Although my intent was to retrace faithfully the events of 1898, I was obliged, for the sake of a coherent story line, to take a few liberties regarding historical and geographical accuracy. I hope that the reader will forgive me this artistic licence.
The Five-Master “France”
Louis Adrien exercised his functions of First Lieutenant and Watch Officer on the five-master France in 1895. It was too tempting for me to resist making Louis Aurelien witness to the sinking of the largest sailboat of his era. Thus, I advanced the true disappearance of the ship, which happened as I related, but several years later, in 1901.
The circumstances of Captain Lunier’s murder in Amapa are close to those which I describe in the novel, however, the events of the novel take place in 1898, whereas the real events took place in 1895 during the liberation of the French “River Captain” Trajan Benitez, captured by Cabralzinho.
At the end of the 19th century in little explored regions of the French-Brazilan Contested Territory, the same name often designated simultaneously a region, a river, and a city. I did not conserve this complexity which risked confusing the reader without adding anything to the novel. On the contrary, my intent was to facilitate understanding at the price of a slight simplication of toponymy.
The Sinking of the “Maine”
Was the sinking of the Maine provoked by external sabotage, or by an internal explosion? In 1898, commissions of American and Spanish investigation into the question yielded divergent answers. During the raising of the shipwreck by the American Navy in 1911, a new investigation confirmed the thesis of the underwater mine. But in 1976, an inquest led by Admiral Rickover, supported by knowledge collected from the analysis of Second World War shipwrecks, rendered an opposite explanation: the Maine sank as a result of an internal explosion brought about by a fire in the coal bunker.
Finally, in 1999, National Geographic Magazine carried out a computer simulation which revived the thesis of an explosion provoked by external causes. Currently, experts remain divided. The serious and remarkably well-documented website of the centennial of the Spanish-American War(http://www.spanamwar.com/) advances a innovative theory illustrating the absence of certainties: the disaster might have been caused by the negligence of a sailor on the Maine, who was heating a muffin on a toaster unfortunately placed atop a canister containing powder and a projectile*. The scenario that I propose in the novel is an hypothesis neither confirmed nor disproven by the most recent expertise. Nevertheless, Joaquin’s handcrafted coffin-shaped torpedo was indeed built (despite Joaquin’s being a fictional character). It was probably never launched, since today it is preserved intact at the Bacardi-Moreau Museum in Santiago. The absence of explanations as to its origins allows any and every hypothesis.
*Commentary at thé bottom of Internet website page: “Remember… the past is the past. Even historians dealing with such a serious matter must have a sense of humor!”
Nancy Allison McKinley, mother of President McKinley, signed a petition in the New York Journal calling for the liberation of Evangelina Cosio Cisneros. Chronological constraints led me to modify this event’s date which I situated in April 1898. Mrs. McKinley died in December 1897, and I am sure she would have borne me no malice for extending her life by four months.
In the novel, the fleet of Admiral Cervera enters the port of Santiago after the arrival of the Marines at Guantanamo. The attentive reader, or well-informed student of the era, will notice that the landing was possible only after the sealing off, in the bay, of the Spanish fleet by the ships of the American blockade. Such a reader will, I hope, understand that this is an implicit turning back. This chronological inversion was necessary to the narration concerning Louis’s efforts to repair his ship, and his encounter with Diego Carlier. I add that it was in fact at Fort-de-France, and not at Santiago, that the talks between the captain of the Nemesis and the captain of the Furor took place.
Too Many Liberties?
The well-documented reader will perhaps discover in this novel an historical error, which would be involuntary on my part. I will interpret any observation of this kind as an encouragement to improve my approach which is one of a lover of fiction who has the utmost respect for historians, and who relies on their work to create a fictional framework. [Contact me].