Historical Fiction: Antietam, by James Reasoner

Antietam: A Novel (Reasoner, James. Civil War Battle Series, Bk. 3.)

The fighting Brannons

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The 2nd year of the Civil War serves as the setting for the story of the Brannon brothers, Will and Mac, fighting for the Confederacy in the Army of Northern Virginia. Right off the bat, it needs to be said that Antietam is very much a novel, not an historical account, although the battle sequences are reasonably accurate. Will Brannon was the first to enlist, and now serves as a captain in Stonewall Jackson’s unit. Mac, now in possession of a princely stallion, decides to leave the family farm in the hands of his two younger brothers, and signs on with Jeb Stuart’s cavalry. Told exclusively from the southern perspective, this installment in the series takes them through the months leading up to the battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg, which serves as the book’s climax.

Historical fiction and nonfiction serve two different purposes, and readers looking for more than an engrossing story need to delve into nonfiction. It’s fun to read a fictionalized version of the ways in which such icons as Jackson and Stuart might have interacted with and been regarded by their soldiers. Author Reasoner inserts a couple of new themes with a southerner who is a Union sympathizer, and a romantic interest for the widow Brannon, which serve well as relief from the darker war intervals. Reasoner treats the horrific goriness of battle respectful realism, and the reader expects the worst to happen to one or other of the brothers. Whether or not they survive this conflict remains to be seen.

Antietam is an entertaining novel for Civil War buffs, but if you’re looking for scholarly info, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

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