halialkers: (Default)
5 May, the Wilderness of Spotsylvania:

The Army of the Potomac had entered this jungle, moving into the tangled morass of trees with the inevitable friction that gripped armies. It was not the infantry whose marches slowed down the whole, rather it was that most basic necessity, the supply wagon. Grant, annoyed that his army had not managed to get out of the Wilderness as yet, was to discover to an unpleasant surprise Lee's army was already there waiting for him, though evidently not fully formed yet. Grant, facing the curious view of Lee that treated him as much a god of war as a man, found himself ordering with some irritation that the Army of the Potomac strike the Confederacy now, not letting the Confederacy gain time to deploy its whole force. He had made the order to attack without regard for the enemy's disposition, and was finding himself already irritated at the inability of the Army of the Potomac's leaders to do that thing required for any army to hold the initiative: attack the enemy.

As Grant sat, he began to whittle, doing this to give at least the appearance of calm in the midst of the ever-present anxiety of warfare. He had to make sure not only to ensure the President knew that regardless of the outcome, there would be no going back, but to direct the largest military operation in American history. And he, unable to stand the sight of blood in meat, had responsibility for a tremendous number of lives. Yes, there were times when sitting and whittling made perfect sense of such times.

For Private Wilson, this order meant he, a soldier in Warren's Corps, was now required to be on the business end of the fighting. In the midst of the Wilderness, he knew only to follow the arduous procedure of loading his Springfield, firing by earshot, at least as the veterans described it. Wilson was fortunate, this was the first combat he'd seen. What he did not understand immediately but soon did was that a battle was a very noisy and stressful thing. The fog of rifle shots was to add to their flash and the smell to create a perfect smokescreen hiding the Johnnies from his men, adding further to the dense underbrush. All he knew was to point and fire, while seeking to keep himself alive. It was amazing, he'd reflect in the dim twilight of the evening, how mechanical a man could get in this business of slaughter. Shoot at someone else, intend to kill them, but it becomes like any other machine.

Private Jameson, however, had found the onslaught of the Union forces to be a disorienting and confusing mess. He had been assigned to a regiment and a company, but in the terrain he'd found himself isolated and alone as cohesion had broken down on both sides. He'd seen his sergeant shot in the face, falling with a boneless sprawl, had tripped in the process of losing cohesion and wound up facing a skeleton in blue, the grinning skull gazing into him and jerked with an existential horror, only to find himself colliding into a Yank who'd been knocked over like he was. A brutal melee of fists had followed ended with the Yank shanked with his bayonet. Jameson still shook. He'd killed a man. He'd really gone and done it. It was not like those glorious vistas his father had described from Mexico, from Buena Vista. No, it was horrid. The worst bit was the man was actually trying to kill him and would have had done it had he not acted.

Now it was this routine, this hellish instance of firepower and shooting blindly, hoping to shoot enemies, desperately hoping he did not shoot friends. An orgy of slaughter, if he'd had the vision to see it, of two armies colliding on the Orange Turnpike, of a massed Confederate charge driving the Iron Brigade into fleeing for the first time in the history of the war. Two bristling animals of gunpowder and bayonet colliding and grappling with all the force either could muster.

If he could have seen it, he would have been both confident and anxious about the fate of his friends and Ewell's Corps on the Orange Turnpike on this first day of the fateful battle. But such was the vision of the general and the historian, for Privates Jameson and WIlson it was a confused mess of men firing blindly and frantically. The hours slipped away. Charges came and went, were foiled on both sides. The very palpable evil of these woods called to men on both sides, further amplified by the beginning of a fire, ignited by the exchange of cartridges in the underbrush, amplifying the ill effects of the dense fog of war, and the eerie crackling of musketry.

As day became twilight, and twilight became night, Private Jameson found that in the course of the fighting he'd managed to stay relatively close to his men after all, and sat in a bivouac for the evening very uncomfortable. Men wondered when Longstreet would get here, and the rumor grew that the Yankees had nearly divided the army. General Stafford was wounded, and men on both sides had been burned in an attempt to capture artillery. It was difficult to sleep with the smell of burning men in one's nostrils and the piteous wails of the wounded beseeching help in one's ears. Yet only 24 hours had begun to harden both privates to a point where this they managed to do.


