Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Fiction: alternate Civil War story

I started this as a story some time ago, and as always, I pick and prod at such things. This is based on the idea of a different outcome to the American Civil War - one where the British become involved on the side of the Confederacy. Although I've only written 11,000 words so far, I did some extensive backstory work that isn't directly relevant to the action. So far, what I have written is one of my favourite pieces of fiction I've ever put to paper. I hope to one day write more on it, and I hope you enjoy what I have so far written. An excerpt, a link, and more detail below the jump.
“All stop, repeat, all stop, the enemy vessel has struck her colours!” the ship’s acting-captain then looked up, his eyes flickering out to the deck, and he repeated that call. “She’s struck her colours!” he shouted, and the men on the gun deck lifted up their hats. 
“Huzzah! Huzzah!” the cry rose, and Seymore allowed a small grin to cross his lips as a boarding party was prepared. Defence had already broken off, and was returning to the broken corpse of the Duke of Wellington in order to recover survivors; meanwhile, the crew of Weehawken were starting to flood the deck of the foundering ironclad, causing the ship to shudder angrily. 
Tryon looked over to Seymore, and the Admiral shook his head reluctantly. “Take on the Captain and whoever else we can grab, and order Defence to hurry her recovery operations, Mr. Tryon. Time is of the essence here. And have the engine room ready; once our boat is alongside, we’ll need good steam if we’re to escape to Long Island Sound. I fear the bloody Yankees may have noticed we’re now in the fight. Hoist the White Ensign, Mr. Tryon, and get me my proper hat.“
You can read the rest of what's written here.

If you're at all interested in the concept of alternative history, I'll be happy to present the ideas behind the concept for you. In 1861, recognizing the unlikely ability of the Confederacy to defeat the Union in a civil war, President Jefferson Davis dispatches a series of provocateurs to India, to attempt to resurrect the latent Indian Rebellion. A careful analysis of the economy suggested that without India (and possibly Egypt), the British Empire would have no source of cotton for their expansive textiles industry, save the Confederacy.

In 1862, the Indians rose again. Unlike in our timeline, Britain was not able to replace the South's Big Cotton with Indian Cotton, and this drove matters in Parliament to a head. While finding the Confederacy distasteful, the United Kingdom decides their best bet is to force an end to the American Civil War in order to protect the Empire's best interests. Although divided by the rebellion in India, the decision is made, and Admiral Michael Seymore sets sail for Halifax with a battle fleet of several dozen warships, including the first ocean-going ironclad battleships made by the Royal Navy. On June 15th, as Lee pursues the Army of the Potomac into Pennsylvania, as Grant besieges Vicksburg, the Royal Navy arrives at New York, Boston, Hartford, and Providence harbours to begin the process of attacking; similarly, an army of 65,000 British with 20,000 Canadian auxiliaries invades northern New York, aiming for Albany, while a second unit prepares to cross into Michigan.

My story begins at this point, and will detail the experiences of several figures from each side of the conflict. I haven't decided who, beyond the three written so far (Seymore, Sherman, and McKinley) thought I am quite sure I will include Sheridan as an option. Nova Scotia's own Joseph Howe is another I'm thinking about, and I have put a lot of thought into including Mary Todd Lincoln. I found an article on famous Confederate women in the Civil War, one of whom was a spy. I can't remember her name currently, but I have some notes on her in my notes section. Longstreet is also an option.

The writing style I have chosen to use (multiple characters from multiple viewpoints) is very reminiscent of Harry Turtledove and Jeff Shaara's writing styles. I enjoy both authors, though I find Turtledove is a better thinker than he is an author, and Shaara is a better researcher than he is an author. I have done preliminary research on the individuals, but I intend to rely more on my wit than the letter of history for their personalities and cadences (though the letter written by Sherman in the above was modified from a real letter written by General Sherman, and I hope I did it justice). I hope that I can eventually put together a piece of fiction that is both compellingly written and historically enjoyable.

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