A number of years back, I read – and was deeply moved by -- The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. It vividly tells the story in novelized form of the men that fought at the Battle of Gettysburg, a seminal battle in American history and a turning point in the war. The book brought to life the battle and the men who fought it, and I truly enjoyed it.
Michael Shaara passed away before he could write more of his unique novels, and his son Jeff has taken up the mantle. The Killer Angels was so well done and so interesting, I soon completed the Shaara family Civil War trilogy by reading Jeff’s prequel, Gods and Generals and sequel, The Last Full Measure . In them, you’ll get the full tale of the men that fought on both sides of the Civil War.
The American Civil War in general, and the Battle of Gettysburg in particular, pitted many old friends and former comrades against each other. If you really want to get a feel for these men, you need to know how they were bonded together in the Mexican-American war, and Gone For Soldiers tells that tale. Focusing much attention on then Captain Robert E. Lee and General Winfield Scott, we follow the army from their initial landing in Mexico to their conquest of the capital, Mexico City. Along the way we meet many of the men familiar from the America Civil War – Ulysses Grant, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Joe Johnston, James Longstreet, and the flamboyant George Pickett. In the typical Shaara fashion, we see into the minds of the leaders and how their strategies were formed, as well as the hard reality of battle.
One of the last acts of America’s unofficial policy of “Manifest Destiny”, the Mexican-American War was controversial at the time, but has since faded to obscurity for the average American. However, a reading of the excellent Gone For Soldiers will remind and educate the reader about this war that, to a very large degree, made America what it is today. I recommend it, along with the entire Civil War trilogy.
I’m now determined to read all of Shaara’s books, covering the American Revolution as well as World Wars I and II.