I’m not a Civil War buff, preferring my military history more current, but I read Killer Angels because so many friends recommended it. Now, I’m going to read everything Michael Shaara and his son Jeff (another historic fiction novelist) have written. The author approaches the Battle of Gettysburg from the human side. He touches on causes, but only as the soldiers would experience them. One Union soldier laments that if the South wins, he will no longer be able to visit the great fishing holes he enjoys in what would become a new and separate nation if the South wins.
The youthful soldiers on both sides, the battles they endure without enough food or supplies, the repercussions of a volunteer army–boys and men volunteered alongside others from their own state–makes for greater drama than any military fiction. No one was conscripted. The fear many felt because they weren’t warriors, weren’t trained in battle, just common people drawn into the cause of their side. Killer Angels doesn’t replace the typical historic account of Gettysburg. It enhances it by adding the human layer, likely the most important in any battle. Even 150 years ago, the military taught its grunts to fight for the guy next to them in the foxhole, not some cause their government espoused.
In the end, my heart was saddened for the losers, for the death of their dreams and the loss of their innocence. I never did decide which side Shaara considered to be the Killer Angels.
Jacqui Murray is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a USNA columnist forExaminer.com, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.