BROCKWAY — Putting his military knowledge to good use, Nathan Smithtro of Brockway has written a historical fiction novel about the War of 1812, one he describes as “America’s first forgotten war.”
“I’ve been a huge fan of military history, and I’m a really big admirer of Bernard Cornwell, who wrote all of these books about a British officer during the Napoleonic wars called Sharpe,” said Smithtro. “It got me thinking, there hasn’t really been many stories about the War of 1812. And I figured it’s about high time that this war should actually get some recognition, because the War of 1812, not known by many Americans to this day , was the war that could have ended the American dream before it reached maturity.”
So on Jan. 8, 2020, Smithtro began writing, “The Forgone War: The Story of the Brave Keystone Grenadiers” and the 432-page book was published by iUniverse on Dec. 20, 2020.
“At first, I wanted to turn this into a mini-series,” recalled Smithtro. “But, my friends kept telling me why don’t you turn it into a book — it would be a much better start.”
Summarizing the plot of his first novel, Smithtro said on the same day that America declares war on England and Canada, June 18, 1812, young apple farmer Simon Smithtrovich recruits his four best friends and creates the Seventy-Sixth Pennsylvania, an elite crack company of grenadiers attempt on stopping at nothing to ensure America retains its freedom.
“That’s the only part that’s the fictional part, his regiment. The other parts in the book are true,” said Smithtro. “When you are telling a true story about something, you have to make sure that it’s 100 percent accurate. But when you’re doing historical fiction, you can bend the rules a little bit. Create your own stuff. But I mainly focused on the main plots of the War of 1812. Like the leaders, the armies, how many men, how many soldiers died, how many were wounded, sick, supply issues, weapon issues, etc.
“The Seventy-Sixth Pennsylvania were made up of men, women and children,” said Smithtro. “I would say, maybe the lowest age is 6 years old and the oldest was the commanding officer himself, Major Simon Smithtrovich, who was 24 years old in 1814 at the height of their power. And there were 220 males, 60 females, 20 children. They were at the beginning of the war from June 21, 1812 to about July 3, 1814. They were in charge of harassing Canadian military camps, harassing supply lines, but they were an elite crack company of grenadiers. Now what a grenadier is, is that they are made up of the tallest people. They were known distinguishably by their bear skin caps that they would wear upon their heads. And their main duty was that they would always be on the right side of a military line. In linear warfare that’s what they were mainly meant for. But they were meant for guerrilla warfare as well. They played by their own rule book.”
Smithtro said his interest in 18th and 19th Century military history began when he was in his teens and went to a reenactment at Gettysburg.
“From there on out, I was hooked,” said Smithtro.
After writing the book, Smithtro felt that he had accomplished something of importance in his life that he could share with the whole world.
“Several people have told me they liked the story, they find it captivating, not being able to put the book down,” said Smithtro. “I always look at the tiniest details, specifically when you make a command, for example. Historical accuracy and historical authenticity is what I go for. And some people may argue, that’s not relevant. But from my point of view, it is.”
Smithtro said he did a lot of brainstorming and researching while writing the book.
“I knew about the War of 1812, but just not as much, before I wrote the book. I feel people should read this book because no matter what our differences are, we are all Americans and that’s all that matters,” said Smithtro.
One major goal of the book is to turn this into a mini-series because it hasn’t been since 1958, since we had a major film about the War of 1812, said Smithtro.
“I feel like it’s time for this war to come to the big screen… it’s America’s first forgotten war. And it helps make people realize how important the War of 1812 really was by bringing it to the center stage.”
The book is available at iUniverse.com or by calling Nathan Smithtro at 814-265-8204.
Smithtro will also be part of the Reitz Theater’s Authors’ Forum on Sunday, April 24 from 1 to 3 pm This event will feature local authors discussing their work and respective creative processes. Excerpts of work will also be presented as well as a question-and-answer session on the challenge and successes of writing and publishing today. Book sales and meet-and-greets will follow the discussions.