The completed Union companion to Six Days in September has been submitted to my publisher. Tentatively titled The Guns of September: A Novel of McClellan’s Army in Maryland, 1862, the text came in at just over 137,000 words. That’s a lot to write in 9 months and boy am I relieved it’s done!
For those curious about the title. it’s a hat tip to one of the first things I read as an undergraduate student, Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, which is her popular history of the weeks leading up to World War I. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend giving it a try. It’s bound to be available in your local library.
I’m pretty happy with how Guns has turned out. The book’s style closely mirrors Six Days in that it follows George McClellan and a cast of other personalities, including Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker, and George Armstrong Custer.
Yes, Custer aficionados, the blonde boy-wonder is a major character in this next book. He fills the role that Franklin Turner played in Six Days, acting as my eyes and ears on the field. Custer served on McClellan’s staff during the Maryland Campaign, but next to nothing is known about what he did. We know for example that he acted as a scout while attached to the 8th Illinois Cavalry. We also know he was at Hooker’s HQ on South Mountain the morning after the battle. We know that he participated in (and was cited for gallantry during) the cavalry clash at Boonsboro on September 15, 1862, and we know that he acted as a scout for Sumner’s Second Corps during the Battle of Antietam. Otherwise, we know next to nothing. The rest is a blank slate that provided me with the opportunity to put Custer in critical spots during the story.
The George McClellan whom readers will meet is probably as fully three-dimensional as you’ll encounter anywhere. You’ll be able to get inside of his head on the day he reads Lee’s Lost Orders, you’ll better understand why he breaks up the army’s wing structure on the morning of September 15, you’ll glean a better idea why he decided not to attack Lee on September 16, and you’ll follow his movements and orders during the Battle of Antietam. Like my portrayal of Lee, this depiction of Mac is intended to give readers insight they may not get elsewhere. Will you come away liking the Young Napoleon? I doubt it. You will better understand him, though.
Other personalities in the story include a trio of friends in the 23rd Ohio. The main character here is an Irishman named Thomas James Kelly. An immigrant from Galway, Ireland, Kelly represents one of the many ethnic groups that made up the Army of the Potomac. He’s a joker and a sentimentalist much like Gilbert Farney in Six Days. Kelly’s adventures behind the lines throw him for a loop, especially after he meets a suffragette named Lucy Settle in Middletown. A traditional, semi-literate, Irish Catholic and an educated, feminist, Protestant woman. What could go wrong with that mix?
Readers will also meet Colonel Jacob Higgins, commander of the 125th Pennsylvania Volunteers. A Mexican War veteran, Higgins raised the 125th PA in August 1862. His men arrived in Washington, DC shortly before the crippling defeat of Pope’s army at Second Manassas on August 29-30. The 125th then marched north into Maryland with almost no drill under its belt. These are green recruits Higgins commands. Readers will get to travel with them into the very heart of the fight at Antietam when Higgins is ordered to the West Woods. His regiment penetrates the farthest into Confederate lines of any federal regiment on September 17 and takes the brunt of Lafayette McLaws’s counterattack that day. The commander of a green regiment in the middle of the fiercest one-day battle of the American Civil War? Not a place I’d want to be.
That’s it for now. Leave a comment or a question if you’d like to know more.