Brig. Gen. William P. Sanders was an unusual Union officer, and not only for his Mississippi upbringing, Robert E. Lee’s attempt to oust him from West Point and his cousin Jefferson Davis’s action to prevent it.
He remained loyal to the Union and was a captain in the new 6th U.S. Cavalry (in whose armored descendant I was a lieutenant-platoon leader in 1968-69) in the Virginia Peninsula Campaign and at the Battle of Antietam in Maryland.
Later, Gen. Burnside gave him a cavalry command in the Department of the Ohio which brought him to Knoxville in 1863. There he was mortally wounded by a Rebel sharpshooter believed to be firing from the tower at Longstreet’s headquarters in the Bleak House mansion.
The novel closely follows the historical details about this interesting Union cavalry commander who died helping Gen. Burnside’s troops ready the defense of the red-clay fort which would be named for “Doc” Sanders.