|Cover artist||Dennis Lyall|
The novel is a fictional account of the Battle of Fort Pillow, which took place on April 12, 1864. The battle saw Confederate forces under Nathan Bedford Forrest overrun the Union garrison at Fort Pillow, a garrison made-up primarily of colored troops.
The battle has become controversial, as the historical record suggests that after the fort fell, the Confederates engaged in a wholesale slaughter of the surrendering black soldiers. While Turtledove agrees that this is generally what happened, it also notes that the Union very quickly seized on the battle's propaganda value, and that the facts have been distorted to some degree by both sides for political reasons.
As is typical of Turtledove's work, the battle is seen from the point of view of several characters, most of whom were historical figures.