Arrogance and Empire - An Alternate 7 Years' War Novel - Part 10 - 1865

Chapter 13
March, 1864

Mito, Hitachi Province


General Zeng Guofan of the Chinese Imperial Army instinctively flinched as the ancient arquebuses belched forth a wave of smoke. His mount and those of his adjutants momentarily skittered but none bolted. Moments later, realizing his party had overrun their own forces, Zeng commanded his twenty officers and bodyguards to withdraw northwards along the coastal road towards Mito, the last major city north of the Nihonjin Imperial capital of Edo.

Arrayed across the fields north of the city sprawled two armies, one comprised of forty thousand Chinese soldiers trained in the modern style…and one of twenty-five thousand Samurai, the exalted warrior-class of Nihon. Oddly, as the Chinese Army marched along the spine of Nihon, the Samurai acted almost independently from the modern army developed for the Emperor of Nihon by those foreign mercenaries. Unsurprisingly, the embryonic army failed against the experienced Chinese Imperial Army fresh upon the conquest of the lands north of the Mongols.

If the Russians failed to slow the Chinese Army, the damned Nihonjin certainly would not.

Returning through the advancing lines of the Chinese infantry, the sixty-three-year-old General nudged his horse towards a low rise along the road. As fortune would have it, the topography of Nihon finally moderated from the stark mountains into what passed locally for a plain north of Edo. After months of sporadic partisan attacks emerging from the hills upon isolated patrols and garrisons, the Chinese Army was finally able to march unimpeded by geography and weather. Too many good men expired in the winter months, stranded far from home. Fortunately, the renewal of summer provided hope that the campaign to conquer Nihon, already half accomplished, might shortly conclude.

Perched atop the local hill, taking advantage of the “commanding” view, were Feng’s primary assistants: Zuo Zongtang, Feng’s longtime subordinate of a dozen campaigns, and Li Hongzhang, a forty-year-old administrator whom Feng mentored for the past ten years.

Zuo was a dogged…if unimaginative…soldier while Li was perhaps the most well-rounded civil servant Feng had come upon in decades. No doubt the man probably would be tapped by the Mandarin’s bureaucrats soon for the governorship of some important Province.

Considering the discipline and flexibility of the younger man’s mind, Feng considered such a fate a waste of talent.

Joining his subordinates upon the crest, Feng looked upon the open rice paddies below, yet to be flooded for spring planting. Across the fields marched tens of thousands of soldiers advancing upon a mass of Samurai arrayed across a similar assortment of low knolls opposite Feng’s position. Occasionally, a handful of Samurai cavalry raced forward, fired a few arrows into the Chinese ranks and retreated just as swiftly.

“Did you see what you desired, sir?” Zuo inquired. The orders had already been given to the Regimental commanders. There was little more for the Generals to do now but wait.

“Yes,” Feng replied absently, noting the sudden silence of the Chinese artillery pounding the enemy as the infantry approached the Nihonjin lines. “As best I can tell, the Shogun possesses no avenue to flank our forces…nor an easy path to retreat. Tokugawa Yoshinobu is a fool. He should have massed his armies in the mountain passes.”

“Sir,” Li inserted, brows knit in confusion. “Is there truly no manner for the Shogun to strike from an unexpected direction? I cannot comprehend why the Nihonjin cannon and muskets are so few…and obsolete. Just months ago, those Columbian Generals fielded a force armed with modern…”

“I cannot explain, Li,” the General shook his head, noting the Chinese infantry suddenly halt as ordered. The Samurai line, wielding spears, those wicked curved swords, bows as often as muskets, visibly jolted upwards in surprise. They’d obviously expected the Chinese ranks to advance with the bayonet upon the heavily armored and trained swordsmen. For the life of him, Feng could not comprehend the stupidity of this assumption. “Nothing the enemy has done makes sense. Perhaps those reports of a massive breach between the Shogun and the Emperor’s camps…”

The remainder of Feng’s statement was cut off as the Chinese ranks belched their first volley forward into the Samurai lines. Despite the heavy armor common among the Samurai warriors comprised of an array of steel, bamboo, leather and other components, the balls of the latest model Chinese muskets and the Columbian-produced rifles possessed incredible penetration power, easily cutting through the armored breastplates and shields. Within moments, the first rank of Chinese infantry stepped back to reload, allowing their fellows to step forward and emit another massed volley.

The Nihonjin stood their ground, their commanders apparently paralyzed as Chinese fire thinned the ranks. Finally, the Shogun…or whoever commanded the enemy…signaled for their forces to advance. Their position already thinned, the smoke-obscured field prevented anything resembling a unified advance but individual units managed to stumble forward even as the Chinese infantry continued their withering fire. Sprinting forward with spear, sword and several other weapons in hand, the Nihonjin warriors attacked with reckless bravery despite the numerical disadvantage. Only at this point did the enemy provide even the most basic of artillery fire…largely with ancient and obsolete brass cannon…augmented by arrows, of all things.

Finally, a few dozens, then perhaps one or two hundred, Samurai reached the Chinese line. Those at the fore hastily plugged in their bayonets, while those to the rear continued to reload with abandon and fire over their fellows’ shoulders, ignoring the frustrated Samurai’ shouts to duel. Occasionally, a blade reached Chinese flesh but this proved to be the exception.

In the meantime, the modern light Chinese artillery open fired, pummeling those Nihonjin still milling about the original Nihon line.

“General,” Zuo grunted, “May I recommend the reserves advance along the left flank and turn into the enemy rear?”

“Mmm, an excellent idea, Zuo,” Feng nodded. “Dispatch most of the cavalry to the right to run down the survivors…”

“Yes, sir.”

Feng remained silent as his subordinates sprinted to fulfill his commands. Over the next twenty minutes, the brave but stupid Nihonjin somehow managed to gather themselves again and again to charge the Chinese Imperial Army lines…to the same result. Even the bravest, most well-trained warriors could be scythed down by the dozen in the face of well-organized modern infantry. As the Emperor of Nihon’s faction in their recent civil unrest came to accept, the days of individualist skilled warriors had passed. If nothing else, the Europeans taught China that fact.

Presently…and a bit belatedly…the Chinese countermarches to the enemy flanks commenced. Feng feared he would not bag remotely as much of the Nihonjin Army as he’d hoped. Fortunately for the Chinese General, the Shogun’s army proved ineptly led…largely due to the political divisions playing out across the battlefield at that very moment.

Three hundred yards south:

“Damn!” Shouted Tokugawa Yoshinobu’s uncle, perhaps the most powerful man in the government. “The enemy lines don’t break!” Like Yoshinobu himself, the elder man was better known for his administrative skill than his martial abilities.

After the Emperor’s faction of fanatics managed to turn Komei’s ear with their promises of modernization, the Shogunate nearly rose in rebellion, an event likely only forestalled by the invasion of China. Prodded by their foreign mercenary Generals, the young Samurai of the Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa and Tsu, mainly southern Domains controlled by Daimyo’s loyal to the Emperor, eagerly sought to prove their superiority by driving the Chinese back into the sea as their ancestors had once before.

Largely relegating the Shogunate and their northern Daimyo allies to “partisan” activity throughout the hinterlands, the southern reformist faction marched heedlessly to their deaths at Niigata.

Now, I fear the Shogunate shall do the same at Mito, Yoshinobu thought, ignoring his bickering relatives and advisors. Taking in his allies, the Shogun wondered if the destruction of the three-hundred-year Tokugawa Bakufu was just. Perhaps we have become decadent and corrupt, as our enemies say. It is a pity we couldn’t have died together.

Yoshinobu drew his sword and nudged his horse forward, ignoring the calls of his fellows. If the Tokugawa Shogunate was to end on this day, then at least he would die among his supporters.

The following day, Yoshinobu’s body was found among twelve thousand Samurai dead…

The flower of the Samurai class, including hundreds of nobles, died upon the dry rice paddies of Mito, forcing Emperor Komei and his family to flee Edo for the southern mountains.
 
Chapter 14
July, 1864

Port Jackson, Australasia


“Good God, Ignacio,” Lieutenant Jefferson Davis Jr. sighed as the young officer sidestepped the ubiquitous piles of horse dung littering the muddy streets of Port Jackson. “We spent three months at sail…for this?”

Captain Ignacio Zaragoza y Seguin (he followed the Columbian convention and answered to “Seguin”) chuckled. Though a decade the elder than Davis, the two officers had, by necessity, grown close over the extensive voyage as they shared a cabin with four other officers. Despite travelling aboard some of the fastest transports in history, months along the course from the East Coast to the Straights of Magellan to Tahiti to the Australasia with only modest opportunities to set foot upon land before reaching Port Jackson left a rather bad taste in the mouth of the idealistic young soldier. That most of the common ranks travelled directly west by rail to San Diego and Yerba Buena, bypassing half the journey, didn’t improve Davis’ outlook.

“Our Regiment will arrive soon enough,” Seguin repeated for what must be the eighteenth time in the past hour. Though a pleasant travelling companion, Davis grew increasingly agitated with so little to do after a rowdy first few days in port. Neither man enjoyed the close confinement nor the movement of the ship in the water.

While something of a rough frontier town, the growing city of Port Jackson bustled with energy akin to Yerba Buena decades ago when Davis’ father, the Secretary of War, served as commander of Castle Point off of San Francisco Harbor. Still a boomtown due to local discoveries of gold (since played out), Yerba Buena nevertheless remained a cherished childhood memory, time spent with his mother he’d never have again. In many ways, Port Jackson reminded him of California. Warm…but not too warm…dry…but not too dry. A land of rivers and bays and green surrounded by vast expanses of untouched wilderness (though he would admit never having set foot outside the city).

Over the past weeks, supply ships and transports continued to pour into Port Jackson bearing the latest muskets, rifles, cannon and all manner of supply. At this very moment, others were sailing from California to Hawaii. Unfortunately, Jeff Davis Sr. had never been assigned to that island archipelago.

Perhaps on the voyage home.

Davis shook this off and followed his friend and senior officer through the expanding streets of Port Jackson towards the collection of tents serving as housing for even officer class. Like Yerba Buena during the gold rush, the influx of migrants easily outpaced the supply of suitable rooms.

“So lush,” Seguin noted. “Reminds me of East Tejas, near the border with Louisiana”.

“I was just thinking that about Yerba…”

At that moment a commotion emerged from a nearby ally, probably the entrance to a local slum, “Get it, damn it…”

Presently, a giant hopping…camel or whatever the natives called their fauna…bounced eagerly into the street with deceptive speed and promptly bolted down the narrow lane towards freedom.

“Dios!” Seguin laughed. “That must be one of those wallabies the locals talked about…”

“Kangaroo,” mumbled a passerby irritably, probably one of many locals offended at the arrival of so many soldiers clogging their already busy streets. More than a few residents complained that the soldiers spent far less than expected. Indeed, the local Governor and Mayor were taken aback that THEY were expected to provide lodgings to thousands of Columbians. Evidently unimpressed with the soldiers’ spotless blue uniforms (maybe the occasional cooing they received from local ladies had something to do with it as well), the roughhewn tradesman continued on without further comment.

“Couldn’t you have grabbed it?!” grumbled a female voice. The soldiers turned to find a rather stout woman in her fifties glaring upon them. “That animal was meant for a museum in East Florida!”

Seguin doffed his cap and replied in false solemnity, “My deepest apologies, ma’am.”

The woman rolled her eyes and turned towards the lane leading west into the “Outback” as so many locals called the countryside. “Well, she’s gone. I paid a pretty penny as well.” With a shrug, the women turned about and reentered the shadows of the ally.

Seguin smirked at his younger friend, visibly shaken. “I fear the army is wearing out its welcome, Jeff,” he pronounced the name “hef” as the Captain retained his deeply accented English after a decade outside of Tejas . “Perhaps the Chinese will prove more convivial.”

“I can only hope so, Ignacio.”



Three miles south

Upon the deck of the USS West Florida, the commanders of the US Pacific Fleet convened to determine the strategy of engaging the Chinese for the first time since Matthew Perry nearly blundered the United States of Columbia into war with China in ‘53.

Seated comfortably in the wardroom, Admiral James Farragut took in the assembled officers representing the majority of the Pacific Fleet. Comforted by the presence of his old friend, Commodore David Dixon Porter, Farragut took in the others, senior officers all.

The elegant Virginian Rafael Semmes commanded the USS Maryland, the aristocratic Samuel Du Pont helmed the USS Missouri and the occasionally abrasive Charles Wilkes was senior post Captain of the small squadron normally based in Port Jackson. He commanded the USS Louisiana.

“I still don’t understand the necessity of this naval assault upon the Ryukyu Islands. Why bother?” Wilkes, the eldest of the sailors present, grumbled. As usual, he made no attempt to moderate his tone towards his superiors. “If the Chinese want to waste a large portion of their fleet sitting at anchor in Okinawa, let them do so!”

“And leave China able to strike at our supply line from Australasia and Hawaii?” Porter retorted irritably though he conceded the logic of the Captain’s protest. Privately, he’d attempted to convince his friend Farragut to mass the naval forces into a single squadron.

“Far better than weakening our primary fleet…”

Farragut let his subordinates argue back and forth. He’d already made his decision.

Porter would assume command of eight vessels including the modern and heavily armored steamships USS Michigan (his flagship), West Florida, East Florida and Transylvania. Each possessed the typical low-slung profile of modern iron-hulled ships with one gundeck consisting of thirty to thirty-six heavy naval guns. The older, but still serviceable, USS Biddle, New Orleans, Decatur and Philadelphia were proven workhorses throughout the Pacific and proved themselves for years in the vast expanses without suffering the typical bane to steamships worldwide, the occasional burst boiler.

The Commodore’s orders were to sail to Okinawa, destroy the Chinese fleet present, and then join the Admiral’s squadron off of Shikoku, where Columbia’s new “allies”, the Emperor and Shogun of Nihon, would have emissaries waiting with a supply of coal and fresh intelligence as to the whereabouts of the main Chinese fleet off of the northerly main island of Honshu. The bulk of the Columbian armies being assembled in Australasia and sailing forth from Hawaii would disembark either in southern Honshu or Shikoku.

