Free Book Review Sample on The Killer Angels

Published: 2023-11-20
Free Book Review Sample on The Killer Angels
Essay type:  Book review
Categories:  History American Civil War American literature
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 1002 words
9 min read


The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara is a recapitulation of The Battle of Gettysburg. Shaara starts by recreating the events that lend to the war and reconstructing the actions of several generals, armies and soldiers who participated in the war. The novel, which was first published in 1974, rotates around four main characters; Joshua Lawrence and John Buford who are on the Union side and James Longstreet and Robert E. Lee who are on the Confederate side (Shaara, 2010). One year after its publication, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and has remained one of the most read novels in the Army programs in the United States. The Battle of Gettysburg, fought on July 1863, as recreated in this novel was the largest battle in the American Civil War, fought between the Army of Potomac, which is also referred to as Union Army in the novel, and Army of North Virginia, depicted as the Confederate army. According to the novel, the 51,000 men either died, were missing or wounded from the war by the time the battle ended.

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Four Major Sections

The Killer Angels is divided into four major sections, which include June 29 1963 ( Monday), July 1, 1863 (Wednesday) which is referred in the novel as The First Day, July 2, 1863 (Thursday) which is the Second Day and July 3, 1863 (Friday) which is the Third Day. It also has minor sections like foreword that introduce the two armies that will meet in the war and key people who will be involved in the war, and afterwards that offers a summary for the lives of the survivors of the Battle of Gettysburg.

The story begins with the spy Harrison coming to Longstreet, the general of the Confederate army and Lee and informing him that he had seen the Union army moving nearby. According to Lee, the information from the spy, if true, meant that the army was in great danger as it would be destroyed by the enemy. The Confederates moved southwards across the mountains towards a town called Gettysburg, where the climax of the war later takes place. Upon reaching the Gettysburg, General Buford, who was the leader of Union Calvary, saw them. Upon realizing that the two armies may fight in the two, he decides to take two brigades and positions them along the hills in the area to have a clear sight of the battle, as a winning strategy (Shaara, 2010).

The Battle

The battle started on the first day of the month, July 1,1863 on the town of Gettysburg. The first day emerged as big win for the Confederates as the Union retreated and dug into hills surrounding the town. However, General Longstreet knew that the retreat was strategy, and was nervous that the Union was planning to attack them in retaliation sooner or later because hills are good defensive positions. The second day of the war turned into a loss for the Confederates, with many of their men died compared to that of the Union Army. The use of the bayonet charge facilitated the Union's win. After the Chamberlain and his men ran out of bullets in their fight against the Confederates, they ordered for the bayonet charge whom with his screaming regiment scared and frightened the Confederates into fleeing. “Chamberlain saw gray men below stop, freeze, crouch, then quickly turn. The move was so quick he could not believe it” (p. 173). This made the Union army to take control of the Little Round Top.

The third day of the battle according to the novel began with the confederates using artillery barrage, as a strategy to weaken the Union's artillery. However, no much damage is felt on the Union batteries since the Confederates arteries were shooting too high. As Confederates then began shooting towards the Union troops, with the Unions firing back canons, which blows huge holes in the Confederates line and kills hundreds of their men, weakening Confederates army and their strategy. Furthermore, the Union soldiers opened fire with their guns to the Confederates after they cam within the rage, causing hundreds of more deaths. By this time, the Confederates had lost nearly sixty percent of its men, which forced the Confederates to retreat, marking the end of the Battle of Gettysburg.

In the preface, Shaara asserts that “ The interpretation of the character is my own” (p. 2) Even though the story has its founding reality, the author uses personalizes the characters to avoid disturbing the reader who has an understanding of the Civil War history and give personal tough and insight of the soldiers. The readers are therefore in a good position to fictionalize the characters whom some are portrayed as loyal, others brave and decisive. For instance, the Confederate General James Longstreet is presented as a tactical and accurate man who is not easily swayed while. “He has invented a trench and a theory of defensive warfare, but in that courtly company few will listen” (p.3). Lees is portrayed as a decisive, determined and aggressive man. Even though General Longstreet doubts the Lees decision to fight in the Gettysburg, Lee is determined as fast to convince the general that it's the best option to strike. General Longstreet is also not fast in believing the Spy, as opposed to Lee.


In conclusion, The Killer Angels is not just an ordinary novel, but a realistic recapitulation of the events Civil War. Rather than presenting a narration of the Civil War events and outcomes, Shaara uses The Battle of Gettysburg put the knowledge into a new perspective, which makes the readers understand better the horrors of the Civil War, and the struggles that the army leaders like generals and colonels faced during that time to bring their teams together and strategically plan for a win. The novel, which was written in the 1950s and first published in 1974, is more of science fiction, presenting the game of war, and realistic depiction of American history.


Shaara, M. (2010). The killer angels: The classic novel of the Civil War (Vol. 2). Ballantine Books.

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