5-6 May, Swift Creek:

The victory over the Rebels had been followed by hard marching, and then by General Hunter ordering his men to dig, lightly, and to erect a line of breastworks on the afternoon and evening of the fifth. The men were exhausted from the march, but Hunter suspected that Beauregard, stung by his defeat, would have no choice but to strike at his men. Indeed, if Private Miller and General Hunter had been gifted with far-sight, they might well have been unsurprised that the news that a force of negroes had struck a Confederate force and smashed it had sent Petersburg into a mixture of panic and outrage. Panic that the Confederate army had been shattered. Outrage that the force that accomplished this had brown skin. Dark statements were muttered that these men would encounter a fate akin to that of the Pillow Garrison, but this Beauregard feared, and rightfully so, made his task but the more dangerous.

The attack was one that saw an overnight march, which Beauregard had advised against on grounds of it exhausting the men, but was dismissed in terms of reflecting the traits of a garrison general in Charleston. But Beauregard was right, and on the morning of the sixth, General Hunter, surveying the approaching lines of men in Grey was excited. Turning to his aide, he said: "They offer us their flank. And a flank defended by young boys, at that."

He then issued orders again to the XVIII Corps to sidle out of its lines and to let the X Corps replace it, and as this was done, the approaching line of grey seemed confused, and then exultant. Only then the XVIII Corps, its spearhead the 41st USCT, struck in a single piledriver massed attack, an attack that with its onrushing power showed no great discipline on the part of the inexperienced soldiers, but to the young men of the Confederate force defending Petersburg, a huge mass of armed black men charging them shouting "Hurrah!" was the most terrifying sight many of them had ever imagined, the literal force of nightmares fostered since the days of Nat Turner in Southhampton County. The Confederate line shattered and to the shouts of Confederate officers saying "Damn you boys, hold, don't you love your country?" one corporal responded "Yes and I want to get back to it as soon as I can." 

For Beauregard, the task of restoring order to this rabble of frightened old men and young boys proved impossible until he was north of Petersburg proper, though by the afternoon men were starting to filter back into the breastworks around the city. But news followed them that the Union Army, in the form of the two corps of Hunter's force, the black and the white Corps, were now investing Petersburg. The sight of that large army in blue was terrifying, and Beauregard soon found himself a general without an army as the men in it decided that the defeat at Swift Creek was enough.

Though Beauregard had no way to know, the hard march had exhausted and disorganized the Union line, so no battle was going to happen at least for that day. Instead General Hunter set his men about a different task, the one assigned to his army by Grant. Methodically his men began to burn the railroad, seeking to twist the bars holding it together into a spiral pattern, one that for want of rolling pins the Confederacy could not repair. This would deprive the Confederacy of a major railroad and industrial center, and in Lincoln's words ensure that those not able to skin the mule would at least grab a leg.

Equally Hunter had no means to know that on the evening of the sixth, Lee had received Beauregard's telegram and was to make one of the most fateful and dangerous decisions of the Confederate war effort, though at the time it seemed perfectly rational based on the situation........
halialkers: Self-portrait, right side of my face. Best drawing of me yet! (Vishori)
4 May, 1864:

It was with heavy hearts on the part of many, and the vision of glory on the parts of others that the Army of the Potomac began its journey into the tangled area of the Wilderness of Spotsylvania. It was here in an offensive last year that the Grey Fox had struck them in the tangled jungle country, and as the soldiers continued their march into the twisted trees and dense shadows of the forest, they saw with the callous and frightened eyes of the experienced soldier the bleached skulls of their former compatriots and enemies. By no means was this the most stirring or inspirational sight to visit the eyes of soldiers tramping into what all knew would be a great and terrible match of armies, but each soldier gritted his teeth and marched on, their footsteps echoing in the wild and tangled terrain. Among these soldiers was Alfred Wilson, of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He had initially opposed the war, and refused to volunteer, but the memory and smell of the Confederate soldiers buried in the wake of the fighting around his hometown, the fear he'd felt in the wake of the thunder and clamor of the battle, had all forced his hand into joining the army. For months General Grant had been training the soldiers, and he knew along with everyone else some hesitation. The last time a Westerner had gone East, the result had been the inglorious debacle on the Bull Run. Would anything be different now? 

