Captain/Doctor William Watts Parker’s famous “boy battery” plays a prominent role in the novel, because its position on Cherokee Heights gives a literal overview of the battlefield.
But also because the battery’s almost-incredible experience of being shuffled back and forth across a freezing river dramatically illuminates General Longstreet’s incompetence, probably one reason the general’s supporters would rather not discuss the Battle of Fort Sanders.
Sergeant Pitchigru Pease and most of the rest of my battery characters, of course, were fiction. But most of the details of the battery’s role in the battle are taken from historian Robert K. Krick’s excellent research.
The battery’s survivors were among the last Confederates to be released from federal captivity after surrendering at Sayler’s Creek three days before the rest of the army surrendered at Appomattox.
The Sayler’s Creek captives were marched (some were so weak from lack of food they had to be dragged by their comrades, according to Krick) back to Petersburg. They were crowded onto filthy transports and taken, without food or water, north to Federal prisons. Krick found that some of them died on the way.
Many were taken to the Union hellhole in Maryland called Point Lookout. The subsequent assassination of President Lincoln would add to their problems and delay their release until July.
At least one member of the battery was offered the chance to go home if he would simply take the oath of allegiance to the United States. But, Krick found, he “steadfastly refused to comply.”