Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Book Review - "Gods and Generals" by Jeff Shaara

As faithful readers (both of you!) of this blog recall, I occasionally write a short book review of a history or genealogy book that I've recently read. Earlier reviews covered the two Revolutionary War historical novels by Jeff Shaara (Rise to Rebellion and The Glorious Cause), and the recently published book Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. These reviews are in my archives (probably in May and June).

Gods and Generals is Jeff Shaara's first book, and is the prequel to his father's (Mike Shaara) Pulitzer prize winning book, The Killer Angels.

This book starts before the Civil War as the war clouds gather, then takes the reader through the gathering of the forces, and the battles in Virginia and Maryland that lead up to Gettysburg in July 1863. The strategy on both sides, the troop movements, the battle details and the life of Civil War soldiers in wartime conditions are covered in exquisite and awful detail.

As in the other Shaara books, the story is told through the eyes and words of major protagonists - in this case, Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson for the South, and Winfield Scott Hancock and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain for the North. The reader gets to know the other major figures on both sides through the prism of the four major characters. Maps showing the battlefields and strategic movements help the reader sort out what is happening.

The result is a fascinating insight into the lives and careers of these military leaders as they deal with success and defeat, and the exhilaration and horror of battle.

Naturally, I am going to read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara next, and then the third Civil War book in the series, The Last Full Measure. by Jeff Shaara.

If you want to bone up on Civil War history, then these three books by the Shaaras are must reading.

No comments: