The Killer Angels

Thoughts    The Killer Angels  by Michael Shaara, Ballantine 1975/orig 1974, 355 pages.  Winner of The Pulitzer Prize.


 “This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you’ll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we’re here for something new.  I don’t . . .  this hasn’t happened much in the history of the world. We’re an army going out to set other men free.”    (Chamberlain, p.30)

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  In the author’s own words, in the preface To The Reader:

This is the story of the Battle of Gettysburg, told from the viewpoints of Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet and some of the other men who fought there.

So, it’s a fictionalized account of the imfamous Civil War battle, told from both sides of the line.  I certainly am no expert on battles of the Civil War and have only a passing knowledge of the main players.  But I love history.  I have actually visited Gettysburg and only wish I had read this book before seeing that ground.

“Give them fifty years, and all that equality rot is gone. Here (the South) they have the same love of the land and of tradition, of the right form and the right breeding, in their horses, their women. Of course, slavery is embarrassing, but that, of course, will go.  But the point is they do it all exactly as we do in Europe. And the North does not. THAT’s what the war is really about.” (Fremantle, British ‘tourist’, p. 165)

This is another book that had me wiki-ing all the characters – I had to find out if they lived or died!   And I screwed it up – I *thought* I had searched for Col Chamberlain, the rhetoric professor from Maine, and saw that he died on the first day. All due to the ominous tone in this description at the very beginning:

“His younger brother Thomas becomes his aide.  Thomas too has yearned to be a soldier.  The wishes of both men are to be granted on the dark rear slope of a small rocky hill called Little Round Top.”

I immediately had to go to my iPad open google to find out WHAT HAPPENED?!  – mind you, this was page xix – and somehow?? not sure what I did, but I must have googled John Reynolds name by mistake.  Anyhoo…

Later, I was discussing this book – I am about half way through reading it at this point – with a coworker of my husband’s who was helping us move the boat to its winter storage location, when I told him, “I think I am in love with Chamberlain and I could just cry! I can’t believe he didn’t make it!” when Jerry says, “What? No, he lives. He survives.”

So I was all confused and had to google all these old dead (now) guys again.

“Once Chamrberlain had a speech memorized from Shakespeare and gave it proudly, the old man listening but not looking, and Chamberlain remembered it still:  “What a piece of work is man . . . in action how like an angel!” And the old man, grinning, had scratched his head and then said stiffly, “Well, boy, if he’s an angel, he’s sure a murderin’ angel.” And Chamberlain had gone on to school to make an oration on the subject: Man, the Killer Angel.” (p.119)

LOVED that the book had maps even though they were a bit small to read.

A big THANK YOU SHOUT OUT to Jason for helping me with army organization.

Sure, I would have enjoyed a bit more perspective from and respect for a woman’s point of view but I can leave that for another book.

RATING:  Who am I to argue with the Pulitzer Committee AND General Schwartzkopf, who said, “The best and most realistic historical novel about war I have ever read.”   FIVE SLICES of PIE. Cherry.  Any guesses as to why cherry?  😉


Copyright © 2007-2011. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

18 thoughts on “The Killer Angels

    1. I don’t think I knew about it before that history teacher suggested it to me and then I was wondering WHY I didn’t know of it. I think one of the Generals for the South was from SoCarolina. Now my research is already fading…

  1. I’m going to have to get my hands on a copy of this book…hopefully to read before the Civil War challenge ends next month! I’m sure having visited Gettsyburg made for a richer reading experience. I visited when I was a kid, but I don’t live too far from there so I must make another trip in the near future. Glad to see you liked this book, and I’ll link to your review on War Through the Generations.

    1. Anna, I have heard that they have updated the museum at Gettysburg in the last 3-4 years so I am eager to visit again. It really is a somber sobering place.

  2. I didn’t have to wait long to find out. 🙂 I’m so glad you loved it, too! Annie and did read this right before we went to Gettysburg a few years back–made for an incredible visit!

    1. I kept getting the layout in my mind confused with the maps. I really want to see it again. I seem to recall a mirror image of the battlefield but now that I want to view it compared to the companies and regiments from Ohio/Maine/Penn in my head.

      My hub travels to the area often; now I am even more motivated to tag along.

  3. I read this in high school and oh my God I could not possibly have hated it more. We had a nightmare test on it that asked all these tiny, tiny details like what were the first names of this one general’s sons and what happened to all of them. Oh God it was the worst thing ever. I can never love it now. It put me off the Civil War for life.

    1. Oh Jenny, I can understand how a tough class with a harsh teacher could turn one off a subject. Like me and Steinbeck – I overdosed on too many of his books with teachers I couldn’t relate to.

  4. I’m glad I could help – I thought the book was a bit too ‘glorious, heroic men doing glorious heroic things’, but this may be my personal predilections at play. It was certainly compelling in its way – it reminded me of the part of Les Mis where Hugo walks through the whole Battle of Waterloo.

    1. Sure, I think it fit the time, too – the romantic view of ‘war’, the glory and honor. It sets up the question with little exploration, actually Longstreet saw it more clear than the others, that warfare was changing with technology.

      I loved Les Mis but I don’t recall much of it anymore. And I’ve seen the play and movie! Sigh…

Welcome! I invite you to comment. If for some reason commenting is troublesome, pls send email to BkClubCare [at] Gmail

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s