As he began his march to the west, the Army of Northern Virginia was already en route on a frenetic march to the east, to the Rappahannock. Private Samuel Jameson had been one of the new conscripts who'd joined Marse Robert's famous army during the wake of the bloody battles of 1863. As the army marched, the veterans were all in the greatest of confidence, even though it had been a hard winter. Lee's Miserables, as these young men, dirty, slouch-hatted, with uneven growth of beard, many barefoot, others having holey shoes, almost all of them weather-beaten and skin darkened by exposure to the Sun were known, was prepared. Surely one more battle on the glorious field of Chancellorsville and with this Grant's army would fall. Then over the Rapidan, for another great march. Lee, the Miracle Worker, the Marble Man, had done great things before, why would he not now? 


On the transports carrying the Army of the James, May 4-5:

Private Jeremy Miller stared into the waters around his transport. His was a relatively new unit, but one equipped with the best and the most aggressive officers. With Smith, a victor of Chattanooga, as head of his engineers, and his request for two aggressive corps commanders, General David Hunter had amassed what was expected to be a powerful striking force. This Army of the James totaled 30,000 men, and was en route to battles that would be fateful, a march into the very rear of Lee's army. The men were able, surprising themselves, to doze off in the transports, but were awake by the wee small hours of the morning on the fifth. For this was to be, each of the men hoped, a great battle. For no ordinary army was this Army of the James. Indeed one of its Corps was fated to make the pages of history. For its men, privates like young Jeremy Miller, were the first all-black Corps assigned to a direct combat role in a major offensive.

As the men disembarked, they were told to expect strong opposition from Confederate forces, to expect it, to challenge it, and to seek their mettle. What they met instead were a small force, relatively speaking, next to the disembarking force. This was no more than 2,000 Confederates, assigned confidently to resist forces consisting of men they were told all their lives were inferior. These men, while dirty, too young, and too old, were shouting slurs to the men challenging them, not even bothering to resist the landing from the view that a group of inferior men of Africa would never contest the might of men their racial superiors as God himself willed it.

After a tense moment of waiting, with the artillery in position, the men of the all-Black XVIII Corps, who vastly outnumbered their opponents, were all gathered. Time stood still, and then a single cannon fired, the men having heard orders to move in line of battle, but to move in the sheer weight of a total assault of the entire corps. Enthusiasm, the desire to fight, to prove themselves men and to force the white men who had viewed them as slaves, as less than men, to see that they were not only men who would fight, but better than they were propelled them. Amidst the rolling crackling of musketry and the steady deep bass chorus of artillery, the XVIII Corps surged forward, and with a roaring shout of "Hurrah!" the tiny Confederate force opposed to it was to find itself outflanked, engulfed, and soon begging to surrender.

Instead one of the white officers, explaining to his men his purpose, decided to parole the men. The story that General Pickett's screen had been shattered by an all-black force, it was felt, would be immensely demoralizing for the Confederacy as a whole. With their first engagement having been primarily a match of blooding the inexperienced troops, General Hunter remained initially cautious. He had no means of knowing the degree to which the great armies had begun a famous clash amidst the tangled jungle country, nor did he grasp that the impact of that first skirmish had reached General Beauregard vastly out of proportion to the nature of the actual clash, and still less would he have predicted the reactions such news would produce in General Beauregard. The wheels of destiny turned blindly, and men marched and men fought unknowing of the consequences of actions and shots between young men which in later years would be seen as equal to the very clashes of Hector and Achilles upon the fields of Troy......
halialkers: Profile Bust depicting ponytail and beard (D'gonrin)
As the carriage halted in the dusty streets of Washington, DC, a dumpy man with a walrus-like face and mustache descended from it. Wearing a dress uniform of a dark blue blouse, with golden tassels and light blue pants, this man, Benjamin Butler had spent his entire trip to Washington in a mixture of anxiety and gaiety. The prospect of being President of the United States, and of potentially having the ability to succeed Mr. Lincoln, to make this a country where all men, regardless of color and station, were truly free had enticed him the more he considered it. He had only one problem, namely who would succeed him in his position. As he arrived, he saw a man in a private's outfit, rumpled and wrinkly. He almost turned up his nose before the man stood up, and he recognized in the scruffy beard and reserved look the new Lieutenant General, Ulysses Simpson Grant, the victor of Chattanooga, of Vicksburg. Unconditional Surrender Grant of Donelson.

