|Winner of the 1975 Pulitzer Prize|
|The melancholic Longstreet|
Robert E. Lee, however, does not come across well here. What image I had of him was of a tragic hero: wonderful leader, terrible cause. But by the time Gettysburg came around, Lee had been undone by success: he thought he couldn't lose, so he stopped strategizing. As my son said, while watching the Ken Burns documentary on the war, "Oh! I know what happened to him! Hubris." Lee's men loved him, but he was no tactician in Gettysburg and Pickett's charge led thousands to needless deaths. I mean, "needless" even in the context of war. In contrast, Longstreet seems both brilliant and practical, though he didn't inspire the same sort of love. I felt depressed after each Longstreet section, though — he was always hurtling into doom, and he knew it. He was gloomy anyway, due to the death of three of his children, and now he found himself on the wrong side of an unwinnable war. Life for Longstreet just sucks.
|Bookish Chamberlain: before the war, he was a college professor|
Some readers come away feeling Shaara was pro-war, some that he was anti-war. But The Killer Angels isn't so neatly categorized. Shaara seems to feel the Civil War was a glorious folly: the bloody bits are there, but mostly the war is romanticized; at the same time, Shaara seems to think it was awful and pointless. I wonder about that juxtaposition. Maybe that's the way a lot of men feel about war? (Women seem less conflicted.)
|New estimates put Civil War deaths at 750,000|
My daughter will be studying the Civil War this year in AP US History, and I'm going to recommend she read this book before that unit. It may just be Gettysburg, but it's a good human-scale intro to the war, and it certainly piqued my interest in that time period: we are now working our way through the Ken Burns documentary, and I've added the new, acclaimed Civil-War-era history Ecstatic Nation to my to-read bookshelf. I would highly recommend this book, even to those bored by history. Especially to those bored by history.
Edition note: The audiobook narration by Stephen Hoye was excellent. He's a slow reader and he practically sings the more lyrical parts, but that seems appropriate. He helped me get into the story — not that I needed much prodding. It's a page turner.
* I write for this blog and also for my own, Words Incorporated. I reviewed separate books for each.
Check out the other Cephalopod Reviews here: