Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Gods and Generals and The Killer Angels

Sometime last year I was chatting on-line with a military history buff and the conversation turned to the American Civil War ( sometimes referred to these days by some Southerners as The War of Northern Aggression.) This was a subject with which I was only vaguely familiar and I asked for the recommendation of some reading material. It was suggested that I would do no better in understanding the nature and the substance of the conflict than by reading the historical novel 'The Killer Angels' Michael Shaara's 1974 Pulitzer prize winning novel.

Circumstances delayed that until one day the week before last, when I was browsing in my favorite used book store and put my hand on a copy of Jeff Shaaara's 'Gods and Generals' purely by accident. For those who don't know, Jeff is Michael's son and his book is a prequel to his fathers book. The book deals with the issues leading up to the war, starting in 1855 and deals primarily with four main characters: Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, William Scott hancock and Joshua Chamberlain. All, except the latter, were graduates of West Point and decorated veterans of The Mexican Wars. The book is riveting and very hard to put down. It leads us through build up to and the first battles of the war, all victories for the South, up through the Battle of Chancellorville.

'Gods and Generals' is the perfect introduction to 'The Killer Angels', both of which provide an understanding of the times, the history, the morals and the character of those involved. Currently I am engrossed with 'The Killer Angels' which deals with the first three days of July 1863: The Battle of Gettysburg.

General Norman H. Shwarzkopf said of this book: "The best and most realistic historical novel about war I have ever read." You'll notice he doesn't qualify which war. High praise indeed.

This is a bit of a delicious dilemma for me as today's mail brought a copy of 'My War: Killing Time in Iraq' by Colby Buzzell, best known to the blogosphere as CBFTW.

I had written a post about Colby's book and was kindly offered an advanced copy by John Lawton of the book's publisher Putnam. I am really keen on roaring thorugh Colby Buzell's book, but I can't leave Longstreet and Lee as they are about to commit themselves at Gettysburg. So I'm going to have to finish it hopefully tonight and then turn my attention to 'My War'. It's a good day.

P.S. My writing 'style' such as it is, isn't normally this flowery, but I can't get my head out of the South of 1863.

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