Grant smiled slightly, his smile somewhat swallowed by his beard. He said "Greetings, General Butler." 

Ben Butler, slightly flustered said "Er, Hello, General Grant. And how are you today?" 

Grant, still smiling, said "Fine, thank you. I believe we go in together." 

As they walked into the Oval Office, they dodged one of the Lincoln kids running around, and Butler again stifled a sniff at the smell of a barracks about the White House, for all that Mrs. Lincoln had tried to change it. Abraham Lincoln himself, tall and high-voiced as usual, greeted them with his Old Northwest twang "Good day, Generals Grant and Butler. I am here to discuss with General Grant a proposition that I know you've also given thought to, General Butler. You see, you've accepted my invitation to become Vice-President of the United States, but General Grant has as a proposal a war plan where all generals play a role. Those who cannot catch the animal to skin him may at least be able to hold a leg. I figured that as you are soon to retire to the political world you should have some say in who succeeds you." 

General Grant, remaining silent, just listened as Butler spoke, hesitantly at first and then more confidently "Well, Mr. President, I er, well.......if I go, I wish that there should be a general whose loyalty to the cause of abolition is secure. The last thing the country needs is the general offensive being derailed by some McClellanite."

Abraham Lincoln nodded and then steepled his hand, curling his fingers slightly, resting his head on them, eyes closed. After a few minutes of deep thought, he turned to General Grant and said "Suppose we turned to General Hunter, could you make use of him?"

Grant in turn spent a few minutes pondering this, his right hand twiddling with his mustache and beard for a time that seemed an eternity to Butler, though more ordinary to Lincoln.

"Yes, that would be acceptable." 

Lincoln smiled. With such an exchange, later mythologized, the destiny of a nation altered, in a fashion that none could see, and with the changes in that destiny, so ultimately also a world........
halialkers: Anzaea in brighter colors, blotches orange mouth, diagonal right arm/thumb, semicircle left arm (Anzaea)
Up With the Star, that is. I brought that ATL from the spring of 1864 to the present day. This is utterly and completely awesome and marks the completion of a timeline I began in February this year. In short (for the non-sighted a macro of the Kool-Aid man saying "Oh Yeah"):

halialkers: Victor in semi-profile position, civilian mode. (Victor)
Up With the Star has reached the 1980s. The timeline's going up to the alternate whatever-year-I-finish so getting to the 1980s from the viewpoint of the 2010s is very good indeed. In the alternate history fascism's enervating and the Tsar of Russia is starting to restore the autocracy (and shamelessly using the totalitarian network created by the fascists themselves to do so), the Republic of Sindh walks into a buzzsaw and spends far longer in peace negotiations than in actual fighting, South American countries are on par to become true Great Powers, the Communists take over Indonesia and this leads to a Japanese-Australian-Indochinese states anti-Communist Pact, a White version of the Gulag is appearing in Russia, China sees a Guomindang-instituted bit of chaos due to a Russian incursion caused by inability of either place to control the frontiers, the USA has its first Asian-American President (a Democrat), and I'm finally in the last stretch of that timeline.

For those new to my FL, the link to the timeline itself is here: 


halialkers: Anzaea in brighter colors, blotches orange mouth, diagonal right arm/thumb, semicircle left arm (Anzaea)
The background to this is that in Up With the Star the USA winds up with a caste system more akin to that of Apartheid South Africa, White-Colored-Negro, reflecting the pre-war division between free blacks and slaves used as a means of divide and conquer and also to avoid another 1865-6 style crackdown on racial violence. So the ATL USA is simultaneously further ahead than ours in several ways, in other ways it's rather far behind. Well, the first Republican President in a while, Samuel Watkins, has his Administration come to an anticlimatic end due to being focused on foreign policy in a USA filled with challenges from Negro activists to have full rights with whites in the wake of the fall of Trialism (the US Apartheid variant). Enter Creole (meaning the privileged descendants of pre-war free blacks, USCT during the Civil War, or black soldiers who serve with sufficient merit to enter this caste in the last years of Trialism) liberal Democrat Edmund Carter, a war veteran and lawyer who pretty much runs on "a USA for the Americans and to Hell with the Second Great Game" as his platform.

