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The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War
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The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War (The Civil War: 1861-1865 #2)

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  48,468 ratings  ·  3,225 reviews
After more than a quarter of a century and three million copies in print, Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War classic, The Killer Angels, remains as vivid and powerful as the day it was originally published. This handsome new hardcover edition introduces a whole new generation to Shaara’s masterpiece–and offers readers everywhere a literary keepsake for years ...more
Hardcover, 344 pages
Published May 29th 2001 by Ballantine Books (first published 1974)
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Jeffrey Keeten
”This is a different kind of army. If you look at history you’ll see men fight for pay, or women, or some other kind of loot. They fight for land, or because a king makes them, or just because they like killing. But we’re here for something new. I don’t … this hasn’t happened much in the history of the world. We’re an army going out to set other men free.”

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

 photo battle-of-gettysburg-map-on-july-3-1863_zps2bcf9496.png
The position of all the troops on July 3rd, 1863. The last day of battle. You can see the famous fishhook

Michael Shaara's passion gave life to something unique and singularly extraordinary in this Pullitzer Prize winning novel. With high-charged, emotive prose, lush descriptions and fully-fleshed characters, he transforms the The Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest engagement of the Civil War, into a gorgeously rendered and deeply personal story populated by flawed, ordinary men caught in an extraordinary concatenation of circumstances by the machinations of Fate. Shaara’s reduction of this moment
This month marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg which we all know is the fight that took place when Abraham Lincoln wanted to make a speech at that address and then one of the neighbors got mad and challenged him. Or something like that.

Ah, but seriously folks…. Gettysburg was the turning point of the American Civil War in which the Union forces defeated Robert E. Lee’s invading Confederate troops, but this isn’t a non-fiction book about the battle. Instead it’s a historical
I am not really a fan of books about war. I have trouble envisioning the action and the maneuvers of the troops, and I find that I get lost in the details and just don't really care about the characters.

Because of this, I didn't have high hopes for The Killer Angels, but it was this month's selection for my book club, and I decided to give it a try.

This book was incredible. I did have some trouble keeping track of the characters. I ended up making myself a cheat-sheet with things like, "Longstre
This is one of those books which changes the way people see a subject. It is a fictional account of the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, putting words into the mouths of some of the best-remembered participants, most notably Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet, and Union Generals Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and John Buford (actually Chamberlain was a colonel at this battle, but eventually attained the rank of Major General before the end of the war). The book violates ...more
I was assigned this many years ago in high school & still have my 1975 paperback edition, so I was surprised by Jeff Shaara's introduction talking about how unknown this book was, especially when it won a Pulitzer Prize. I would guess he knows what he's talking about, but I've known many people to read it over the years. Of course, I lived only a couple of hours from Gettysburg which languished for years. Only recently has a real concerted effort been made to upgrade the facilities there led ...more
I've read the book twice, it is a very moving historical novel.

The Killer Angels relates the thoughts and motivations of the leaders in the battle of Gettysburg, as well as details of the crucial actions across the battlefield over three days, as experienced by the leaders and soldiers. Of particular interest are the depictions of the Confederate leaders (Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, et al). Longstreet is presented as arguing against the decision by Lee to take the battle to the Union forces, who h
A.B. Gayle
Normally when I hear a book won a major literary prize I run screaming in the opposite direction, but the topic has always interested me and the way the author dealt with the subject had me turning the pages like a novel.

Being an Aussie, the American Civil war was just something I was taught at school, it had no real relevance. Undoubtedly, US citizens have a totally different perspective from their much closer connection. So I understand if for some of you the book is overload of stuff you've b
When I was young my parents took us to Gettysburg a few times and for some reason, I really fell in love with the landscape and the reverberating sense of history. Just walking in the fields and woods where these battles took place is a rather striking feeling and whenever I read this book, I am immediately and fully reminded of that feeling.

Obviously, you might enjoy this book more if you are a battlefield/history nerd, but even just the human element is quite gripping, especially when you cons
Ben Loory
easily one of the best books i've ever read in my life. just completely floored me. i don't give a shit about history, war, america, the military... i don't care about any of this stuff. like, at all. but this book was amazing. i just cried the whole way through. for every single character. even the ones who lived. especially the ones who lived.

this was like a Bleak House, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Book of Ebenezer Le Page type situation. i forget books can be this good.

What a magnificent book. Thanks to GR friend T for the review that inspired me to read it.

Though the battle scenes are stellar, it is the way Shaara touches everything else that makes this book special. Here is one brief passage.

