Michael Shaara and ‘The Killer Angels’
When Lesa and I visited Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond earlier this week where 18,000 Confederate soldiers are buried, we sound this bench dedicated to author Michael Shaara next to the grave of General Pickett. Pickett survived Gettysburg and was among those who facilitated moving the remains of the dead to Richmond. (He died in 1875.) Information about the bench’s dedication can be found on the Pickett Society website here.
On a hill where so many of the dead from Gettysburg (many unknown) finally rest in peace, this is a fitting place to honor Shaara. His Pulitzer Prize winning book “The Killer Angels,” about the battle of Gettysburg, is considered one of the best civil war novels.
“A gripping novel about the four days of the battle of Gettysburg, The Killer Angels is alive with noble figures and moves through its fated courses in a prose both simple and epic. Happily, a leading character is Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, a young professor of rhetoric from Maine, who speaks to his men with a power that Mark Antony might envy. When the largest gatherings of both the Union and Confederate armies meet by chance at Gettysburg, a battle follows that neither army wants at that time and place. But General Robert E. Lee, the proud rebel, is utterly set on dealing a death blow to the Union and stakes everything on the battle that forms around Cemetery Hill. After the first day’s fighting, Southerners sing victory songs. But Lee’s cavalry, led by gallivanting J.E.B. Stuart, has left Lee blind: he has no idea of the size or placing of Union forces. In a uselessly stupid gesture, he attacks the untakable hill. A strong, spirited, bloody book, equal to its subject.” – Kirkus Reviews
Shaara was a good friend and by far taught the best college writing class I ever attended. His influence on the work of those of us who met in his living room once a week is substantial.