Gods and Generals is a 1996 novel which serves as a prequel to his father Michael Shaara’s 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning work about the Battle of Gettysburg, The Killer Angels. The book relates events from 1858 through 1863 during the American Civil War, ending just as the two armies march toward Gettysburg.
Copying his father’s approach of focusing on a few of the prominent officers of the two armies, Shaara depicted the emotional drama of soldiers fighting old friends while accurately detailing historical details including troop movements, strategies, and tactical combat situations. General Hancock, for instance, spends much of the novel dreading the day he will have to fire on his friend in the Confederate Army, Lewis “Lo” Armistead. The story also deals with General Lee’s disillusionment with the Confederate bureaucracy and General Jackson’s religious fervor.
In addition to covering events leading up to the war, the book includes the battles of First Bull Run (mentioned only), Williamsburg, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville.
In 1997, it received the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction from the American Library Association.
A film based on the novel was released in 2003. The film version provides only cursory coverage of immediate pre-war events, focusing primarily on Jackson and the secession of Virginia, and omits the Battle of Antietam (included in the Director’s Cut). My recommendation is read the book and skip the film.
Note: I am a Jeff Shaara fan. He is the author of 14 military historical fiction books. I met him on November 11, 2009, at The University of Texas at Arlington where he was the speaker at their An Evening With the Author Series. I met him in a small group of about a dozen private meet and greet sponsored by the UTA history department.
The below photo is Author Jeff Shaara and Amy J. Schultz, Associate Vice President, Communications and Community Relations, The University of Texas at Arlington.
The last photo is Author Jeff Shaara. What he was explaining his historical research methodology.
Photos were taken by Jimmie Aaron Kepler on November 11, 2009, at Davis Hall, The University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, Texas.