The Killer Angels

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The Killer Angels

The Killer Angels, written by Michael Shaara, is a gripping novel about the turning point in the Civil War. In this novel, Shaara, follows the Generals and Colonels of both the Union and Confederate armies from June 29, 1863 until July 3, 1863. The book discusses the strategy and logic used by each of the commanding officers of either army, along with the non-war side of each officer.

In this historical novel, based on the battle of Gettysburg, the characters and events are, for the most part, historically accurate, however Shaara, who was not actually present at Gettysburg, had to fictionalize what the character's thoughts and conversations were. In "To The Reader", Shaara writes "The interpretation of character is my own." Sharra also states "I have therefore avoided historical opinions and primarily gone back to the words of the men themselves, their letters and other documents." Shaara is stating that the character's interactions were based on the letters and other documents that were written by those men that fought in the battle of Gettysburg. The difference between this and an actual historical account is simply the fact that Shaara wrote a book that has plot and a story line to it, and although it has an inevitable ending and the outcome of each battle is set in the history books, Shaara has put his own analysis on the battles. If he was to write a historical account he could not have used any fictionalized conversations or thoughts in the book. This would have limited him to writing the book without opinion and to sticking strictly to the facts. Shaara's descriptions of the battle scenes are not entirely accurate because there was not adequate photography at that time, and he was not present, however they are very detailed. He also describes the men's emotions vividly, but one can only assume that this must be based on letters and other documents, and partially fictionalized.

General Robert E. Lee was the commander of the Confederate Army and was a brilliant tactician. Lee has a traditional outlook on war which often conflicts with that of Longstreet's. Lee constantly implies the importance of offensive warfare. He was born into a military family, attended Westpoint, and was almost predestined to become an officer in the army. He was a devoted Christian and when it came to war he conducted himself accordingly. Lee presented himself as a very moral man. "What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world." In fact on December 13, 1862, Robert E. Lee, while commanding the Army of Northern Virginia at the battle of Fredericksburg, turned to General James Longstreet and said, "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should get too fond of it." Shaara states that Lee did "not own slaves, nor believe in slavery, but he does not believe that the Negro, ‘in the present stage of his development,' can be considered the equal of the white man." It does not seem like Lee is fighting the war for any other purpose than the fact that he did not believe that any black man or woman should be considered equal to the white man. Lee may not have been fighting for the same cause as the rest of the Confederate Army, however he was fighting for a cause – his own belief in the inferiority of the Negro. He would have disagreed with Forster's statement, "I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country" as he was a devout Christian and a moral man who "loved Virginia above all". General Lee felt that the war was sacred and holy because he was fighting for the freedom of the people of Virginia, and all supporters of the Southern cause. For this reason he would agree with...
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