The Killer Angels
The Killer Angels
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Hardcover edition.
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From the book1. THE SPY
He rode into the dark of the woods and dismounted. He crawled upward on his belly over cool rocks out into the sunlight, and suddenly he was in the open and he could see for miles, and there was the whole vast army below him, filling the valley like a smoking river. It came out of a blue rainstorm in the east and overflowed the narrow valley road, coiling along a stream, narrowing and choking at a white bridge, fading out into the yellowish dust of June but still visible on the farther road beyond the blue hills, spiked with flags and guidons like a great chopped bristly snake, the snake ending headless in a blue wall of summer rain.
The spy tucked himself behind a boulder and began counting flags. Must be twenty thousand men, visible all at once. Two whole Union Corps. He could make out the familiar black hats of the Iron Brigade, troops belonging to John Reynold's First Corps. He looked at his watch, noted the time. They were coming very fast. The Army of the Potomac had never moved this fast. The day was murderously hot and there was no wind and the dust hung above the army like a yellow veil. He thought: there'll be some of them die of the heat today. But they are coming faster than they ever came before.
He slipped back down into the cool dark and rode slowly downhill toward the silent empty country to the north. With luck he could make the Southern line before nightfall. After nightfall it would be dangerous. But he must not seem to hurry. The horse was already tired. And yet there was the pressure of that great blue army behind him, building like water behind a cracking dam. He rode out into the open, into the land between the armies.
There were fat Dutch barns, prim German orchards. But there were no cattle in the fields and no horses, and houses everywhere were empty and dark. He was alone in the heat and the silence, and then it began to rain and he rode head down into monstrous lightning. All his life he had been afraid of lightning but he kept riding. He did not know where the Southern headquarters was but he knew it had to be somewhere near Chambersburg. He had smelled out the shape of Lee's army in all the rumors and bar talk and newspapers and hysteria he had drifted through all over eastern Pennsylvania, and on that day he was perhaps the only man alive who knew the positions of both armies. He carried the knowledge with a hot and lovely pride. Lee would be near Chambersburg, and wherever Lee was Longstreet would not be far away. So finding the headquarters was not the problem. The problem was riding through a picket line in the dark.
The rain grew worse. He could not even move in under a tree because of the lightning. He had to take care not to get lost. He rode quoting Shakespeare from memory, thinking of the picket line ahead somewhere in the dark. The sky opened and poured down on him and he rode on: It will be rain tonight: Let it come down. That was a speech of murderers. He had been an actor once. He had no stature and a small voice and there were no big parts for him until the war came, and now he was the only one who knew how good he was. If only they could see him work, old cold Longstreet and the rest. But everyone hated spies. I come a single spy. Wet single spy. But they come in whole battalions. The rain began to ease off and he spurred the horse to a trot. My kingdom for a horse. Jolly good line. He went on, reciting Henry the Fifth aloud: "Once more into the breech . . ."
Late that afternoon he came to a crossroad and the sign of much cavalry having passed this way a few hours ago. His own way led north to Chambersburg, but he knew that Longstreet would have to know who these people were so...
About the Author-
- Michael Shaara was born in Jersey City in 1929 and graduated from Rutgers University in 1951. His early science fiction short stories were published in Galaxy magazine in 1952. He later began writing other works of fiction and published more than seventy short stories in many magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, and Redbook. His first novel, The Broken Place, was published in 1968. But it was a simple family vacation to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1966 that gave him the inspiration for his greatest achievement, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels, published in 1974. Michael Shaara went on to write two more novels, The Noah Conspiracy and For Love of the Game, which was published posthumously after his death in 1988.
- Stephen Hoye's reading of Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning text captures the tension of war even more than the movie GETTYSBURG. As an account of that great battle, it is filled with the sounds and smells of a spring day at one moment, the stench of decay the next. Likewise Hoye's pacing follows the battle with confused but rapid energy at one moment, thoughtful stillness the next. Most striking, however, Hoye's characterizations ring with astounding life. Lee is ever the easy, grace-filled father figure of our imagining; Longstreet has a voice to match his deep, thoughtful misgivings about this engagement; and Colonel Joshua Chamberlain speaks in a distinctive Maine accent, just as one would expect of a Bowdoin College classics professor. Both Hoye and Shaara have clearly done their homework, creating a package befitting this thirtieth-anniversary edition. P.E.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award (c) AudioFile 2004, Portland, Maine
- GENERAL H. NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF "The best and most realistic historical novel about war I have ever read."
JAMES M. MCPHERSON
Author of Battle Cry of Freedom "My favorite historical novel . . . A superb re-creation of the Battle of Gettysburg, but its real importance is its insight into what the war was about, and what it meant."
Filmmaker, The Civil War "Remarkable . . . A book that changed my life . . . I had never visited Gettysburg, knew almost nothing about that battle before I read the book, but here it all came alive."
- The Seattle Times "Shaara carries [the reader] swiftly and dramatically to a climax as exciting as if it were being heard for the first time."
PublisherPenguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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