"Just before dawn Buford rode down the line himself, waking them up, all the boyish faces. Then he climbed the ladder into the white cupola and sat listening to the rain, watching the light come. The air was cool and wet and delicious to breathe: a slow, fine, soaking
Apr 22, 2008 Lynn rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs, people who want to learn US history in a fictional format.
I wanted to really like this book in its entirety, but I got bogged down in the specific tactics of the battle of Gettysburg. I tried to study the maps and think about the positions of the various divisions....but ultimately realized that effort was detracting from what was really important to me: the motivations for the Civil War, the differences between the Southerners and Northerners, the perceptions each had of the other side, the role belief in God played, the human factor in the winning/lo ...more
Ann Michael
Actually, I really like this book--I just don't think "It's Amazing" even though I have read it three times. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a good read in historical fiction, who is interested in US history and, especially, the Civil War. Shaara does a good job of sketching the tenor of the times, the sentimentality and the conflicted feelings of the men. It's a terrific book for high school students who might otherwise find the history aspect less than compelling.

My Civil War buff fr
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Why they fought, how they fought, how they looked like, what happened afterwards, what happened before the battle, why Robert E. Lee was so popular (despite the mistakes he made here), why Abraham Lincoln had to go there after and make his Four Scores and Seven Years Ago speech (one of the most hated then during college because some professors of ours made some of us memorize this as an assignment without teaching us the circumstances behind the speech)--all these are not made too clear in this ...more
This year I am re-reading some favorite books to see how they match my memory. I read this one more than 30 years ago when I was living in Gettysburg.

Last week, I would have said that this was a story of the officers. It was who they were, how they thought and felt. After the re-read I see an equally powerful theme as the story of how the Confederate Army lost the battle (and the war) due to the chivalrous ideals of its general and a smaller but important theme as the conflicting reasons for fi
One of my favorite historical fiction novels of ALL TIME. I read this with my 13 year-old son and 12 year-old daughter and it was amazing. My kids loved it just as much as I did. It was tight, character-driven, and dramatic. Imagine my surprise when my kids are discussing the virtues of Team Chamberlain (smart, honorable, thoughtful, a natural leader) VS Team Longstreet (Brilliant, ahead of his time, brooding, quiet).


The Civil War is one of those historical periods that is a bit anachronistic to
Okay, here I go with a second reading twenty years after tackling it for the first time during the 130th anniversary of the battle back in 1993; the Sesquicentennial of Gettysburg is here folks.

Pickett's Charge Video #1
Pickett's Charge Video #2

THE REVIEW: While not a novel for everyone, this is the quintessential work of historical fiction about the Battle of Gettysburg. I first read it when the motion picture Gettysburg was released. Since then I've matured and become a parent so my appreciati
A telling detailed account of the United States most important battle fought by Americans, against Americans, and for Americans in a time where things simply had to change. The author may have received a Pulitzer for "fiction" in this book but I find the detail too level to be considered anything but "non-fiction".

One of my favorite passages in this book:

"Aimed fire now. He heard a man crying with pain. He looked down the hill. Darker down there. He saw a boy behind a thick tree, tears running
Steve Sckenda
The late Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel (1974) recounts the battle of Gettysburg from a fictional point of view and was the basis for the 1993 film Gettysburg. The author tells the events immediately before and during the battle as seen through the eyes of Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, and Lewis A. Armistead; and Federal General John Buford and Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain; and a host of others. The author’s ability to convey the thoughts of men in war as well as the ...more
THE KILLER ANGELS is, in my opinion, the best fictional piece of work regarding what happened at Gettysburg. Told from a myriad of viewpoints, this novel successfully conveys what both Union and Confederate generals were thinking before, during, and briefly after this darkest moment in American history.

Though tedious at times, it is within these seemingly abstract details that the reader is really able to feel what it must have been like as a Civil War soldier. A faithful, yet, harrowing accoun
Mar 19, 2014 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical fiction readers
The Killer Angels is a fictionalized account of the three day battle of Gettysburg. I'm going to Gettysburg in a few months, and have seen many recommendations for this book as a good choice to read before visiting the famous battlefield.

The book is very readable. I also read a non-fiction account of Gettysburg a few months ago, and while that book was good I think this one a bit better. Shaara really makes the generals and soldiers come to life. He writes the book in third person POV, from the
I’ve just finished reading The Killer Angels which is the second of the war and literature readalong organised by Beauty is a Sleeping cat.

The American civil war is unfamiliar territory to me as I studied a completely different civil war, England’s, in school. I was quite unable to put this book down once I’d begun reading. Michael Sharra does a superb job of putting you right alongside his characters. The novel is told in seven alternating voices, those of the commanders of the opposing sides
Bekah AwesomeBookNut
Original review found


First off if you haven't been to Gettysburg, you need to find time to GO! Pennsylvania is an AWESOME place to visit, you have Pittsburg, Philadelphia, the Amish, and other awesome things and places in Pennsylvania, it's GORGEOUS! But there is something very sacred about Gettysburg. I've been there twice and it still touches me. This ONE battle that changed the course of history.

