Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Killer Angels

Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels tells of the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War, the battle of Gettysburg. Shaara puts an unusual spin on his vision of this battle by having researched the letters and documents written by leading players about Gettysburg and using them to create a storyline of what was going through the minds of the key commanders. Each section of the book is from the point of view of another man who played a key role in what occurred and the decisions made on both sides of the battlefield.
The book starts out in the mind of the spy that informed General James Longstreet of movement of a Union army that perplexes Longstreet because he believes the General J.E.B. Stuart and his cavalry are supposed to be tracking them, but moves his army south to intercept the Union army anyways. While this is going on, other events are taking place that will end up setting up for the battle at Gettysburg such as Union Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain who received more soldiers and General John Buford hears of approaching confederate troops and stops in Gettysburg and sends soldiers to gain control of the hilltops believing that a battle may commence soon.
Later in a Confederate camp Longstreet meets up with other commanders such as General George Pickett along with the Commander of the Confederate army, Robert E. Lee. Longstreet, Lee’s secondhand man, argues with Lee on whether or not to continue their defensive strategy but Lee believes cutting the union army off from Washington D.C. in an offensive strategy. The fighting begins once confederate soldiers fire on Buford’s men.
More and more generals start to arrive with men and begin to fight immediately with their tired soldiers. The first day’s fighting ends with the union forces retreating to the hills, Buford being blamed for the loss of the day and with Longstreet worried about how good of a defensive position the hills are and also angry with the cautious General Ewell that Longstreet had asked to take the hills so that the union forces could not take them. The next day brings Chamberlain heading toward Gettysburg and Longstreet fighting against Lee, Ewell and another general by the name of Early on what to do next. Unfortunately Lee refuses to go with Longstreet’s plan of swinging the army around and cutting the union off from Washington D.C, the plan Longstreet believes now more effective. Ewell and Early suggest rather that the army separate into two flanks and attack which is what Lee agrees to.
Chamberlain finally arrives for the union forces and Stuart for the confederate forces and Chamberlain’s men start to immediately fight while Stuart is berated by Lee for being so late and off task. Later Pickett’s charge occurs as an attempt to split the union army in two. In the end, Pickett loses over 60% percent of his men and the Confederates start to retreat after their heavy losses. Michael Shaara created an excellent image of how the events of the battle of the Gettysburg started to unfold and became the bloodiest battle on U.S soil.

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