“The Killer Angels” is a novel based on history. The novel was authored by Michael Shaara. It highlights the story of three days of war at Gettysburg during the American Civil war. The key characters in the novel include Colonel Joshua N. Chamberlain, General James Longstreet, and General Robert E. Lee. The story starts on 29 June 1863 when a spy visits General Longstreet and tells him that he had seen the Union Army moving around. Longstreet is surprised at the information because he thinks that General Stuart should be tracking down the Union army with his cavalry. He immediately gets the idea that the Confederate Army should move to the north to counter the Union Army. The Confederate army moves southeast through the mountains to the small town of Gettysburg. Colonel Chamberlain discovers that the Twentieth Main has new hundred members. He instructs them to continue fighting without giving up (Shaara, 106).
General John Buford, who was the leader of the Union cavalry in Gettysburg, discovers the Confederate army nearby. He takes his army to the surrounding hills in the area in order to take advantage over the enemy army. General Longstreet meets George Pickett and other generals of the Confederate army in order to plan the strategy of conducting the attacks.
On July 1, Lee wakes up to the discovery that Stuart is absent and curses this because he could not trace the Union army again. He then proceeds to meet Longstreet who was planning to move southeast and come between the Union Army and Washington DC. The battle starts at Gettysburg when the Confederate army attacks Buford’s men. General Buford struggles with the Confederates until the arrival of General Reynolds. After his arrival, Reynolds organizes his troops, which fight the Confederates off. Unfortunately, he is killed in the war. Meanwhile, Lee arrives in Gettysburg and finds the war at a serious level. In addition, two other Generals arrive and inform Lee that they have engaged the Union army, which was coming in from the south. General Lee commands his men to attack. Chamberlain’s troops then begin to move northwards towards Gettysburg. The first day of the war ends with the Union forces moving to the hills in Gettysburg.
On July 2, Chamberlain instructs his troops to move further northwards into Gettysburg. While moving northwards, the regiment notices a slave who had escaped. Chamberlain recaps his reasons behind the war and his thoughts on race. At Gettysburg, Lee’s general suggests that the army should attack the Union in two groups, as this will assist in weakening it. Lee embraces the plan, but Longstreet still insists on moving southeast towards Washington DC. Lee refuses this forcing Longstreet to attack the Union from the left flank. Finally, Chamberlains men reach Gettysburg and are positioned on the Little Round Top. Chamberlain is informed that he is the extreme left on the Union line meaning he could not retreat. His troops engage in a tough fight with the Confederate troops until they run out of bullets. The troops decide to threaten the Confederate troops with screams until they flee. At the end of the day, the Union Army is still in control of the Little Round Top while Longstreet’s men suffer immense losses. Stuart returns at night giving Lee some more hope of winning the war against the union troops.
On July 3, Chamberlain’s men are placed at the centre of the Union line and are supposed to remain silent. On the other side of the Confederate army, Longstreet tries to convince Lee to move the army to Washington DC without success. Therefore, Longstreet is forced to attack the enemy from the center of the Union line against his wish. The Confederate army applies all the techniques available to weaken the Union soldiers. Chamberlain is surprised to find himself at the center of the attacks, but he luckily survives. The Union batteries do not suffer many damages because the Confederate artillery shoots very high. Confederate attacks start as soldiers move across to the field towards the Union troops. The Union uses cannons opening up deep hole at the Confederate soldiers killing many of them. Union soldiers, further use guns killing many Confederate soldiers. The war ended with many Confederate soldiers killed. After losing many soldiers, the Confederates retreat ending the war (Shaara, 396).
The strength of the work is that it presents the details of the war in a chronological manner. It states the events as they occurred step by step without living out the most crucial details of the war. A chronological presentation of the work helps the reader understand the events leading to the war from the start. It enables readers understand the factors that led to the war, the date that the war begun, and the parties that were involved. The book also presents the happenings of the war in a chronological manner that is easily understandable among readers. This helps in the clear understanding of the war and the resulting events. In addition, the chronological manner in which these issues are presented develops history as they simplify the recording of the events among different interested. The chronological presentation of the works boosts history because events can be drawn to their specific date and place of occurrence, which simplifies the general presentation of historical facts (Bailey, 55). Chronology promotes an in depth understanding of the events of the war hence facilitating historical understanding.
Another significant strength of the works is that it present the negative effects of war hence enabling individuals avert such happenings in future. It is vital for individuals to learn from their past and plan for a better future. The works presents the negative effects of a past war hence urging individuals and nations to avert wars because they could lead to the destruction of the entire country. It presents the view that wars are undesirable because they lead to unnecessary animosity among individuals and deaths, which could have been averted. This helps people learn from the past and plan for a better future. The past historical happenings are a vital source of planning for the future historical happenings.
The weakness of the book is that it does not give correct historical facts as it is based on some level of fiction. The book tends to deviate from the real happenings of the events of the Civil War as it takes a fictional approach to some issues. History should be based on the actual happenings in order to help individuals discover the actual truth of the matters that transpired during that time. The fictional approach in which most of the issues are presented does not give a correct historical view of the book hence misrepresenting the actual happenings of the war. The book's reliance on fiction does not help historians in planning for the future with the required level of accuracy because they perceive all such happenings unrealistic. The fictional approach to the war limits the seriousness with which readers take the book. Most of the readers who plan to make historical conclusions would be limited by the fictions occurring in the book. This makes it difficult for the book to be used as a reliable historical source. This is due to the heavy reliance on historical fiction to present the happenings of the war (LaFantasie, 111).
The part of the book that states the reasons of that led to the war is the most accurate. According to the book, the war resulted due to a sharp difference in ideology relating to slavery between the northern states and the southern states. The northern states were against slavery because they thought that all human beings were meant to be equal. Therefore, they agitated for the respect of human rights and promotion of the Bill of Rights of all individuals in the world without putting into consideration their color. On the other hand, the southern states demanded that slavery should be promoted. They asserted that slaves were theirs and wanted to posses them. Therefore, the book is accurate in the explanation that the difference in ideology relating to slavery led to the war. Thus, the north decided to go to war with the south because of the feeling that the south was overstepping on the rights of individuals.
The part that discusses the attacks is not accurate. This is because the attacks are presented with extreme fiction. They do not give a true picture of what happened but base on historical fiction, which is not accurate. Fiction is not an accurate presentation of the events that transpired during the war. It gives flawed information about the actual happenings of the war (Bailey, 110). This misinformation cannot be relied on to make vital historical conclusions. The historical fiction that has been used in the presentation of the attacks makes this section inaccurate. The historical fiction in which this part is presented reduces its efficiency in the presentation of facts relating to the war. Thus, it is difficult to draw vital historical information from the inaccurate war information.
- Bailey, Debra A. CliffsNotes Shaara's the killer angels. New Work: John Wiley & Sons, 2000.
- LaFantasie, Glenn W. Gettysburg Heroes: Perfect Soldiers, Hallowed Ground. New York: Indiana University Press, 2008, Print.
- Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels: A Novel of the Civil War. New York: Random House Publishing Group, 2004, Print.