This books makes t
David Carr
The Cumberland County Library asked me to speak to their book group, part of the North Carolina Humanities Council "Let's Talk About It" series devoted to Civil War fiction. I began by talking about the challenges to the reader in The Killer Angels: keeping the geographies and personalities clear, clarifying and grasping the perspectives of North and South, and the simple disadvantage of knowing how the battle comes out. But I also introduced some special challenges to reading about the Civil Wa ...more
In June of 1863 the forces of the southern Confederacy, relying on information from an actor-turned-spy, find the northern Union army and force a decisive engagement in and around the town of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, resulting in the most deadly battle of the American Civil War (I did find it kind of funny that the reason they were so blind is that their cavalry general Jeb Stuart was out being a douchebag.) If you're an American you're probably familiar with some or most of the elements of t ...more
Nov 12, 2008 Susan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history flops who don't know one battle from another
Recommended to Susan by: Bill Reynolds
The Killer Angels finally makes the Battle of Gettysburg come alive in my mind. No matter how many times I visited Gettysburg growing up and when my children were young; no matter how much I love the stone walls and sun bleached rail fences; I never quite got it.

Everything was a puzzle. While my husband talked about the placement of troops and why various Generals were where they were, I was clueless to understand what I saw as a series of moving mazes laid one on top of another.

Then I found out
My family and I have been making multiple trips a year to Gettysburg for as long as I cam remember, so I'm not sure what has taken me so long to get around to reading this. But now that I have, I'm sitting here itching to read more, more, more about this battle and its key players.

Having such a love for this town and this battlefield, perhaps I am a bit biased in giving this book five stars. I truly believe, though, that someone who has little to no knowledge of this battle could read this and
Great historical fiction about the battle of Gettysburg. A much more entertaining way to learn about this historical event. It was really interesting to see how the author sympathized with certain characters (Longstreet from the South and Chamberlain in the North) and how wars worked at that time. So much of it was guesswork and luck. I also liked his bringing to light the complexities of war, specifically this one where you had brothers, fathers and friends fighting against one another. Also, v ...more
Rebecca Huston
I found this one to be very readable, very sympathetic without being partisan or saying one side is right or wrong. General Lee invades the north, hoping to bring the war to an end, and encounters the forces being led by General Longstreet. The two sides fight to the south of the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for four days, and resulted in horrific losses on both sides. Shaara gives an insight into what men on both sides of the conflict, as well as the men in the infantry as well as officers ...more
My dad's side of the family are all crazy Civil War buffs, so I've been raised knowing about a lot of these characters.

I fell in love with the movie Gettysburg when I was in middle school, but didn't tackle the book until a few years later. It was the first time I could really keep track of battles and generals and troop movements. It put a face on the Civil War.

Since then I have read nearly all of Shaara's son's books - including the prequel and sequel to The Killer Angels. I think this book wa
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Michael Shaara (June 23, 1928 - May 5, 1988) was an American writer of science fiction, sports fiction, and historical fiction. He was born to Italian immigrant parents (the family name was originally spelled Sciarra, which in Italian is pronounced the same way) in Jersey City, New Jersey, graduated from Rutgers University in 1951, and served as a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne division prior to th ...more
More about Michael Shaara...

Other Books in the Series

The Civil War: 1861-1865 (3 books)
  • Gods and Generals
  • The Last Full Measure
The Civil War Trilogy: Gods and Generals / The Killer Angels / The Last Full Measure For Love of the Game The Noah Conspiracy The Broken Place Soldier Boy

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“There's nothing so much like a god on earth as a General on a battlefield.” 34 likes
“The truth is, Colonel, that there's no divine spark, bless you. There's many a man alive no more value than a dead dog. Believe me, when you've seen them hang each other...Equality? Christ in Heaven. What I'm fighting for is the right to prove I'm a better man than many. Where have you seen this divine spark in operation, Colonel? Where have you noted this magnificent equality? The Great White Joker in the Sky dooms us all to stupidity or poverty from birth. no two things on earth are equal or have an equal chance, not a leaf nor a tree. There's many a man worse than me, and some better, but I don't think race or country matters a damn. What matters is justice. 'Tis why I'm here. I'll be treated as I deserve, not as my father deserved. I'm Kilrain, and I God damn all gentlemen. I don't know who me father was and I don't give a damn. There's only one aristocracy, and that's right here - " he tapped his white skull with a thick finger - "and YOU, Colonel laddie, are a member of it and don't even know it. You are damned good at everything I've seen you do, a lovely soldier, an honest man, and you got a good heart on you too, which is rare in clever men. Strange thing. I'm not a clever man meself, but I know it when I run across it. The strange and marvelous thing about you, Colonel darlin', is that you believe in mankind, even preachers, whereas when you've got my great experience of the world you will have learned that good men are rare, much rarer than you think.” 22 likes
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