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The Civil War Trilogy #1

Gods and Generals

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The New York Times bestselling prequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic The Killer Angels

In this brilliantly written epic novel, Jeff Shaara traces the lives, passions, and careers of the great military leaders from the first gathering clouds of the Civil War. Here is Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, a hopelessly by-the-book military instructor and devout Christian who becomes the greatest commander of the Civil War; Winfield Scott Hancock, a captain of quartermasters who quickly establishes himself as one of the finest leaders of the Union army; Joshua Chamberlain, who gives up his promising academic career and goes on to become one of the most heroic soldiers in American history; and Robert E. Lee, never believing until too late that a civil war would ever truly come to pass. Profound in its insights into the minds and hearts of those who fought in the war, Gods and Generals creates a vivid portrait of the soldiers, the battlefields, and the tumultuous times that forever shaped the nation.

512 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published May 28, 1996

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About the author

Jeff Shaara

44 books1,687 followers
Jeff Shaara, a descendant of Italian immigrants, was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey ("Shaara" was originally spelled "Sciarra"). He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Criminology. From age 16, Jeff operated a rare coin business, first out of his home, then in a retail store. After moving to Tampa, Jeff became one of the most widely known coin and precious-metals dealers in Florida. In 1988, Jeff's father, Michael Shaara, died, and Jeff made the decision to sell his business, and take over the management of his father's estate.

Onboard the Guided Missile Destroyer USS Mustin in the Persian Gulf.

In 1993, the motion picture "Gettysburg" was released, which was based on his father's classic novel, The Killer Angels. After the critical and commercial success of the film, Jeff was approached about the possibility of continuing the story, finding someone to write a prequel and sequel to The Killer Angels. After some considerable soul-searching, Jeff decided to try to tackle the project himself. The decision was difficult in many ways, but most challenging because Jeff had no previous experience as a writer.

In 1996, Ballantine Books published Jeff's first novel, Gods and Generals, the prequel to his father's great work. Gods and Generals leapt onto the New York Times Bestseller List, and remained there for fifteen weeks. Critics nationwide praised the book and Jeff's writing ability, and the book was awarded the American Library Association's Prestigious "Boyd Award". No one was more surprised than Jeff himself. In 1998, the sequel, The Last Full Measure, was published, with the same result: thirteen weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, and universal praise from critics and fans nationwide. Two years later, Jeff published his third novel, Gone For Soldiers, which followed many familiar Civil War characters back to their experiences in the Mexican-American War of the 1840's. Received with much critical acclaim, the book became Jeff's third bestseller.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 879 reviews
Profile Image for Ron.
375 reviews83 followers
March 9, 2017
For those who may not know, Jeff Shaara is the son of Michael Shaara who wrote The Killer Angels. Without that great book, there would be no Gods and Generals, or the many other books Jeff has written since this first one.

Let me first talk about The Killer Angels. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, it did not receive the public recognition it deserved until after Michael Shaara’s death at age 50. That’s sad to me, because it is such a good book. The recognition finally came when the movie Gettysburg, based on the book, was released in 1993. Shaara didn’t get to realize this, but his son did. I had just assumed it was Jeff’s idea to continue his dad’s work, creating the two books that would sandwich his dad’s novel. In actuality the idea for those two books came from the publishers. Jeff had never even attempted writing. This would be his first book. Well, I think writing is in the family genes. I have read that he doesn’t quite write with the prose that his dad did. It’s been too long since reading The Killer Angels for me to judge. I just know that the story he created here in Gods and Generals is very good.

Gods and Generals is a “personalized historical novel”. Like The Killer Angels, it is a character driven story, wholly based on the detailed facts of our country’s Civil War. What’s so good about these books is the getting to know the soldiers. Each man struggled with fear, and hoped for the life on the other side of this war, knowing this certain day of battle may be their last. If you’ve ever watched Ken Burns’ The Civil War documentary, then you’ll know what I’m saying. It’s like seeing men and women from the past. Chamberlain was a school teacher who volunteered for war because believed in his country. Hancock was a brave leader hampered by the generals above his status. Jackson was a brilliant strategist, and devout Christian with a soft heart that I didn’t know about. Lee never wanted the war, did not believe in slavery, but like each man brought to war he would defend the state he called home.

