Fictional units

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Oct 14, 2009
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#1
Hey y'all.

Currently doing research for my set of Civil War novels and was wondering if hardcore buffs would pull me up for putting fictional units at real battles during the war? One of the main units involved is the 4th Brigade (infantry), which consists of the 65th Virginia, 66th, Virginia, 69th Virginia, 72nd Virginia and the 74th Virginia regiments. And your input is much appreciated CWT! :smile:

~ Buff
 

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rhp6033

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#4
I guess you could do so, but why? You might accidently mislead a poor soul who is just getting interested in the Civil War, and doesn't know where history ends and fiction begins. (Of course, quite a few O.R.'s could fall into this category).

I figure there's more than enough material to make for an exciting novel, all you need to do is place a fictional person in place as a "witness" to the actual events, with a credible reason for them being there (I guess you could call this the "Forest Gump" approach to writing, if you get my drift).

One of the reasons I got so frustrated with the movie "The Patriot" was that they had MUCH better stories to be told about the fights involving Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion and "Bloody Bill" Tarelton (sp?) in S. Carolina during the revolution, without resorting to the wildly innacurate "church burning" story. It COULD have made for a great story, but instead only made a mediocre movie with only passing references to actual history.

That being said, I'm STILL waiting for a really good movie on "The Crater" - there is enough drama there for more than an hour of film even BEFORE the crater is blown. Cold Mountain just barely whiffed past the story as an introduction to the body of the film, and missed the drama on the Union side.
 

prroh

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#5
James look at Playing for a Kingdom. It is a fictional account of a group of soldiers in the 14th Brooklyn during the Overland Campaign. It gives the small units perspective. An individual seldom gets a clear picture of the larger battlefield and might not really know if history is going to call their fight a victory or defeat, or even skirmish or battle.
 

Robtweb1

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#6
I would stick with real units, but there's nothing wrong with fictional characters in those units.
 

K Hale

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#7
Depends on how much you're going to depart from real history. The Patriot has been mentioned. Obviously, these folks wanted to make a Swamp Fox movie, but they wanted to fiction it up to tell their idea of a more dramatic story. So, instead of making a movie where Francis Marion does stuff Francis Marion never did, they invented a fictional character based on him. IMO, and I know many will disagree, that's the best and most legit way to do what they wanted to do. The opposite way to write your own story using historical figures is The Alamo (1960), which contains several characters with the names of actual historical figures, but departs from historical reality in a tremendous manner. I found that less satisfying than starting out with a totally fictional character as in The Patriot, because then I didn't expect things to follow any sort of historical reality.

If you're going to stick closely with historical facts, use a historical unit, not a fictional one.
 
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#8
Thank you all for your help :smile:

So I guess if it's going to be fictional characters in real Confederate units, would it be okay to have said character as a regimental commander, or would I just stick to the rank and file?
 
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#11
I guess you could do so, but why? You might accidently mislead a poor soul who is just getting interested in the Civil War, and doesn't know where history ends and fiction begins. (Of course, quite a few O.R.'s could fall into this category).

I figure there's more than enough material to make for an exciting novel, all you need to do is place a fictional person in place as a "witness" to the actual events, with a credible reason for them being there (I guess you could call this the "Forest Gump" approach to writing, if you get my drift).

One of the reasons I got so frustrated with the movie "The Patriot" was that they had MUCH better stories to be told about the fights involving Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion and "Bloody Bill" Tarelton (sp?) in S. Carolina during the revolution, without resorting to the wildly innacurate "church burning" story. It COULD have made for a great story, but instead only made a mediocre movie with only passing references to actual history.

That being said, I'm STILL waiting for a really good movie on "The Crater" - there is enough drama there for more than an hour of film even BEFORE the crater is blown. Cold Mountain just barely whiffed past the story as an introduction to the body of the film, and missed the drama on the Union side.
It was "Bloody Ban" Tarleton, short for Banastre.
 
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#12
Very sound advice and very little reason to invent units in my opinion.

Read through the War of the Rebellion communications and battle reports, search for your units or commanders (sometimes you won't find a report by the unit but by brigade commanders that mention them). I relied heavily on this for my novels; it gives a real sense of accuracy and realism and may even bring out little known facts. http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/waro.html

It takes some time to get used to how to search and find what you're looking for, but a gold mine of small unit information.

I don't think there's little chance of someone misconstruing fiction for fact but you probably do not want the distraction to the reader who wonders if there really was a 1st Alaska Cavalry or 200th Virginia Artillery.

Also, with the growth of Google books and Project Gutenberg you can find regimental histories in a variety of eBook formats that also give nice anecdotal tidbits.
 
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#13
Very sound advice and very little reason to invent units in my opinion.

Read through the War of the Rebellion communications and battle reports, search for your units or commanders (sometimes you won't find a report by the unit but by brigade commanders that mention them). I relied heavily on this for my novels; it gives a real sense of accuracy and realism and may even bring out little known facts. http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/waro.html

It takes some time to get used to how to search and find what you're looking for, but a gold mine of small unit information.

I don't think there's little chance of someone misconstruing fiction for fact but you probably do not want the distraction to the reader who wonders if there really was a 1st Alaska Cavalry or 200th Virginia Artillery.

Also, with the growth of Google books and Project Gutenberg you can find regimental histories in a variety of eBook formats that also give nice anecdotal tidbits.
Thank you for the link Phil :smile:
 
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#15
Well I've got a good balance of Union and Confederate cavalry and infantry regiments to put my characters in now :smile:

My first novel, "Major: A Horse's War With the 3rd Iowa Cavalry", is slowly being written out now.
 

K Hale

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#16
I dunno; I've seen legions of people who misconstrue fiction for fact when it comes to Stuart at Gettysburg. Thanks, Mr. Shaara...
 
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#17
I dunno; I've seen legions of people who misconstrue fiction for fact when it comes to Stuart at Gettysburg. Thanks, Mr. Shaara...
No worries Hale - I am sticking fictional characters in real Union and Confederate units, so they don't get confused :smile:

And just an update - I've finally got a list of all the units I am going to have my characters in; they follow the Green siblings in the Union Army and their cousins, the Halls, in the Confederacy.
 
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#18
Cool beans. For Shiloh I chose units who took part in particular events so they could experience them and thus communicate that to the reader; have fun digging into those unit's histories to flesh out your story.
 
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#19
Cool beans. For Shiloh I chose units who took part in particular events so they could experience them and thus communicate that to the reader; have fun digging into those unit's histories to flesh out your story.
Thanks Phil - that's what I have been looking up today, in regards to specific engagements :smile:
 



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