Review: Brothers of War: The Iron Brigade at Gettysburg

“But at a great cost,” Williams continued, looking at the men and pointing in the direction where the Nineteenth suffered so horrendously. “The cost will be felt in hundreds of homes, factories, and farms back in Indiana…not only now, but for generations. Although we’ll be forever saddened by the price that the Nineteenth has paid on this field, we should always remember that those lives and limbs were not lost in vain.”

Brothers of War is a fascinating sort of book. In a nutshell, it’s the story of three brothers, two of which find themselves fighting in the 19th Indiana–also known as the Black Hat Brigade or Iron Brigade–during the Civil War, specifically surrounding the battle of Gettysburg.

The Civil War is something that I know a bit about, but nowhere near the amount that’s in this book. The level of research and detail that went into the ways the battles unfolded, what the soldiers wore, what it was like to be marching for days on end… that alone makes this book worth reading.

To set it among people and places that I feel I should know, a more local sort of history, that makes it all the better. I grew up in Indiana and moved back a few years ago–having extended family near is excellent. Somehow it always amazes me how much history even a relatively ’little’ state such as Indiana. There have been millions upon millions of people that have lived here, each with their own stories.

On the negative side, I think my main complaint with the book is that the point of view tends to be a bit fuzzy and it isn’t always clear how much of it is fiction and how much of it is a history book about the Civil War. I’ll admit, I don’t read much historical fiction, so that could be normal, but it was enough to pull me out of the story at times.

As for Henry, Hawk, and Sergeant Boller…they were incredibly enjoyable to write about. If they seemed almost unreal, then you were right… I made ’em up.

  • Author’s Note

Overall, still worth the read.

“Venus,” Billy said, noticing Solomon stargazing.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, learned it from all that city book-learnin’, as you and Hawk call it.” Solomon laughed, then, still looking up at Venus, said, “Must be over Indiana.”

“Yeah, maybe,” Billy said. “You miss it?”

“Indiana?” Solomon asked.

Billy nodded and spat in the fire. “Yeah.”

“I dunno,” Solomon said. “This is where I’m supposed to be, ya know? Sure do miss Mother and Pa for sure. Sisters too.”