So, I didn’t love it like I did The Killer Angels, but I liked it very much. I liked going back to this pivotal period of time and our country’s fate. All wars suck. This war was so devastating to so many. It can’t be forgotten.
Profile Image for Lauren.
74 reviews37 followers
June 3, 2010
I love how Jeff Shaara writes. It takes some getting used to, yes, but once you get used to it...Brilliant! Outstanding!!!!!! I especially love how he focuses on the army, barely touches the political side of the war-and when the political side is touched, it's mostly negative.

I'd never thought to deeply about the Civil war until this school year. Now, with this book coming to top off my school year, I must say
history is a whole lot more complicated then I thought.

The story begins in 1858 (57??? not sure which) with some background information on the men the story focused on: Robert E. Lee, Winfeild Scott Hancock, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, and Joshua Lauwrence Chamberlain. These four men and their experiences in the Civil War form the main story.

I knew most of the battle's outcomes due to reading "Stonewall Jackson: a portrait of a soldier," right before reading "Gods and Generals." But all the same, the masterful way Shaara wove the story...It was amazing. Actually, though, the thing that fascinated me the most was the Generals of the North. A parade of men going through. President Lincoln really didn't have much luck at all choosing a commander. I lost track of how many generals had been in command and had to look it up. I think by the Battle of Chancellorsville, there'd been at least 4 different commanders.

I wish highschools would teach history like this. Most of my friends hate social studies, but I ADORE history.

Read this book! One of the most wonderful books on the main Civil War battles I've read in a long time.
Profile Image for Elizabeth Dragina.
580 reviews14 followers
July 30, 2018
Dislike. A complete and total dislike. The description was good. The characters were good. The story line was fine. Just. Don't. Like. It.

That's all I have to say...........
4,681 reviews48 followers
October 11, 2018
A Civil War book, fictionalizing several different sectors of society. Set mostly in the time it seemed possible the South would actually win the war.

Not bad, but I'm not entirely convinced of the historiosity.
Profile Image for Jayna Baas.
Author 3 books136 followers
August 7, 2021
The Civil War has never been my favorite era, so I picked this up mainly because I enjoy Shaara's writing style and had read The Killer Angels. The writing style did not disappoint, and this book did an excellent job of portraying ordinary Americans trying to do what they believed was best. Readers who are interested in the Civil War may want to add a star to my rating. I can't comment to the historicity of the actual battle scenes, but in all honesty, I skimmed a lot of those parts because I wanted the "feel" of the writing more than the history. I read this book in fits and starts, so I didn't always do well at following the big picture, but it was interesting to read it with the knowledge of what happened to the characters later in The Killer Angels.

Perhaps the thing that concerned me most was Shaara's portrayal of the Christian faith held by both Lee and Jackson (especially Jackson). The outlook was a grim view of constantly striving to please a distant God who was never quite satisfied and might arbitrarily punish His people if they stepped out of line. God's "plan" was acknowledged, but with a sort of emotionless resignation. This is not the God of power and grace who may correct His children but is always working for the good of those who have placed their faith in His Son. I'm not an authority on Jackson, but this view doesn't seem to jibe with other things I've read about his faith. There was also a reinterpreting of his final words, making the emphasis his wife (I think) instead of God. I don't fault Mr. Shaara for this, because to the best of my knowledge he is not himself a believer. I had just hoped for more accurate things where characters' faith was concerned.

What struck me most about this book was how human nature never changes. Shaara shows us good and bad, wise and stupid, deceived and deceivers—on both sides. I started reading this during the polarizing events of last year, and I couldn't help thinking how relevant it was that so much of the war's beginnings was shrouded in rumor and anger and accusation—again, on both sides. It was a stark reminder of what can happen when we act before seeking out the truth.

To sum up, I enjoyed Shaara's Revolutionary War books more than this one, but his even-handed approach to the Civil War made me enjoy it more than I expected.
Profile Image for Tango Dancer.
26 reviews1 follower
June 25, 2019
This book was given to me by a good friend, who was so sure i would enjoy as he had. Sadly, I felt it did not live up to my expectations of a good book on the American Civil War.

Amongst the books many failings are: -

* A complete lack of any explanation of the causes of the war, or why the main characters chose to fight for which side. Slavery is dismissed with one character saying "It's gods will your a slave" with no further discussion. One character actually states he's fighting because he believes in the union but for the rest the talk is vaguely of duty with no explanation of what that duty is and to whom it is owed.

