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Cain at Gettysburg

(Civil War #1)

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,288 Ratings  ·  157 Reviews

Two mighty armies blunder toward each other, one led by confident, beloved Robert E. Lee and the other by dour George Meade. They’ll meet in a Pennsylvania crossroads town where no one planned to fight.

In this sweeping, savagely realistic novel, the greatest battle ever fought on American soil explodes into life at Gettysburg. As generals squabble, staffs err. Tragedy u

Hardcover, 429 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Forge (first published February 14th 2012)
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Cain at Gettysburg: Ralph Peters' Perspective on Three Days in July, 1863

The Killer Angels will remain the most beloved Gettysburg novel. Michael Shaara's skillful writing, mythic portraits, and romantic view of the battle make it incomparable.--From Peters' Afterword to his novel

Peters starts out just fine. But calling Shaara's work "mythic" and "romantic?" Peters continues to say that there is enough material that emerges from the battle of Gettysburg that a dozen novels could be written abou
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Every bit as good as Shaara’s Killer Angels! Peters presents a slightly different view of the Battle of Gettysburg from Shaara, but it is every bit as readable and memorable. Where Shaara used the Battle for Little Round Top and the 20th Maine and Joshua Chamberlain as the focal point of his account of the battle, Peters uses the battles of the first day and the 26th North Carolina and the 26th Wisconsin as the two Regiments he follows. He also portrays the 69th Pennsylvania and the 26th NC agai ...more
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
As good as Shaara's "Killer Angels' was, Peters' "Cain at Gettysburg" is the best Civil War novel I've read. Peters's military background shows, especially in the study of the ground fought over and of the men doing the fighting. His writing, always assured, has reached a new level of skill. His depiction of combat decisions and the reality of Civil War fighting is unsurpassed. (He's even better at depicting military actions than Bernard Cornwell, which is a staggering accomplishment.) His depic ...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Cain at Gettysburg, by Ralph Peters, is a new historical novel describing the bloody three-day battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July1-3, 1863. Gettysburg is still the largest land battle ever fought on the North American continent, and was the bloodiest of the American Civil War.

While superficially similar in scope to Michael Shaara's epic novel The Killer Angels, Peters' book focuses on the battle leaders on both sides, as well as several of the enlisted men from a Confederate regiment (
Matthew Bartlett
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Cain at Gettysburg is one of those novels where no matter who you ask, the response tends to be “well, what did you think about it?” The danger of being a novel such as Cain is the comparison it receives to The Killer Angels and many other Gettysburg fictional works. There is no doubt of the magnitude which Ralph Peters has taken on by adding to the Gettysburg powerhouse. Nevertheless, this book has avoided my review for some time because I did not know what to exactly say about it. There have ...more
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: acw, unowned
Much like Shaara’s "The Killer Angels", Peters’ "Cain at Gettysburg" is a fictional account of the battle of Gettysburg. But while there are similarities between the two books, they are definitely not the same. While there are several scenes in Cain at Gettysburg that are very reminiscent of "The Killer Angels", utilizing similar dialogue, one can only assume these are actual quotes from the participants that were used by both authors. Shaara’s narrative concentrated on Chamberlain’s 20th Maine ...more
Apr 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Alarmingly real battle scenes. Not for the squeamish yet a picture that needs to be painted. We are so removed from the base humanity and these people have become myths. This books grounds them and restores Meade the underdog, Sickles the rogue, Longstreet the stoic (my all-time favorite general), Lee the fallible, Pickett the scapegoat, and the men brave and fearful, human, lives wasted.. I wish he had written about Little Roundtop and Culp's Hill. Such major fighting in this battle. But ultima ...more
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Cain at Gettysburg is the finest Civil War novel I’ve read since The Killer Angels. It seems there are so many different aspects to the Battle of Gettysburg that you can tell the same story from a different perspective and it still seems new. While Cain covers some of the same ground as The Killer Angels it also breaks new ground right from the start. General George Meade is awakened in the middle of the night and told he’s been given command of the Army of the Potomac only three days before the ...more
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: civil-war
In the afterword to Cain At Gettysburg, Ralph Peters said that the purpose of his book was to write an anti-The Killer Angels. At a minimum this means a tale from Meade’s perspective, rather than Lee’s. But it is true in myriad other ways:

Peters hovers in the camps of immigrant Germans, Poles, and Irish men, rather than native Anglo-Saxon stock.

Soldiers are brooding, profane, base, and despising or questioning of God rather than chaste, virtuous, and reverent.

Fights and charges are mean, cruel,
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very engaging read. This isn't a retread of The Killer Angels. The violence described is raw and bloody, showcasing the true brutality of war. The language is unfiltered, which allows the reader to better understand the mindset of common soldiers and officers on both sides. Usage of maps allows you to follow the Battle of Gettysburg through the characters with ease. Highly recommended.
Steven Peterson
May 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
If something works once, why not try it again? Shaara's book, "Killer Angels," is rightly evaluated positively. It humanized Gettysburg and provided different perspectives on the battle and the role of personalities. Ralph Peters does the same thing here. And he is quite successful.

