The Killer Angels Book Review
The book, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara is one of the best historical fiction novels written about the Battle of Gettysburg. The book is shown through three different perspectives. The book shows the strong will of General Robert E. Lee, the rational anger of General James Longstreet, and the exceptional intellect of Union Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. The book also has a lot of interaction with lower ranking officials. My favorite character was Fremantle, an Englishman sent from Great Britain to watch the action of the Civil War. Many Confederates wished for England to come to their aid because the South still was under a lot of British influence. But, Fremantle, Lee and Longstreet knew as long as the South still supported slavery, England would refuse to help them. Another one of my favorite characters was General J.E.B. Stuart. He played an important role in the war by being a spy for the Confederate army. Although his negligence helped cause the South to lose, it was his job to track the movement of the Union. Above all, the most important men in the novel were Chamberlain, Lee and Longstreet.
The most interesting thing about Chamberlain in the book was his balance of intellect and his fulfilled desire of serving in the army. A professor at Bowdoin College, he can speak in seven languages and is also known for his poetry and singing voice. He leaves his comfortable professor position at age 34 to do what he has always wanted, to fight in the army. The most interesting thing about Chamberlain is that he shows a different perspective than both Lee and Longstreet. Chamberlain is only a Colonel, so he is of lower rank. But, by the end of the war he is considered to be an excellent soldier. Chamberlain also evaluates Lee’s position, which he takes advantage of and helps the Union defeat Lee.
Lee, the commander of the Confederate army, is viewed as the most beloved man of the American South. Lee is 57 – years – old at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lee will die of a heart attack about nine years later. Some historians believe that Lee suffered from a mild heart attack during Gettysburg, and Shaara uses this idea. Lee still plays by the rules of the old style of combat instead of Longstreet’s newer tactics. Many saw Lee’s courage as allegiance to the South, but Longstreet believed it to be mere stupidity.
When “Stonewall” Jackson is killed, Longstreet takes his position as Lee’s right hand man. Longstreet believed that we should use rational tactics instead of guerrilla combat to defeat the Union. Longstreet believed in his defensive tactics, for they worked at the Battle of Fredericksburg. A conflict begins to develop between Lee and Longstreet. Lee is aggravated by Longstreet’s stubbornness with his defense tactics and Lee’s opposition to these tactics depresses Longstreet. Longstreet is seen in this book to be a man ahead of his time. But, this is not necessarily true. Afterwards, Longstreet takes little blame for the losing of the war and blames it on Lee. Since he was so beloved, the South turned on Longstreet.