Killer Angels is a fictionalized account based on factual historical events and people. It takes these actual people and events and hypothesizes their motives and inner most thoughts; it also extrapolates on their motives. It deals in particular with the Battle of Gettysburg and the main actors there in, namely; Robert E Lee of the Confederate Army, his Union opponent Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, and Lees' second in command General James Longstreet.
The book begins with General Longstreet being informed by a spy that the Union army is on the move. This was a surprise as the Union was supposed to have been observed by other parts of the Union Army and their whereabouts and actions reported.
[...] His musings on men, mortality and morality against the background of such brutality was a beautiful and horrible thing. Shaara's book, to me, attempts to personalize this battle. This battle is one that we have been taught the key facts about since grammar school, in most cases. But, though we can all recite the dates and major characters and perhaps some of the results, it is not a story about people, it is a dry recitation of facts. Shaara very poignantly takes these major characters and makes them real to us, gives them families, inner motivations, and conflicts. [...]
[...] Lee still wishes to attack, and Longstreet still wants to fall back to a more defensive position. Lee prevails again and Longstreet leads his men into battle. The Union army has shifted slightly down hill and this results in an extensive battle with losses on both sides. Chamberlain of the Union army holds the hilltop for quite some time until he is out of ammunition and has to resort to a bayonet charge down the hill into the fracas. Although a desperate measure it has the effect of causing the Confederate army to retreat in the face of such extreme aggression. [...]
[...] I have no idea if it's on current high school reading lists but it ought to be. It is less graphic than novels such as Red Badge of Courage, more poignant and better written. Particularly for a younger or academically reluctant audience, this book takes history out of a dry recitation of names, dates and locations and makes it, a story. This is a story about people who are both mortal and flawed, not icons on holy crusades for justice as they self define it. It would also be an interesting addition to the library [...]
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