Some of the characters through whose eyes we see the battle are familiar, such as James Longstreet. Others are different, such as George Gordon Meade. The tale is also told from the perspective of troops in the ranks.
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
There was only one problem with this book: The cover blurb says: "Surpasses Michael Shaara's classic 'The Killer Angels.'" Now "The Killer Angels" is on my personal fiction top ten list, so this book started off having a high bar to reach. While there certainly are echos of Shaara's classic, this book takes a somewhat different perspective. Imagine a tale of Gettysburg without mention of Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and only the barest reference to General Lewis Armistead. Instead we meet th ...more
Rob Squires
I struggled to maintain my determination to complete this historical novel of the Battle of Gettysburg. It doesn't even come close to being as good as Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels --although I do admit that I read that book over twenty years ago. On the other hand, I found it considerably better than, although having some of the same annoying qualities of, Jeff Shaara's historical novels. For one thing, the generals all seem to be the same cardboard caricatures, since they're all teeming ...more
Gerry Germond
As I started to read this, I was thinking, "Killer Angels clone" and almost discarded it. Gamely continuing, I came to like it because it gives us different perspectives, that of some of the enlisted men and especially of Union General George Meade, the commanding general of the Army of the Potomac. Meade is one of the war's unappreciated generals, and Peters gives him his due. I also enjoyed reading of the 26th Wisconsin (home state), one of the ill-starred "Deutsch" or "Dutch" regiments of the ...more
Mike Shoop
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
While Shaara's The Killer Angels is still the classic novel about the Battle of Gettysburg, this book is right up there. It is very readable and accessible, with interesting characters and convincing narrative concerning the battle. Peters' description of how the battle was managed or mismanaged by those in charge, his depiction of squabbles and and infighting on both sides, and his portrayals of ordinary men caught up in a nightmarish horror of a battle were compelling and absorbing. He does mu ...more
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Although this old-fashioned "history with dialogue" style doorstopper about the battle of Gettysburg does better with strategy than with characterizations -- Lee is too ornery and Meade is too personable -- it does draw the reader (provided the reader is a history buff) into a fascinating story via all the nuts and bolts. And while Peters' novel may not be as elegantly written as Shaara's shorter "The Killer Angels," it also delivers what is a (slightly) less biased version of this pivotal battl ...more
Dec 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
A very nice portrayal and story about General Meade and the Battle of Gettysburg. I felt at times the writing could have been a little bit stronger, but still a very enjoyable read.

Thank you also for this uncorrected advance reading copy won through the first-reads program, and for getting it out to me so quickly as well.
George Ashmore
Dec 15, 2011 marked it as to-read
I have read all of Colonel Peters earlier fiction--always interesting, exciting, thought provoking. I am looking forward to the new one.
Interesting. Sections featuring Meade are particularly good.
Kenneth Barber
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book of historical fiction follows the battle of Gettysburg. The armies met by accident in this small town in Pennsylvania. Neither side was prepared for a major battle. The Union army had just been taken over by George Meade. New to command of an entire army he was beset with doubt. He wasn’t sure whether to fight here or seek better ground. The book relates the personalities of his senior officers and their differing views on how to conduct the battle.
On the Confederate side we read abou
Doug Tabner
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A blurb on Ralph Peters' "Cain at Gettysburg" declares that it "surpasses Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels." It most certainly does not. And to Peters' credit, in the Author's Note he acknowledges The Killer Angels as a classic and one of his personal favorites.

Having said that, Cain at Gettysburg is still a worthwhile read. Rather than compete with The Killer Angels, Peters approaches the battle from a different perspective. Mostly, from the ground up. Peters focuses mostly on the rank and fi
Michael Shaara's 'The Killer Angels' will always be my favourite Gettysburg novel, but Ralph Peters' 'Cain at Gettysburg' gives it an almighty run for it's money. He writes battle scenes like Bernard Cornwell does, which is about the highest praise I can give. Gritty, violent, at times unpleasant and always vibrant, no matter who Peters uses to describe the epic battle in Pennsylvania, this book is an absolute page-turner, and I hated reaching the end. Fantastic stuff. Deserves every award it wi ...more
Aug 01, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars, actually. It was nowhere near Killer Angels....Shaara is a far better writer. Peters chose unlikeable characters and while viewing the battle from different perspectives, there just wasn't an attachment to either Regiment. Although his battle scenes were graphically depicted and showed the real disconnect between war and death and humanity, they went on far too long. This was a good recounting of Gettysburg....but it is not an epic tale told.
Scott David
Oct 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think “The Killer Angels” is the superior of the two books, however, Peters does an excellent job highlighting the stories of people that are overlooked in Shaara’s book. General Meade’s story line, in particular, was the highlight of the book for me. This book is definitely worth a read if you are a Civil War history buff.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Stan Walters
Dec 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
Instead, watch paint dry, it will be a much better use of your time.
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to the audio book. Confusing start as it was difficult to follow narration from multiple viewpoints.
Tim Armstrong
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing! I cannot wait to read the sequels.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
One of the best books of historical fiction I've ever read. Couldn't put it down.
Matthew Main
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This one rivals Killer Angles with a closer look at the battles from the eyes of those on the front line. this is a definite add to my home library.
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Author is a crackpot 1 11 Jan 30, 2015 05:15PM  
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Ralph Peters is a novelist, an essayist, a former career soldier, and an adventurer in the 19th-century sense. He is the author of a dozen critically acclaimed novels, two influential works on strategy, "Beyond Terror" and "Fighting for the Future".

Mr. Peters' works can also be found under the pen name "Owen Parry." He also appears frequently as a commentator on television and radio networks.


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“I wish you to place your division across this road, and I wish you to get there,” 0 likes
“Lee was tough as hickory, but the tree was old.” 0 likes
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