Monday, June 15, 2009

Ag_in_TX's review of "The Killer Angels" (Shaara - 1975)

Simply put, The Killer Angels is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Great books have great characters that you care deeply about, and can you imagine better characters than Lee, Longstreet and Chamberlain?

I read this book years ago and it really turned me on to the whole genre of historical fiction. Unfortunately, few authors of this genre can write like Shaara, even his son who wrote the two books that go with this novel to tell the whole Civil War.

As with my other reviews, no book synopsis – just my thoughts.

Gettysburg was a watershed event in American history, if not world history. This is true on many levels, and one example was the way the Army of Northern Virginia chose to prosecute this battle. Pete Longstreet was nothing short of a genius – at least 100 years ahead of his time in how armies ought to fight if they wanted to win. But his ideas flew in the face of the classic ideas of how gentlemen of honor ought to fight, and hence his ideas at Gettysburg were rejected. If lee had listened to Longstreet, the CSA may very well have won that war. And how different would history be if that had occurred?

The telling of Chamberlain’s unit on Little Round Top is the version he remembered later in life. They did repel an Alabama regiment, but whether the “swinging gate” picket charge was really called or whether Chamberlain recalled that later in life is unclear. What is clear is that the 20th Maine performed with distinction that day and deserved all the accolades they have been given by history.

The peeks into the mind of General Lee are, of course, fictional, but provide plausible explanations as to what went into his thoughts on those fateful days. What a shame the old man never wrote of the war and his decisions outside of his letters – that would have been an epic book.

In summary, if you have not read this book yet, you must. It is a tremendous book that opens a window for us to look in on this monumental event in American history.

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