Alan Simon Books


Interesting Historical Facts and Tidbits

While researching and writing Part I, several interesting facts and tidbits jumped out at me that I worked into the story and wanted to call attention to.

In the novel, Douglas MacArthur and Ulysses S. Grant III (the grandson of the General and President) were classmates and rivals in the West Point Class of 1903. Is that true?

Absolutely true! As noted in the story when flashing back to how Louisa May Sterling met her late husband, Douglas MacArthur was first in the West Point Class of 1903 and Ulysses S. Grant finished sixth in the class. Though Grant III’s military career was not as distinguished as his grandfather’s or his rival MacArthur’s he did achieve the rank of Major General, was an aide to President Theodore Roosevelt, and during World War II was in charge of the United States’ Civil Defense program. He died in 1968 (but no, he’s not buried in Grant’s Tomb…)

Several real-life Part I characters (most of them mentioned in passing) received Medals of Honor for their actions in the Civil War: General Henry Huidekoper; Arthur MacArthur (Douglas MacArthur’s father); and Colonel James Schoonmaker. Interestingly, each one of them received his Medal of Honor in the 1890s…more than 35 years after the end of the Civil War! Why the lengthy time between heroic actions and the awarding of their Medal of Honor?

So far, the best answer I’ve come up with is that in the 1890s a number of Medal of Honor-worthy actions from the Civil War were reopened for consideration, especially when those acts of heroism had been performed by those who, by that time, had become prominent in business or politics. I’m still researching as I’m writing Parts II and III. So stay tuned!

Just as Douglas MacArthur makes a cameo appearance in Part I, so does George Patton…except in the case of Patton, he appears at The Great Reunion rather than in a character-shaping flashback. And Patton actually did attend the reunion as a member of the U.S. Army. How did this tidbit surface and make its way into the story?

Three or four days before finishing my writing on Part I, I was looking through old newspaper stories filed during the reunion itself and this paragraph from the July 1, 1913 edition of The Pittsburgh Press jumped out at me:

“Lieut. George S. Patton, United States Army, was in charge of Troop A, Fifteenth cavalry, commanded by Captain Eltinge, yesterday when they marched with pealing bugles through the town and out by the Emmitsburg rd. to the big assembly tent where Buford cavalry survivors held their reception. Lieut. Patton went to the Olympic games last year, and scored higher than any other foreigner in the modern pentathlon being fourth in the contest, the first three men being Swedes. He is designee of the new cavalry saber, and was for a time an aide to Gen. Leonard Wood, chief of staff, U.S.A.”

(The above excerpt is exactly as was printed, including an apparent error: “designee” instead of “designer.”)

For starters, I had never known that Patton competed in the 1912 Olympics; that was interesting itself, and probably why “just another Army second lieutenant” would be specifically called out in a newspaper article about The Great Reunion that was just about to get underway. As fate would have it, I was writing the chapter where the Sullivan brothers are just about to attend the June 30th reunion of Buford’s Cavalry in the Great Tent, one day before the official opening of the commemoration…and here is a mention of George Patton, barely four years out of West Point, leading a parade of his cavalry troops to that very event. I absolutely had to give Patton a cameo in the story!

To cross-reference the accuracy of the story, I checked the official Pennsylvania Commission report on The Great Reunion that included a roster of the U.S. Army personnel who assisted with the event. Sure enough, on Page 44 under the “Band and Squadron” roster for the 15th Cavalry, there he is: Second Lieutenant George S. Patton, Junior. Wow!

Did you spot the literary “Easter Egg” in the following paragraph from Chapter 2?

During the War both of the Sullivans had served in General John Buford’s famed division in the 8th Regiment Illinois Cavalry; not just at Gettysburg but also earlier at Antietam and Fredericksburg. It had been that Illinois connection that put them into the confidence of the Earps even before they moved down to Tombstone. Up in Prescott in 1878 they began regularly playing cards with Virgil Earp, the town’s constable and a veteran of the 83rd Illinois Infantry during the War, and the war veterans from the same home state took a shine to one another.

The answer: actor Sam Elliott played both of the historical characters mentioned in the paragraph – General John Buford and lawman Virgil Earp – in the movies Gettysburg and Tombstone, respectively. Further, both of those movies are from the same year: 1993. This paragraph “wrote itself” as I made the connection between my fictional Sullivan brothers, their Civil War background, and why they might have come into contact with the Earps…and lo and behold, this little “Easter Egg” was the result! (And for what it’s worth, I can easily see Sam Elliott playing one of the Sullivan brothers, or perhaps another character, in a movie version of the book…)