It was a good plan…and Farragut doubted it would last an instant upon contact with the enemy. More than anything, the sailor prayed his command, both the United States Navy and the precious soldiers their carried, did not underestimate the “Yellow Man” as so many had in the past to their great regret, including James Wilkinson back on ’09, Commodore Matthew Perry in ’53 and Czar Alexander II of Russia just a few years prior. The ingrained assumption of technological superiority could no longer be guaranteed. Indirect reports of productive Chinese shipyards constructing vessels equal to…or worse…superior than…their Columbian counterparts abounded though there was as much a chance of exaggeration as underestimation.

Perhaps it is a pity that France had shown so little interest in the years in projecting power into the Americas. Had Charles X expressed any aggressive tendencies, Congress might have been more generous in paying for a fleet buildup. Unfortunately, no Congressman would cast a vote for increasing funding for fear of a war with China. Still, the United State Navy remained one of the three or four most powerful on earth…and one of only about seven which actually mattered. The world now belonged to the naval powers – France, Russia, Spain, Columbia, China, the Maratha Confederacy and the East India Company. It had been a generation since any of these nations engaged in large-scale naval actions. Farragut supposed it had only been a matter of time.

Oh well, I suppose the world will be watching the outcome of the impending battle, he thought before meaningfully coughing under his breath. “Enough, gentlemen. I welcome your council but, with the information on hand, this is the decision I have made. Our holds have been filled with coal, the infantry have been granted time to regain their strength on land and the reports arriving from Imperial agents of His Majesty, Emperor Komei, in Shikoku and Kyushu, the war upon Nihon’s largest island of Honshu goes poorly. We must engage immediately else we are forced to fight a war without significant aid from our new ally.”

The other sailors, though no more satisfied with the ambiguous plan of battle, the details of their sudden “alliance” with the previously isolationist Nihon or even a clear picture of China’s true intent (conquest or merely forcing Nihon into a tributary relationship), nodded their acceptance of Farragut’s orders. To be fair, they knew full well Farragut wished to have those questions answered as well.

As it would turn out, the officers would not have to address those questions in the near future as two events (or non-events) cast the entire expensive expedition in question:

  • Reports of a Chinese peace delegation reaching Philadelphia some four months prior (even with steam travel there was a terrible time lag with Columbia) had engaged Secretary of State Seward in negotiations. As a sign of faith, the Columbian President agreed to halt any direct aid to Nihon until these talks were completed.
  • The actual transport of some twelve thousand Columbian soldiers, meant to augment the eight thousand already on hand in Hawaii, Ezochi and Port Jackson proved entirely optimistic. Over the coming months, the sailors would learn that recruitment in the modest-sized Columbian Army, though enthusiastic, would prove more time-consuming than previous expected.
Six more months would pass before correspondence arrived from North America expressing the Secretary of State’s frustration and certainty that the Chinese delegation did not act in good faith, that their “negotiations” were but a stalling maneuver to allow their armies to sweep further south through Honshu despite the Mandarin’s agreement of an “armistice”.
 
Chapter 15
September, 1864

Natal


Ochterlony and Mitchell becoming friends.

“Incline another three degrees, Michael,” the astronomer commanded the Governor of Natal without any hint at embarrassment. Here, Maria Mitchell ruled, not some mere functionary.

“Yes, Ms. Mitchell,” Michael Ochterlony replied amiably as he adjusted the telescope according to his instructions. Well past midnight, the cloudless sky proved entirely fit for exploration.

Since their somewhat strained meeting so many months prior, Governor-General Ochterlony had grown fond of the blunt-speaking Columbian scholar. Southern Africa possessed few true scientific notables and Maria Mitchell remained a fixture on the Natal society circuit…on the rare occasions she could be pried from her telescope.

Over the course of the Radcliff Professor’s tenure in the southern hemisphere, Maria Mitchell’s impressive instrument detected several smaller moons of Jupiter as well as what she suspected to be yet another comet passing through the solar system. Unfortunately, the lady’s quest for the hypothesized eight planet came to naught after an extensive search of the night sky along the path the astronomer calculated such a planet must traverse.

“Let me see,” Mitchell ordered. With a grin it was probably best the lady could not discern in the dark, Ochterlony stepped back and allow the professional a look. Her low groan lent ample evidence she found nothing.

“No luck?”

“No…and now I must wonder if I’ve wasted my voyage to Africa.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Ochterlony objected, “The discovery of moons and comets…no matter how small…is hardly trifling.”

“Astronomers have been finding petty moons of Jupiter and Saturn for years,” Mitchell replied in dejection. “I doubt the world will be shaken by my findings. Perhaps I should just return to Boston.”

A sharp pang struck Ochterlony’s heart. Though he was not in love with the woman…well, perhaps he was. Mitchell’s intelligence, dedication and dignity greatly affected the soldier. While perhaps not a beauty in the conventional sense, her flawless skin and oval features were more plain than pretty, Ochterlony found Mitchell’s company soothing. Occasionally, the lady would inquire why the soldier never married (though never with an obvious interest on her own part). To his shame, Ochterlony lied and told her his duties never allowed such a union.

In his lustful youth, Ochterlony occasionally engaged in the pleasures of the flesh with girls of low birth and, once, with a “professional”. However, by his mid-twenties, the soldier’s…manhood…ceased exhibiting any capacity for engorging upon the sight…or even the thought…of a lovely young woman. Only rarely did Ochterlony’s body reply to the siren call of sex, a great departure from his youth when Ochterlony typically awoke “at full sail”.

Only once did Ochterlony confess his problems aloud, that to a doctor. After a cursory inspection, the man shook his head and stated, “No sign of syphilis or any other disease. You appear to be fully healthy. I usually recommend exorcise, weight loss and a reduction in the drink. But you seem healthy enough and claim not to drink to excess. I would imagine this is simply a concession to age…”

Fortunately, the Ochterlony name continued with his seven siblings, three still residing in the Levant and four from his father’s first “marriage” to a Maratha Bibi (none of whom he’d ever met but nevertheless kept up a correspondence). As best he could tell, Ochterlony was up to thirty-three living nephews and nieces and dozens of grand-nephews and grand-nieces across the Levant and the Subcontinent.

Though his interest remained physically platonic, Ochterlony nevertheless had grown fond of the Columbian woman and recently considered inquiring if the lady felt the same. No greater a sexual animal than Ochterlony, Maria seemed to enjoy his company as well. I would imagine any man who took her work seriously would have a leg up, so to speak.

“I had not pegged you as the type to give up, Maria,” Ochterlony chided gently. “If you believe you are correct, you must follow the path to its logical conclusion.”

Imagining the woman’s face pinching up in the dark, Ochterlony waited but the sharp retort failed to arrive. Instead, Maria whispered, “Thank you, Michael, I shall persevere.”

After a rustling sound emerged from the papers in her hand (how she discerned them enough to make notes was beyond Ochterlony, whose own nightvision had long since failed), Mitchell added severely, “Two more degrees, Michael, we don’t have all night…”

“Yes, Ms. Mitchell.”
 
Chapter 16
September, 1864

Puebla


Lost in his mountain of tedious paperwork, the forty-six-year-old Infante Carlos de Bourbon y Braganza and Prince-Regent of New Spain snapped up his head as his secretary cleared his throat for was probably the second or third time.

“What is it, Sanchez?”

“General MacMahon has arrived for his appointment, sir.”

Infante Carlos sighed. Yet another disappointment in a life full of them. Had there been any justice in the world, Carlos would now be King of Spain, Naples and America. However, his uncle Ferdinand VII, in his dying days, altered the succession laws of Spain to allow for his two-year-old daughter Isabella to inherit the throne, naturally with her mother Maria Christina as regent. Though Uncle Ferdinand and Aunt Maria had acted as surrogate parents for Carlos and his two younger brothers, the Queen-Dowager-Regent having been exiled at the age of twenty to his comfortable prison in New Spain by his Aunt Maria Christina who sought to eliminate any threats to her daughter’s throne. Soon enough, his brothers Juan and Fernando took the thrones of Nueva Granada and Rio Plata respectively. Other nephews and cousins were granted command of Chile, Cuba, the Philippines and other Spanish colonial possessions.

In the years following Spain’s alliance with France, the rickety Empire was forced to reform if only to resist the hegemony of Napoleon II, III and Charles X. Noting the inherent frailties of the Vice-royal governments of the colonies, Ferdinand VII finally conceded to a series of reorganizations including legal reform, economic improvements, the recognition and partial empowering of local Cortes and, finally, raising the Viceroys to “Prince-Regents” with Royal powers to make decisions locally. Carlos had grown to loathe New Spain…and the colonials no doubt sensed this. Despite his many restructurings of the colony, demands for further political alternations continued apace.

Eventually, unrest turned once again to rebellion after near thirty years of relative quiet in New Spain, and the Prince-Regent, uncertain of the loyalty of the Colonial Army, was forced to request his cousin Isabella dispatch soldiers from the Old World to New Spain. It was a humiliating concession and Carlos knew the “Queen” enjoyed the Prince-Regent’s discomfiture. Fortunately, Isabella did not send Spanish regulars, which possessed a pitiful reputation relative to other great powers. Instead, she appealed to the Emperor of France for the use of the French African Legion, the primary military formation serving Franco-Spanish North Africa and wiping out the final Moorish Muslim presence in the Maghreb. Comprised largely of adventurers, criminals and malcontents swept from the four corners of Europe, the Legion nevertheless was an experienced, ruthless unit which hunted the remaining Muslim population of northwest Africa through the ravines and canyons of the Atlas mountains and into the Sahara.

Secretly relieved that the Queen dispatched a French officer in Patrice de MacMahan, obviously of Irish descent, the Prince-Regent nodded for his secretary to show the soldier in. Presently, a relatively short officer in his fifties entered Carlos’ office donning what he assumed to be the uniform of the African Legion, a relatively unadorned blue jacket with red trousers. The Infante appreciated the relative simplicity of the garb as it indicated the Legion’s true purpose of serving in the harshest of environments, not like the Spanish regular officers donning ridiculously ornate uniforms intended to impress at parties in Madrid. These were fighting men, not ornaments of the aristocracy.

MacMahon entered with a bow and a series of honorifics towards his new superior in surprisingly capable Spanish. Pleased his rusty French would not have to be tested, the Infante received with courtesy until gesturing the General into a seat across from his desk. A gentle wind entered through an open window, bringing much necessary cool air.

“General,” Carlos began, “I am pleased to welcome you to New Spain. Was your journey swift and fair?”

MacMahon nodded through his bushy mustache and beard, already flecking with white and grey, “Yes, Your Highness, it was quite an easy voyage given the time of year. Unfortunately, we were slowed by our escort of a convoy of prisoners we were escorting to Cuba, mostly Tuaregs and other southern tribes seized in the past few months.”

“I was under the impression that the Moorish influence in the Maghreb was effectively destroyed.”

“For the most part, sir,” MacMahan answered. “However, the Emperor of France and Queen of Spain continue to push the boundaries of Franco-Spanish North Africa into the deserts south of the mountains as tribes like the Tuareg continue to raid into the fertile region along the coast.”

“And these…Tuareg…will work the fields of Cuba?”

“Yes, sir, demand for labor remains high, even the women and children which typically are the only survivor of the Legion’s raid into the African interior. Most of the Moorish warriors die where they stand…or are simply executed later as they aren’t worth the trouble of breaking. Women and children are more malleable…or so I’m told. I’ve never actually been to the New World before now and cannot speak to the civilizing of these people by the priests and landowners of the West Indies.”

Always lacking labor, the longstanding dysfunction of the Spanish Empire had largely missed the era of the African slave trade. By the time structural reform allowed for effective exploitation, the hideous Bleeding Death and African Death ended the trade. Though Carlos held no particular opinion of the Black Man, he was no friend of the slave trade. With Bonapartist France and Spain controlling North Africa, this granted the Spanish Empire the exclusive right to export “prisoners”, namely Muslim natives of North Africa unwilling to convert to Catholicism or absorb into European culture, to the West Indies to serve indefinite terms of service in the sugarcane fields. The French Empire, lacking any colonies in the New World, was happy to allow Spain to carry off the Moors. Unlike New Spain, New Granada and the other mainland colonies, the islands of the Spanish West Indies had yet to abolish slavery or the acceptance of “prisoners” from North Africa, the only lands in the western hemisphere to maintain the institution.

“Well, have you been briefed upon the situation in New Spain?”

“Yes, Your Highness,” MacMahon replied tactfully, “Though I would hear it from your mouth.”

“Very well,” Carlos stood and walked over to an expansive map upon the wall of his office depicting New Spain. Naturally, MacMahon rose and followed. Pointing towards northeast New Spain, he stated, “There are three major areas of…unrest. Here, the northeast provinces, have long been a thorn in our side. Decades ago, Coahuila, Tamaulipas and New Leon declared independence as the “Republic of the Rio Grande”. Naturally, this was crushed and the Spanish Colonial Army reduced the area to a barren wasteland. Though thoroughly depopulated, bandits tend to congregate there and occasionally there is even some talk of joining the United States of Columbia. Fortunately, our protestant neighbors have little interest in picking a fight over some desert.”

Next, Carlos gestured towards a central location along the map. “This…is the Valley of Mexico, once the capital of New Spain. It was ravaged in the failed rebellion and the ancient dykes and drainage tunnels were destroyed, flooding much of the basin with brackish water. Endless republican unrest forced myself and my predecessors to repeatedly dispatch forces to pacify those villages not underwater. A pity, it was once a garden spot in New Spain but now barely bears a population of a hundred thousand mestizos living in the ruins of the Aztec Empire. It has been decades and the rebels remain active. Virtually no trade or taxation exists in the Valley and the miserable population remains at subsistence level.”

Finally, the Prince-Regent pointed southwards, “While the other two regions are irritations more than threats, the southern provinces of Oaxaca, the Yucatan and Guatemala are more heavily populated and somehow remain restive despite my many reforms…”

This last grated upon Carlos as the Prince-Regent considered his rule to be the most moderate in Spanish colonial history. He’d relaxed prohibitions on Indian land ownership, encouraged mining and manufacturing by abolishing guilds and onerous taxes, opened many additional ports to foreign trade, established schools even for Indians and Mestizos…yet Carlos received so little credit for his reforms. Two decades into his rule, Carlos’ patience waned.

“The bulk of my forces, some nine thousand strong,” MacMahon murmured, studying the map though Carlos was certain the man already knew everything the Prince-Regent explained, “will not arrive for another month. Five thousand, though, are present and have had time to shake off the effects of the long voyage. May I recommend that we start with the Valley of Mexico in order to acclimate the men to the climate?”

