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Alternate History Thread IV: The Sequel

Discussion in 'Never Ending Stories' started by Dachs, Jun 5, 2007.

  1. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    This thread, just like its three predecessors, is a place in which to post ideas, timelines, maps, and comments on alternate history. Meaningful contribution is most welcome from any quarter!

    Previous threads:
    Amenhotep's Original Thread
    The Redux
    The Last Thread

    Here's a list of handy acronyms that we althistorians throw around a lot.

    PoD = Point of Divergence. This is where history is changed to get to the alternate timeline.
    ATL = Alternate Timeline.
    TTL = This Timeline. Usually used as a synonym for ATL.
    OTL = Original Timeline. This refers to 'real' history as it has already happened.

    Just to start things off, I'll post another installment of my ongoing American Civil War althist, which can be viewed at the end of the previous thread.

    Spoiler Installment II, 'Meade at Gettysburg' :
    The End of the American Civil War.

    The year 1863, despite an inauspicious start for the American Federal forces, was an annus mirabilis for Union arms. In the West, the culmination of the Big Black River campaign saw the fall of the last rebel stronghold on the Great American River, Vicksburg, and now the Mississippi, the Father of all Waters, "flowed unvexed to the sea", in the words of President Abraham Lincoln. Further east, Lee's great invasion of the North had seen a climactic, four-day battle at Gettysburg where the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia was first chewed up by frontal assaults against prepared Union positions and then split and destroyed by a vigorous Federal counterattack. Lincoln's two top commanders, George Meade and Ulysses Grant, now chomped at the bit to be allowed to carry the invasion to the South: Meade wanted to invade Virginia and finally besiege Richmond, and Grant prepared troops in southeastern Tennessee to march on Atlanta, the South's great economic, industrial, and cultural heartland. Meanwhile, diplomatically, the Confederacy had been isolated first by the Emancipation Proclamation, which outlawed slavery in all of the territory currently in revolt against the Union - i.e. the CSA - and then by their smashing defeats at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, when Britain and France saw that to support the South was to back a losing horse that wasn't even riding in the right direction. Economically, the Northern blockade was slowly forcing the Confederacy to its knees - Cotton was no longer King without anyone to buy it. Egypt and India had soon replaced the South in the world market. There was no reason for anyone to support the Southern cause; they were on their own, in the face of a Union juggernaut. Resolutely, though, President Davis rejected calls for surrender, declaring that he would never stop fighting for the Confederacy and his way of life.

    Meade, in choosing to force Ewell's surrender on July 4, had allowed the remainder of the Army of Northern Virginia to escape south across the Potomac. Harried by Federal cavalry, which did battle with that of Jeb Stuart at several spots along the Hagerstown Road, Lee moved south of Waynesboro quickly, with a much smaller army and far less supply needed. He was kept under observation by General Darius Couch, who had a corps-sized detachment of militia from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, raised earlier that summer. Couch, in his turn, didn't want to risk an engagement with the retreating rebels because he knew that his force was far inferior - in numbers, training, and supply. While Meade struggled mightily to make up the lost ground to Lee, he had a whole day to catch up, and with a far larger army. He had to be content with his cavalry harassing the Southerners as they slipped across the Potomac near Williamsport. A few weeks later, the Army of the Potomac crossed that river itself, and moved towards battle with Lee. The latter, though, knew all too well that he was far too numerically inferior to Meade to even try to contest anything in northern Virginia, and slipped south again, moving towards the Wilderness near Fredericksburg. The Federals pursued vigorously, and on September 4 at Rappahannock Station, Meade forced a crossing of the river and nearly captured a large portion of McLaws' division. Again Lee fled, this time into the Wilderness itself, establishing a shell of resistance at a fortified line along Mine Run on the way. Meade again moved to attack, planning a lightning thrust against the Southern army that would shatter the main line of resistance and allow him to attack the Confederates in their cantonments. The Union troops got off to a good start on September 18, but traffic problems involved during the crossing, exacerbated by the Confederate resistance along the river, forced Meade to halt. Lee, in the meantime, prepared a counterattack with the rest of his army - mainly Longstreet's corps; Hill's troops were the ones fighting along the river - against the Union flank. However, Meade, properly spooked by Federal cavalry reports of massing Confederate soldiers in the Wilderness on his flank, withdrew back to the Rappahannock, and Lee decided not to pursue.

