The New York Times bestselling prequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic The Killer Angels In this brilliantly written epic novel, Jeff Shaara traces the lives, passions, and careers of the great military leaders from the first gathering clouds of the Civil War. Here is Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, a hopelessly by-the-book military instructor and devout Christian who becomes the greatest commander of the Civil War; Winfield Scott Hancock, a captain of quartermasters who quickly establishes himself as one of the finest leaders of the Union army; Joshua Chamberlain, who gives up his promising academic career and goes on to become one of the most heroic soldiers in American history; and Robert E. Lee, never believing until too late that a civil war would ever truly come to pass. Profound in its insights into the minds and hearts of those who fought in the war, Gods and Generals creates a vivid portrait of the soldiers, the battlefields, and the tumultuous times that forever shaped the nation.
Like father, like son? The publisher is aggressively linking Shaara's first novel with The Killer Angels, the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize-winning (1974) novel about the Battle of Gettysburg by his father, Michael Shaara (d. 1988). Indeed, the son's book is a prequel to the father's, following some of its central characters, generals all, from 1858 until 1863 and Gettysburg. The good news is that, while not matching his father's beautifully wrought prose, Shaara tells a tale impressive in its sweep, depth of character and historic verisimilitude. Generals Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Winfield Scott Hancock are back fighting for the North, and Robert E. Lee for the South. The story is told from their points of view, along with that of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. Each is a reluctant warrior who emerges as a gifted soldier possessed of a strong moral conscience in a time of bitter partisanship and hatred. Because it covers five eventful years, the narrative is sometimes overwhelmed by its wealth of dramatic material; the battles, though convincingly realized, tend to blur into one another. Yet, like his father, Shaara gets deeply into the minds of his protagonists, particularly Stonewall Jackson, who, though shy and deeply religious, proved to be a brutally efficient military leader. Like father, like son? Not quite, but the Shaara genes, it seems, are in fine shape. Major ad/promo; author tour. (July) FYI: Gods and Generals will debut in Gettysburg during the July 4th week, to tie in with the annual Civil War reenactment.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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May 12, 1997
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Excerpt from Gods and Generals: A Novel of the Civil War by Jeff Shaara
Gods and Generals: AntietamSharpsburg
After Lee's victory at Bull Run, he took his men on a march into Maryland, drawing the Union army out of Virginia. But Union commander George McClellan captured Lee's plans; for once in his life he moved quickly to pin the Confederates down in the fields around the town of Sharpsburg, by Antietam Creek.
On September 17, 1862, the two armies clashed in the bloodiest day of the entire war. McClellan launched a series of uncoordinated attacks on Lee's outnumbered army. Joshua Chamberlain served in the Union army's reserve, waiting all day to be ordered into the bloody fight.
They reached a small village, Porterstown, and marched through wide streets, the townspeople standing in doorways, leaning out windows, some waving, others just staring. Farther ahead, on the creek itself, was the Middle Bridge, held by the Confederate division of Daniel Harvey Hill. The rebel forces were dug in, back, away from the creek, and to their front the Federal army was spreading out, into lines of attack, were crossing the creek and preparing for the assault. The battle had begun on the far right, just after dawn, and now, as the sun began to rise up behind them, Chamberlain could hear the steady rumble, and as they moved closer, the sharp sounds of single cannon. He sat high on his horse, moving along with the same slow rhythm of the march, but now the men did not fall out, did not feel the weight of the hot September morning, but stared to the front, marching steadily, closer to the sound of the guns.
He heard the steady clatter of muskets now, still off to the right of the road, to the northwest. The battle is not in front of us, he thought. Strange that we should move this way...not up there.
In front of them, Chamberlain saw a rise, a long, wide hill, and as they began to move up, he saw guns, rows of black cannon set into shallow, round depressions before the crest of the hill. Just then they began to fire, quick bursts of gray smoke, and a sudden shocking boom that startled him and his horse. He bounced around on the road, had to grab the horse hard to calm him. From over the hill he saw Ames, riding hard, past lines of troops that were moving away now, to the right, toward the sounds of the battle.
Ames reined up his horse, and Chamberlain saw he was sweating. "Colonel, we're here, right here. Keep the men in column lines. Let's move them out into this field. Wait for further orders. We are part of the reserve."
Chamberlain turned, and Ames rode past him, into the columns of men, and gave the command to the bugler. With the signal, the men moved quickly off the road. Then Ames rode up again, toward the front of the column, slowed his horse as he reached Chamberlain, said, "Colonel, keep them tight, keep them ready. I am to survey the field to our front."
Chamberlain watched him ride away, up the long hill, turning his horse to the side behind the rows of black cannon. The guns began to fire again, a loud and thunderous volley, and the hill became a great, thick fog bank.
He stayed on his horse, saw now across the road, on the left, vast numbers of troops, lines disappearing into a distant grove of trees, and the men not moving, keeping their formations. He rode out the other way, to the right, into the grass, saw more troops farther out that way, a great field of blue, waiting. He looked to his own men, saw the companies staying in their formations, coming off the road, and he rode up to the head of one column, saw Captain Spears of Company G, a small, sharp man who had also been a teacher. He had a narrow, thick beard, sat on a horse, watched Chamberlain approach, puffed on a large round pipe.