“You wish to ease them into the insurrection?” There was no criticism in the question.

“I merely state that, after months of travel and poor provisions, I would prefer not to march my men against the greater threat without some familiarity with the region.”

Carlos nodded. “Very well, General. Whatever you feel correct. Note that you are now empowered to second any of the Spanish Colonial Army to your forces, though the quantity and quantity have degraded over the past years. New Spain cannot afford more than eight thousand soldiers under arms…and, in all reality, we seldom possess more than five thousand. Fortunately, they are relatively well armed with modern muskets and cannon. This was a priority since I was appointed Prince-Regent.”

Aware that the Spanish Colonial Army’s reputation was scarcely better than its counterpart in Iberia, the French officer nodded solemnly, while quietly vowing to restrict the Spanish only to garrison duties or as escorts to his own forces.

“Then I shall march upon the Valley of Mexico within the week,” MacMahon announced, “It is importantly, Your Majesty, that my officers and I are familiar with the terrain…and the level of authority inherent within my command.”

“You,” Carlos replied, correctly sensing the soldier’s intent, “are authorized to do anything necessary to crush the rebels.”

“Very well, Your Highness,” MacMahon nodded, “I shall march within the week.”

“Run them to ground, General, run them to ground.”
 
You,” Carlos replied, correctly sensing the soldier’s intent, “are authorized to do anything necessary to crush the rebels.”

“Very well, Your Highness,” MacMahon nodded, “I shall march within the week.”

“Run them to ground, General, run them to ground
Why I don't like hear that?
In the years following Spain’s alliance with France, the rickety Empire was forced to reform if only to resist the hegemony of Napoleon II, III and Charles X. Noting the inherent frailties of the Vice-royal governments of the colonies, Ferdinand VII finally conceded to a series of reorganizations including legal reform, economic improvements, the recognition and partial empowering of local Cortes and, finally, raising the Viceroys to “Prince-Regents” with Royal powers to make decisions locally. Carlos had grown to loathe New Spain…and the colonials no doubt sensed this. Despite his many restructurings of the colony, demands for further political alternations continued apace.
pointing-leonardo-di-caprio.gif


Ah ah ah. I know that. It's the fucking Plan Aranda.
 
Ah ah ah. I know that. It's the fucking Plan Aranda.
I'm surprised it's not used more often, especially in conjunction with the fact Brazil was made an autonomous kingdom in the UK of Portugal, Brazil, and the Algarves and the British Dominions themselves as examples... heck, even French Canada or France-wanks rip off the Dominion concept a lot! And yet here's (another) real-life autonomous viceroyalty plan to use for settler colonies.
 
Chapter 17
January, 1865

Harlem Heights, New York


Queen Charlotte of Great Britain, Ireland, France, America, et all, paced through the carpets of her modestly appointed (by Royal standards) country estate in the Harlem Heights. No doubt the housekeepers would tsk over the obvious wear but the Queen didn’t care a whit. Nearing seventy, the old Queen was starting to wonder if she’d ever see her ancestral home again.

Gathered about were key members of her government as well as the Royal family. Princess Victoria, her heir apparent, was present with her ever-faithful husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. Charlotte was inordinately fond of the man as he reminded her of her own husband, the long dead Prince Leopold.

“What do you mean the damned IRISH, of all peoples, may prevent us from reclaiming Great Britain?”

Lord Palmerston, her Prime Minister in exile, stuttered, “While the Irish forces have withdrawn from England and Wales, there is no certainty the Irish Navy won’t intervene in our passage to Britain…”

“Since when has Ireland possessed a navy of substance?!” She demanded.

“Your Majesty…”

Fortunately for Palmerston, the Duke of Cambridge broke in, “Dearest Cousin, while the Irish Navy may not be formidable, it certainly is strong enough to defeat the barely armed ships we’re assembling…”

“I thought the damned fleet was supposed to depart in the fall?!”

“It didn’t,” Cambridge retorted, perhaps the only one in the remnant of the British Empire who would dare interrupted or contradict the Queen, “that is the nature of war. One cannot get a fleet, an army and proper supplies together in a few months, especially given that Your Majesty has not manner to PAY for them. It is nothing less than a miracle that the government was able to solicit donations from Columbia and your subjects throughout the Empire. I suggest you be grateful for what you...”

Her head snapping about, Queen Charlotte commenced a vicious rant which would have made her grandfather, George the Mad, proud. Even Cambridge paled at the assault.

“Charlotte!” Victoria protested, shocked at her cousin’s lack of decorum.

Choking back another tirade, Charlotte gathered herself and strode out of the room in an attempt at composure. Sharing glances, Cambridge and Palmerston made their own excuses and departed the country estate for home. Neither enjoyed being summoned to northern Manhattan for a tongue lashing.

Victoria and Albert, left alone in Charlotte’s drawing room, entered an embrace. “Is the danger so great?” The Princess inquired.

Albert sighed, “Yes, it is. All the Emperor has to do is announce he will blockade any invasion force and…well, there is no chance of a safe arrival in Britain. It is that easy. Fortunately, Charles X has agreed to remain neutral in any “internal conflict” between Britons. As for Ireland…I don’t truly know if they mean to intervene or not. Cambridge is correct…even the modest Irish Navy could overpower the Army of Liberation’s transports with little effort. Unless the government is certain of Irish neutrality…”

“Berti and Alfred…trapped upon a transport in the Atlantic, at the whims of the Irish…” Victoria began to weep. Her eldest sons had already taken their rightful place in their regiments. As the second and third in line for the throne, it was the right and requirement. She barely was able to keep the fourteen-year-old Prince Arthur from service on “Royal Navy” vessel likely recently converted from a cattle transport.

“It will be alright, Victoria,” Albert mumbled to his wife.

He just prayed it was true.
 
Chapter 18
April, 1865

Dominion of the Royal Islands of New York


The Carolinian shook his head in befuddlement at the barely contained chaos unfolding along the expansive dockyards of New York City. Longshoremen sweated profusely under the summer sun as they grappled with oversized loads, spewing out an ever-more impressive stream of profane vitriol focused upon their dissatisfied supervisors, other laborers similarly borne down by their own burdens and the sailors steadfastly refusing to assist in the loading of the bewildering variety of naval tonnage. These ranged the full gamut of passenger vessels, livestock carriers, cargo transports, anything the exuberant Britons could assemble for the voyage across the ocean. The Carolinian noted that, even in the pandemonium of the city harbor, nothing could suppress the exultation of the dockworkers, sailors or soldiers milling about in fevered anticipation.

The time had finally come for the British government-in-exile to retake their stolen homeland. After nearly three hellish decades of purgatory, the steadfast servants of Queen Charlotte finally prepared to sail for Great Britain, now free of "foreign" entanglements. France had long since withdrawn their forces from "the Occupation" as every right-thinking Briton considered the conquest of their homeland in 1837. Only the ongoing intervention of the French fleet and the reduced presence of the damnable Irish Army befouling English and Welsh lands prevented Queen Charlotte from returning to her rightful throne the previous year. The million or so inhabitants of New York and the other Loyalist colonies could hardly supply an invasion force capable of achieving victory against any entrenched occupying army (nor did the Queen possess a fleet that capable of brushing aside a single French ironclad guarding the English Channel). So the impatient British deportees gritted their teeth as the Emperor of France organized the "free elections" placing their new puppet government in power. The moment the Queen's lawful representatives set foot upon English shores, the common people would certainly rush forward reestablish their allegiance to Her Majesty and string up Gladstone and the English Republic Army who’d collaborated with the treacherous French regime.

At least that was the official British stance on the matter. The commander of the Carolinian forces could not bring himself to banish his doubts as to the veracity of Lord Palmerston's claim concerning the depth of British public support for the old regime…nor of his commander-in-chief’s capacity as a leader. Not a minute into his first formal introduction to the aged Englishman, the Duke of Cambridge had managed to offend his erstwhile ally.

"Pete?"

Without bothering to turn, General James Longstreet, forever "Pete" to his friends and family, welcomed his second-in-command, "Paddy. Come to inspect our luxurious accommodations to Great Britain?"

The clean-shaven, youthful features of Brigadier General Patrick Cleburne followed his commander's gaze across the churning surf, to rest upon what appeared to be a battered passenger vessel, long past its best days should the thick coat of rust carpeting its hull offer any indication. The soldier's eyes furrowed in confusion.

"What the hell happened to the Charleston Star? The Governor assured us that every transport carrying our forces to New York had been hired indefinitely, and that includes the voyage to England."

Longstreet pulled Carolina cigar from his vest, tore off the tip and rifled the pockets of his jacket until he found a light. A sudden breeze kicked up and blew out his first match, just in time to save his flowing beard from catching fire. A second attempt swiftly brought the smooth satisfaction of Carolina tobacco in its purest form. Cleburne declined his commander’s offer with a shake of the head.

"Too true, Patrick,” inhaling a long drag from the cigar while unbuttoning his jacket under the rising summer sun. “However, His Lordship, the Duke of Cambridge, determined that that he preferred our vessel over those provided by the Parliament of the Royal Islands of New York and bestowed upon us the great honor of ceding our transport to him."

A long pause. "Ah."

"Yes, Patrick. Ah."

The reputation of the Queen's cousin, the commander-in-chief of Her Majesty's severely limited military, preceded itself in terms of his unmerited arrogance and condescension. The original commander of Carolina's expedition, Daniel Hill, consulted with the Duke for twenty minutes before stalking out Cambridge’s office in disgust, vowing never to serve a day under the conceited English aristocrat. Much like his grandfather, Mad German George, who inspired the colonies to rebellion, this abrasive aristocrat could not comprehend that “commoners” might resent the patronizing disdain heaped upon perceived inferiors.

Despite the snobbish arrogance endemic to the British aristocracy deigning to frequent these western shores, the public reaction to recent events proved virtually universal as the citizens of the Commonwealth of North and South Carolina had rejoiced upon receiving confirmation that Charles X truly intended to withdraw all continental forces from Great Britain, this despite the Carolinians no longer being officially “British”. The Commonwealth received independence from the mother country during the War of British Aggression (as Carolinians preferred to term their War of Independence) along with the United States of Columbia and the tiny Republic of Rhode Island. However, the citizens elected not to meld with the other wayward colonies into a greater union, preferring to follow their own path as dictated by their consciences (also due to the fear that the northern colonies would ban slavery as Virginia and Maryland were already proceeding to do). A personal union with Great Britain, both nations independent with no ties beyond a common allegiance to the same monarch, was tendered and graciously accepted to the then-youthful British King, George IV.

Great Britain provided moral support, and the threat of retribution by the mighty Royal Navy, should Columbia's covetous eyes set upon the wayward Carolinas. Upon receiving proof of Great Britain's conquest by the ruthless Bonapartist Regime in 1830, the Carolinians emitted a universal outpouring of grief and sympathy to their vanquished mother country and the young Queen forced to flee for the new world. For years, every conceivable English natural resource had been ruthlessly pilfered by the craven Bonapartist dynasty, surely the most infamous looters in history. Any British industry deemed a “threat to the peace and well-being of Europe” was shuttered, throwing hundreds of thousands of shipbuilders, traders, sailors, soldiers, gunmakers, engineers, teachers and Anglican ministers out of employment. Global British manufacturing and trade continued, though at a reduced level, and some cities became ghost towns. In a bid to escape the violations and destitution inflicted upon their southern neighbors, Scotland swiftly seceded from Great Britain and made peace with Napoleon II at the cost of their souls. Initially offered independence by Napoleon II as well, Wales and Cornwall rather too overtly assisted the English resistance in the initial years of French occupation that these regions were summarily overrun during the Regency of the Dowager-Empress and succumbed to the same exploitation.

Hunger was running rampant through England even before the potato famine struck northern Europe in the 1840’s. Throughout previous decades, a booming grain trade from Ireland and North America averted general famines. Now nothing halted the cruelty and misery heaped upon the defenseless people of Britain. Left without means, the starving weavers and tradesmen of the cities couldn’t afford the escalating cost of food produced by the inland collaborators inheriting the vast noble estates. Vagrants were bullied, rioters were massacred without pause. A French bureaucrat estimated that England alone bled four million emigrants in the first sixteen years of the occupation, not to mention an estimated half a million souls suffered through battlefield deaths, political executions, starvation, and various famine-related illnesses. Fertility dropped by a quarter. Anyone with means booked passage to North America. Those without bartered years of indentured servitude for trans-Atlantic transit, a practice dying out in previous decades.

The people of North and South Carolina, surrounded by a potentially hostile United States, naturally clung to one another for aid and protection, eventually fusing into a single parliament, the Commonwealth (or Viceroyalty) of North and South Carolina. Hundreds of thousands of British refugees, primary lower class, flowed into the hinterlands replacing the swiftly vanishing slave populations of the Carolinas depleted by a slow manumission process, the newly liberated blacks and mulattos often forced upon ships bound for Africa so they might not entice those remaining in bondage to rebel. The Commonwealth’s desolate sorrow during Britain’s three decades of exploitative occupation turned to spontaneous ecstasy as unrest spread across the puppet states of continental Europe, causing the latest Emperor, Charles X, to loosen the French stranglehold, then finally grudgingly release his grip on England in favor of concentrating resources on quelling political insurrection in Germany and Italy.

Without hesitation, the Commonwealth of North and South Carolina ignored the monumental expenditures inherent in such a crusade and promptly offered two Brigades to the regal and aging Queen who maintained her exile with such dignity and grace. The Queen's other domains, ruled directly by her Royal Governors - British New York, Jamaica, Newfoundland, even as far as the distant Banda Oriental - raised regiments now assembling in New York City. Naturally, it was fitting that the British Commander-in-Chief would take overall command of the expedition. Unfortunately, the Duke of Cambridge proved less than congenial, insulting the Governor's selected commander of Carolina troops by insinuating exiled British nobles should immediately replace "mere colonial militiamen" like General Daniel Hill, arguably the ablest soldier the Commonwealth had to offer. Hill was back in Charlotte before the Carolina Army assembled on the Charleston docks and promptly demurred to retain command.

To General James Longstreet's immense gratification and consternation, he was selected to replace his outraged countryman.

