Killer Angels: A Historical Civil War Book

Killer Angels is a gripping and meticulously researched historical novel that delves into the events of the American Civil War. Written by Michael Shaara, this book provides readers with a deep and immersive experience of …

Killer Angels: A Historical Civil War Book

Killer Angels is a gripping and meticulously researched historical novel that delves into the events of the American Civil War. Written by Michael Shaara, this book provides readers with a deep and immersive experience of one of the most crucial battles of the war: the Battle of Gettysburg.

Set during the summer of 1863, Killer Angels takes readers on a journey through the eyes of both Union and Confederate soldiers, offering a unique perspective on the conflict. Shaara’s vivid storytelling and attention to detail bring the characters and the battle to life, making it an incredibly compelling read for both history enthusiasts and fiction lovers alike.

What sets Killer Angels apart from other Civil War novels is its ability to humanize the soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Shaara paints a complex picture of the men involved, showcasing their fears, hopes, and motivations. Through his masterful storytelling, he captures the essence of the Civil War and the sacrifices made by those who fought in it.

Overview of the Book

The book “Killer Angels” is a historical novel written by Michael Shaara. It was first published in 1974 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975. The story is set during the American Civil War and focuses on the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place in July 1863.

The book provides a detailed account of the events leading up to the battle and the battle itself, from the perspectives of various key figures on both sides of the conflict. Shaara’s writing style brings these characters to life and allows readers to gain a deeper understanding of their motivations and the challenges they faced.

Plot Summary

The book begins with the Confederate Army’s invasion of Pennsylvania and the Union Army’s response. The story follows the experiences of several characters, including Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Union General John Buford, and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

As the battle unfolds, the book explores the strategies and tactics employed by both sides, as well as the personal and emotional toll of the war. Shaara delves into the thoughts and feelings of the characters, providing a humanizing perspective on the conflict.


One of the central themes of the book is the nature of leadership and the responsibilities that come with it. Shaara examines the decisions made by the generals and the impact those decisions had on the outcome of the battle.

Another theme explored in the book is the cost of war. Shaara vividly depicts the horrors of battle and the devastating effects it has on both soldiers and civilians. The book also delves into the moral complexities of the war and the conflicting ideologies that drove the conflict.

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Author Michael Shaara
Published 1974
Genre Historical Fiction
Awards Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1975)

The Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the American Civil War. It took place from July 1 to July 3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle was fought between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee, and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by General George G. Meade.

The battle began when Confederate forces launched an attack on Union positions on July 1. The fighting was fierce and both sides suffered heavy casualties. The Union Army was initially pushed back, but they were able to regroup and hold a defensive position on Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill.

The third day of the battle saw continued fighting, but the Confederate forces were unable to make any significant gains. On July 4, General Lee ordered a retreat, and the Confederate Army began to withdraw from Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a decisive victory for the Union Army and is often considered the turning point of the Civil War. The Confederate Army suffered heavy losses and was never able to fully recover. The battle also had a significant impact on the morale of both the Union and Confederate forces.

Today, Gettysburg National Military Park preserves the battlefield and serves as a memorial to the soldiers who fought and died there. The battle is remembered as one of the most important and bloodiest battles in American history.

The Characters and Perspectives

In “Killer Angels,” author Michael Shaara introduces readers to a diverse cast of characters, each with their own unique perspectives and motivations. Through these characters, Shaara provides a multi-dimensional view of the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg.

One of the central characters is General Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army. Shaara portrays Lee as a respected and strategic leader, who is burdened by the weight of his decisions. Lee’s perspective offers insight into the challenges and dilemmas faced by the Confederate forces.

On the Union side, General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain emerges as a key character. Chamberlain is a college professor turned soldier, and his perspective provides a contrast to the more experienced military leaders. Chamberlain’s idealism and determination to fight for the Union cause give readers a glimpse into the values and motivations of the Union soldiers.

Shaara also introduces readers to other characters, such as General James Longstreet, Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, and General John Buford. Each character brings their own perspective and experiences to the story, allowing readers to see the conflict from various angles.

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Through these diverse perspectives, Shaara explores the complexities of the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg. He delves into the personal struggles and sacrifices of the soldiers, and the impact of their decisions on the outcome of the war. By humanizing the characters and presenting their individual perspectives, Shaara creates a rich and engaging narrative that brings history to life.

Character Perspective
General Robert E. Lee Confederate leader burdened by decisions
General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Union soldier with idealism and determination
General James Longstreet Confederate general with a strategic mindset
Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain Union officer with a unique background
General John Buford Union cavalry leader with tactical expertise

The Battle Unfolds

The Battle of Gettysburg, one of the most significant battles in American history, began on July 1, 1863. The Confederate Army, led by General Robert E. Lee, aimed to invade the North and win a decisive victory that could potentially end the Civil War in favor of the Confederacy.

The Union Army, commanded by General George G. Meade, had other plans. They were determined to defend their home territory and prevent the Confederate forces from advancing further. The stage was set for a brutal and bloody clash between the two sides.

As the sun rose on that fateful day, the Confederates launched a fierce assault on the Union positions. The battle quickly escalated into a chaotic and brutal struggle, with both sides suffering heavy casualties. The fighting was intense, with soldiers engaged in close-quarters combat and artillery fire raining down on the battlefield.

Despite their initial success, the Confederates faced strong resistance from the Union Army. General Joshua L. Chamberlain, leading the 20th Maine Infantry, famously held the Union left flank on Little Round Top, repelling multiple Confederate attacks and preventing a breakthrough.

Meanwhile, on the Union right flank, General John Buford’s cavalry played a crucial role in delaying the Confederate advance, giving the Union Army time to strengthen their defenses. Buford’s men fought bravely and held their ground against overwhelming odds.

By July 4, the Confederates were forced to retreat, leaving the Union Army victorious. The Battle of Gettysburg was a major turning point in the Civil War, as it not only halted the Confederate invasion of the North but also boosted Union morale and set the stage for future Union victories.

The Battle of Gettysburg was a testament to the bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers on both sides. It was a battle that unfolded with immense violence and brutality, but also showcased the resilience and determination of the American people during one of the darkest periods in their history.

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Legacy and Impact

The legacy and impact of “Killer Angels” are far-reaching and profound. Michael Shaara’s novel not only captivated readers with its vivid portrayal of the Battle of Gettysburg, but it also had a lasting impact on the understanding and perception of the Civil War.

One of the most significant legacies of “Killer Angels” is its ability to humanize the historical figures involved in the Battle of Gettysburg. Through his meticulous research and skillful storytelling, Shaara brings to life the complex personalities and motivations of both Union and Confederate leaders. This humanization of the characters allows readers to better understand the decisions and actions of the individuals who shaped the outcome of the battle.

Furthermore, “Killer Angels” challenges the traditional narrative of the Civil War by presenting the conflict from multiple perspectives. Shaara explores the viewpoints of Union and Confederate soldiers, as well as civilian bystanders, providing a more nuanced understanding of the war. This approach encourages readers to consider the complexities and moral ambiguities of the Civil War, rather than viewing it as a simple battle between good and evil.

The impact of “Killer Angels” extends beyond the realm of literature. The novel played a significant role in rekindling interest in the Civil War among the general public. Its success led to an increased popularity of historical fiction set during the Civil War era, as well as a renewed interest in visiting historical sites such as Gettysburg. Additionally, “Killer Angels” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975, further solidifying its place in literary history.

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