Carter is in some ways the ATL Barack Obama (charismatic speaker, moderate in social policies, vehement nationalist and defender of the United States, a lawyer and a Harvard grad) but is I assure you not the ATL's Jimmy Carter. This ATL will not be having people taking charge who by all rights should not exist due to random changes and the butterfly effect.

In Winds of Fate General Smith crushes General Bragg finally at the Battle of Dallas, sends Sherman to burn down anything that could aid the Confederacy in Alabama, Sheridan in Georgia, and Thomas essentially bear-hugs the ANV at Cold Harbor waiting on either it to die or him to simply punch through by having plenty of ammunition where the ANV.....does not. Grant learns of Davis's suicidal orders to resist and decides "HELL NO" and resigns his commission setting in motion the final and messy collapse of the Confederacy. The Up With the Star version was a neat collapse that followed a steady order, this one is the result of a US Army with Gatlings and repeaters bleeding the CS army white and then smashing through the shell of the Confederacy. Meaning in another sense that this Confederacy's end partially resembles the one IOTL, in another sense I think mine may be the first ATL to turn an ATL version of the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Cold_Harbor into the war-winning battle for the Union in the East.

halialkers: J. Edgar Hoover, right profile view. Receding hair line, short nose, beady eyes (Agati)
I have brought the ATL into the 1960s with young, charismatic WWII veteran Samuel Watkins (this TL sees progressively fewer OTL figures come into play as political figures as it nears 2011) dealing with the Tsarina and the scandal involving the atomic bombing of Stockholm from the Second World War, who succeeds liberal democrat and former General Nathan Bedford Forrest III, who presides over the collapse of the US version of Apartheid. Pop culture is starting to take off, there are jetpacks and flying cars that go nowhere, rival moon programs from Imperial Russia and the United States that will produce a very different kind of iconic scene, the ROC and USA are getting a bit of a hate-on for each other following the ROC nabbing Tibet in a rapid campaign, and Iran is the world's first Bolshevik state.

Remember the whole thing that starts these changes is that Benjamin Butler says "Yes, I want to be VPOTUS" in 1864. From this I've gotten an ROC that's an established military juggernaut under a Muslim dictator, Ma Bufang, an Imperial Germany that survives a major nuclear war against Tsarist Russia, a Middle East and Balkans that are quite peaceable under rule of a filthy stinking rich Ottoman Empire that stayed out of WWII, and Somalia being one of the most stable parts of Africa. Now *that* is an alternate history.
halialkers: Pale woman with red lips licking lips (Anna H'vat Ta'eris)
World War II has ended. The big Russian drive that was to end the war and where failure would screw them failed, and so that failure did indeed screw them. I should note one thing about the timeline when I get to that point in posting it: just because I noted what Russia could do, and the difference between Italian!Fascist Russia and the Soviet Union in total manpower pool does not translate to actuality. The Russians concentrated the bulk of their best units for the assault along the Oder, intending to end the war with a single powerful Deep Operation. The ATL doesn't turn out as either side wants, but the Eastern Alliance are the real losers. Russia raises huge numbers of troops still and has a lot of armor but the defeat along the Oder River is the death knell of their hopes to win the war. The atomic bombings and counterbombings and use of poison gas is unable to alter something already set.

In the postwar peace treaty the Russians occupy a good-sized chunk of Central Europe and all of Sweden (and the Central Powers, fearing an invasion that was never actually going to happen nuked Stockholm in 1944 in the ATL WWII). This is the part which was fought over in all the large-scale, firepower intensive fighting and where in the European war the bulk of the atomic bombings took place. By contrast Russia has its westernmost cities (which admittedly are also in one of its most industrialized provinces, which is another reason its forces decrease in strength as the war goes on) bombed and hit with ballistic missiles and a single strategic nuclear attack on its soil, on the city of Lodz, and another on Lemberg in a poorly-planned strategic assault.

