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The Killer Angels

(The Civil War Trilogy #2)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  78,035 ratings  ·  4,926 reviews
In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation's history, two armies fought for two dreams. One dreamed of freedom, the other of a way of life. Far more than rifles and bullets were carried into battle. There were memories. There were promises. There was love. And far more than men fell on those Pennsylvania fields. Shattered futures, forgotten innocence, and cr ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 345 pages
Published August 12th 1987 by Ballantine Books (first published 1974)
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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)
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)

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Jeffrey Keeten
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
”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 fishho
“Once Chamberlain had a speech memorized from Shakespeare and gave it proudly, the old man listening but not looking, and Chamberlain remembered it still. ‘What a piece of work is man…in action how like an angel!’ And the old man, grinning, had scratched his head and then said stiffly, ‘Well, boy, if he’s an angel, he’s a murderin’ angel.’”
- Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels

When it was first published, Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels landed with a thud. Even when it won the Pulitzer Prize for

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 mom
Mar 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Sean Gibson
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Visceral. That’s the best word I can use to describe The Killer Angels, both in the sense of instinctive or elemental emotions and in the sense of internal organs and guts. Because both are relevant when you’re talking about a book that captures what I imagine the experience of war to be like in a way that very few other books I’ve ever read has.

The big caveat there, of course, is the “I imagine” part—I’ve never been a soldier, have never fired anything other than a BB gun (though, in my callous
C. Janelle
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
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.
Michael Finocchiaro
I am fairly sure that I read this book like 25 years ago as well. It is so memorable as we see the events unfold through a series of perspectives from major actors: Lee, Chamberlain, Buford, Longstreet...It is a masterful evocation of this crucial battle in which the Civil War was more or less decided (even if it played out over the following two years). Very moving and realistic, it is probably the next best thing to going to Gettysburg in person - a voyage I definitely need to make after the c ...more
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
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Dan Lutts
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Killer Angels describes the turning point of the Civil War, the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, through the eyes of key participants in the battle. Some of the more well-known ones include Robert E. Lee; Josiah Chamberlain, who was lieutenant colonel of the 20th Maine regiment; cavalry commander John Buford; and Confederate General James Longstreet. To me, the book wasn’t “action packed” but meandering and full of detail.

Most Americans and all Civil War buffs know about the Battle of Getty
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
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 in ...more
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014, aere-perennius
“There's nothing so much like a god on earth as a General on a battlefield.”
― Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels


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, ah
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
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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.

Feb 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The Killer Angels” is a book that you have to stick with. The last 100 pages or so are far superior to the first 100, so don’t give up in the early going. The text is fine, but the early chapters seem like the characters are pontificating, some of them are, and the writing can be a little wooden. This is partly due to the fact that Mr. Shaara is establishing character, and due to the book’s formatting. The novel is set out in chapters from alternating viewpoints, and it works, but it takes time ...more
Apr 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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.
Joy D
This book is the second book in a trilogy about the American Civil War. It is the only one of the three written by Michael Shaara. The other two were written later by the author’s son, Jeff. I mention this to point out that The Killer Angels can easily be read as a standalone.

It is not a “history” of the Battle of Gettysburg (1863). Of course, being historical fiction, it does not need to be, but the book summary indicates it is a balanced view. It is not. It mostly contains the southern perspec
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
May 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wanted to give this book five stars but, it didn’t happen.

Possible spoilers......

To me the end seemed hurried and muddled. The descriptive writing that the story started out with changed, and just became a rush to the end. I kept rereading parts to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but that didn’t help either.

I even missed the climax of the story because of the muddled writing. I would have missed out on more if I had not studied about this battle before.

Shaara did his best to make this sto
Horace Derwent
tuck the 1987 edition under the quilt and let it sleep then

reread this edition by now...

Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This second title in a trilogy covers the three days during the Battle of Gettysburg. The narrative threads feature several military leaders on the Union and Confederate sides of the conflict. The result is a superb military novel. I enjoyed the Longstreet and Lee personalities, which are fully explored. History (my college major) is often dry and factual. However, the historical story Mr. Shaara tells is a visceral and vivid one. These days I like to mix my leisurely reading, and The Killer Ang ...more
Clif Hostetler
Jun 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel
I listened to the audio of this book back in the 90s long before I was writing reviews for I was reminded of it by my "1,000 Books to Read Before You Die" calendar for May 31, 2021 which provides a short review that I've copied below. The two things I remember most from the book was the 20th Maine’s bayonet charge and Longstreet's disagreements with Lee. I've often wondered whether Longstreet's thoughts are based on any documented history. I suspect that they may be based on thing ...more
Christopher Saunders
Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels offers an engrossing recreation of the Battle of Gettysburg. Shaara's narrative focuses primarily on four figures: Robert E. Lee, the Confederate General driven by hubris and bad luck (and, it's implied, ill health) to fight a battle he can't control; James Longstreet, his senior corps commander who recognizes the folly of launching an offensive battle against well-entrenched enemy troops; Union cavalryman John Buford, whose decision to engage Confederate infan ...more
Jun 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: americana

Before the Battle

Moved to my Writing:

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 thought
robin friedman
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Classic Novel Of Gettysburg

Although it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1975, Michael Shaara's novel "The Killer Angels" (1974) was little-noted when it first appeared. The stature of the book has grown with time. It was used in a television series of the Civil War and in a movie version of the Battle of Gettysburg. The novel has been criticized on various grounds. Sharra's factual account of the battle and the importance he ascribes to Little Round Top can be challenged. Shaara focuses
Ann Michael
Jan 18, 2008 rated it liked it
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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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

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.” 54 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.” 44 likes
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