    In the West, more titanic battles were taking place. William Rosecrans had occupied Murfreesboro in triumph for the past few months, licking his wounds and preparing for a strike towards Chattanooga, the last real center of resistance before Georgia. In late June, he finally moved, and with a series of feints directed the Confederates, led by Braxton Bragg, away from his true target: Tullahoma, Bragg's headquarters and on the route to Chattanooga. In this Tullahoma Campaign, Rosecrans brilliantly managed to reach his objective with only one real engagement, that of Hoover's Gap, where he forced the Confederates to withdraw and then sent a flying column ahead to keep them out of Tullahoma itself. He seized the city quickly, and prepared for a further campaign to take Chattanooga. Despite orders from Lincoln and Commander-in-Chief Henry Halleck, Rosecrans delayed until August to open his campaign - and then did beautifully, threatening Bragg's supply lines out of Chattanooga instead of racing towards an engagement like was more common. Nervous, the South pulled troops from Mississippi out of the line, and instead of sending them to Lee's relief moved the division into Atlanta and then north to support Bragg. When these troops had joined Bragg, Rosecrans moved again, with his corps spread out, so as to more easily encircle the close-together Confederates. Bragg somehow managed to slip through the Federals' grasp, though, and encamped at LaFayette, Georgia, allowing the Union army to seize Chattanooga. He now prepared attacks against Rosecrans' spread out corps, but his commanders refused to risk battle with numbers so low, and the Union troops managed to belatedly concentrate just in time. Bragg spent a few days vacillating over whether or not to make a stand, and then chose to attack by surprise at Chickamauga on the 21st of September.

    Following a few sporadic cavalry engagements, in which the Federals were victorious but were driven off by the appearance of Bragg's infantry, the two armies moved into the vicinity of Chickamauga. The Confederates effected their battlefield concentration more quickly and moved toward the lone Union corps on the battlefield, that of Thomas Crittenden. Bragg tried to get around Crittenden's northern flank, but discovered to his surprise that Federal troops were moving towards that same spot - the rest of Rosecrans' army, under George Thomas, was moving rapidly to contact. They managed to repel the Confederate assault, delivered as it was with fewer numbers, and then prepare defensive works. The Southerners determined to try to probe for a weak spot in the Federal line, perhaps a joint between Rosecrans' corps, and then swarm through it, having seen the failure of the flank attack approach. On September 22, they renewed their assault, spearheaded by the Mississippi division under Bushrod Johnson. Despite initial success against Thomas' right flank, the Confederates were soon bogged down into a slow-moving positional battle, during which Thomas began to swing his left flank around Bragg's northern wing. With support from the Federal cavalry, Thomas directed a successful flank charge in the evening of the 22nd that began to roll up the Southern positions from the north. Bragg withdrew as fighting halted for the night, and was harassed by Northern cavalry until he set up a new position northwest of Atlanta itself.

    The stage was now set for Grant's offensive into northern Georgia. He promised Lincoln Atlanta for a Christmas present, and moved to take overall command of the effort, while Sherman retained command in Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Rosecrans, though he remained commander of the new Army of Georgia, was subordinate to Grant, who was now supreme commander in the west. The offensive began quickly, aided by stores captured in Chattanooga by the retreating Confederates. The Southerners simply didn't have the manpower to resist the Federal onslaught; Bragg was sacked and replaced with Joe Johnston, who had a similar inability to bring about the sudden collapse of the Union army. Every time Johnston tried to make a stand, Grant would engage him with part of his superior numbers, then slip around the side with his other corps and force the Confederates' withdrawal. In this manner, a number of short, sharp engagements at Resaca, Adairsville, Cartersville, New Hope Church, Marietta, and Peachtree Creek ended with Johnston drawn up inside Atlanta, and Grant "preparing for a siege" - but once again, he wasn't going to be drawn into a futile frontal assault. Johnston was forced to flee Atlanta on December 17 when Edward Ord's corps appeared as if by magic along the Macon Railroad south of his position. The Confederates withdrew to Savannah, and on Christmas Eve Grant was able to telegraph Lincoln with news of his success. The "second capital" of the South had fallen; the real one still needed some coaxing.

    After the disaster year of 1863, the Confederate States were in a shambles. The Federal Army of the Potomac was sitting only a few miles away from Richmond, and the Army of Georgia was in Atlanta, nearly splitting the nation in two. The Mississippi lifeline had been cut, and Texas was on its own. Southern combat power was nearly gone, both on the high seas - where only the raider CSS Alabama survived - and on the land, where the entire Confederate Army was too weak to launch offensive operations of any sort anywhere. Economically, the nation was in a shambles, with no export potential, almost no industrial base of any kind, and reliance on a labor source that was seething beneath their masters and threatening to overthrow the entire Southern social order. Only the military genius of Robert E. Lee and his subordinate commanders had allowed the Confederacy to resist as long as it had, and now even that was suspect with the disaster at Gettysburg shaking the Confederate leaders' confidence in their prime general to the bone. It seemed as though the Glorious Cause of independence was doomed to ignominy and defeat.

