Alexander B. Rossino
Savas Beatie, 2017, 318 pp., $22.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
When I first heard that publisher Savas Beatie was publishing a novel, I was intrigued. For my own memory, they were always a publishing house of excellent non fiction works spanning most of American History. But when I read the synopsis of Six Days in September, I was even more interested. The Battle of Antietam, and the campaign which surrounds it, is a subject that lends itself to fiction quite well. The subtitle, A novel of Lee’s Army in Maryland, 1862, made me even more intrigued that we would be getting a Confederate view of the battle as the main focus. Alexander B. Rossino is an award winning historian who has written such works like Hitler Strikes Poland: Blitzkrieg, Ideology, and Atrocity. He spent a great deal of time working at the United States Holocaust Museum while writing articles and reviews. His fascination with the Civil War peaked again when he moved to Boonsboro, Maryland close to South Mountain. There, he began the writing of this book with extensive research on the subject. The Battle of Antietam has been written about many times before, but there was something about this novel which seemed to ring true with me. Overall, I felt that the author’s perspective of the Confederate commanders was interesting and yet refreshing. The story followed the Army of Northern Virginia into Maryland where Lee is looking for that final victory which would bring about the end of the war. The narrative which flows from this simple idea for the plot makes Six Days in September something to recommend to all. The Lee we get in this novel is exhausted by the string of mistakes and disappointments he faces. With the refusal to evacuate at Harper’s Ferry, to the lost plans which fell into the hands of General McClellan, Lee is painted in a different light than I have seen in other novels. But it is not just commanders who get the treatment in the novel. The soldiers are written about for their hardships during the war and even the civilians in Sharpsburg are written as well. Sometimes when writing a novel about the Civil War, one can focus on the commanders too often. I was glad to see the soldier life and the civilian life presented here in this work. Six Days in September not only shows the hardship of command, but also shows the humanity of the war itself by bringing those previously mentioned viewpoints. At the same time, this novel seeks to inform and entertain. Those who have little knowledge on the battle will find suitable information in this binding. I highly recommend this novel. I was pleased to see that even though this is a work of fiction, the information within the binding of this volume is incredible for all. Rossino’s grasp of the narrative is captivating and often gives the viewpoint of the human side of the war from all those who fought during this campaign. The tragedy which was taken on those Maryland fields is wholly felt in this book. Highly recommended.