Recommendations can be tricky today. With so much to watch on Netflix alone, it’s hard to know which recommendations from friends and relatives to watch first. Then there are recommendations for books. “E.J. you have to read The Killer Angels,” a friend expressed in a way I knew I had to read it. I’m glad I did, and I appreciate Ken Burns’ quote on the on the back cover saying it changed his life.
I’ve been hooked on the Civil War for the last three months now, and want to share with you a wonderful summary of how Michael Shaara’s book captures the heartbreak of it all. Shaara’s son Jeff continued the work of his late father with Gods & Generals. Director Ronald Maxwell made them into movies “Gettysburg” and “Gods & Generals.”
One of the great advantages of today’s TV is that I was able to watch both movies basically with a click of the remote immediately after finishing The Killer Angels.
You want to read this book, The Killers Angles, to feel what it was like to be there—to know how it felt when a country’s brothers fought. In the beginning it wasn’t about slavery. It was about “rats” (rights) and it’s hard not to have incredible sympathy for all involved.
For more on these films and books, read J.P. Zmirak’s review in The American Conservative:
Recent events in the U.S. Senate remind us that some of the cannon balls fired in the War Between the States have not yet exploded but still lie in America’s soil waiting to blow up when kicked. Writer/director Ronald F. Maxwell has never been afraid of walking this hazardous ground. He trod it in his first Civil War epic, “Gettysburg” (1994), a massive four-hour retelling of the most decisive days in our country’s history, filmed on the original battlefield, and he does so again in his new release, “Gods & Generals” (Turner Studios/ Warner Bros. 2003). The films were based on the novels The Killer Angels by Stephen Shaara and Gods & Generals by Jeff Shaara. For all their length and epic scale, there is not a dull scene in either film—nor a moment’s compromise with stark historical truth. Each shows in intimate detail the awful sacrifices men made in that grinding war and the idealism, misguided or not, that drove both sides. Each uses the careful lessons of historians to place the deeds of men in accurate context.
Maxwell is a brave director. (Full disclosure: he is also a friend and sometime collaborator.) As Pat Buchanan recently noted, the very battlefield at Gettysburg will soon see its visitor center and museum renovated to remove reminders of the courage of Southern soldiers and “emphasize the horrors of slavery.” Indeed, Gettysburg Park Superintendent John Latschathe wishes to atone for the former presentation of the site: “For the past 100 years,” he said, “we’ve been presenting this battlefield as the high watermark of the Confederacy and focusing on the personal valor of the soldiers who fought here. … We want to get away from the traditional descriptions of who shot whom, where and into discussions of why they were shooting one another.” The “why” as newly depicted will center on slavery—in accord with the monolithic official narrative of the Civil War, which casts the conflict between the slave states and the sweatshop states not as a human tragedy but a Manichaean struggle of good against evil.
Read more here.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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