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The for fiction in 1975. Sadly, Shaara

The Killer Angels is a story of the events that occurred during the battle of Gettysburg in 1863.  This book details the history of the Battle of Gettysburg and the events that took place during this time period.  The book was written by a man by the name of  Michael Shaara;  an American author born on June 23, 1928, in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Shaara graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in 1951 and later did some graduate work at Columbia University in New York City and at the University of Vermont before becoming a college professor at Florida State University, where he taught creative writing and literature, in 1961.  After becoming a famous author of science, sports, and historical fiction Shaara took a turn away from his preferred genres when he was inspired by letters from his great-grandfather, a member of the 4th Georgia Infantry, who had been injured at Gettysburg.  In 1974 Shaara wrote the historical fiction The Killer Angels which received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1975.  Sadly, Shaara passed away of a heart attack on May 5, 1988.   The story has the alternating viewpoints of Confederate and Union soldiers during the time of the Battle of Gettysburg.  In the beginning of the story, a Confederate spy by the name of Harrison spots the Union army quickly approaching the Confederate camp.  When he reports back to his superiors, General Robert E. Lee decided to move his army to Gettysburg.  Brigadier General John Buford and his men arrived in Gettysburg only to find that there are already Confederate troops there.  Buford relays a message back to camp warning the Union army of the presence of Confederate soldiers and requesting that they provided with reinforcements before more Confederate troops arrive.  Back at the Confederate camp, General James Longstreet receives the information that Union troops have been spotted at Gettysburg.The Union army gets attacked at Gettysburg by the Confederate infantry.  Buford quickly sends a message to General John Reynolds informing him of their current situation.  Buford’s men cannot wait for Reynolds and his men to arrive, so Buford orders his men to return fire.  When it looks like the Union forces at Gettysburg are about to be defeated, Reynolds and the Union infantry arrive to assist in the battle.  Sadly, Reynolds is shot and killed during this battle.  Lee arrives at Gettysburg to witness General Henry Heth and his men getting pushed back by Union forces.  Rodes informs Lee that his division is already attacking the Union troops and that Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s men are on their way to provide support.  Longstreet begins questioning Lee’s judgment and states that Lee “would rather lose the war than lose his dignity”.  While Lee is talking to a few of his men, he becomes very frustrated with the fact that General Richard Ewell still hasn’t taken the hill from the Union forces.At the end of this battle, the Confederate army was defeated by the Union army.  Almost 60% of Major General George Pickett’s men, including his colonels, were lost in this battle.  At this point, the Confederate leaders came to the conclusion that they had lost the battle, and ultimately, the war.  However, it would be another two years before the war would reach its conclusion.Michael Shaara definitely uses a unique approach in the writing of this book.  The way he shifts the viewpoint back and forth between the Union army leaders and the Confederate army leaders certainly grabs the reader’s attention.  He shows how these important men in this part of our history were thinking and feeling at this time of war.  For example, when Thomas Chamberlain was thinking, “How do you force a man to fight– for freedom?  The idiocy of it jarred him.  Think on it later.  Must do something now.”(page 41).  Or when Buford thinks “It wasn’t the dying.  He had seen men die all his life, and death was the luck of the chance,  the price you eventually paid.  What was worse than stupidity.  The appalling sick stupidity that was so bad you thought sometimes you would go insane just having to watch it.”(page 84).  Shaara really connects to the reader and helps the reader understand what struggles, internal and external, that these men went through during the Battle of Gettysburg.  Following along with each characters individual person did get to be a bit complicated due to the switching between the minds many different characters,  but Shaara wrote the book in a manner that saved most confusion because of how well each part of the book interwove with the others.  I really did appreciate the different perspectives at times and how you could really get into the details and understand how these men felt during these harsh brutal times.  In conclusion, I believe that this novel is an outstandingly well-written piece of American literature that everyone who has any interest in the Civil war should attempt to read.  It provides a different outlook on the topic aside from the textbook history we are provided with today.  Shaara holds the reader’s attention with this well-organized book.


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