"Remarkable, offending two allied Generals, each within an hour of meeting him," Cleburne interrupted his superior's vacant gaze, his blue eyes intent on some ambiguous point in the sprawling harbor. "God help me but I'm actually fearful of inflicting men such as this upon the poor citizens of England."

"I suppose commandeering our nice new transport is the Duke's right, certainly the Governor wouldn't give a damn. An' I imagine me callin' him "General" in place of his title might have miffed the surly old bastard some, too."

The Brigadier guffawed. Not born to Carolina, Patrick was the son of an Ulster physician of protestant stock who his homeland after years of harassment in the catholic-ruled Irish Republic (later Kingdom of Ireland). His late teens and early adult years molded the soul of the capable young man, as much as the distinctive Carolina drawl irrevocably altered his Irish accent.

"I fear we shall encounter much more of such ill-treatment by our friends. Hundreds of aristocrats, Anglican ministers, and grand merchants were forced to abandon their homes, ancestral property and follow Her Majesty into exile with only what possessions they could carry. For those accustomed to wealth and privilege, the enforced austerity of their penury existence in New York grated mightily, I imagine. A common joke to the north was, within a year of the exodus, every middle-class supper table from Baltimore to Boston was graced with a gold candlestick or fine plate their former betters pawned to procure cheap food and overcrowded lodgings.

"You recall those stories about riots breaking out among dozens of "Your Graces", "Your Honors" and "Sirs" outside the Queen's Palace…you remember, back in '39? Those disturbances stemmed from appointments to incredibly lucrative offices such as King's County Clerk, Royal Surveyor and the occasional commission for Ensigncies in the city militia. Think, Pete, these were men who once sat in Parliament and received groveling tribute from hundreds of tenants laboring on ancient estates. Now they were reduced to hocking their family treasures to maintain some semblance of comfort, or even life. Certainly, the Queen was hardly in a position to grant pensions."

"Yes, yes, Patrick, I see your point," Longstreet sighed before a sly smile. "It is water under the bridge. Let us make the best of the situation and dedicate ourselves to retaking Her Majesty's homeland. If nothing else, it will rid this hemisphere of the Duke of Cambridge and his ilk."

The soldiers picked their way through the writhing mass of humanity preparing hundreds of mismatched ships to sail for the old world. Try as he might, James Longstreet could not shake the troubling thought that the triumphant procession to Westminster may prove more problematic than the Duke of Cambridge suspected.
 
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Chapter 19
March, 1865

Osaka, southern Honshu, Empire of Nihon


“Dammit,” the Bronx-born Irishman gritted his teeth. “Where the hell are the cannon?”

Dozens of Columbian vessels, most having rotted at anchor for months in Port Jackson or Honolulu, sprawled throughout the expansive harbor of Osaka, along the southern rim of Honshu, the main island of the Nihon archipelago. Dispatched to the Pacific over a year prior, the Columbian Army’s detachment to the nation’s suddenly ardent ally had been delayed by what the Secretary of State viewed as “deliberate stalling” on the part of China in peace negotiations. Finally, William Seward agreed further talks were a waste of time and encouraged President Douglas and the Secretaries of War, the Navy and the Colonies to reinitiate the plan to support Nihon against their Chinese invaders.

Though Major General Kearny, commanding the Columbian forces assembled throughout the Pacific, had his doubts regarding the justification of the campaign, wonder why two great nations like Columbia and China had been reduced to direct conflict over some petty Pacific island nation, he knew relations with China had been degenerating for some time as the United States of Columbia forged a coalition of a half dozen southeast Asian nations or territories against the hegemonic Asia power.

Perhaps this was inevitable, he thought.

What was NOT inevitable was the chaos surrounding the sputtering General as, even after six nine months of delay, the Columbian Army and Navy somehow managed to botch the transport north to Nihon. Soldiers arrived on Nihon’s soil only to find no provisions or shelter awaiting them, only a group of resentful and frightened locals, largely remaining well away from the port, laying low within the picturesque city filled with ornate oriental bridges, fortifications and architecture. Numerous canals spilled into the harbor from the hinterlands, but the citizenry kept their distance. Even the Emperor’s officials, belatedly arriving from the temporary Imperial Court in Kyoto, appeared to view the Columbian presence as abhorrent and offered little by the way of welcome to their allies.

His chronically rumpled adjutant, Major Ulysses Grant, puttered about with a clutch of documents, earnestly seeking an answer to his commander’s demand. Grant, a somewhat indifferent officer with a fondness for the drink and fine cigars, proved utterly inadequate for the position of adjutant and Kearny regretted not reassigning the man while in Port Jackson.

Unfortunately, the soldiers commonly assigned to the frontier tended to be there for a reason, usually incapacity. Grant was a drunk, Colonel Sickles murdered his wife’s lover, Pickett and Custer graduated the “Goat” at West Point (denoting their last place finishes in their class)…

“Sir…I believe that I have an answer…” the Major trailed off in visible embarrassment. The aging soldier (still a major after a long career, hinting at his capacity for leadership) conceded, “I believe the heavy guns were dispatched to Kobe, to the east…”

“WEST!” Kearny correct, utterly fuming. “Kobe is to the WEST. Also, if the gunners are in Osaka, why are the guns in Kobe?”

Turning once again to his ubiquitous paperwork, Grant finally gave up and confessed, “It was obviously an error in the manifest, sir. I’ll do what I can to get the guns transferred here.”

“I’m not sure what,” Kearny growled, more at his allies than his adjutant, “given the Emperor’s minions have yet to provide any draft animals. Do the Nihonjin expect us to PULL the cannon through the mountains ourselves?”

Despite his army of twenty thousand (if they ever all GET HERE) being shipped across an ocean (in some cases, two oceans) to assist the Emperor defend his home, the pronounced lack of welcome both grated upon and worried the Columbian officer.

“Get a message over to General Sedgewick in Kobe,” he ordered. “I want those cannon in Osaka within two days…no matter how it gets done.”

“Yes, sir.”

Grant stumbled off to his duties. Kearny sighed. He could smell the alcohol on Grant’s breath from five feet away.



Twenty miles west in Kobe



The English-born nurse, Florence Nightingale, picked her way through the streets of Kobe, ignoring the curious, shocked and angry glares emerging from the local Nihonjin population as she followed the appointed Nihon translator and adjutant deeper into the bowels of the small coastal city. The younger Columbian woman accompanying her failed to match her newfound friend’s composure and fear openly reflected upon her face.

For the past two years, Nightingale had organized the Port Jackson Nurse’s College intended to partially satiate the overwhelming demand of trained medical practitioners throughout Australasia. Like many Britons, Nightingale’s family fled England in her youth after swiftly tiring of French and Irish occupation. Lacking any opportunity in the Dominion of the Royal Islands of New York (Really? Must the little colony require such a cumbersome name?), Nightingale eventually migrated west across Columbia, first to California and finally booking passage for Columbian Australasia where her skills were valued upon the frontier.

Having been called upon to treat several hundred Columbian soldiers and sailors massing throughout the Port Jackson area over the past year, Nightingale’s competence at the Nurse’s College came to the attention of General Kearny and he invited Nightingale to assist in improving the pitifully deficient Medical Corps. Even after receiving several objections from army doctors, the General remained steadfast in putting the woman to work in organizing hospitals for the army as it sailed for Nihon.

Landing with General Sedgewick’s command in Kobe, Nightingale swiftly realized many of her medical supplies, even common items like linens and bedsheets, were nowhere to be found among the forest of masts rising above ships within Kobe Harbor. Granted immediate authorization by General Sedgewick to seek out and purchase local supplies, Nightingale didn’t hesitate to strike out on her own through the alien city with but a single young translator who appeared nervous of being seen with foreign women despite his assignment by the Nihonjin officials.

At forty-years-old, Nightingale had long passed worrying about petty niceties and, noting her young friend’s discomfiture, didn’t waste words, “Buck up, Libbie, never show a man fear.”

The pretty young woman nodded solemnly, attempting to control her emotions as the women continued into Kobe, their massive swishing western dressing immediately setting them apart from the locals. Already regretting her harsh words, Nightingale determined to be more patient. Only twenty-four-years-old, Libbie Custer eloped with the dashing, glamorous young cavalry officer…the type of which young girls tended to elope with against their father’s wishes. The only child of a Michigan judge, young Libbie reportedly begged for years to marry George Custer and finally, tired of her father’s probably reasonable objections, eloped to follow “her cavalryman” to the Great Plains. Apparently impressing against some tribesmen in the west, George Custer was promoted to Captain upon accepting a posting in Australasia, dragging young Libbie along for the voyage. Allocated to General Kearny’s army, Custer allowed Libbie to volunteer for Nightingale’s nursing corps.

“George heard from his friends Ignacio and Jeff this morning,” Libbie muttered, obviously to cover her distress, “They say the infantry has already been ordered to march north. The cavalry, once they receive their horses…”

“That is beyond our power,” the elder woman reminded. “Either way, we must be prepared to assist the sick and wounded…”

Finally, the Nihonjin guide halted before a lavish edifice denoting a significant merchant. Nightingale reminded herself to maintain her imperious façade. Apparently, Nihon society held merchants to be at the bottom of the social strata in contrast to western culture.

The young escort, probably a student as he didn’t look old enough to shave, burbled, “Madame…this is…cloth seller…” He gestured towards the shop but seemed oddly nervous. Probably not accustomed to women negotiating with merchants.

Naturally, Florence Nightingale cared little about the sensitivities of some random wholesaler. She pushed past the guide with an order to “follow me” to enter the establishment. In awe of her friend and mentor, Libbie Custer followed without hesitation…as did the Nihonjin student.
 
Chapter 20
April 1865

Five miles east of Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands


Commodore David Dixon Porter gazed through his binoculars towards the Chinese vessels emerging from Okinawa. “Nine ships,” he mumbled. “Nine to eight. Not the worst odds I’ve ever seen.”

The Chinese fleet appeared somewhat disjointed; a mixture of various designs given the rapid development of naval technology. He noted at least two French “Empire” Class ships and, to his embarrassment, at least three produced by Columbian shipyards. Fortunately, these were older models, at least a decade past their prime. The Chinese-constructed models appeared wider in the beam than the standard European ships, perhaps a throwback to the old “Junks” faced by Admiral Decatur.

Is THIS what the Chinese have in store for us? He wondered, then shook his head. Too many reports of fresh designs emerging from the Shanghai and Dalian shipyards to believe this was the best the enemy could do. Still, this was the squadron daring to face his own vessels…

Porter lowered his binoculars and allowed them to fall to his chest. Gazing east into the wake of his prized, Ericsson-Class flagship, the USS Michigan, he witnessed seven other warships steaming in towards the Chinese fleet without noticeable hindrance. No signal flags emerged from the tall masts rising from the low-slung vessels behind alerting the Commodore of mechanical troubles, usually the bane to the existence of steamships, especially in the vast expanse of the Pacific. The sails, still universal features among steamships to augment and relieve the coal-hungry engines, furled, leaving fewer sailors exposed upon the open decks.

The Michigan, the 3rd of the Ericsson-Class ocean-going steamships, possessed an all-iron hull enhanced by a series of wooden external plates intended to dampen the blow of cannonballs. The streamlined hull tapered up to the deck, ensuring the energy of any impact would deflect upwards towards the sky. A single gunnery deck, comprised entirely of huge, cast-iron Krupp breech-loading naval guns introduced only two years prior, had replaced the tried-and-true 80-pound muzzle-loaders still in use on the other Columbian vessels. Rumor had it that Mr. Ericsson wished to replace the entire deck with a quartet of turret, reducing the waterline even lower towards the surface but this revolutionary design change was deferred to the next model.

The Michigan was, quite bluntly, a predator upon the waves, both capable of inflicting enormous damage to an enemy while avoiding most counterattacks by her low profile and cunningly slanting hull and decks.

We’re ready for them, Porter nodded in satisfaction.

“Mr. Barnes,” he rumbled to the deck officer. “Signal the fleet…engage the enemy.”

With the sweat of dozens of sailors furiously shoveling coal into the boilers, the Columbian fleet swiftly reached battle speed (the top speed of their slowest vessel). Despite the introduction of steam-power over the past century, the initial stages of a “line” battle remained much the same as their predecessors in the Five Years’ War. The two fleets would pass at short distances, belching shot and shell at the enemy as they crossed. Even the improvement in naval gunnery range, power and accuracy did little to expand the gap between the combatants as the respective fleets’ lower profile in the water forced the ships to close distance in hopes of inflicting damage.

Within minutes, both squadrons were engulfed in clouds of black smoke, often obscuring the vision of the spotters. As expected, the “line” of both fleets broke down as the rivals engaged in wide maneuvers at speeds undreamt by their ancestors, enormous Armstrong guns built in the Royal Arsenal on Long Island rivaled the Parrotts and Dahlgrens for the title of “most deafening”.

The Michigan swiftly matched the course of an enemy vessel of obvious French construction. Minutes of exchanged volley proved both the accuracy of the Michigan’s rifles cannon and the tactical advantage of the Columbian vessel’s angled sides as the Chinese steadily took damage to the powerful Columbian guns.

Damn, these new rifled cannons are murderous, Porter thought in wonder. In truth, he’d had some doubts due to the obturation problems of virtually every model of breech-loader in existence. Apparently, this Mr. Krupp in Essen is a wonder.

A brutally accurate shell twisting along its axis cut its way through the wounded hull of the Chinese ship, exploding deep within. Almost immediately, the enemy vessel slowed to a halt, massive quantities of smoke billowing from the hold, visible flames swiftly following. Certain the Chinese cruiser was finished, Porter commanded the skipper of the Michigan to seek out another target. Periodic reports from junior officers lent room for optimism. At least one other Chinese vessels was aflame.

Even as the mighty warship turned towards pair of ships mightily engaged in battle, the Chinese ship in question…not so much exploded…as vaporized.

“Mother of God,” Porter mumbled, both awed and horrified by the rising cloud of flame emerging from the water. For a full minute, the entire battle ground to a halt as both fleet bore silent witness to hundreds of slain sailors.

Presently, the Chinese Commander, assuming he wasn’t present on the vanquished ship, ordered his fleet to withdraw with a series of signal flags. By some miracle, every Chinese ship not only spied the signal but were able to disengage without further damage. With every ship in the Columbian fleet having taken damage, and several suffering engine trouble, Porter dared not pursue with only a portion of his squadron. Fleeing northward, the Chinese abandoned their station at Okinawa to the Columbians.