* As you would expect of a book written from the viewpoint of the Generals the description is clinical and about troop movements. The actual carnage of one of the bloodiest wars in history is virtually forgotten. At one point the battle of Antietam, one of the bloodiest battles in US history is told from the viewpoint of someone held in reserve who saw none of the fighting!

*The Union Generals are all incompetent with no thought given as to why at crucial moments McClennan and Burnside acted with such caution. By contrast all the Confederate leaders are lantern jawed men of dash and vigour, with a clear view of a battle and sustained by their faith in God.

I would not recommend this book to anyone who wants some insight into the American Civil War.
Profile Image for Sotiris Karaiskos.
1,121 reviews79 followers
June 27, 2019
Seeking quality historical novels about the American Civil War, I came to this trilogy which, I see, is particularly popular. From the beginning, however, I was troubled by the order in which I should read them, if I should read them in chronological order, in the order they were written or based on their quality. Because I also read a historical book on the American Civil War I chose the chronological order and I think it was the best choice.

In the first chronological book of the series we are transported to the last few years before the start of the war and we continue until the spring of 1863, having followed closely all the fighting in the main theater of operations in Virginia. Expectantly the issue that dominates are these war conflicts and I can say that the author does really amazing work in this area. The way he describes the battles is very exciting and manages to put the reader in their hearts, making the reader to be next to the participants, knowing all the emotions caused by the intensity of the battle while at the same time the author gives the very important historical details for them, making us understand them better. Reading about these battles at the same time, I understand that this description is very accurate, which of course I highly appreciate.

However, in fact, all of this is not particularly difficult for a writer, and there are certainly many books describing battles from each period of history in a satisfactory way. But what makes this book stand out is this deepening in the feelings of the protagonists, some of them having the greatest weight in deciding for what has been done. It is amazing how the writer animates these protagonists in front of our eyes, thus showing us the human dimension of this war. This gives us an insight into their motivations, the reasons for these decisions, their doubts and the thoughts about their loved ones. Thus, having on one hand the exact description of the historical events and the big and small battles and on the other hand the vivid description of the sentiments of the protagonists, the reader has a very intense and comprehensive experience for this historical period. So in the end I can only say that this is a very high-quality historical novel.

Αναζητώντας ποιοτικά ιστορικά μυθιστορήματα για τον Αμερικανικό εμφύλιο πόλεμο έφτασα σε αυτήν την τριλογία που από ότι βλέπω είναι ιδιαίτερα δημοφιλής. Από την αρχή, όμως, με προβλημάτισε η σειρά με την οποία θα έπρεπε να τα διαβάσω, αν θα έπρεπε να τα διαβάσω με την χρονολογική σειρά, με τη σειρά που γράφτηκαν ή με βάση την ποιότητα τους. Επειδή παράλληλα διαβάζω και ένα ιστορικό βιβλίο για τον Αμερικανικό εμφύλιο πόλεμο επέλεξα τη χρονολογική σειρά και νομίζω ότι ήταν η καλύτερη επιλογή.

Στο πρώτο χρονολογικά βιβλίο της σειράς μεταφερόμαστε στα τελευταία χρόνια πριν από την έναρξη του πολέμου και φτάνουμε μέχρι την άνοιξη του 1863, έχοντας παρακολουθήσει από κοντά όλες τις πολεμικές αναμετρήσεις στο κύριο θέατρο των επιχειρήσεων, στη Βιρτζίνια. Αναμενόμενα το θέμα που κυριαρχεί είναι αυτές πολεμικές συγκρούσεις και μπορώ να πω ότι ο συγγραφέας κάνει πραγματικά καταπληκτική δουλειά σε αυτόν τον τομέα. Ο τρόπος που περιγράφει τις μάχες είναι τρομερά συναρπαστικός και καταφέρει να βάζε�� τον αναγνώστη στην καρδιά τους, κάνοντας τον αναγνώστη να βρίσκεται δίπλα στους συμμετέχοντες, γνωρίζοντας όλα τα συναισθήματα που προκαλεί η ένταση της μάχης ενώ την ίδια ώρα ο συγγραφέας δίνει τις πολύ σημαντικές ιστορικές λεπτομέρειες για αυτές, κάνοντάς μας να τις κατανοήσουμε καλύτερα. Διαβάζοντας παράλληλα για αυτές τις μάχες καταλαβαίνω ότι αυτή η περιγραφή έχει πολύ μεγάλη ακρίβεια, κάτι που φυσικά εκτιμώ ιδιαίτερα.

