The Killer Angels: A Novel
by Michael Shaara

Published: 2004-11-02
Hardcover : 368 pages
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A reissue of a Pulitzer prize-winning classic, and now the major motion picture GETTYSBURG. As a result of these acclamations, this book is considered one of the greatest novels written on the Civil ...
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A reissue of a Pulitzer prize-winning classic, and now the major motion picture GETTYSBURG. As a result of these acclamations, this book is considered one of the greatest novels written on the Civil War.

Editorial Review

This novel reveals more about the Battle of Gettysburg than any piece of learned nonfiction on the same subject. Michael Shaara's account of the three most important days of the Civil War features deft characterizations of all of the main actors, including Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, Buford, and Hancock. The most inspiring figure in the book, however, is Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, whose 20th Maine regiment of volunteers held the Union's left flank on the second day of the battle. This unit's bravery at Little Round Top helped turned the tide of the war against the rebels. There are also plenty of maps, which convey a complete sense of what happened July 1-3, 1863. Reading about the past is rarely so much fun as on these pages.


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Discussion Questions

1. Why does General Longstreet doubt his own spy's report of the Union Army's advance toward Confederate troops in Pennsylvania? How important were spies in the fighting of this war—what purpose did they serve? Contrast their use with that of today...or their use in, say, World War II.

2. Talk about John Buford and the kind of soldier/man he was. As he tracks the Confederate Army, he stops to wave at a Rebel officer. Why would he greet an enemy in this way? What made him decide to choose Gettysburg as the spot to make a stand?

3. Why did officers under General Lee want J.E.B. Stuart courtmartialed? What was Stuart's function and why was he so important to Lee? What was his relationship with General Lee? What kind of figure was he—a "show boat" or a genuine hero?

4. How could Armistead and Hancock, on opposite sides of the fight, become close friends? In fact, discuss other relationships among friends and families that were split along North-South lines.

5. What was Fremantle's purpose in traveling with Longstreet and the Confederate army? What did he hope to learn?

6. Why does Trimble thank Longstreet for an assignment that could very likely hasten Trimble's own death?

7. How does Shaara portray General Lee in this work, especially Lee's decision to attack at Gettsyburg, despite Longstreet's advice not to? Why doesn't Longstreet want to fight at this particular spot?

8. How does Longstreet view war? Is his view different than Lee's?

9. Discuss Joshua Chamberlain and his countercharge on Little Round Top. How does a religion scholar and teacher become acclimated to a soldier's life—and be willing to take up arms and kill other men?

10. How does Shaara portray both sides of this horrific conflict? Is he balanced, or does he seem to favor one side over the other? Which character(s) does he seem to admire most?

11. Overall, who do you feel is the hero or heroes of this fictional account of Gettysburg? What makes a hero? And what prompts otherwise sane men to throw their bodies headlong into deadly flying projectiles? What motivated these men to put their limbs, literally, on the line? (adapted and added to the questions from the Random House teachers' guide by Litlovers.)

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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by Martha S. (see profile) 12/24/15

by Chris B. (see profile) 06/29/15

by Pauline H. (see profile) 06/28/15

  "The author puts you right on the battlefield!"by Gail R. (see profile) 09/21/14

A friend told me that the best Civil War novel ever written was Killer Angels. After reading it, I totally agree. The novel is expertly read by Stephen Hoye. It is well written and informati... (read more)

  "The Killer Angels"by Margaret C. (see profile) 10/13/10

Taught me much more about the civil war than I ever knew before. Made it come alive. worth the time.

  "The Killer Angels"by Mabel C. (see profile) 07/16/09

  "The Killer Angels"by Ann T. (see profile) 07/16/09

In addition to reading the book, listen to the tapes. The spoken words added to the meaning of the written word. The movie Gettysburg lacked the thought process of the main characters.

  "The Killer Angels"by Corrine S. (see profile) 06/16/09

I did not imagine I would like this book so much. Yes, it's the story of a battle but it is so much more. The author puts you there with the generals and lets you see how their strengths and weaknesses... (read more)

  "If you like a a great read about the Civil War this book is for you."by Cheryl M. (see profile) 12/04/07

Our group throughly enjoyed this book. It gave a wonderful insight into the war. Truly no one was a winner in this war. But after reading this book one could truly understand how this particular... (read more)

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