“The Killer Angels” is a historical novel that was authored by Michael Shaara in 1974. The novel is on a narration of four days of the Battle of Gettysburg that took place during the American Civil War. The story is centered on the period between June 30, 1963 when both the Union and the Confederacy soldiers prepare for battle around the town of Gettysburg and the 1st to 3rd of July 1973 when the battle takes place. The novel commences with Harrison, Longstreet’s spy gathering information on the movement and positioning of the Federal soldiers.
Each day of in the novel is narrated from the perspective of the generals from the two sides; James Longstreet and Robert E. Lee on the Confederacy’s side and John Buford and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain on the Union’s side. Michael Shaara narrates the story of Gettysburg, which is among the largest battles in North America’s history to establish the causes of the Civil War. Additionally, he tries to establish the motivations, which led to long-established friends facing each other in battle.
Michael Shaara wrote the novel to bring out the significance of Gettysburg in the American Civil War. He provides an accurate account of the events of the Gettysburg War. In the introduction letter that he writes to the reader, Shaara states that he utilized primary sources in writing the books and he did not make any significant alterations in the facts about the War. He aims at bringing this significant part of the American history to life.
In the entire novel, the author attempts to portray the both sides of the War without any bias and to highlight the real causes of the War. Shaara uses Harrison, a spy who was hired by General Longstreet to investigate on the actions of the Union forces. This ensures that he remains neutral in his narration of the War. Thus, it can be argued that Michael Shaara was motivated by the urge to bring out the unbiased facts about the Gettysburg War, the real issues that led to the War, and the significance of the War to America’s history.
James Longstreet and Robert E. Lee’s are significant characters in the story’s narration. The two are Confederacy soldiers, they trust each other, and they are concerned with the safety of the other. However, they hold varying opinions and tactics about the war. Lee possesses excellent tactical skills though his conventional policies are often in conflict with Longstreet’s more futurist policies. Lee is a Confederacy general who issues directives from the defensive position. Shaara depicts Lee as wise elderly man who is aware of the fact that his career is almost ending. Lee holds to his conventional ideas of war; however, he appreciates the significance of Longstreet’s innovative ideas on the war. Lee is an inspiration of the soldiers in the War. He inspires even the wounded soldiers who drag themselves from the Pickett’s Charge and they beg to be allowed to return to the War. His presence in the War maintains the morale of the Confederacy soldiers. However, his confidence in the soldiers’ leads to his overestimation of the soldiers might in the War and results in a disaster at Pickett’s Charge.
Lee is depicted as a gentleman, a religious, patient, and a man of honor without vices. He is optimistic and idealistic and believes that his men are capable of doing anything. He is soft-spoken and caring to his men; however, he boldly uses his men and is ready to loose them for a worthy cause. He adopts a religious stand in the war; God is responsible for all the events in the war. Lee is portrayed as a risk taker; he takes risky and daring decisions and is often breaking rules if time is against him. Lee is easily contrasted with Longstreet, a moody man of deep emotions and strong opinions. Longstreet is full of anger and hatred of the War. He believes that the War is a mistake and contests Lee’s offensive approach. Longstreet prefers establishing a strong defensive position and letting the enemy come to him. He is not portrayed as a coward, but he basis his decisions on the War on the several years of his experience in the army. He is depicted as a total soldier who is devoted to no other cause other than victory in the War. Furthermore, he employs newer approaches in the War compared to Lee’s conventional approaches and is pained by the death of the soldiers. Thus, contrasting the two generals and their strategies in the War depict that Longstreet was a more superior general with better tactics in the War. Lee’s tactics were responsible for the death of many soldiers and the eventual loss of the War by the Confederacy.
Lastly, Gettysburg played a significant role in the Civil War. The Gettysburg is depicted as a significant part in America’s history. Prior to the Gettysburg War, the Confederacy had won a significant number of wars. However, Gettysburg acted as a turning point for the course of the Civil War. At Gettysburg, the Union gained their first victory in the War. Consequently, they gained momentum in the War and won all the subsequent wars. The Gettysburg War depleted the two sides’ reserves for the War; it significantly decreased their ammunition and number of soldiers. The North had double, the number of soldiers as the South; additionally, it was more industrialized compared to the South. Thus, the North eventually lost the War due to the lack of resources. This contrasted any other war that had been fought prior to the Gettysburg War.