Φυσικά στην πραγματικότητα όλα αυτά δεν είναι κάτι το ιδιαίτερα δύσκολο για έναν συγγραφέα και σίγουρα υπάρχουν πολλά βιβλία που περιγράφουν μάχες από κάθε περίοδο της ιστορίας με έναν ικανοποιητικό τρόπο. Αυτό, όμως, που κάνει αυτό το βιβλίο να ξεχωρίζει είναι αυτή η εμβάθυνση που γίνεται στα συναισθήματα των πρωταγωνιστών, που κάποιοι από αυτούς είχαν το μεγαλύτερο βάρος των αποφάσεων για όλα όσα έγιναν. Είναι πολύ ωραίος ο τρόπος που ο συγγραφέας ζωντανεύει αυτούς τους πρωταγωνιστές μπροστά στα μάτια μας, δείχνοντάς μας έτσι την ανθρώπινη διάσταση αυτού του πολέμου. Έτσι μας δίνει μία εικόνα για τα κίνητρά τους, τους λόγους που πήραν αυτές τις αποφάσεις, τις αμφιβολίες τους αλλά και τις σκέψεις για τα αγαπημένα τους πρόσωπα. Έτσι, έχοντας από τη μία την ακριβή περιγραφή των ιστορικών γεγονότων και των μεγάλων και μικρών μαχών και από την άλλη τη ζωηρή περιγραφή των συναισθημάτων των πρωταγωνιστών, ο αναγνώστης έχει μία πολύ έντονη και ολοκληρωμένη εμπειρία για αυτή την ιστορική περίοδο. Οπότε στο τέλος δεν μπορώ παρά να πω ότι πρόκειται για ένα ιστορικό μυθιστόρημα πολύ υψηλής ποιότητας.
Profile Image for Nadia Awadi.
188 reviews239 followers
December 11, 2017
I'm going to quote the words of Jason Mraz and say:

" I won't give up on us
God knows I'm tough enough
We've got a lot to learn
God knows we're worth it."

Well it turns out I'm not tough enough and this book wasn't worth it. Oh, and I'm totally giving up on us.

Rating: 2.75 stars

This book is the story of 4 generals (or maybe more. I seriously don't know) and what they went through during the Civil war.

Seems exciting enough.

The problem is I don't read historical fiction but this book was so cheap: I just couldn't help myself.

This book was like a map and I'm horrible with directions. Also, I'm not American so I didn't know half of the places the author was talking about.

Why 2.75 stars?

The good:

*The writing was pretty great.
*I liked some of the characters and understood their decisions regarding which side they supported: North or South.
*The character's stories, background and difference in faith was enjoyable to read about.

The bad:

*Description, description and did I mention the description?
*I liked the characters but I didn't LIKE the characters.
*War startegies and politics. So hard to understand.
*Slow P..A...C....E

If you like politics and historical fiction, you will really like this book.

Maybe when I'm wiser and older, I will finish reading it and like it.

Probably not: about being wiser and finishing the book

Profile Image for Christine.
940 reviews33 followers
November 25, 2011
This book could be considered the prequel to THE KILLER ANGELS (reviewed separately), written by Mr. Shaara’s father. This book takes a unique perspective leading up to the Civil War, introducing us to the notable historical figures in that confrontation. Mr. Shaara shares with the reader, through excellent characterization and dialogue why the Civil war was so important to these men. The author manages to bring to life the years leading up to the Civil War. Seemingly historically accurate, this book answered many of my questions about why this battle even happened. Obviously, the dialogue and innermost thoughts expressed by the “characters” in this book are speculation but the book did serve it’s purpose for me. It did answer any questions in my mind in a colorful, non-textbook way.

