The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

If you have the slightest interest in the Civil War, don’t fail to read the late Michael Shaara’s book The Killer Angels. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1974. For some reason this book had never crossed my path. It wasn’t until Father’s Day this year that I was even aware of its existence. My 27 year old son gave me a DVD that had both Gods and Generals and Gettysburg on it. In reading the jacket of the DVD I saw the movie was based on this book. After watching the movie, I headed off to the library. I was not disappointed.

This volume shows both the courage and determination of the Union and Confederate soldiers. It examines the story from both viewpoints. You are told the story through the key leadership of the battle. You will read about Robert E. Lee. You will learn what his decisions were based on. You will see why he was so beloved by his army. The book allows you to be present as Lee struggles with decision after decision from his headquarters. You can feel the frustration of Longstreet as he tries to convince Lee that defense is a better choice. You will get a picture of the flamboyant Pickett. You will feel Lee’s and Longstreet’s frustration with J.E.B. Stuart. I met a new hero in the book – Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin as I read about the 20th Maine Regiment and Chamberlain who with a bayonet charge on Little Big Top held the end of the Union line. Another new hero I encountered was General John Buford. You will experience his anguish as he decides to engage Rebel forces. He knows that he was seriously outnumbered. He is determined to save the only high ground in the area.

I was emotionally involved in the book from the beginning to the end. This is the book that blurs the line between historical fiction and creative non-fiction. It is simply great reading. While the movie was good, the book is great. Michael Shaara had the vision, did the research, and wrote one of the best books ever. Thank you! Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.