book reviews

Book Review: Killer Angels

The Killer AngelsThe Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War (Civil War Trilogy)

by Michael Shaara

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

I’m not a Civil War buff, preferring my military history more current, but I read The Killer Angels because my son (who is a history buff) recommended it. Since then, I’ve read everything Michael Shaara and his son Jeff (another historic fiction novelist) have written.

Killer Angels (Ballantine Books 1987) is about the Battle of Gettysburg, but from the human side (and why it’s consider fiction rather than fact). He touches on causes, but only as the soldiers would experience them. One Union soldier laments that if the South wins, he will no longer be able to visit the great fishing holes he enjoys in what would become a new and separate nation if the South wins.

The youthful soldiers on both sides, the battles they endure without enough food or supplies, the repercussions of a volunteer army–boys and men volunteered alongside others from their own state–makes for greater drama than any military retelling of this seminal battle. No one was conscripted. The fear many felt because they weren’t warriors, weren’t trained in battle, just common people drawn into the cause of their side. Killer Angels doesn’t replace the typical historic account of Gettysburg. It enhances it by adding a human layer, likely the most important in any battle. Even 150 years ago, the military taught its grunts to fight for the guy next to them in the foxhole, not some cause their government espoused.

In the end, my heart was saddened for the losers, for the death of their dreams and the loss of their innocence. I never did decide which side Shaara considered to be the Killer Angels.

If you would like to purchase this from Amazon, click the link below:

 The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War (Civil War Trilogy)

More history reviews:

8 Tips for Creative Nonfiction Writers

Book Review: Killing Lincoln

8 Tips for Historic Fiction Writers


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she writes technology training books for how to integrate tech in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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22 thoughts on “Book Review: Killer Angels

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  8. Years ago, I picked up this book to read ONLY because it was basically the only one available. If I’d had any other half-decent book available, I would not have read this one because I don’t usually have any interest in war stories, let alone one about the Civil War. I’m very glad I didn’t have a choice, because it became one of my all time favorites.Thanks for reminding me how awesome it is.


  9. This book is one of my favorites. Never has the Civil War been so tangible. Shaara describes the quaint rituals of war that allowed the entire Confederate army to march and position itself before any firing began. Once camp was set up, perfunctory lobbing of cannon balls ensued. The losses became comprehensible when the author included the truth about the mound of horse corpses and that soldiers stopped naming their steeds in an effort to detach from grief. So much history so dramatically told. I can only echo this recommendation. This is a book to read.


  10. This type of reading is right up my alley. I love to read the low-down, the human interest stories more than cut and dried battles or history of a place. I’m not knocking history and do appreciate it more now than when I had to learn about it in school. I guess that’s why historical novels are so interesting.
    I love your reviews. They always get me charged to read more and I do try. Another title for my winding list of must reads. 🙂


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