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The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War (The Civil War Trilogy #2)

4.3  ·  Rating details ·  63,233 Ratings  ·  4,071 Reviews
“My favorite historical novel . . . a superb re-creation of the Battle of Gettysburg, but its real importance is its insight into what the war was about, and what it meant.”—James M. McPherson
 
In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation’s history, two armies fought for two conflicting dreams. One dreamed of freedom, the other of a way of life. Far more than
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Paperback, 337 pages
Published May 28th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published 1974)
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Bob H Shouldn't. The prose is straightforward, the story moves along, the characters fairly compelling. They do tend to speak at length, perhaps because of…moreShouldn't. The prose is straightforward, the story moves along, the characters fairly compelling. They do tend to speak at length, perhaps because of the times, but these soliloquies can be inspiring, esp. Col. Chamberlain's speech to the deserters on the first day of battle.(less)
Brad I highly suggest "Andersonville" by MacKinley Kantor. A truly remarkable (and at times gruesome) retelling of the story surrounding a notorious rebel…moreI highly suggest "Andersonville" by MacKinley Kantor. A truly remarkable (and at times gruesome) retelling of the story surrounding a notorious rebel prison in Georgia. Mostly real characters with stories extracted from prisoner memoirs. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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
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Stephen
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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
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Kemper
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
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Charity
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
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
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Richard
Jul 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ron
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was reminded about this book while listening to a podcast the other day. The guy mentioned The Killer Angels and I immediately thought about how much I had liked it and about my stepdad. He was the reason I read it, some twenty+ years ago now, this book that I am sure I would never have picked up on my own. He handed it to me one day said something like, “This was really good. You should read it.” I remember thinking at least two things in that moment: A book about war? I don’t read that stuff ...more
Eisnein
Perhaps the Greatest War Novel Ever Written
(Too much? American war novel, then.)

'The Killer Angels' stands tall as the best novel about the American Civil War ever written... and there have been many. E. L. Doctorow's 'The March', for example, about the military convoy and its swelling ranks of thieves, whores, and freed slaves following General Tecumseh Sherman's trail of destruction, is a great book, but it doesn't manage to convey the scope and complexity of battle with the grace Shaara does.
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Jim
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
Ted
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
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A.B. Gayle
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shelf-23
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
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Ben Loory
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.

Julie
If I hadn't been sitting in a puddle of my own tears from so much personal tragedy, I'd probably have given this five stars instead of four. Another time, I could have simply focused on the excellent writing and superior character development. I was a bit too weighted down to give this historical novel the completely objective read I felt it deserved.

I never knew that being inside of Robert E. Lee's head would make me feel so sad, so damn sad. I never knew I could alternate sides so quickly in m
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Kate
Apr 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-bios
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
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Mmars
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Horace Derwent
tuck the 1987 edition under the quilt and let it sleep then

reread this edition by now...

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Lynn
Mar 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  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
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
Mackey St
An extremely well researched albeit fictional account of one the most bloody and deadly battles in American history. Its lessons are relevant and far reaching even today.
Darwin8u
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2014
“There's nothing so much like a god on earth as a General on a battlefield.”
― Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels

description

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, ahe
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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
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Ted
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


Before the Battle

Moved to my Writing: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/...


The Battle of Gettysburg; The Killer Angels

The book is written in the voice of an all-knowing 3rd person narrator. There’s quite a bit of dialogue in the book, obviously mostly made up. Each chapter has a title naming one of the commanders involved in the battle. Within that chapter the battle is described referring to the commander’s role at a particular time and place. There are considerable imaginary thoughts of
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David Carr
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
Louise
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
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Trish
This was a good, likable novel. It's just not a topic or genre I would readily pick up myself. War-retelling historical fiction novels aren't really my thing. When I think of a great Civil War novel, it's usually Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

That being said, this is totally a book for a history buff or Civil War aficionado. Decent writing, strong characters. Not the worst book I've ever been required to read. Doesn't hurt that I got an average of 98% on the two papers I wrote for the
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Timothy
Jul 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-war
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 appreciat
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Gerry
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
Bookman143
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book sat on my shelf for YEARS! Why did I wait so long to read it?! It is terrific. I've read quite a lot of Civil War books over the years and I have to admit I was not a big fan of the movie Gettysburg. So, I thought that there was no way this novel could live up to all the hype I've heard about it over the years. But it definitely surpassed all of my expectations.

Shaara was a real craftsman. His prose is evocative and precise and is almost poetic at times. His characterizations seem to s
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Emily (BellaGrace)
I read this in college ages ago and remembered liking it, so I picked it up again. I still like it, still thought it was excellent. It really makes the historical figures come alive in your mind. Obviously prior to reading this book you knew they were "real" people, but this book does a great job of making them feel real too. The main downside was that I mostly listened to this as an audio book and I didn't care for the narrator.
Nate
Aug 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Tackling the Puli...: The Killer Angels (Michael Shaara, 1975) 12 24 Aug 31, 2016 09:21AM  
Classic historical fiction 2 30 Aug 30, 2015 11:35AM  
Good Coverage of Gettysburg 22 53 Jul 11, 2015 10:04AM  
Gettysburg battle JULY 1,2 and 3 1863 3 25 Jun 15, 2015 10:49PM  
Waste of time. 17 270 Feb 24, 2015 07:38PM  
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Michael Shaara 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 the Korean War.
Before Shaara beg
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More about Michael Shaara...

Other Books in the Series

The Civil War Trilogy (3 books)
  • Gods and Generals (The Civil War Trilogy, #1)
  • The Last Full Measure (The Civil War Trilogy, #3)

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“There's nothing so much like a god on earth as a General on a battlefield.” 38 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.” 28 likes
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