History is a funny thing. In school we’re taught to think of it like science and math, where there are indisputable facts. Things happened. Here’s the who, what, and when. The why is often glossed over, which is unfortunate, but there is also a second ‘who’ to consider that is not questioned often enough.
The storyteller controls the facts. Just like a writer, they build the world and they decide who the heroes are, and history as we know it is no different. I’ve been steeped in research and able to find many documents and writings around the same events, but have met with conflicting “facts” along the way. I’ve read well researched papers and diaries of eyewitnesses to the events of 1812, but I have to question all of them.
Even a military man who attempts to lay out the facts of the time is biased and emotionally driven to word things in a certain light. Dates, troop movements, skirmish formations and charges. These seem like hardened truths, but we don’t know anything for certain. Every eye sees differently, and every mind processes emotionally. Humans are flawed recorders, and distort reality with every breath.
In a way, knowing this has given me a bit of freedom in my novel. Where I was so frightened to contradict dates and players of the time, straying from true history, I am now able to embrace the nature of history as fluid. It is a story after all. I wouldn’t want to make it boring by muddling it with facts and accuracies.