Sunday, May 23, 2010

Monday Morning, coffee and a book - Killer Angels

It is past my bedtime and I need to run along, but I wanted to go ahead and put this out there as it has been stirring around in my head.

My daughter read "Killer Angels" this year for school, 6th grade.  Having not read it and knowing it was about the battle of Gettysburg I decided I'd better read it in case we needed to discuss anything.  I mean, what if her favorite officer gets blown to bits or something?  It is a war novel.

My brother studied military history at the Air Force Academy so I had asked him what he thought.  "Excellent book." he replied, though he was surprised I was reading it.

This is a beautiful, beautiful book.  It was written by Michael Shaara in 1974, and he won a Pulitzer Prize for it.  He wrote it based on the letters of the men involved and portrays both the men of the Confederate Army and the men of the Union.  I find the Civil War fascinating, mostly because my parents were raised in New Jersey as was my husband.  I went to high school in Virginia, but missed Virginia history as I'd passed that year before we moved.  My brother did study Virginia history in high school and military history in college and he says that he would have fought with Lee.  That they were right.

At any rate I think this book is beautiful because it brings the reader into a terrible, horrible awful situation and offers you a glimpse at the humanity involved.  You are shown the Confederate Army without the Calvary and therefore without the necessary 'intelligence' to create a battle plan.  You are shown Longstreet, a man before his time as far as military strategy is concerned.  You are shown Lee, a gentleman first and foremost.  You meet Buford, possibly the Union's hero in this battle and yet someone I've never heard of.  You meet Chamberlain, of Bowdoin College Maine, who is a professor and academic and a brilliant soldier.

But what I truly loved about it was the Englishman.  Fremantle I think he was.  He was riding with Lee's camp and kept saying, "The Virginia's aren't American, they are English." I loved it because to me it rings true.  I moved to Virginia in 1987 from Las Vegas, Nevada.  Prior to that I had lived in a number of places as deemed by the United States Air Force.  But Virginia has its own little subculture that I think would make a fascinating anthropology thesis and it is summed up beautifully by our Englishman in "Killer Angels."  Interestingly, Longstreet seemed to believe it was what lead General Lee to Gettysburg when in Longstreet's view (according to the book) they should have withdrawn to Virginia.  There is much mention of Lee digging into a defensive position around Richmond and being called "The King of Spades" and after that Lee feeling that to be defensive was without honor and they needed to press.
I'm tired so perhaps I am talking in circles-
I love this book.  I love it because it helped me to connect to the deeper culture still here in Virginia where I am raising my children.
Please consider this book.


Lisha said...

Very interesting....I checked out your other blog also, My Pretty Face. I enjoyed reading your posts and noticed you had not posted anything for quite some time. I imagine that you have many more interesting things you could share on it. Thank you for an interesting and informative blog~~ Lisha

WhisperingWriter said...

That book does sound interesting.