Fiction as Reconstruction of History: Narratives of the Civil War in American Literature by Reinhard Isensee Even after more than years the American Civil War continues to serve as a major source of inspiration for a plethora of literature in various genres. While only amounting to a brief period in American history in terms of years, this war has proved to be one of the central moments for defining the American nation since the second half of the nineteenth century. The facets of the Civil War, its protagonists, places, events, and political, social and cultural underpinnings seem to hold an ongoing fascination for both academic studies and fictional representations.
He made his name writing pulp science fiction in the s. He later began writing mainstream fiction and was published in many magazines.
During a visit to Gettysburg, Shaara saw the battlefield and learned about the battle and its significance. He returned home with the idea to write a historical novel based on the battle.
Most historical novels use fictional characters in historical settings, but Shaara chose to write about the real-life participants in the battle, such as Robert E. Lee and Joshua L.
This unusual decision gives the novel a much more epic tone, but it also causes problems with historical accuracy. Shaara died of a heart attack in But to the surprise of many, including Shaara, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Nevertheless, The Killer Angels remained a relatively obscure novel until it was adapted into the film Gettysburg, starring Martin Sheen and Jeff Daniels.
With the release of the film, the novel shot to number one on the New York Times bestseller list. The Battle of Gettysburg, which the novel describes, was the bloodiest battle of the American Civil War, with over 50, casualties in the span of three days.
Many historians have called it the high-water mark of the Confederacy, when General Robert E. Lee hurled the entire strength of his army at the Union forces in an attempt to end the war by destroying his enemy.
Lee had invaded the enemy territory of Pennsylvania for the second time. The first invasion culminated in the Battle of Antietam in Sharpsburg, Maryland, the previous year.
By invading, Lee put himself in a position to move toward Washington, D. If he succeeded, the Confederate States of America would likely win the war and gain the right to declare themselves an independent country.
But due to a series of problems, the Confederates were forced to retreat from Gettysburg with terrible losses and never again would move into Union territory. The battle has long held a great fascination for Civil War historians. Scholars agree that, with the heavy casualties and demoralizing defeat suffered by the South, the Battle of Gettysburg was the turning point of the war—a loss from which the Confederacy never fully recovered.
But the Battle of Gettysburg also has other unique characteristics. It was one of only two major battles fought on Union soil. It was a major Union victory, which at the time was rare.
Most important, it was a Union victory when such a victory was desperately needed. A Union loss at Gettysburg would have put the capital in jeopardy.
The epic scope that this innovation allows him to achieve comes at the cost of historical accuracy, both in the film and in the novel. While much of his characterization and novelistic interpretation is based on careful study of letters, documents, and historical texts, Shaara does take significant liberties in his portrayal of the characters and their inner thoughts and emotions.
Because it is important to explore these characters and events from both literary and historical angles, this SparkNote draws on both the literary aspect of the novel and historical fact and credible opinion regarding the Battle of Gettysburg.After two Civil War sequels to his late father's The Killer Angels and a pair of American Revolution novels, Shaara (The Glorious Cause, , etc.) leaps to the 20th century, and, true to form, presents a cast of characters chosen for their ability to be in exciting places at exciting times, not to mention a tendency to declaim at some length /5(77).
Because it uses real rather than invented characters, The Killer Angels is in many ways more similar to Shakespeare’s historical plays in its style and tone than it is to other American historical novels, such as Stephen Crane’s work about the Civil War, The Red Badge of .
Michael Shaara worked as a boxer and a science-fiction writer (among other occupations) before writing The Killer Angels.
(Source.) Confederate General Harry Heth claimed that he accidentally engag. The other books in the civil War trilogy written by Michael Shaara's son are just as good but this started it all.
You'll enjoy the reading if you like to read Historical books that based on the actual first party accounts of the great events of the Civil War. The Killer Angels is more similar to the historical plays of William Shakespeare—Shaara gives a dramatized account of history. and distinguished himself as an excellent soldier by the end of the war.
The term "Killer Angels" is actually attributed to one of the central characters, Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain. According to Chamberlain, he had recited a Shakespearean piece that included the.