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The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

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The Killer Angels. By michael Shaara (New York: The Random House Publishing Group, 1974) 355 pp. Reviewed by Tyler Lowery, December 13th, 2017

The Killer Angels is a story of the events that occurred during the battle of Gettysburg in 1863. This book details the history of the Battle of Gettysburg and the events that took place during this time period. The book was written by a man by the name of Michael Shaara; an American author born on June 23, 1928, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Shaara graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in 1951 and later did some graduate work at Columbia University in New York City and at the University of Vermont before becoming a college professor at Florida State University, where he taught creative writing and literature, in 1961. After becoming a famous author of science, sports, and historical fiction Shaara took a turn away from his preferred genres when he was inspired by letters from his great-grandfather, a member of the 4th Georgia Infantry, who had been injured at Gettysburg. In 1974 Shaara wrote the historical fiction The Killer Angels which received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1975. Sadly, Shaara passed away of a heart attack on May 5, 1988.

The story has the alternating viewpoints of Confederate and Union soldiers during the time of the Battle of Gettysburg. In the beginning of the story, a Confederate spy by the name of Harrison spots the Union army quickly approaching the Confederate camp. When he reports back to his superiors, General Robert E. Lee decided to move his army to Gettysburg. Brigadier General John Buford and his men arrived in Gettysburg only to find that there are already Confederate troops there. Buford relays a message back to camp warning the Union army of the presence of Confederate soldiers and requesting that they provided with reinforcements before more Confederate troops arrive. Back at the Confederate camp, General James Longstreet receives the information that Union troops have been spotted at Gettysburg.

The Union army gets attacked at Gettysburg by the Confederate infantry. Buford quickly sends a message to General John Reynolds informing him of their current situation. Buford’s men cannot wait for Reynolds and his men to arrive, so Buford orders his men to return fire. When it looks like the Union forces at Gettysburg are about to be defeated, Reynolds and the Union infantry arrive to assist in the battle. Sadly, Reynolds is shot and killed during this battle. Lee arrives at Gettysburg to witness General Henry Heth and his men getting pushed back by Union forces. Rodes informs Lee that his division is already attacking the Union troops and that Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s men are on their way to provide support. Longstreet begins questioning Lee’s judgment and states that Lee “would rather lose the war than lose his dignity”. While Lee is talking to a few of his men, he becomes very frustrated with the fact that General Richard Ewell still hasn't taken the hill from the Union forces.

At the end of this battle, the Confederate army was defeated by the Union army. Almost 60%



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