Russia naturally withdraws from all of *that* to its own, far less damaged territory and leaves the Central Powers with the burned-out shells covered in nuclear-powered rubble. It seems kind of odd to consider that they'd withdraw from all that territory.....until you stop and consider just what "that territory" is. Kornilov's a dick, just not the vicious monster that Hitler and Stalin were kind of dick. The Republic of China asskicks Japan and the UK, led by Chinese Muslim nationalists (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ItMakesSenseInContext) and thus is quite content to have made China once again the core of East Asia. The British Raj is split between not-so-happily-anymore British Raj and Subhas Chandra Bose's Republic of Sindh.

Oh, and in the last months of the war London was nuked, while the bulk of the fighting occurred on the soil of Europe's largest economy, and even the USA gets one nuclear attack on *its* soil. For a measure of the alternate world, consider that the only European belligerent not-nuked is Mussolini's Italy, the continent that comes out best from the ATL WWII is South America, ruled by fascist regimes akin to OTL Integralism, Fascist!Tsarist Russia is again the best-off European power and the USA, under President Henry Stimson, has a tradition in the ATL of three-term Presidencies (first TR and then Stimson (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ItMakesSenseInContext)) while it has no constitutional and less social bugaboos about using the US military as law enforcement.......

halialkers: Profile view in blue armor of a woman with olive skin, pointy ears, blue eyes, and silver hair (Teagan H'vat Ta'eris)
China and Japan are now lobbing nukes at each other. Ma Bufang's attempted double-nuking of Japan fails, one airplane with one of the nukes is shot down but the nuke itself does not go off. The result is Japan, using its first nukes, Fat Man, Little Boy, and Little Russian nukes three Chinese cities in response for the nuking of Sapporo. Both Stockholm and Bremen have already been nuked and Russian MiGs are starting to replace their prop-driven aircraft, and with this an attempted nuking of Kyoto has failed, one of Sapporo has succeeded, and Nanking, Shanghai, and Ningpo all got nuked. Mao pops up as someone advocating against Ma's dictatorship but gets shot by the GMD. The Russians, when they have jets, have their mobility fully restored and both sides have the Bomb and see it like OTL 1940s and 1950s military leadership did: a cost-saving new weapon, not a uniquely horrible one.

One thing's for sure: the post-WWII era in the wake of a general nuclear exchange like that one is going to *suck*.
halialkers: William T. Sherman, one of the Civil War's most ruthless and its best generals (Yohanin)
See if you guess the first layer in why I call it thus:

A/N: This initial post is from an ATL history book called "The Hammer and the Anvil: Grant's Hanover Campaign of 1864:

One little-known aspect of the War of the Rebellion is that the Union at one point considered putting Vice-President Butler as army commander of the Army of the James. In reality, President Lincoln, facing challenges from the Copperheads and the Radicals, decided on an unusual means to outfox them both. He chose General Benjamin Butler to be his Vice-Presidential Candidate, while picking the military governor of Tennessee, Andrew Johnson, to be his intended next Secretary of State, replacing the unpopular Seward.

In offering this plum position to Southern Unionists, and replacing Johnson with Brownlow, Lincoln is generally recognized as having in the short term strengthened Tennessee Unionism. However there is a general tendency to see the possibility of Butler as leader of the Army of the James as an if that would have won the South the War.

I personally do not see this as the case, as Grant's victories would have happened with or without that army, and certainly Sherman's campaign was moving forward all the same. All the same, there is something instructive in how Grant's Hanover Campaign disproved the assertion about the Civil War that battles did not display an operational grasp like that seen in the later wars in Europe.

Instead, the Hanover Campaign fully justified faith in the victor of Vicksburg and Chattanooga, though the Confederate government proved the lesson the European armies later learned, that overwhelming victories on the battlefield do not of necessity end the existence of governments........

cut for length, the damn thing's 36 pages on the other site.... )
It should be noted that given Davis has already established the Confederate government in Danville, that the future direction of this war can be gathered. If anyone believes Davis wouldn't continue the war, he intended this IOTL and was only prevented from doing so by being captured. Ironically in this case Lee's army being taken out leaves quite a few Confederate troops across the Deep South and the Army of Tennessee intact, with Sherman barely in Georgia. However there are some things that will be played up more in this alternate 1864 as time goes on......


And yes, Virginia, that is indeed a historical black unit of an army led by one of the true abolitionists in the US High Command instead of Ben Butler that's captured Marse Bob. The CSA is going to find out real-life sucks.....


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