Recently, I have finished reading The Killer Angels, a 337-page historical fiction book by Michael Shaara that came out in 1974, who won the Pulitzer prize for this novel and whose son wrote many other books following the same story and characters.
This book has been recognized for how well it was written and just how riveting the story behind the novel is. It has sold millions of copies and ebooks. In addition, Norman Schwarzkopf, a general, described The Killer Angels as “the best and most realistic historical novel about war that I have ever read.” I decided to read this book after seeing the movie based upon the story, called Gettysburg. As a lover of history and these types of story in general, I was very drawn to this book as a reader. After reading the novel, I concluded that it was so well done, that it even was better than the movie. I love this book after reading it and I love how it is written. It is a great book that is an instant classic.
In the novel, The Killer Angels, the civil war is at its height and many people on both sides, the union and the confederacy, are dying. The confederates want to end the war by marching north, towards Pennsylvania and Gettysburg to suppress the union and potentially take out the whole army; but, the union is hoping to do the opposite and march south with the whole army and possibly push the rebel confederates all the way back to Richmond, Virginia. So, the two armies meet in a huge engagement where everything will be left on the line. Both sides knew that whatever side won, may very well win the war. The battle of Gettysburg was maybe the biggest turning point in the entire civil war. However, no matter what, both sides will lose very good men and the cost of victory may be greater than anyone was prepared for.
In the story, it was very interesting to me that the author included that the two sides did not really view each other as enemies like they did the british or the mexicans who they both fought. Longstreet actually said to Lee, “They’re never quite the enemy, those boys in blue.” (181). I think the author included this to show that there was still a bond between the men who fought together all those years ago in Mexico. The only difference is that the nation was divided into two different sides. I really liked this part because it shows how deep the ties between men still are. Most of them fought together before. This part of the novel really shows that the two sides while they might be fighting, they are all still American and they still are friends and on the same side deep down. There is still some sense in war.
In another part of the book, it really surprised me that the generals of the south did not see what would happen when they raided the whole union army in a fortified position on the third day of battle. On page 320, when general Lee told Pickett to look to his division, Pickett said “General, I have no division.” (320). The generals of the south were said to love their men more than anything. Since that has been proven to be true, why did they not think about what could have happened? As a result, most of the Confederate army died on that day. This part of the book really saddened me because Americans and young men were killing each other when they were supposed to be brethren on the same side like in the revolutionary war and the mexican war. I also found this very interesting as a writer because the south did not realize that it was the reverse of the Battle of Fredericksburg. At Fredericksburg, the confederates were at the fortified position. The battle was lost as a result of mainly carelessness in Gettysburg.
One part of the book that I really liked is how the author showed how the armies love their men. For example, “Not Maine men, I won’t shoot anyone who doesn’t want to fight.” (27). I liked this part and found it interesting as a writer because the author really showed how the officers on both sides really cared for their men. I also found it interesting because before that point in the war, the Union command was really bad in that they just sent their men into battle and did not care if they died. Maybe this is because Colonel Chamberlain really cared about his men and he is from Maine as well or maybe because he realized that he needs to care about his men like the rebels did. Either way, I like it because it shows that there was some sense of brotherhood between the men.
This book was maybe the best historical fiction novel that I ever read. It is beautifully written and I really like that it shows both sides in the battle of Gettysburg. It Michael Shaara did an amazing job of showing the feelings of the generals and men who were there. I give this book a 10 out of 10 because it really shows how the war was really like on the men who were there and how it really took a toll on them when people died. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a good book and anyone who likes to read historical fiction. It is a great book.