Although, as mentioned, I generally shy away from “war” books, I do enjoy historical fiction and in my opinion, this was historical fiction at its best.
Profile Image for R.F. Gammon.
457 reviews171 followers
May 3, 2017
Meh. Didn't do much for me- Killer Angels is much better. Jeff also just doesn't have the voice his father did. And there's no Longstreet in this book :(
But two stars because you know. Civil War buff and unashamed. :)
247 reviews7 followers
November 17, 2014
This was a fairly lame book. I think it didn't require much more than Junior year of college level research. It was not very riveting. Without looking into it, I believe the author is pretty much a confederate apologist. He idolizes men like Lee, Jackson and Longstreet. His descriptions of them are glowing; they are the heroes while the union generals are buffoons and the union fighting men victims of inept leadership-that last part is fairly accurate. I know that a story like this should not take a political stance but it is difficult not to with such a polarizing chain of events. Lee is portrayed as burdened by his decision to join the southern cause because of how much he believes in the federal US government and system, yet doesn't seem to hesitate much in killing thousands of his countrymen. He popularizes the idea that the slave masters-of which group he is included-"took care" of their slaves like fathers to petulant, directionless sons. He fought to retain slavery in the south and his slaves in particular. If he was so good and righteous like this book demands us believe, then he wouldn't have lost the war and the God that he refers to throughout his "scenes" wouldn't have abandoned him and his cause. This book perpetuates civil war mythology.
Profile Image for Matthew Hodge.
593 reviews21 followers
April 6, 2014
The first in the epic father/son Civil War trilogy (the next one is The Killer Angels by Jeff's father Michael Shaara, followed by Jeff's sequel The Last Full Measure). This was Jeff's first book, and it must have been intimidating writing a prequel to his father's book, which had won the Pulitzer prize and been made into the astonishingly good film, Gettysburg.

But Jeff rose to the challenge admirably and delivered a book similar in tone to his father's and carefully maintaining the air of tragedy that his father achieved in The Killer Angels.

For those who are new, Gods and Generals starts at the beginning of the American Civil War and follows four of the major commanders through the first three years of the war. What makes this trilogy so unique is its even-handedness to both sides of the battle, which makes the war itself something tragic. Highly recommended series.

This was made into a film of the same name, which deviated quite differently from the book. If they'd stuck to the book, it would have been an amazing film, instead it became a fascinating but flawed look at the American Civil War. Read the book instead.
Profile Image for Taryn.
276 reviews9 followers
April 28, 2020
I read The Killer Angels over a decade ago and finally read the "son-written prequel" in Gods and Generals. Better late than never, right? But, in my experience, sometimes those books you've "always meant to read" come to you at just the right time. This was one of those.

Reading a book on the Civil War during an epidemic and divisive election year has been interesting. While I'm not comparing any of the things we're currently experiencing to the atrocity of slavery, the division, the confusion, the anger, the blind loyalties, decisions being made by politicians far removed from situations, the media outrage, is all vaguely similar.

But back to the book. The thing I loved about The Killer Angels that is translated to this book is the storytelling. You get the perspectives of multiple characters. The author doesn't pass judgment on decisions, just tells the story as it unfolds. Is this a work of fiction? Yes. But the research shows on every page. The men, their thoughts and emotions, sympathies and beliefs all feel so very real. You'll learn more about the men who fought in the Civil War and feel the gravity of their decisions and actions so much deeper in this book than you will in a textbook stating facts and dates.

And that's what I love about historical fiction. Instead of knowing about Stonewall Jackson's death, you feel the blow it was to his friends and family. Instead of reading about how the Federal Army retreated for another time because they were led by an incompetent man, you feel the agony of the generals and soldiers who were forced to retreat from a battle they were winning--at the cost of additional lives.

If you like historical fiction that tells the story from multiple and conflicting angles, I highly recommend this one.
Profile Image for Natalie Claire.
88 reviews8 followers
June 29, 2021
Alright, this is a hard book to review, so I'll just list what I liked and didn't like about it. 😉

What I liked:

* the writing style - it took a while to get used to it, but when I did, I loved it.
* the pov - I enjoyed the different pov's, the deeper look into each character's thoughts and feelings.
* the humor - even though this is an overall serious book, there were still a few humorous parts, and I enjoyed those.

What I did not like:

* the cussing and profanity - there was a decent amount of crude language which I would have marked out if it wasn't a borrowed book.
* the inaccuracies - while most of the story felt like it stayed true to the personalities of the historical characters, there were a few scenes that seemed to fictionalize it too much.

Altogether, I did enjoy reading this. If I had my own copy, I would mark out the language, though. As for the inaccuracies, I don't think they were big enough to be a major problem. The reader should just remember that it is a fiction book after all.