    Still, somehow, the rebels strove on. February saw the renewal of operations in the East, as Meade bulled his way through the Wilderness on towards Richmond, where defensive works were feverishly being thrown up by every able-bodied man in the city. Meade's original plan, a concentric advance on Richmond in conjunction with Benjamin Butler's troops on the Peninsula, had to be scrapped, as Butler, an incompetent political appointee, managed to get his men bottled up behind the new breastworks in front of the city. Exasperated, Meade pushed on, driving Lee's tiny army before him and bottling him up inside the Richmond works, and the two sides prepared for a long siege. Probing all the while for a weakness, Meade was stymied by the new defenses that were constructed by both Southern civilians and Confederate soldiers, and soon had to turn to other gambits. He extended his line far to the west, trying to outflank his less powerful opponent; Lee managed to parry the blow at the Second Battle of Mechanicsville in April with heavy loss. The Confederates, in the meantime, sent large raids up through the Shenandoah Valley towards Washington, under the command of John Bell Hood. Meade, in order to eliminate this major threat to his flank, ordered Winfield Hancock and his II Corps detached from the line and sent on a mission of destruction through the Shenandoah, with the famous line, "Eat out Virginia clean and clear...so that crows flying over it for the balance of the season will have to carry their own provender." Hancock, with superior numbers, shattered Hood's division-size force at Fisher's Hill in July and then swept through the Shenandoah Valley, destroying everything in sight and requisitioning what was left for his men. By the beginning of August, the Valley lay in ruins; Hood evacuated and rejoined his boss at Richmond.

    The Confederates at Richmond could stay there indefinitely in a state of siege due to their rail connections via the station at Petersburg, a critical junction south of Richmond. Grant's orders at the beginning of the year were to first do to Georgia what Hancock was about to do to Virginia, then sweep north and come up on Lee's rear. The Federals set out from Atlanta and quickly overpowered Joe Johnston's corps again, and then cut a fifty mile wide swath of utter destruction through central Georgia, cutting off their lines of supply and communications and living off the land. Upon reaching Savannah, Grant worked in conjunction with the Navy to bombard the city's forts into submission and force its evacuation on April 3. The garrison commander, Hardee, fled north into the Carolinas to join Johnston, and Grant sent a terse message from Savannah to Washington: "Savannah taken; rebels withdrawing; pursuing north; my regards to Mrs. Lincoln and the kids." Starting on the twentieth of April, Grant began to push his corps north on a wide front, moving in the general direction of Richmond but with extreme flexibility. If there was resistance at any point, one of his columns would stop, but the others would keep moving, surround the pocket of resistance, and force it's surrender. By the middle of May, all the Federals had to do, when encountered by Confederate troops, was yell, "We're 'Sam' Grant's boys - you'd better git", and all semblance of order among their enemies would evaporate as they headed for the hills. This flexible structure kept Johnston guessing as to where Grant's next objective would be - but every time the Confederates concentrated to defend one objective, they'd be bypassed and cut off; if they spread out to defend more than one, the Federals would just blow straight through them and keep moving. It was impossible for the Confederates to guess the Union goals when their immediate objective kept changing on the basis of the vagaries of the campaign, and when Grant wasn't entirely sure of them himself! In this manner, the Northern troops slashed through the Carolinas, seizing Columbia and Raleigh with little trouble, and were within fifty miles of Richmond by 31 July.

    On 2 August, a new Federal tactic was unleashed against the Confederate works at Richmond. Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants, an engineer from Pennsylvania, had spent the past month carefully setting up a gigantic mine underneath the Confederates' impenetrable positions. When the explosive packed into the mine were blown, a huge crater would open up in the Southern lines and a specially trained unit of USCT - United States Colored Troops - would spearhead the assault into the new breach. Meade signed off on the scheme with some trepidation, fearing the political repercussions of losing a division of African Americans, but agreed in order to break the siege before Grant showed up and took some of the credit. At 0932 in the morning, the explosives detonated, and a hole about a hundred feet wide was punched into the Confederate lines. Despite some hesitation by the Federal troops - who were disoriented and confused by the massive explosion - the blue-clad soldiers stormed through the gap and punched through the enemy trench line. Lee's whole defensive system was now at risk; with entirely too few men to resist such a determined attack, the Southern army retreated to Danville with the rest of the government. There, Lee and the rest of the commanders of the Army of Northern Virginia came to an agreement (the Danville Conference): whoever wanted to stop fighting - including Lee himself - could surrender to the oncoming Union Army, and whoever wanted to continue the war, partisan-style, could do so. The latter group, led by Jeb Stuart and his cavalry commanders, as well as John Bell Hood, dispersed into the Appalachians as the Federals rolled into town on August 12 and captured Lee and most of the Confederate government. The organized portion of the War Between the States was over.

