My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
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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 Examiner.com 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.