Three hours later, a second Chinese ship, well out of range of the Columbian guns, exploded. Only after the war would the Chinese Naval Bureau discover a design flaw within one of their older models which lacked adequate protection of their powder rooms.

“Well done, Commodore,” Gushed Captain Howard, the skipper of the Michigan, “for a battle well won.”

“Was it, Captain?” Porter wondered. “I saw none of the most modern ships sold by Columbia and France to China among that squadron. And I’m not even sure the vessels of obvious Chinese construction were among their latest models. We have won a victory here in the Ryukyu Islands…but I fear my friend Farragut will have a far greater challenge in the Sea of Nihon.”

Unfortunately, I cannot do anything about that from here, he considered before ordering the fleet towards Okinawa. Thirty miles to the west sailed a small fleet of Columbian transports and cargo ships bearing four thousand soldiers to the Ryukyus. Though many ranking sailors and soldiers questioned the utilization of resources upon the remote islands, the nominal overlordship of this small archipelago was among the primary cassis bellis of the current Chinese-Nihonjin conflict and deemed a priority. More importantly, there was concern among the Admiralty (apparently looking at a map of the region from Philadelphia) that these islands might be utilized as a base to attack the sea-lanes connecting Australasia to Nihon…or even Australasia to the Columbian Protectorates in Southeast Asia.

Porter had his doubts on this and wondered if his fleet and the precious cargo of soldiers soon to occupy Okinawa would be better served in Honshu.

But orders were orders…and the Columbian officer at least conceded the day was a victory, no matter the true value of the islands.
 
Chapter 21
May, 1865

The Atlantic

“I know that look, Pete, I’ve seen many a time before,” commented Patrick Cleburne as he tossed his cigar butt into the bobbing waves of the Atlantic. The pair of senior officers rested near the bow of the transport, gazing towards the east and the rapidly approaching landmass of Europe. “Do you wish to talk or keep stewing until you give yourself an ulcer?”

Despite his brooding thoughts, the corners of Longstreet’s beard-obscured lips could not help to turn ever-so-slightly upward at his second-in-command’s jests. Though the Carolina soldiers had never been close prior to partaking in this crusade, having only crossed paths on a handful of occasions, the Irish Carolinian swiftly grew indispensable to Longstreet’s peace of mind. Certainly, the damned Brits did their level best to raise his bile at every conceivable opportunity. The Duke of Cambridge’s high-handed confiscation of the finest transport raised for Carolina troops for his personal use rankled Longstreet for its imperious nature. While holding no right to appropriate an ally’s resources (the good Duke continued to find the concept of the Carolinians being allies rather than subjects somewhat perplexing), Longstreet knew his own civilian superiors would not find His Lordship’s conceit justification enough to refuse such a minor request. Unfortunately, the commander of the Carolina forces discovered his taste for the entire expedition to reclaim England and Wales soured by the moment.

“You weren’t there, Paddy, for the final council of war. I was.”

Cleburne stared upward into the powdery clouds of the middle Atlantic. Half the three to four-week voyage already elapsed and both men found their sea-legs, though the landsmen packed into the eighty-five coal-fueled vessels carrying the “Army of Liberation” greatly appreciated God’s civility in providing temperate weather for the voyage.

Knowing full well his morose commander required the prompting, the younger man sighed and inquired, “Who was it this time, Palmerston or Cambridge?”

“Both, naturally. First Cambridge, then Palmerston.”

From that first, barely civil conversation with the Queen’s cousin, Longstreet’s opinion of the aristocrat dropped precipitously with every day. Though not necessarily an inept officer, the Duke somehow retained that ingrained English sense of social superiority which spending the majority of his life in exile should have amputated from his ego. Unfortunately, the man’s absurdly reactionary notions on military innovation bristled the Carolinian as much as his supercilious attitude. Longstreet profoundly worried as to the quality of the New York and Newfoundland Regiments given the obsolete training and military doctrine offered to the enthusiastic soldiers and their predominantly aristocratic…and ill-trained…officer corps.

Finally breaking his sulk, Longstreet removed his cap (God, it was hot) and waved some of the mild breeze towards his face, “Paddy, you should have heard Palmerston’s rant. First the ERA leaders would be put to the sword, then the Scots and Irish, and all would be right with the world again, with Great Britain retaking her place as master of the globe. Perhaps that damned old man intends on retaking the Carolinas and Columbia for good measure.”

“Scotland and Ireland? Pete, surely that can’t be true! The Queen herself stated in her address that Scotland’s independence would not be violated provided the northern Britons remained neutral in the coming conflict.”

“Paddy, you know damned well that she could hardly say anything but.”

Cleburne bit his lip in frustration. Scotland escaped the multi-decade occupation England and Wales suffered. As the French captured London, Portsmouth, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, Napoleon II’s emissaries appealed to the Scottish people, offering them independence should they discontinue support for the Queen. Though the Scottish aristocracy had long since intermarried with their English counterparts, becoming invested in the Empire, the common peoples rose in revolt, demanding the formation of a new Scottish Parliament. Faced with mutinies among the handful of Regiments remaining north of England, the gentry of Scotland grudgingly accepted the inevitable in the face of widespread riots and protests. Scottish prisoners of war were promptly released by the French Marshals, the ranks almost universally siding with the masses.

Should the idea spread in Edinburgh and Glasgow that Queen Charlotte’s forces intend to reclaim the northern nation as well….

Cleburne concluded aloud, his voice grim, “The entire Scottish Army would descend southward to support the ERA in repelling our invasion.”

The Scottish Army was not large, perhaps ten to twelve thousand men by most estimates, but quite modern and exceptionally well regarded. As a warrior people, the Scots had swiftly learned to relish their freedom and retained a substantial yeomanry capable of bolstering the numbers if necessary. Buoyed by the Scots, the English Republican Army would likely drive Her Majesty’s troops back into the sea. And Longstreet doubted resources could be marshaled again in the future for a second attempt, the Queen’s exhortations for every Briton of means to contribute to the expedition had been matched…but only barely.

“Hell,” Longstreet muttered, “the Scottish Navy could probably wipe out this convoy, and all the Scots possess are a dozen or so armed ships!”

“Better part of dozen more than we have,” Cleburne agreed with a shiver despite the humid conditions of the later afternoon.

The North Carolinian gazed left and right at the motley collection of modern passenger cruisers, cotton transports, hastily modified sailing ships and some vessels whose intended function and origin were a complete mystery to the soldier. Not only Scotland, but France and Ireland could have intercepted the “Army of Liberation’s” fleet and scattered it like matchsticks before a hurricane. Only the stated assurances of French and Irish statesmen (the latter provided in a much more desultory manner) that no interference would be offered on behalf of either party should the Queen’s ministers-in-exile authorize the expedition.

Naturally, the French and Irish took great pains to arm the ERA to the teeth before withdrawing, Cleburne considered acidly. Aloud he inquired, “So Palmerston expects to retake Ireland as well?”

“I have no idea if the man truly believes his own utterances, Paddy, though I’m pleased he kept that little nibble of information private. The Republic of Ireland maintains a special loathing for Britain. When Napoleon II conquered England, he was merely eliminating a nagging thorn in France’s side, crushing an inveterate enemy. The Irish, on the other hand, I believe they partook in the occupation for no other reason than raw, unadulterated hatred and a desire to punish England for centuries of oppression. If they could have sowed the fields of England with salt as did the Roman General Scipio Aemilianus Africanus upon conquest of Carthage, I have no doubt the Irish would have done so with relish.”

Abruptly recalling the heritage of his tirade’s audience, Longstreet grinned sheepishly, “Sorry, Paddy, I forget that you have far more familiarity with those circumstances than I. Sometimes the old Citadel professor comes out in me.”

“Not at all, Pete,” Cleburne waved off the embarrassed officer’s chagrin, “The atrocities against the Irish people are manifest. There could be no other reaction than widespread abhorrence towards their exploiters.”

“I am shocked to hear you say as such, Paddy, given your family history.”

Cleburne frowned as he gazed along the wide deck of the transport, his eyes far away, past dozens of crewmen skittering about their multitude of shipboards tasks or the assorted junior officer and enlisted passengers taking in the fair air and studiously avoiding their pair of conversing superiors lounging at the bow.

“Should you, Pete? Really? Perhaps in my zest to condemn that which was taken from my family, I might have neglected to concede the veracity of the injustices inflicted upon the Irish Catholic peoples of my native land.”

Longstreet remained silent. He, of course, was familiar with the Irish Penal Laws which oppressed the natives of Eire for centuries, the ravages of Cromwell, the effective annual pilferage of the island’s vast agricultural wealth by the English invaders. But he’d considered it impolitic to bring such incidents up with his Irish Protestant friend whose family had eventually been so harassed by the minions of the newfound Irish Republic (later the Kingdom of Ireland under the renewed House of Stuart) that emigration to the new world was the only logical option.

“The plantation of Ireland,” Cleburne began, eyes still focused on the past, “was a crime of monumental proportions. Scottish and English settlers descended on Ulster like locusts, casting all “rebels” out of the cities and off the farms. A new landed gentry was implanted on the soil, assuming the lands of the vanquished Irish nobles, not to be expelled for a dozen generations. The native Catholic religion was deemed “traitorous” and its practitioners, effectively all native-born Irishmen, were held with contempt. They were forbidden to acquire titles to land, to intermarry with Protestants, to sit in the Irish Parliament. Catholic churches were forbidden to be constructed with stone, wood only to lent to impermanence, and could not be sited along a major road.

“Should any Irish Catholic choose to convert to the Church of Ireland, then he would inherit the entirety of his father’s properties, completely disinheriting his brothers. By such methods, virtually all arable land became owned by Protestants. The Irish catholic was condemned to labor on some foreign aristocrat’s land, all the wheat and mutton exported to England where is could be sold for hard coin. In return, the tenants in their own country were allowed a tiny fraction of the land, invariably the worst cesspools on their lord’s property, growing potatoes so they might remain alive. In some areas, peasants lived in mud huts while the master’s fat livestock preened about them.”

“No, Pete, I fear the English people earned their retribution many times over. My own father supported Henry Grattan and the other Irish protestants protesting the sway the British Parliament held over her nominally equal Irish counterpart and agitated for Catholic emancipation. The Dependency of Ireland act of 1719 provided the Irish Parliament could not legally address any legislation not already approved by the British Parliament. Even the Scotch Presbyterians were discriminated against. The inequity drove men like Tone to rebellion…and the noose.

“When the French first invaded England back in ’09, Ireland was left to the shift for itself to two years. That was enough to permanently throw off the British yoke. The great English holdings were confiscated, an’ rightly so. The Catholics were emancipated…only to return the oppression in kind to the Protestants. Buttressed by French Arms and those traitorous Irish soldiers that rebelled against the King, the Catholics forgot the sacrifices of their allies and systematically withdrew all rights from the Protestant peoples!”

Longstreet could sense his subordinate’s anger bubbling dangerously close to the surface but kept his silence, certain the younger man needed to get this off his chest.

“All suffrage for Protestants was promptly withdrawn, of course, all Protestant officeholders were exiled, imprisoned or…executed. Most English and Scotch-descended farmers, not the rich absentee landlords mind you, just men who toiled for generations upon their own tiny plots, were tossed off their land. Hundreds of Anglican Churches were burned, the Presbyterians fared little better. And the retribution against the Irishmen who’d converted to the Church of Ireland…oh, Pete. You cannot imagine the reckonings. You would not think it possible to believe anything could eclipse the vengeance beset upon Englishmen in Ireland during those hideous years. But you would be wrong. The native Irish coverts…”

Cleburne clenched his teeth and tightened his fists. Longstreet was uncertain if the man would…or could, continue.

Slowly, the Brigadier managed to restrain himself and continue, “The Irish converts over the preceding centuries were singled out for particularly nasty reprisals. “Traitors” they were called by their countrymen. Even their own families, deprived of property by perfidious betrayal, leaped forward to condemn their brethren. Tens of thousands were massacred outright, most others fled for their lives alongside the English. But where could they go? England was ravaged by the French and could hardly take hundreds of thousands of refugees at a moment’s notice. Entire districts of Ulster emptied overnight as people bartered every meager possession in exchange for passage to the various Dominions, the Carolinas and the United States of Columbia. The Scotch Presbyterians were granted some measure of peace provided they didn’t cause trouble. Many of them departed anyway.”

“And what did Ireland gain by this…this…racial cleansing? Nothing! The wealth of Ireland lay not just in its fertile fields but in the dedicated labors of the linen weavers and shipbuilders of Ulster. These were skilled trades which cannot simply be replaced with Catholic hands! The industries died overnight.”

“You know of my father?” Cleburne glanced at his superior. Longstreet nodded. “He was a doctor, not some absentee landowner, a doctor. Though loyal to the new Republic, his pleas for Protestant Emancipation brought his neighbors down upon our family. We were forced to flee for Carolina as I reached my teens. My father died a broken man. And what profit did Ireland reap by pushing out a skilled physician? By his presence, was he keeping some Catholic doctor out of work? How many Irish patients died because Joseph Cleburne was deemed “undesirable” or a “threat to the peace”, eh?”

The furious rage, attracting the embarrassed attention of nearby junior officers taking the sea air, seemed to deflate out of the Brigadier. Longstreet remained silent during his friend’s diatribe, sensed no words could provide what Patrick Cleburne truly required, a sympathetic ear. Throughout his own childhood, Longstreet read the circulars describing these appalling events, of course, some battles even carrying forward in the new world as Irish Catholic immigrants and English/Irish Protestants renewed their tribal hatreds in the streets of the Columbian cities of Baltimore, Boston and Philadelphia. But to witness such devastation firsthand…

Finally, Cleburne managed to articulate his anguished thoughts, “No, Pete, I pray to God both Ireland and England remain permanently partitioned. Each nation has descended to hideous depths of cruelty and exploitation, it may be the enmity endures forever. Or perhaps, I am wrong. The Irish Republic…er, Kingdom of Ireland… might finally be satisfied with the pound of flesh taken these past thirty-four years occupying England and the retaliations incurred this bygone half-century in Ireland since attaining independence. There is even talk the Irish Parliament might reopen to the Scotch Presbyterians and whatever members of the Church of Ireland remain, God knows they are now a distinct minority and hardly a threat to the Catholic Ascendancy. Even Trinity College has started admitting Protestants again.” At that the younger man’s words drifted off.

