I really didn’t have much interest in history until I had the opportunity to chaperone my son’s fifth grade field trip in 2000. This was their big field trip to the Gettysburg National Military Park. The kids (and parents) fund-raised all year for the trip in April.
We arrived at the park after a four-hour drive and it was basically fields with lots of monuments. A lot of monuments! We had a great time and learned a great deal that day. So what does this have to do with a book review?
After the trip, someone recommended a book about the battle of Gettysburg; The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Michael Shaara tells this tale of the epic battle through the eyes of many of the participants. The author limits the story to the most famous battles within the Gettysburg Campaign to tell the story.
In Shaara’s notes to the reader in the front of the book, he explains it best; “There have been many versions of the battle and that war. I have therefore avoided historical opinions and gone back primarily to the words of the men themselves, their letters and other documents.”
I tended to shy away from historical books, but this is a very readable novel and I found it hard to put down. I’ve read it several times over the years. In fact we read it for my daughters fifth grade trip in 2002 and again for my youngest daughter’s trip in 2005. If you are like me, this book will leave you wanting to learn more about the battle. This was also turned into an excellent movie Gettysburg, by Turner Home Entertainment. You’ll enjoy the movie, but do not skip the book.
In Gods and Generals, Jeff Shaara (Michael Shaara’s son) does the same masterful job novelizing the Civil War leading up to the battle at Gettysburg. This New York Times best seller is also a must read. It amazed me how Jeff Shaara matched his father’s gift for engaging the reader. A same-titled film version of this book was created, although I have not seen it.
Rounding out the series is Jeff Shaara’s The Last Full Measure. In Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, he honored the fallen who had given their last full measure…their life. Shaara completes the Civil War trilogy from the battle of Gettysburg to General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. He also highlights some of the post war events of some of the main characters.
Jeff Shaara has continued his historic novels with books about other wars. All are great reading and should be part of your “To Read” list:
The Mexican War
Gone For Soldiers, Jeff Shaara
The First World War
To the Last Man, Jeff Shaara
Both of my grandfathers fought in this war. My mother’s father as a U.S. citizen and my paternal grandfather was conscripted when he returned home from the United States to visit his family. He fought on our side. When the war was over, he NEVER left the United States to return to his birthplace.
Second Word War
This is planned to be a trilogy and the third book has not been released. I have the first two books, but am forcing myself to wait for the last book before I start them.
It is amazing what soldiers endure in war to win our FREEDOM!