    The North, though, had more fish to fry. In Mexico, the French and British (furious with Mexico's refusal to pay interest on their many loans) had invaded in 1862, and in a year had captured Mexico City and forced the government to flee. This flagrant violation of the Monroe Doctrine had gone unpunished due to the Civil War, but as soon as it was over, Lincoln's emissaries began to make more noise in Paris. While the French began to set up a monarchist imperial government, assisted by the Conservative party (whose enemies the Liberals fought on in the countryside under Benito Juarez), an emperor was chosen from the European dynastic club, one Maximilian I. Meade stayed behind in the South to conduct the antipartisan campaign, and Grant led his seasoned western troops to the Rio Grande to threaten the French. Napoleon III had been dallying in sending Maximilian to Mexico, noting the successes of the Union troops; this was the final straw, and he ordered the withdrawal of all of the French troops. Maximilian himself was turned around in the middle of the Atlantic by an American warship and forced to return to Austria. Juarez, with support from Grant, pushed out the monarchists and the Conservatives easily, establishing more or less total control over the country by the end of the year. His Liberal regime was unchallenged, and America's southern flank was once more secure.

    Meanwhile, in Europe, another war had been brewing. Denmark seemed to have somehow incurred the ire of every disparate state in the entire Germanic Confederation...
     
  2. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

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    Kudos Dachs, we need some good North American althists. I'm assuming that Meade is a remarkably different person in this TL, since he really had quite little initiative in OTL, and delegated most important tasks to subordinate officers, like Hancock who really assumed operational command of the Union defenses at Gettysburg.
     
  3. Dachs

    Dachs Hero of the Soviet Union

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    Thanks, Thlayli.

    Not really that different at all. Most of these operations are very similar to the OTL ones; the Gettysburg maneuver in the PoD was more the result of the famous council on the night of July 2-3 than of any of his own initiative. The whole Mine Run campaign was also his initiative and his alone, and IMHO he would have supported the Crater attack more in OTL if it hadn't been political dynamite and deadly to the touch. The only reason Meade didn't get further in OTL was the extant resisting power of the Army of Northern Virginia, and that goes away with the Battle of Gettysburg in this ATL.
     
  4. Azale

    Azale Deity

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    So...will Meade run for President instead of Grant? Please say yes :p
     
  5. Symphony D.

    Symphony D. Deity

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    President Sherman would be so, so very much cooler. :p
     
  6. Luckymoose

    Luckymoose The World is Mine

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    I don't like Sherman. He burned my forefathers property down.
     
  7. Thlayli

    Thlayli Le Pétit Prince

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    Pfft, the British massacred my Irish ancestors and appropriated their land, but that doesn't stop me enjoying a scone with the best of them. :p
     
  8. The Farow

    The Farow NESer

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    He helped reunite the Union although brutally :p. However, in war things get burned down and the Confederates started the fight anway :D
     
  9. Luckymoose

    Luckymoose The World is Mine

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    LIAR they did not start the fight.
     
  10. North King

    North King blech

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    What history are you reading? The SOUTH seceded from the Union. The SOUTH fired on Fort Sumter. The closest thing to a first assault on the South would have been Harper's Ferry, and if that was such a dangerous threat to the South, doesn't that imply that slavery was such a brutal institution that it should have been ended by any possible means? If slavery wasn't so bad, why was the threat of a slave revolt so imminent? Furthermore, Harper's Ferry was by a private citizen. The South had no moral or political justification other than defending their outmoded and inhumane institutions.
     
  11. Azale

    Azale Deity

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    The South fired on Ft. Sumter, officially starting the war. No re-writing of the history books mister.
     
  12. Symphony D.

    Symphony D. Deity

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    Methinks twas a joke. :p
     
  13. Luckymoose

    Luckymoose The World is Mine

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    The North was illegally in the SOUTH's territory. Sir.
     
  14. North King

    North King blech

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    A shame that the South just happened to be United States territory.
     
  15. Luckymoose

    Luckymoose The World is Mine

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    Shame the United States happens to be British territory.
     
  16. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

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    :lol:

    What an auspicious start to the thread.
     
  17. Azale

    Azale Deity

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    No one claimed the Brits started the Revolutionary War...
     
  18. Lord_Iggy

    Lord_Iggy Tsesk'ihe

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    Their actions created a volatile situation, but they didn't start it.
     
  19. shortguy

    shortguy It's a working title

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    If you buy the argument that the South seceded legitimately, then Luckymoose is right. Anyway, the US didn't invade the South because the Confederates fired on Ft. Sumter, they invaded because they wanted the 1/3 of the country that just seceded back.
     
  20. TheBladeRoden

    TheBladeRoden Deity

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