In Cleburne’s haunted gaze, Longstreet bore witness to a burden of pain the native-born Carolinian could not comprehend. A war waged upon one’s own countrymen, north against south, the two parties more alike than either would acknowledge but unwilling to bend even in the face of unassailable truth that they were stronger united than divided. The concept seemed as alien to the South Carolina soldier as the dark side of the moon.

Thank God my country never endured such an ordeal, James Longstreet offered his silent gratitude to providence that no such civil war could ever touch Carolinian shores.

In companionable silence, the senior officers of the Commonwealth of North and South Carolina brigades stared eastward to the shores of England, each recognizing the unspoken reality that they might soon engage in the same fraternal strife which so badly mauled Ireland.

There was no mistaking the future, regardless of the fool Palmerston’s assurances of a swift victory. The Duke of Cambridge’s army sailed for home with the intention to instigate a second English Civil War. And Longstreet was damned if he knew which side, if either, would prevail.
 
In pursuing vengeance Ireland practically destroyed their economy. I hope that Ireland can eventually recover. Because if they can’t they’ve all but doomed themselves to being a French puppet for the foreseeable future.
 
Chapter 22
May, 1865

The Yellow Sea, east of the Liaodong Peninsula


Dammit! Cursed the Admiral silently even as the USS West Florida shuddered under a combination of explosive discharge of her enormous cast-iron cannon…and the blows inflicted upon her by the Chinese Navy emerging from the port of Dalian like angry hornets.

Exactly how the enemy detected the presence of the encroaching Columbian fleet remained a mystery. No telltale signs of smoke on the horizon pointed to a swift scout ship sailing ahead of the convoy to warn the Chinese naval base at Dalian.

It was such a good plan! Farragut mourned as the flagship sustained another hit, the mizzen mast falling. Fortunately, the sails had all been withdrawn and the mast fell into the sea without encumbering the speed of the vessel. Lucky, I suppose.

“Admiral!” Commander Gillian shouted over the din. Poor Captain Conway was dead, his legs being carried off by an errant cannonball an hour prior. “Captain Semmes signals he is falling out of line…and Captain Wilkes of the Louisiana reports a fire among his gunnery deck.”

“Mmmm,” Farragut grunted. “Two of our best ships…”

Yes, it had been a good plan. After delivering the army safely to the Nihonjin Islands, the Columbian Navy commander sought to strike the Chinese Imperial Navy where it hurt, an attack upon their primary base at Dalian. Though leaving the Columbian Army and their unenthusiastic new allies open to a Chinese attack in southern Honshu, Farragut believed the prize of crushing the Chinese capacity to wage war worth the risk. It just didn’t work.

Regardless of the whys or hows, the battle was joined and, for two hours, the ten ships of the Columbian squadron battled fourteen vessels representing the best of the Chinese Navy up and down the Yellow Sea. At least five of the enemy ships were of Columbian manufacture and three visibly French. As the Chinese lacked any of the most modern Columbian ships, namely the Ericsson-Class like the Maryland and West Florida, this didn’t concern the Admiral. However, those two metal behemoths of unfamiliar profile DID!

Though the Chinese design esthetic differed marginally from the Columbian – fewer sloping hulls and perhaps a bit broader-looking from the fore – there appeared little variation in the powerful armor and immense guns, many obvious copies of the common eighty-pound muzzle-loading Dahlgren and Parrott guns. I fear the manufacturers in Columbia did NOT receive a royalty from the Mandarin for use of their designs, he thought glumly.

As both fleet commanders attempted to keep a ragged line of battle for several hours, the expected signal to “close and engage” with individual enemy ships had yet to occur. Instead, four times the combatants crossed in line formation, each taking a toll upon the determined crews as shot and shell battered hulls and lay waste to the respective decks.

“Sir!” Gillian shouted over the din of battle from across the Quarterdeck. West Florida again turned the squadron towards the enemy ships for the fifth time. Already, one Chinese ship burned...and two Columbian vessels were signaling distress. “Something…in the water!”

“Man overboard?”

“No…something moving!”

Curious, Farragut approached the railing, his aging eyes somehow picking up what Gillian was gesturing wildly towards. A single…something…flitting through the water…under the water…at great speed on a course towards the Columbian fleet. It left a white trail in its wake just under the service within the normally azure waters of the Yellow Sea.

“What on earth…?”

Then, the Admiral froze, his mind returning to one of the ubiquitous briefings by naval intelligence over the extended “stay” in Port Jackson.

“Reports have emerged from China…from Dutch sources…that the Chinese Navy has experimented within the Yangtze River with a form of…well…propelled torpedo,” the young officer (whose name Farragut swiftly forgot) explained to the assembled Flag ranks one late summer afternoon. By this point, most of the senior men simply desired to depart for dinner but Farragut was fascinated.

“Are you saying, these…propelled torpedoes…may be mounted upon ships…or placed in, say, a rowboat…rowed from short in the dark of night and activated upon an unwary blockade?”

“Both, sir,” the young man nodded. “Though this is highly secret, the US Navy has hired a young English engineer, a Mr. Whitehead, to develop the same though I believe his designs are in an earlier stage than the Chinese.”

“Then a single man might theoretically sink a battlecruiser,” Captain Charles Wilkes, now serving as Farragut’s second-in-command in the Yellow Sea, muttered darkly. Though an aging sailor, Wilkes did not balk at innovation as so many might. His council…if not the man’s personality…were always welcome.

“Most vessels in the US Navy,” the youthful intelligence officer continued, “bear armor lower towards the waterline than either the French OR Chinese models…or Russian or any other nation, for that matter. However, these propelled torpedoes would strike BELOW the waterline where even our ships would be vulnerable. Fortunately, the Chinese appear to be in early stages of testing as well and won’t likely have such weapons at the ready for the foreseeable future…”

Those words from eight months prior echoed in Farragut’s mind, the irony bitter. The near invisible wake of the propelled underwater explosive fortuitously slipped between the West Florida and the ship behind, the USS Maryland, as the two fleets continued to bombard one another from ranges of two hundred to three hundred yards. Keeping his eyes as much towards the water as the enemy, Farragut was momentarily relieved that most of the Chinese vessels did not appear to be launching such weapons. Another pass completed, Farragut ordered the fleet to turn about again, this time the Columbians sailing west towards the open sea and the Chinese east towards the mainland.

“Sir,” the deck officer announced loudly despite the momentary respite from the deafening broadsides. Already, the Chinese fleet was approaching for another joust. “The Missouri and the Jones are signaling engine trouble. One of the Missouri’s boilers burst, and the Jones lost one engine to a small fire. And the USS Apache is taking water. Most of the other ships have taken some form of damage. Captain Hunt of the Apache…is dead, sir, along with the bulk of the Apache’s command crew.”

“Damn,” the old sailor cursed. Hunt was a good man. “Order the three ships out of line. The Chinese have lost at least one ship…and two more were severely smoking when last I saw. We’ll continue the battle without them…” The deck officer raced off to the signalmen intent upon carrying out his orders. Unfortunately, it was nearly impossible to maintain communications in this manner during the smoke and chaos of a naval battle. Typically, in absence of orders, ships just followed wherever their flagship led.

For the fifth time, the Columbian and Chinese fleets closed upon one another, both sides looking very much the worse for wear. To Farragut’s satisfaction, at least two Chinese vessels appeared to have fallen out of formation, one burning to the waterline well out to sea. Though outnumbered, the Columbian fleet was giving as well as it got.

Per instructions prior to the battle, the entire Columbian fleet did not simply loop around in line. Instead, each ship took a hard turn and reentered the line in opposite order, Farragut hoping that the speed gained in this maneuver more than offset any confusion cast among his own fleet. The Chinese tended to simply remain in the same order no matter what. The Columbian was certain that, on one of these turns, he might find a way to break the Chinese line and “cross the T”. Unfortunately, the wary Chinese Admiral managed to avoid such a scenario by cagey sailing, always giving his own fleet the space for their time-consuming but simple maneuvers.

Now, it was Captain Wilkes, who’s USS Louisiana had been at the rear of the formation, leading the fleet from the fore. Already the first ships in line were exchanging blows from ever decreasing range with the equally battered Chinese ships.

“Sir!” the deck officer reported. “The Louisiana at the vanguard reports several more of the Chinese vessels launching those…propelled torpedoes…from tubes along their hulls!”

“Damn!” Farragut shouted, wondering if he’d forgotten all other words and had been reduced to saying “Damn” to everything.

Worried, Commander Gillian approached and whispered to the Admiral, as if fearful to even venture an opinion, “Sir…should be break off the attack? If these weapons are truly dangerous…” Already, the West Florida, at the rear of the Columbian squadron, approached the van of the enemy fleet. Within moments, the first volleys belched from the Columbian guns seeking purchase upon the flesh of the Chinese vessel.

Though the junior officer’s thoughts matched his own, Farragut dared not express his own apprehension regarding the unpleasant new device threatening his fleet. As a commander of men, one must always maintain a façade of confidence and calm…even when one was anything but.

Drawing himself to full height, the old sailor raised his voice for the benefit of all within range and nigh-shouted, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahea…”

At that moment, naval history was irrevocably altered as the first propelled torpedo struck the USS West Florida beneath the waterline along her relatively thin iron hull. So violent was the explosion that the entire ship shuttered, hundreds of men cast from their feet. Upon the quarterdeck alongside the railing, Admiral Farragut was literally flung twenty feet into the air…and over the railing into the churning water. Commander Gillian barely escaped the same fate, landing upon the railing itself, cracking three ribs and suffering a concussion. For a long moment, the officer hung precariously upon the rail before the deck officer stumbled to his feet to drag the senior officer to safety.

As for Farragut himself…the old Admiral was never seen again.
 
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Chapter 23
June, 1865

Monterey, Nuevo Leon, Northwestern New Spain


Three decades prior, the once-prosperous city of Monterey was the center of rebellion against the corrupt, incompetent and oppressive government of New Spain in the northeast. The city paid a terrible price for its defiance: utter destruction, like much of Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas and Coahuila Provinces.

In 1863, a new rebellion emerged within the same region…and the people of the arid flatlands of northeast New Spain paid the same price. Already heavily depopulated, the region retained less than a third of its population in 1830…and that was BEFORE the French Africa Legion arrived from devastating the Valley of Mexico in winter of 1865 to lay waste once again to Monterey. By March, the Legion spread out into the countryside, leveling every village even suspected of sedition.

So horrific was the destruction that the third major bastion of rebellion, centered about the Mestizo-dominant southern region of Oaxaca, that the partisans dispatched an envoy to Puebla in hopes of making peace with Prince-Regent Carlos.



June, 1865

Governor’s Palace of Puebla, Acting seat of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.


This is what they send to beg the King’s forgiveness? Carlos wondered seated upon the throne of New Spain. A lifetime appointment as Prince-Regent, Queen Isabella agreed to allow the aura of royal authority by granting the Regent the right to act the part.

Taking in the comically tiny mestizo (or was he just an Indian?), the Viceroy wondered how these half-breeds managed to gain such support among the people.

Did the Oaxacans really want to follow THIS? Carlos considered in contempt. Unlike the northern regions of New Spain, relatively few pureblood Spaniards elected to migrate to the south over the centuries, leaving Mestizos and Indians to ascend to positions in power largely blocked within other Provinces.

The frumpy little lawyer, cap in hand, waited patiently as the Prince’s servant introduced him, no visible emotion upon his face. Carlos’ opinion of Benito Juarez rose a touch. The man was neither a coward nor apparently a groveling sycophant.

“You are welcome in Puebla, Mr. Juarez,” Carlos deigned to express a measure of courtesy, though his anger at the endless unrest no doubt shone through his own façade of dignity. “Was your journey swift and comfortable?”

“No, Your Highness, it was not,” Juarez replied in his southern accent, still bearing a trace of one of the Indian dialects. “The quantity of soldiers along the roadways was…distressing…”

Amused, and perhaps a bit impressed by the man’s spine, Carlos inquired, “Do you feel that perhaps your rebellion had something to do with this?”

“There was no rebellion, merely a request for reform…a request denied, might I add, Your Highness,” Juarez replied implacably, utterly unintimidated.

As much out of curiosity as anything else, Carlos inquired, “And what do your…followers…desire?”

“Not my “followers”, as you say,” the Mestizo returned, “but the desire to expand the Cortes of New Spain to include a greater portion of the population behind a handful of Criollo landowners would be a start.”

Now irritated, Carlos complained, “Do you people not understand the level of reform I not only accepted but PUSHED through the Cortes in the past decades?! I have expanded education, granted lands back to the Indians, actively supported the breakup of plantations and sold to peasants, softened the penal code, granted access to the trades to all denizens of these realms…”

Glaring at the Mestizo, he demanded, “Was this not enough? Wasn’t our announced plans to further these reforms enough?”

Throughout the tantrum, the lawyer remained impassive. After waiting several heartbeats to be sure the man was done, Juarez simply shrugged and replied, “No.”

Nothing more.

Finally, Carlos, through gritted teeth, demanded, “Are you willing to submit to the Queen’s…and my…authority?”

“Not until this nation…under Spanish authority or not…consents to a constitution protecting the rights of all individuals from oppression and discrimination.”

“It already does that.”

“No…it doesn’t.”

“Then we have nothing more to say. I have offered the royal pardon in exchange for your supplication. You have declined.”

“Yes.”

For a long moment, Carlos actually considered hanging the stunted dwarf from the nearly gallows but waived for his chamberlain to see the man out. Juarez already possessed a pass from the Prince-Regent assuring his safety behind Royalist lines. Let the man go back to his fellows in Oaxaca…and die with them.

The Prince was getting very, very tired of these people and repeatedly (if silently) cursing his cousin Isabella for his exile in this American hell.
 
Chapter 24
July, 1865

Portsmouth

“My god, we’ve done it,” the Duke gloated with satisfaction, “England is ours again! My dear cousin will be so overjoyed to be restored to her birthright!”

It took all of James Longstreet’s willpower to stifle a contemptuous titter at the preening aristocrat’s diatribe. Two days prior, the “Army of Liberation” sailed into Portsmouth harbor unopposed beyond a few desultory rounds of cannon fire emitting from the Round Tower, an ancient fortification guarding the entrance boasting obviously obsolete guns. The handful of rounds were followed almost immediately by a much louder explosion, later determined to be the rupturing of an old cannon, killing its crew, and forcing the other gunners to flee the decrepit bastion built half a millennia past by Henry V.