I would give this 5 stars if it wasn't for the language, but since there is so much, I'm going to give it 4 stars.
1 review1 follower
October 17, 2015
I like historical fiction and picked up this book for that reason. However, it seems less like fiction and more like military history. This book seemed to me to be endless descriptions of what every general on both sides was doing during the Civil War--and not the whole Civil War, but just until 1863. This is the first book by either of the Shaaras that I have read, and I won't read another. Obviously, I didn't know what I was getting into because I know he is very well regarded by many people.
Profile Image for Tom.
45 reviews4 followers
April 30, 2014
Corny dialogue, very stilted. This book and the series of three novels about the Civil War was highly recommended, so I was very disappointed.I couldn't even finish it. I remembered why I really dislike so many historical novels--they try too hard and sound like a low budget movie.
Profile Image for Laura.
138 reviews10 followers
December 29, 2020
Jeff Shaara is not his dad, but he can imitate him pretty well. What I found most interesting about this book is that the younger Shaara replicated the fluid battle scene intensity of his father's popular masterpiece. What I found most disappointing is that this novel is basically a love letter to Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. For that, I cannot forgive the author.

Similar to every prequel ever attempted, the younger Shaara is trying to match tone and pace. So that may be why he doggedly sticks to the same characters, which anyone with even a thimble knowledge of the American Civil War knows means once again confronting the mythical status of Robert E. Lee.

Even his dad struggled with this one, which is why Michael Shaara probably vaulted Joshua Lawerence Chamberlain into a special (perhaps unwarranted?) literary hero in The Killer Angels as the only counterbalance to what I am now dubbing the Shaara-poetic Confederates. Yet before Little Round Top, Chamberlain wasn't a central figure in the war. So he has very little to do in this book. That is a definite loss.

Instead, as a main counter to the Confederate characters (cause that's what we've made them) we're left with a kick-some-rocks Winfield Hancock, who is eternally disappointed in the book. As he should be. The United States Army did not do well in this war until Gettysburg. But still, Hancock starts off really interesting and halfway through the book just turns into a narrator to catch up the reader on incompetence. If you took out the line "stared with anger in his eyes" out of this book, you'd have three lines of Hancock in the second half.

Which is ridiculous. Surely he had thoughts of his wife, his kids (who remain unnamed), and his friend Armistead. There were windows to make Hancock a real character. None of them are taken for the last two hundred pages. You know why? Cause all the family men in this book are Confederates. All the people with conflicted hearts, sentimental attachments, and fiery tempers were the men who fought for slavery. Longstreet's grief. Stuart's splash and vigor. Jackson's idiosyncratic, righteous racism!

Above all, the detail and care given to Jackson left me with a twisted face -- like a lemon, perhaps. I skimmed the entire last 10 pages of the book, which is written like an overly wrought Jackson memorial, with a "glad you died" vibe. This book was written in 1996 and Jackson is ven-er-rated. Dear god.

I get why the book is called Gods and Generals and the idea that Jackson and Lee were revered as gods on the battlefield. But this book is overly sympathetic to the rebels. We do not venerate Hitler or his squad's death like this bullshit. You know why? Cause he lost. Cause he killed lots of people. The Confederates were fighting to uphold the institution of slavery -- which killed lots of people.

Good example of a disastrously romantic scene is on pg. 72 in which Lee's former slave, "Big" Nate, who is characterized by his large body, deep voice, and "dark, rugged face" speaks in dialect to try to convince his former master (the person who used to own him!) to release all his brethren. Quite a burden for the character and also quite unlikely historically.

What Shaara is trying to do in this scene -- where the one Black character is reduced to a set piece -- is show the "conflict" of Lee with slavery and how he once historically labeled it as only solvable by Providence aka The Big Man Upstairs. Not my favorite use of a Black body to legitimize white feelings. Lee needed enslaved people to run his plantation. Done. Full stop.

Also pretty evident: The Confederates thought God was on their side. They did not want things to change, and they sought to ensure their right to own people (slavery). Which leads me to my take on this book. The Killer Angels did not need this book as a prequel. It has done nothing to help right the narrative. It has only confirmed that sympathies of the Lost Cause myth and introduced further proof that romanticizing our history of racial violence is dangerous for everyone.

