I first read about the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, when it was referenced in a biography of Robert E. Lee called Clouds of Glory. Since reading that biog, my curiosity about the Civil War has been piqued. I’ve decided to read as much about the Civil War as I can. My daughter, Lauren, will not be surprised to hear that I have two large books on my “to read” list this year that relate to the Civil War (The South Was Right! and Stonewall Jackson, in case anyone is curious). When I saw this book for sale at a cute bookstore Terry and I visited on our recent getaway, I couldn’t resist buying it. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.
The Killer Angels has been the most historically accurate fictional book that I have read. Mr. Shaara worked long and hard to see both sides of the Civil War so he could portray both sides as simply men trying to do the right thing. Neither side was the “monster”. As a southerner, who is used to seeing the South demonized, I found this refreshing.
The Battle of Gettysburg came alive like never before in the pages of this book. You could feel the tension and suspense even though you know the ending of this famous battle. Mr. Shaara allows you to hear the voice of Lee, Buford, Chamberlain, Longstreet and others who, before, were simply names on a page. Yes, their words are fiction, but the words and actions portrayed seem accurate according to what I have read about these men. The author did his best to stay true to their real personalities. After reading this book, I am now quite interested in Lawrence Chamberlain, a professor from Maine and a lieutenant colonel for the Union, who’s leadership contributed to the North’s great victory.
While I am true southerner at heart, I can honestly say that I am thankful the North won the Civil War. I am glad that we are “United”. I merely contend that a war should have never been fought; Lincoln should have worked harder at listening to the South’s complaints and finding a peaceful solution.
However, a war was fought, and it has left its mark upon thousands of families, upon our history, and upon the many battlefields across our land. If you’d like to take an exciting trip back in time and witness the Battle of Gettysburg, you can get a front row seat in Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels.