Peters (The Officers’ Club) uses the same structure as Michael Shaara’s 1974 Civil War classic The Killer Angels to depict the seven crucial days before, during, and after the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. In this compelling tale of men at war, Peters weaves fictionalized accounts of actual Confederate and Union officers (including Robert E. Lee, George Meade, James Longstreet, and Dan Sickles), with stories of the privates, corporals, and sergeants who slaughtered each other in an orgy of blood, gore, suffering, heroism, and villainy. Lee’s stubborn hubris overrode all tactical sense, resulting in a colossal blunder, while Meade didn’t want command of the Union army, but turned out to be the first Yank to beat Lee in a fight. The generals bicker, argue, and worry, making decisions that will cost thousands of lives. Meanwhile, the soldiers endure hunger, thirst, fatigue, illness, and injury only to face a firestorm of rifle bullets, exploding artillery shells, and grim work with the bayonet. Peters’s colorful depictions of harsh army life and the utter chaos of battles are accurate and convincing, revealing that there’s no idealism on the battlefield, just men doing gruesome and frightening work. (Feb.)
“A classic novel of warfare that will be read for years to come.” W.Y. Boyd Literary Novel Award
“Surpasses Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels...brilliant...brilliant.” Booklist (starred review)
“Incredibly well written and researched, this title should enter the ranks of the classics...highly recommended.” Library Journal, starred review
“A masterpiece...excels on the human front...well written...memorable...a must read.” Confederate Book Review
“Peters captivates with his prose...meticulous research...Cain at Gettysburg is a great contribution to Civil War fiction.” Washington Independent Review of Books
“May be the most realistic work of Civil War fiction every written.” Case Shot & Canister
“Peters's battle scenes are masterpieces of perspective…it is hard to imagine a better portrayal.” Newsweek
“Ralph Peters has given us a great treasure! Superbly crafted, this wonderful saga pulls you right into the ranks of men marching to meet their destiny.” John W. Mountcastle, Brigadier General, U.S. Army (Ret), former Army Chief of Military History
“A classic for the ages, a supremely truthful look at the horrors of war and a battle that shaped who we became as a people…a bookshelf treasure…a masterpiece.” New York Journal of Books
“An intensely realistic picture of Gettysburg…you-are-there realism.” Columbus Dispatch
“A great retelling of the Battle of Gettysburg...His approach is fresh, original, and outstanding in every respect.” Gen. Sid Shachnow, U.S. Army Special Forces (Ret.)
Gettysburg has become the best-known and perhaps most critical battle of the Civil War owing to its implications and the terrible casualties. The characters' points of view on both sides range from immigrant privates and ridge-runner sergeants to that of famous generals George Meade, Daniel Sickles, James Longstreet, and Robert E. Lee. The reader experiences the difficulty of marching through the mud and heat to the gut-wrenching fear of close combat. VERDICT Incredibly well written and researched, this title should enter the ranks of a classic. Peter Berkrot's narration evokes emotion and a sense of a difficult bygone era. Hauntingly reminiscent of Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, Peters's book is highly recommended. [For a less laudatory take on this title, read the review of the Forge hc, LJ 1/12.—Ed.]—Scott R. DiMarco, Mansfield Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib.
Cain slew only his brother Abel in the Bible, but in this gritty, moody retelling of America's bloodiest domestic battle, everyone is Cain. The story arc covers the six days of the convergence of the Union and Confederate armies at Gettysburg. Peters (The Officers' Club) switches his narrative back and forth between grunt and general, between Rebel and Yankee, giving a variety of personal responses to the battle preparations and their execution. Although the war is brutal, Peters goes overboard in spots in his effort to convey how crude life on the battlefield and in 1863 America really was. The personality quirks assigned to the generals make one wonder how even Robert E. Lee made it as far as this pivotal moment, let alone his assistants and opponents. VERDICT The best work of fiction about Gettysburg remains Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels. Peters's latest novel will have some short-lived interest among Civil War buffs, but it is too introspective and too raw in many places to make it worth rereading.—W. Keith McCoy, Somerset Cty. Lib. Syst., Bridgewater, NJ
Action-packed treatment of one of the bloodiest episodes of the Civil War, rendered with all due gruesomeness. Michael Shaara's 1974 novel The Killer Angels, writes Peters (The Officers' Club, 2011, etc.), is the gold standard of fiction about the Battle of Gettysburg, adding that it appeared in a time when regard for the military was low and "citizens had to be reminded that towering heroes wore our country's uniform." Or, perhaps better, our country's, and another country's, uniforms. Whatever the case, Peters, a former military officer, is more reverentially disposed to the people who fight wars in a time when the culture seems worshipful of armed might. His version of Gettysburg, therefore, is vigorous, decisive, stern and otherwise populated by heroic figures. Regardless of the two authors' respective attitude toward the business of killing, Peters is both historically accurate and a well-practiced storyteller. He also has a good sense of the language and culture of the time; when Robert E. Lee enters the scene, for instance, Peters' prose becomes somber and portentous: "Still a mere John Churchill, he had seen to it that new shoes awaited his soldiers along his line of march. But Lee had men who had gone without shoes for months. At Chancellorsville, he had hoped for a Blenheim, but ended with a gory Malplaquet." When Lee's counterpart, George Meade, is on stage, Peters' back-and-forth is snappier, suggesting Meade's impatience; he even provides Meade with a motivation for success, for "fending off Lee would secure his family's place in Philadelphia for generations." Among the many strong points of Peters' version is his attention to the immigrant players on the battlefield, the Polish and Irish and German soldiers from North and South who fought and died for their version of freedom. Familiar figures--Chamberlain, Longstreet--are here too, but these overlooked characters add depth and diversity to the tale. Literary readers will prefer Michael Shaara and Shelby Steele, and unliterary ones will want their Newt Gingrich. But Peters' novel holds up well, and it's welcome in the vast library of books about the Civil War's great turning point.