Profile Image for Alejandro.
16 reviews
May 19, 2009
Jeff Shaara simply could not pull off what his father accomplished. I'm sure Mr. Shaara is a smart historian of sorts, but as a writer it just doesn't give the proper payload. Perhaps he simply tried to cram too much in the lead-up to the Battle at Gettysburg, unlike his father who concentrated all of his attention and efforts on just those three historic days? Either way, the writing is simply annoying (too many "..."s throughout), and the only thing interesting is the sprinkling of Jeff Shaara's father's lines within the "Gods and Generals". Apart from that, just stick to what's good - "The Killer Angels".
279 reviews
August 9, 2012
I really don't know what happened with Jeff Shaara from this book to his second attempt, The Last Full Measure, but I enjoyed this book more. There is still the rambling on, and the writing still has the same irritating problems, but not to the same extent as Measure. I still enjoy the historic events told in a comprehensible way; it fulfills my need to understand the order in which things happened. I must say, I could not read two pages where he goes on about the death of General Jackson, it is just too heart-wrenching. Even though I knew it was coming, I still was not able to read it. All in all, a much better read than his second novel.
64 reviews
June 14, 2021
Jeff Shaara’s prequel to his late father’s masterpiece The Killer Angels. God’s and Generals was written in 1996, before historical fiction was as popular as it is today. He does a great job of explaining the Civil War events of 1863. What makes this book great though is the humanization of the military leaders from both sides and their great empathy for the soldiers who served under them.
Profile Image for Anthony.
234 reviews30 followers
August 7, 2018
One of the reasons I’ve been reading this trilogy – starting with The Killer Angels – is to really be able to wrap my head around this war. I’ve always known that slavery was the root cause, but I couldn’t understand why the entire south would fight so HARD…. Just to keep slaves?? I mean, I can see why the wealthy southerners wanted to hang on to their free labor... But there had to be more to it.

Another book that I’ve read earlier in the year helped answer some of my questions: John Jake’s North and South, a fictional account of the reality of our country, the division of opinions and perspectives. Now, with Gods and Generals, I really get a first-hand view of the immediate events that led to (what should have been a minor scuffle) the greatest conflict in our nation’s history! Jeff Shaara allows you to see what happens after war has been declared – each side pick and choose their generals and their commanders, and introduces certain individuals who later become legendary war heroes. As the first two years of war rages on, you can see how many opportunities this war could have ended; it’s these commanders and politicians who make dumbass mistakes—or decisions based on ego, instead of logic—that causes suicide missions, senseless mass bloodshed and ultimately prolongs the war.

I do like these Shaara books because they (father and son) narrate these events in story form. It’s definitely more up close and personal than your average war book or biography. He writes good dialogue, and places you inside the heads of these characters – such famous people as Robert E Lee and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

I’ve read a handful of Civil War material over the past year, and Gods and Generals ranks high. It was inspiring enough that I took a day trip into Gettysburg, PA over the weekend, and walked some of the famous battle sites. (I’ve always wanted to do the Ghosts of Gettysburg tour… but sometimes when you take pictures, you’ll see some orbs floating in the scenery. There’s a lots of stories of hauntings, so it depends on what you believe!)
Profile Image for Belinda Vlasbaard.
3,244 reviews50 followers
August 26, 2022
4 stars - English Ebook

Gods and Generals covers the lead-up to the American Civil War, and the war itself, from 1858 to 1863.

Like all the Shaara novels, it focuses on a few primary leaders, in this case, Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Winfield Scott Hancock, and Chamberlain.

It tries to get inside the men's heads, giving us a fairly good idea of their characters. For example, Jackson and Lee continually talk and think about the will of God, and seizing opportunities presented to them by the Union commanders; Hancock about the incompetent generals above him; and Chamberlain about leadership and honor.

The book also gives us a good picture of the strategy and tactics of many of the battles in this period, including both battles at Manassas, and those at Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, with helpful maps provided.

I also liked the way the book starts, with Hancock, Lewis Armistead, and others in the Federal Army in California, faced with the decision to stay with the Union or resign and fight for the South.

I would have preferred more on James Longstreet, considering his key role in the Southern military leadership, but what was provided about him was interesting and informative.

I also wished there had been more written about some of the other important

Overall, Gods and Generals is a good account of key figures and battles of the war, as well as some of the emotions of the period.
Profile Image for Michal.
5 reviews
December 7, 2007
When my history professor gave me a list of books to choose from to read for his Civil War class, I chose this one on impulse. I came into the novel with very little knowledge about the events recorded in the book, but Jeff Sharra brought it to life for me.
All too often, the Southern soldiers are depicted as uneducated brutes who hated slaves. While I'm sure that was true of some, Sharra portrays the Southern Generals as fighting for their homeland, for their families, and as unwilling to turn their weapons against their own homes. Reading this book, regardless of the cause that the politicians chose on either side, I can easily believe that I myself would have made the same decisions as the Southern men did when they were deciding where their loyalties belonged. The men from the North were influenced by the same factors: they were defending the homes they loved. It was a war that ensnared good, thinking men, men who would never have caused the war themselves, to fight in some of the worst massacres in history.
It was a little different for me to read a book that was solely focused on the male side of the story (I'm a girl). I rather enjoyed the change of pace, and found much to admire in the thought processes of both the Generals and the author. He helped me experience the fervor, the bravery, the immense frustration, and the overwhelming honor of the men of the Civil War.
Profile Image for Cam.
267 reviews
October 8, 2009
I have read some really great books in the past year or two(Memoirs of a Geisha, The Kite Runner, Seabiscuit)- and this book definitely joins the list. It was so well written and interesting. It's about the civil war- it's quite thick and I thought it might be boring, but it was a page turner. I felt so connected to all of the characters, and I found myself really conflicted on whether I wanted the Union or the confederates to win the war- the book presented the generals as real people, so it did a good job of looking at both sides of the story. I like how it depicted the South and went past the issues of Slavery, and into the issues of men wanting to protect their homelands and families- and how hard it was for them to fight against other generals they knew and loved. My only complaint? It ended at the battle of Gettysburg, so now I need to find the next book! I guess this was a prequel to a book that his father wrote called, "Killer Angels." So, that's the next book on my wish list! One other small complaint, sometimes it was easy for me to mix the characters up and forget who was on the confederate side and who was fighting for the union- so I had to refresh my memory a few times (I don't know my history as well as I should!)
Profile Image for Mary Soon Lee.
Author 80 books53 followers
July 31, 2017
Jeff Shaara is the son of Michael Shaara, who wrote the superb book "The Killer Angels" about the Battle of Gettysburg. "Gods and Generals" is a prequel to that book, covering the lead-up to the Civil War, plus the first two years of the war. The book adopts the same approach as "The Killer Angels," recounting events from the perspective of several key figures, in this case primarily Lee, Hancock, Jackson, and Chamberlain.

I found this a very good book, albeit grim reading. It is eloquent, engrossing, and moving. Since I know less about the Civil War than I would like, it had the added bonus of being educational. Nonetheless, I didn't think it quite the equal of "The Killer Angels." (But that is a high bar.)

I note that I remain conflicted about Robert E. Lee, who, here as elsewhere, appears a sympathetic figure. And yet he commanded the Confederate forces, choosing the wrong side in a war that, for me, clearly had a right side and a wrong side.
Profile Image for Mark.
52 reviews15 followers
May 12, 2010
There is very little I can say about this book that hasn't already been said. It seems a rather polarizing read with people either really liking it or really hating it. Unfortunately for me I fall into the latter category.
The book is just ok...considering the subject matter at hand it should have been great. By confining himself to copying his father's style, the book never flows, drama never builds, characters are never rounded out.
Switching from one character's point of view to anothers can be a great way of building suspense and developing a story (see GRRM's mastery of this craft), here though, the switching of perspective (which is probably the best way to tell this story) just doesn't work.

I now find myself at a crossroads...The Killer Angels (by Michael) is at home on the shelf and will surely be read, but what of the last in the series (again by Jeff)...
Profile Image for Pat Camalliere.
Author 5 books36 followers
May 1, 2018
Read this for the third time, as my book club selection. I still enjoyed it immensely and cried again when Stonewall Jackson died. I like how the Civil War is portrayed through the eyes of four commanders, two from the north and two from the south. Reading critically now as a published writer, it’s not without its faults. Point of view issues abound, some parts slow down for pages, the battle scenes are hard to follow, some of what is portrayed as fact appears contrived and overly emotional. There is also a decided sympathetic slant toward the south, and I would have preferred less bias and more accuracy. And yet, all in all, it works and deserves the attention of any reader of Civil War history. A 5 star pick for me!
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