The author, Michael Shaara, received a Pulitzer for this effort and very deserved in my opinion.

He has another book titled "The Broken Place"... I will be looking for this book as I like his writing style very much. ( )
2 vote Lynxear | Jun 7, 2016 |
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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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"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."
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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)

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)

» see all 13 descriptions

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