The Duke spent much of the following forty-eight hours disembarking men and munitions from the eighty-five transport ships and landing them upon the shores of the once-great port city. The inhabitants, for the most part, remained largely aloof, preferring to watch in silence as uncomfortable British Imperial soldiers privately whispered as to the pending “hero’s welcome” assured from a grateful British public. Oh, a few locals did approach the army tendering tentative offers to assist the “Queen’s Men”. In the distance, past the handsome Georgian townhouses and red-brick warehouses lining the inner harbor, Longstreet spied dozens of wagons laden with goods fleeing in the opposite direction.

Either we have some die-hard revolutionaries or the Duke’s intention of simply confiscating any provisions required for his army preceded him, the Carolinian thought caustically. True to his word, Cambridge promptly ordered his army to seize every warehouse within reach and report as to their contents. His fleet managed to carry men, guns, and other materials of war but the Duke declined to utilize the limited space within the crowded transport’s holds on victuals surely to be donated by the grateful inhabitants of England in sustenance of their liberators.

The chaos of the following days beggared description as the motley assortment of freight and passenger vessels belched forth their human cargo carried from the new world. Two-thirds of the guns were Carolinian, and Longstreet quietly gave thanks the Duke of Cambridge arranged for his own crimson-clad New Yorkers to appropriate every draft-horse in the city instead of Longstreet’s men in butternut tan. The citizenry of Portsmouth obviously grew offended by the systematic looting of their town by redcoats and Longstreet was certain his own “foreign” troops might elicit violence.

Three days after landfall, Portsmouth was fully secured, the officers appointed to fine homes as the Duke took stock in the situation. Press gangs rounded up those townsmen deemed good prospects for bolstering the Queen’s Army (Longstreet noted few volunteers) only to have the process halted when it was recognized the Duke lacked additional weapons to arm the hordes of recruits expected to climb over one another to join the liberators. By the afternoon of that third day, a thin line of white appeared upon the crest of a nearby hill. Not bothering to summon the entirety of his forces, Cambridge ordered his infantrymen of the elite Household Guard, mainly English exiles commanded by officers of impeccable pedigree, to march northward under his personal command towards the enemy soldiers. The ERA Regiment fired only two volleys into the onrushing crimson line before visibly breaking. With a quick, sweeping maneuver, the redcoats swept the

Republic soldiers from the field, most throwing down their muskets to expedite their flight.

Twenty minutes later, the Duke (atop his appropriated white charger) sauntered back through Portsmouth’s main thoroughfare to where his senior commanders were desperately mustering their regiments and solemnly pronounced the war over.

By Longstreet’s estimate, there had been no more than five hundred English Republican Army soldiers on that hill facing three thousand gaily frocked soldiers of the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards and Welsh Guards Regiments. After soaking in the accolades from the ranks (many of whom fortuitously maintained a good view of the “battle” and did not believe a word their commander’s uttered anyway), Cambridge was dismayed by his second-in-command’s hesitant caution that perhaps the ERA wasn’t finished quite yet.

“Your Royal Highness,” the fat, balding Lord Lucan began, “though I congratulate your great victory, I fear that the primary body of the Republican troops is surely yet to arrive…”

“Of course, damn you, Lucan,” the Duke bellowed, his portly frame undulating as he climbed down from his horse, “But did you not see the utter lack of constancy before our arms? These ERA devils will run for their mamas at the first volley!”

In truth, the sixty-five-year-old John Bingham, 3rd Lord Lucan, was every bit the pompous ass as Cambridge. The fool continued to list the Earldom of Lucan among his titles, despite that particular Irish peerage having been antiquated upon the Irish Republic’s formation. Longstreet suspected the man somehow expected his family’s long lost Irish estates to be returned as well as his title, despite the Republic distributing the thousands of acres among his grandfather’s former tenants a half-century ago. But the man’s service during the French invasion of 1830 evidently merited a senior command in the re-conquest. Even his brother-in-law, the Earl of Cardigan, a near-septuagenarian commanding the cavalry, could not abide Lucan’s presence. Cardigan’s horsemen hadn’t even saddled their hastily acquired mounts before the battle ended and His Royal Highness proclaimed the war over.

Hours later, after a sumptuous banquet hosted by the Duke in the most opulent townhouse in Portsmouth, the commander of Her Majesty’s forces announced that the Army of Liberation would march for London on the morrow.

It would be six days before the Army of Liberation actually departed Portsmouth.
 
Chapter 25
June, 1865

Southern Honshu, North of Kyoto


After weeks of exhaustive negotiation, General Philip Kearny finally negotiated a truce in which the two primary factions of Nihonjin – each supported by local feudal lords apparently named “Daimyos”. There were additional divisions between the Court of the Emperor…and that of a dead warlord called a “Shogun”. The details didn’t particularly matter to the Columbian…what WAS relevant was that, even with the Chinese advancing along the mountainous spine of Honshu, seizing city after city, inflicting appalling cruelties upon the people of Nihon.

Yet even impending doom did little to ameliorate generations of blood feuds. The rival factions only agreed to ally with the Columbians at the direct personal request of the Emperor, apparently something almost unprecedented. Even then, the battered remnants of the two Nihonjin armies only agreed to fight upon the same battlefield upon condition they may battle upon opposite flanks of the Columbian Army.

Within days of landing upon Nihonjin soil, the political realities soon pressed Kearny into spending the lion’s share of his time not organizing his forces but settling disputes between enemy faction…and not terrible well at that. Though his aristocratic Bronx upbringing among the Columbian gentry assisted the General in navigating the complex social strata of Nihon, the soldier knew his subordinates struggled to organize and supply the Columbian Army with so little local assistance and a very, very long supply line.

Atop a series of rolling hills in the shadow of the mountains, eight thousand soldiers of the Columbian Army assembled to confront a large force of forty thousand Chinese regulars who’d spent the past months determinedly battling through an endless series of ambushes and raids whilst driving south from the Nihonjin capital of Edo. By June of 1865, the Chinese Army controlled over two-thirds of Nihon and Emperor Komei demanded his “allies” repulse the Mandarin’s forces.

Upon the Columbian left were six thousand warriors of the Shogunate faction, mostly donning elaborate armor and wielding swords, spears and bows. Even those bearing muskets tended to possess obsolete equipment. Along the Columbian right flank ranged another six thousand Nihonjin soldiers trained in the western style, most bearing older French or Columbian muskets. Regrettably, neither Nihonjin faction possessed much in the way of artillery, most of what they’d possessed was now in Chinese hands.

Pity it took so long to land our troops and organize the Nihonjin, Kearny considered wryly, gazing across the hill, wooded terrain interspersed with rice paddies and other fields.

As Nihon possessed perhaps the worst horse country Kearny had ever seen, this would not be a cavalry duel. As best the Columbian General could tell, neither army possessed more than a thousand effective horsemen as modern muskets and rifles guaranteed the mass cavalry charges of Napoleon I’s day were a thing of the past. That cavalry Captain…Custer…yes, he attempted to convince Kearny to lead with a direct charge.

Just the sort of stupid thing I would have done at his age, the General thought wryly, accepting the reports of several officers perched upon the highest hills in the region. Given the relatively tight conditions between the enclosing mountains, the battlefield was only a few miles wide. Still, Kearny knew his own forces were outnumbered at least two to one. Naturally, the Columbian soldiers maintained their own superiority over the Chinese…due more to the perception of racial superiority of the white man over the yellow…and not the actual level of experience between the Chinese veterans and the largely professional but unbloodied Columbian soldiers untested in significant battle for half a century.

“Well, gentlemen,” Kearny announced while picking some lint off his spotless blue uniform, “I see no reason to grant the enemy the initiative. Let us engage.” The larger Chinese army continued to mill about atop and around various hills or entering into ranks along the winding rice paddies and orchards.

To the Nihonjin translators he’d ordered to remain close at all times, Kearny related his orders for a general assault along the entire front. Though the Columbian naturally would have preferred to initiate some form of daring, complex maneuver, the reality of integrating the movements of so many disparate (not to mention mutually antagonistic) factions under one command prevented any such thing. Besides, the terrain…and lack of cavalry…was not conducive to rapid movement. Best to keep it simple for all involved.

“Mr. Sakai,” Kearny nodded towards a young, wide-eyed Nihonjin translator, “Please request that General Toshiba attack the high ground opposite his position with infantry…but keep his cavalry in reserve…”

Within moments, the student repeated these orders to the “Shogunate” officers standing sourly nearby. However, the officer accepted this without comment and marched off to presumably relay this order to Toshiba along the eastern flank.

Kearny then turned to another translator, this one a young officer in the “Imperial” Army aligned with the Emperor’s reformist faction, and commanded, “Please invite General Fujwara to strike across the orchards without delay.”

“Hui, sir!” the Nihonjin lieutenant saluted and raced towards a senior officer also standing by. Within moments, the man nodded and raced for his horse. Expecting that the communication may take at least ten minutes, Kearny determined to wait until he witnessed the Nihonjim raise their battle banners and initiate the assortment of drums and gongs typically utilized as signals in these lands. Personally, the Columbian preferred this to the obnoxious bugles the Columbians utilized.

Though the defenders of Kyoto, the vast wooden and stone structures of the city only a few miles distant to the south, had thrown up a series of barricades, ditches and fortifications along the contours of the terrain. Kearny hoped he would not require them.

Within minutes, both Nihonjin factions managed to commence their march forward and Kearny nodded for his Brigadiers, Sedgewick and Sickles, to advance on the double-step to catch up with their fellows. Already, the Chinese artillery, mostly light guns akin to the Columbian cast bronze, muzzle-loading “Napoleon” twelve-pounders (largely unchanged for decades) and the more modern rifled breech-loading “Armstrong” cannon, opened fire. Apparently, the heavier Chinese bores had not been dispatched or the enemy commander didn’t bother with them.

Still, as thousands of Nihonjin soldiers were joined by the Columbian infantry in crossing the six hundred or so paces between the armies, the Chinese fire already inflicted casualties as small and medium caliber balls bounced along the ground, cutting swathes in the advancing allied infantry, and shells commenced bursting along the length of the battlefield. Kearny gritted his teeth as he watched his forces march bravely into the teeth of the enemy through his binoculars. Like so many commanders before, the Columbian loathed the sensation of superfluousness upon ordering his men forward. With only modest reserves, there wasn’t much left for Kearny to do. It was now up to Toshiba, Fukwara, Sickles and Sedgewick.

“God be with you, friends,” Kearny prayed.

Five hundred paces north:

Lieutenant Jefferson Davis Jr. struggled to avoid wincing as the Chinese cannonballs caromed past so swiftly the young officer knew he’d be dead long before his mind recognized the danger of an encroaching projectile. Only luck…or maybe God…will determine if I live another moment, Davis realized starkly, the experience proving so different from his youthful fantasies of glory. Courage seemed to have no relevance upon survival.

Commanding the 4th Company of the Ezochi Regiment (both Davis and his friend Captain Seguin had been transferred to the Ezochi Regiment months prior) due to his nominal commander, Captain Clark, being on extended leave in California, Davis suddenly found himself responsible for seventy-two lives.

With the steady drumbeat in the background, Davis marched sword raised across the battlefield abreast his men. Virtually none had seen any form of combat in their lives and Davis hoped their courage held up…and his own, for that matter.

At a hundred paces, the Columbians suffered their first volley of musket fire. Several soldiers of the 4th Company cried out in pain…or merely fear…and the officer knew at least a few must have fallen dead or wounded. Alighting a slight rise, Davis glanced east and noted the Shogunate forces had already reached the Chinese lines. Thousands of Samurai charged forward through the hail of bullets, slashing and stabbing forward with sword and spear. At close range, the Samurai more than held their own against the enemy…but at the cost of terrible casualties before reaching the Chinese position. Hundreds of bodies sprawled among the paddies and woods to the east.

The Columbian soldiers possessed the capacity to return fire…but did not use it. Rather than halt their progression to retaliate, the Columbian Brigades instead opted for speed in hopes of minimizing casualties. The standard 1858 Springfield Muskets possessed “socket” bayonets wrapping around the barrel rather than plugging into it. That allowed the soldiers to fire with the bayonet in place…though reloading was almost prohibitively difficult.

Expecting a fatal wound with every step, Lieutenant Davis struggled to maintain his composure before his command as they approached the Chinese position. Oddly, the enemy hadn’t thrown up even the most rudimentary barricades of timber or stone, perhaps an indication of arrogance or simple desire to avoid any encumbrances to movement. Either way, Davis was not going to complain as the Chinese fired yet another volley from thirty paces…but the Columbians continued to advance until reaching twenty paces, at which point Davis bellowed, “Halt!” To his surprise, most of his surviving command obeyed despite the din and confusion of battle.

“Aim!” He shouted, unsure how anyone could ever hear him. “Fire!”

A swarm of bullets swept forward, finally giving the Chinese a taste of death after several minutes of uncontested fire.

“Charge!”

After expending the sole round in their barrels, the Columbians raced forward with bayonets already affixed. The Chinese, apparently caught between reloading or, in some cases, trying to place their own bayonets, were unprepared for the sudden move, having expected to exchange further volleys. Since the days of Alexander the Great’s phalanx, the army with momentum behind their charge tended to break stationary defenders. This proved no exception. With few of the Chinese managing to fix bayonets or reload in time, the wave of steel breached the gap in seconds, impaling upon defenseless flesh.

In all the chaos, the 4th Company’s command structure broke down and, giving in to the moment, Jefferson Davis Jr. raced forward, slashing his saber from one enemy soldier to the next.

Fifty feet to the west:

Captain Ignacio Zaragoza y Seguin flinched as the drummer-boy but a few paces away fell with a high-pitched shriek. Though deploring the probable death of a child, the officer didn’t slow his step as the 2nd Company, Ezochi Regiment, crashed into the opposing Chinese line. Though a larger percentage of the 2nd Regiment’s opponents had managed to fix bayonets than did the 4th Regiment, the momentum of the Columbian forces proved pivotal as the lack of any form of obstruction allowed easy access to the enemy.

