In the spring of 1861, America was pulling apart at the seams and George Brooks’ life was in shambles. Destitute and reeling from a failed business venture and familial disagreement following a turbulent love affair, Brooks spent the years before the Civil War traveling in search of work. His wife and young son, of whom he saw little, remained at home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. When war broke out, soldiering offered the first steady job he had held in years.
Sent off to war as a scourge to his family instead of a hero, Brooks became Captain of Company D of the 46th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. He proved an admirable leader and recruiter, writing to his hometown paper in patriotic prose about his wartime experiences. Brooks chronicled his regiment’s pursuit of Stonewall Jackson in Northern Virginia in 1862, during which the Union suffered a series of devastating losses, and “Seeing the Elephant” at First Winchester, Cedar Mountain, and Antietam. American Citizen combines Brooks’ personal diary, newspaper articles, and personal correspondence to tell the story of a young man trying to balance a life left behind while leading a company of soldiers through some of the Civil War’s most studied campaigns.