The Killer Angels

Most people think of the Civil War as a military battle between the North and South. Without studying the subject, they do not appreciate the facts that make up this historical event. When one reads the novel, , the reader will have a much better perception and understanding of what actually happened during the war. The Killer Angels, which is written by Michael Shaara, tells the epic story of the great battle of Gettysburg, which left 50,000 Confederate and Union soldiers dead, wounded, or missing. The tale is told from the alternating points of view from several of each sides significant participants. The book moves back and forth from the North and South perspective. Shaara portrays the terrible butchery of the three days fighting through the vividly ren- dered thoughts and emotions of men such as General Robert E. Lee, Major General John Buford from the South and from the North, Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. This is a tremendously moving novel, guaranteed unforget- table. The book instills in one’s mind what a battle fought during the Civil War was actu- ally like to be apart of for the soldiers.

The setting for the book takes place in Pennsylvania, where the Battle of Gettys- burg is fought. The author provides many detailed maps of both army’s positions. Throughout the book, the reader is shown the pain, difficulty, anguish, and other dilemmas the armies face leading up to the final confrontation. In the beginning of the book we learn about the North from a spy for the South. His job was to scout the North’s position as well count the number of troops. He reports to General Robert E. Lee and recalls what he saw.

The spy’s information proved useful to the Confederates’ at the beginning of the Battle of Gettysburg. The fight at Gettysburg is a series of battles. At first the South gains ground but eventually the North secures the better field position and crushes the Southern forces. The author makes it clear that it is General Robert E. Lee’s poor judgment and de- cisions that causes the South to lose the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee even credits himself for the South’s failure, as quoted in the book, “No blame can be attached to the army for its failure to accomplish what was projected by me.

. . . I alone am to blame, in perhaps ex- pecting too much of its prowess and valor . . . could I have foreseen that the attack on the last day would fail, I should certainly have tried some other course . . . but I do not know what better course I could have pursued” The Killer Angels, Ballantine Books, page 349. General Lee wanted to attack the Union troops at Gettysburg, even though the North had the better ground, more supplies, and thousands of more troops. Lee’s mind was already set and he did not want to change it. Overall, Lee was a good general, but during this particular battle, he did not make the best of decisions, which in the opinion of the author led to the Confederate troops losing the war. In conclusion, I recommend The Killer Angels to anyone who is curious or inter- ested about finding out what the Civil War was like. The book provides an accurate and detailed description of the war. On the cover of the book, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf is quoted as saying that the book is “The best and most realistic historical novel about war I have ever read.”

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