I had the particular good fortune to have chosen Sergeant’s Bluff, Iowa as Harper’s home town. Using the constraint that Harper would have to join a unit from a state near his home town, this gave me the choice of Iowa, the states of Minnesota and Missouri, and the territories of Nebraska or Dakota.
Of these, Iowa proved to be the best historical choice having provided regiments for nearly all of the major battles in the western theater, from the First Iowa Volunteer Infantry at Wilson’s Creek, to the sixteen regiments of Iowans in the final battle for Sherman’s armies at Bentonville. In particular, I wanted a unit which could plausibly have participated in the four battles described in the Trilogy: Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, and Shiloh.
Using Wikipedia as a quick reference source, I discovered that there were just five Union regiments present at Belmont, four from Illinois and the Seventh Iowa Volunteer Infantry. For a cross-check, I consulted the Regimental Index of The Civil War Archive website operated by Mike Northway. Based on their regimental history, it seemed that the Seventh Iowa would serve quite well is a means for validating the feasibility of an Iowa unit participating in most of Grant’s and Sherman’s major battles. Back to Wikipedia and a check of the Union orders-of-battle for the other battles confirmed this.
So, I now knew it was feasible. But I didn’t want to use the actual Seventh Iowa because I didn’t wish to trivialize the accomplishments of the men who served in that regiment nor did I wish to be constrained by that unit’s known, recorded history and personages. I also knew that I want at some time in the future to write a prequel which covers the campaign in Missouri during 1861. So, I looked at the Union order-of-battle of Wilson’s Creek and discovered the First Iowa Volunteer Infantry, a ninety-day unit, whose only major battle was Wilson’s Creek – ten days prior to the unit being mustered out of service in August 1861.
I had my fictional unit. What if, instead of returning to Iowa, a number of the veterans of the First Iowa re-enlisted for three years and they are permitted to retain their unit lineage? Some of the officers would need to be changed and I still wanted to avoid using real soldiers' names.
The story of Jamie Harper and the others begins with Harper's Donelson which was published in September 2015.