The Killer Angels

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is one of the most famous battles in American history that many see as the turning point of the Civil War and has been the subject of book, films, and tv specials over the 150 years since it took place. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara is a historical fictional account of the three-day battle in July 1863 that went on to be the basis for a Hollywood film.

Shaara retells the battle from the perspective of various characters of both sides—Generals Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, Lewis ‘Lo’ Armistead, the spy Harrison, and the British observer Colonel Fremantle on Confederacy and General John Buford and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain on Union—starting in the days leading up to the beginning of July through the end of the battle. Though Shaara interprets the personality and ideas of everyone based on his research they are very believable, though the dialogue between characters is every so often hard to understand/read—though that same dialogue in the film Gettysburg worked very well. Shaara’s descriptions of the battle were vivid and inserted the reader into the defense of Little Round Top and Pickett’s Charge as if they were there with the character who was witnessing it. The only really negative was Shaara’s criticism of Union General George Meade for remaining on defense throughout the battle and afterwards, though I am doing so after recent research has revealed the logistical nightmare the Army of the Potomac was dealing with along with the orders from Washington that Meade was beholden to.

The Killer Angels is a vividly written military historical fiction by Michael Shaara that brings the three-day Battle of Gettysburg to life for the reader. Though there is a little issue with dialogue from time to time and unwarranted criticism of Meade, Shaara delivers a fantastic book.

2 thoughts on “The Killer Angels

    • It depends on the time period and my knowledge surrounding the events that are being fictionalized. For this book, I’ve seen updated scholarship on what Meade was dealing with logistically and orders from Washington that shaped how he was conducting a battle 4 days after he was given command of the Union army. This isn’t entirely Shaara’s fault because it’s almost 50 years since the book was written and these facts were readily available to a pre-Internet writer.

      Overall, historical fiction has been good reads to me but if the history is noticeably wrong I’m going to mention it in the review.

      Liked by 2 people

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