Within a minute, gaps began to appear in the Chinese lines as soldier fell or fled northwards. However, most of these gaps were at least partially filled by the quick thinking of local junior officers who commanded local reserves to plug the openings as best they could. Though the Chinese line was gradually pushed off of their modest high ground, the battle did not descend into a route.

Zaragoza, like his friend Jeff Davis, waded into the scrum without hesitation, saber in one hand and pistol in the other. Unlike Davis, though, Zaragoza preferred the firearm to keep the Chinese at bay, leaving his sword as a last defense.

Three hundred yards north:

General Zeng Guofan snarled, cursing his own stupidity. In truth, the idea of such a broad assault had never crossed his mind. Up to this point, any pitched battle with the Nihonjin resulted in a crushing defeat by the defenders of Honshu and the enemy was relegated to ambushes in the mountain passes. Zeng assumed that, even augmented by the white men from across the ocean, the enemy forces would opt for a battle of defense. This was the reason why Zeng hadn’t bothered with even the basest of entrenchment. He’d just been waiting for his artillery to be drawn up to pummel the enemy positions.

Within minutes, Zeng saw holes punched into his lines and his own reserves were poorly positions to staunch them. And it wasn’t even the Columbians who’d done the most damage. The Chinese left flank suffered terribly among the whirling, charging samurai who offered no quarter…not that Zeng did either.

To the west, only his trusted second-in-command, General Zuo, appeared to be holding…and even that with difficulty…against what appeared to be the modern elements of Nihon’s army. Having slowly ground the length of Honshu over the past year, Zeng learned more about Nihonjin politics than he’d ever desired. He was aghast at the power local daimyo’s and, even more so, the Shogun held over the Emperor of Nihon. Even the supposed warriors of this land, the Samurai, acted more as local brigands than servants of the Empire.

Had China been governed in such a manner, it would still be dominated by the Mongols.

Gathering his thoughts, Zeng considered throwing his immediate reserves into the fight in an attempt to regain the day but immediately discarded the idea. He’d suffered a setback, hardly a terrible defeat.

Instead, the Chinese commanded his gaggle of officers awaiting his every word, “Signal the retreat to those defenses upon the higher ground three miles to the north and entrench. We’ll concede the battlefield for today and order up our reserves from the north.”

Weeks prior, the Nihonjin had organized a haphazard series of defenses upon those hills and Zeng was certain he could hold them easily, especially as his artillery was still in the process of being brought up. “Order the gunnery crews redirected to those hills as well. Let the Nihonjin and the Columbians follow up on their attack…if they dare.”

Twenty-four hours later, in the city of Kyoto:

The English-born nurse rapidly sprinting up and down the aisles of the hastily constructed hospital ward. Though low on medicine, at least the Emperor condescended to offer hundreds of healthy Nihonjin men and women to serve as orderlies and nurses, thus allowing the army doctors to do their grim work.

Florence Nightingale muttered a series of orders to anyone who comprehended English (a minority) and managed to stammer a few commands in the local language akin to “clean the bandages”, “feed these men” and “more water” to the Nihonjin.

The previous battle, though apparently a “great victory”, seemed to have accomplished little more than pushing the Chinese Army back a mile or so and inflicting thousands of casualties, most of which now lay sprawled upon makeshift beds or mats upon the floor (Florence was certain this could not be hygienic, but the Nihonjin insisted).

Fearing the spread of infection or, worse, the Bleeding Death, Cholera and the like, the nurse had orderlies immediately cleaning any form of bodily fluid so as to keep the hospital as sanitary as possible…but it seemed a losing battle.

“Ms. Nightingale,” called a desperate female voice from somewhere within the structure Florence assumed had been some sort of warehouses. “We need you!”

Tracking the voice in the dim light of the “hospital” (which at least had the benefit of allowing plenty of fresh air), the nurse found Libbie Custer grasping the hand of a young Nihonjin soldier in modern garb. His jacket lay open and bloody bandages covering his chest.

“He seems to be…fading,” the pretty young woman’s wane features expressed a level of desperation. “His breath is so shallow…”

Nightingale looked closer in the subdued lighting, inspecting his bandages. She reached for a nearby candle, but the additional illumination only confirmed her worst fears. She sighed. A putrid yellow infection had already spread throughout the boy’s chest. The nurse doubted one man in a thousand bearing such corruption survived.

Gathering herself, Nightingale murmured, “Just hold his hand. It won’t be long. Then…have the orderlies carry off the body. More wounded are coming in.” At that, the English woman stood and reentered the dim interior of the makeshift hospital, hoping to find someone she COULD help.
 
Chapter 26
July, 1865

West Sussex


Much to Longstreet’s consternation, nineteen protracted days and nights had passed since the Army of Liberation disembarked upon British shores, almost without resistance. During that interval, the Duke of Cambridge had done little to ameliorate James Longstreet’s contention that the Englishman maintained no hidden stores of military capacity within his undulating rolls of fat.

Beyond his great “victory” outside Portsmouth over a force measuring a fifth his own, the Queen’s Commander-in-Chief had accomplished little beyond confiscating every able-bodied horse and morsel of provisions from the nearby populace to sustain his supply-starved army. After a full week of dedicated pilfering (in exchange for “receipts” in which the recipients received no tangible promise of payment…ever), the Duke finally condescended to direct his army on a ponderous course northward, towards the ancient capital of London, a bare fifty miles away.

Even the near-total absence of opposition did little to expedite the journey. Occasionally, the scouts would report a half-dozen or so white-clad soldiers gazing intently at the Duke’s plodding forces from a nearby hillside, but these men retreated upon every challenge. The Duke elected not to follow the ancient roadways from Portsmouth to the capital, the decrepit path had obviously fallen into hideous disrepair. Rather Cambridge nudged his men along a recently cleared trail paralleling several stretches of the road, obviously intended for use as a rail-line. Longstreet found this astounding, having been of the belief that Charles X and his predecessors deliberately forbade such infrastructure improvement in England with an eye towards permanently subjugating the conquered nation through economic handicap. It was widely spoken in New York that not a single mile of track existed on the British Isle south of Scotland. Even the relatively backward Commonwealth of North and South Carolina maintained three lines to carry cotton and rice north, west and south into the United States of Columbia.

Unfortunately, the relative ease of mobility fed upon the Duke’s ingrained sense of overconfidence. Rather than using the unexpected freedom of movement to take the initiative, Cambridge wasted hours every day issuing orders to pick the countryside clean of every conceivable resource. With every delay, the Carolinian gritted his teeth in dismay for Longstreet knew full well the true reason for the enemy’s tardiness.

Lacking the resources for a national army and having no clue as to Cambridge’s intended point of invasion, the ERA commander could only cover a handful of prospective landing points. Abandoning London was unfeasible, and the heart of the English Republican Army lay in the northern agricultural lands, so the cities of Manchester and Liverpool must, of course, not be threatened either. The defenders were forced to spread their armies throughout the length and breadth of the country, in hopes of randomly selecting the correct locale. As is, the Duke quite cunningly (to Longstreet’s grudging acknowledgement) kept his objective a total secret from all but his two or three senior officers until a few days prior to landing in England.

In France or Columbia, the first response would have been to telegraph every barrack in the land and command an immediate loading of every available soldier onto the trains and rush them towards the point of invasion. In the deliberately neglected nation of England, the ERA lacked that flexibility and undoubtedly had been forced to methodically send riders to the four corners of the nation and meticulously march them southward towards the threat. It was only a matter of time that the ERA’s armies assembled into position between Cambridge’s men and London. Had the fat Duke moved with all due alacrity, he might have taken the capital before the ERA could assemble in force.

Did the fool not realize the generous gift of time he’s offered to the Republicans? Longstreet wondered with contempt the first moment he’d gaze upon the twenty-thousand or so white-clad Republican soldiers positioned atop a narrow set of hills near the town of Reading. Eight days, you bumbling imbecile! Eight days you’ve wasted extorting tribute and receiving honors from farmers and shopkeepers!

Without even the pretense of shame at his bungling mismanagement of the march northward, the Queen’s cousin summoned a council of war to his tent to “discuss the terrain”. His bold pronouncements that “these Republicans would run like whipped curs before the sight of this mighty army!” still rang in the heads of his subordinates as the Duke prepared to wage what, to Longstreet’s knowledge, was the greatest battle in British history. Given that none of the Duke’s other subordinates opted to chastise the aristocrat for his sloth, Longstreet contented himself by merely gazing at a topographical map (by happenstance there was one of reasonable accuracy on hand) and concurred with the consensus. The enemy position was strong but not overpowering. The hills gradually sloped to peaks measuring perhaps thirty to fifty feet at the crest. More importantly, the ERA commander left no room to maneuver as woods flanked their eastern position and a swamp to the west. Short of pulling back and approaching along a radically separate path, only a direct assault on a solid, but not unassailable, position could dislodge them.

For his part, the Duke appeared more than a little shaken that the ERA traitors actually intended to effect battle against the Queen’s men. Bingham remained oddly silent, his cold eyes gazing nervously at the sprawling map laid out upon the conference table. Cardigan dozed off in the corner amid the chaos of dozens of junior officers sprinting about with the latest troop movements, reports directly from the Regimental Colonels and rapid-fire recommendations from the general staff officers.

Longstreet and Cleburne remained largely aloof, having received adequate evidence over the past months that “colonial” opinions would not be solicited. As such, the Carolinians were the first to discern the high-pitched squeak emerging from the pimple-marked face of an Ensign of perhaps sixteen years. Given the lad wore a Guard’s uniform, Longstreet found it likely the young officer must have enormous family pull to receive a commission in the coveted Regiment. Perhaps, the skinny boy was some Earl or Baron’s son, eager for an opportunity to partake in the great crusade to liberate the homeland from Emperor Charles’ English lackeys.

“Yes, yes,” Cambridge bellowed, “What is it, Prince Arthur?”

Prince Arthur? Longstreet and Cleburne glanced at one another before recalling that several of Princess Victoria’s sons served in the various Guard Regiments. As far as Longstreet was concerned, no one should ever take up the calling of soldier prior to requiring his first razor. He also recalled Arthur to be closer to twenty, though the slender Prince could easily be mistaken for younger.

“Sir…” the youth stammered, holding up a small dispatch, “I…I…have a dispatch from Colonel Armstrong, commanding the pickets. He says an emissary from the English Republican Army have arrived. Prime Minister…er…Mister Gladstone and his commanding general, General Nolan, have requested a parlay!”

Four hours later, Cambridge’s vast, white tent had been removed to the half-way point between the pair of opposing forces, each milling anxiously into position. A sense of history hung in the air, as if on a knife’s edge. To Longstreet’s immense surprise, he and Cleburne had been invited to partake in the parley, by agreement each party limited to only ten dignitaries and a half-dozen armed guards. Twenty high-backed chairs had been collected for the participants’ comfort. Though traitors, a moment of this magnitude demanded a certain aura of regality.

“So that’s Gladstone, eh, Paddy?” Longstreet muttered as a balding, fiftyish fellow in civilian clothing marched solemnly forward, leading an assortment of military and public servants.

“Hmm, doesn’t look like much, does he, Pete?”

And what does a revolutionary look like? The General wondered idly, sizing up his enemy. Fire-red hair and a demented gaze capable of striking down the unwary in one glance?

If so, this unassuming fellow failed to meet the stereotype. Gladstone looked more that role of country preacher or strict schoolteacher than firebrand. Yet it was this man who’d worked within the limited framework granted by Napoleon II and Charles X to return some semblance of legal process to the inhabitants of England and Wales. This man organized a nation-wide election which he’d emerged victorious with some sixty percent of the vote (by most reports, honestly) in a crowded field. The soldier determined not to underestimate the ERA official.

Henry Gladstone's relatively unprepossessing middle-aged blandness belied a cold, steady gaze hinting at a spine of steel. In one transcendent moment, the Carolinian General immediately recognized dismissive reports regarding the man's alleged collaborating with French forces, bizarre religious fervor, and perceived weakness for exactly what they were…

Self-delusion on the part of the British ex-patriot government.

With a glance, Longstreet recognized a kindred spirit to such august revolutionaries as Giuseppe Garibaldi of Italy, Francisco Miranda of Spain, Patrick Henry and John Adams of the United States of Columbia, and his own nation’s Charles Pinckney. Intellect and determination illuminated Gladstone’s eyes. In those steady orbs, the Carolinian detected none of the fanaticism or bloodlust of a Robespierre or Marat.

In short, Longstreet intuited Henry Gladstone was not one to be trifled with.

The English Republican Army's Anglo-Irish military chief proved a more elusive read. Tall, spare, and slightly grim, General Louis Nolan’s stern countenance masked his emotions more adroitly than his Prime Minister. Little was known of the man, only that he was the son of a low-ranking British officer who’d retired to the continent at the time of the occupation. Bereft of his half-pay at Britain's fall, the elder Nolan presented himself for service for various European petty states, finally finding a situation in Austria where his son received a commission as cornet in the Hapsburg Cavalry. Eventually, the younger Nolan resigned and returned to England, offering his services to the newly ascending ERA desperately in need of experienced officers. Fully cognizant of their own deficiencies, the ascendant native political power in England gratefully accepted the expertise of an officer with a continental military background and the authorship of two treatises on the proper use of cavalry amid the evolving weapons of the mid-nineteenth century.

Though widely derided amongst the New York nobility as the second coming of Napoleon I or Oliver Cromwell, Nolan's carefully assembled mask of indifference struck Longstreet as a mark of intelligence. To the knowledge of anyone serving in the Army of Liberation, Nolan offered unwavering support for the democratic processes of the new Great Britain and unfailingly demurred to his civilian superiors. Hardly worthy of such disparagement in keeping with Bonaparte’s malevolent egotism or Cromwell's messiahistic zeal.

The Duke bristled slightly at Nolan’s introduction, as if offended that the upstart government would dare offer an alternative Commander-in-Chief. Given the presence of a “foreign” government official, Cambridge deferred much of the meeting to the mouthpiece Palmerston sent to act as his personal cipher, a New York Parliamentarian of apparently Jewish descent named Benjamin Disraeli, who lined up opposite the seated ERA political leader.

“Mr. Gladstone,” Disraeli stated, careful not to acknowledge Gladstone’s title as legitimate Prime Minister of Great Britain, “by authority of Her Majesty, Queen Charlotte, I am instructed to extend her personal greetings to all Her Majesty’s long-suffering subjects in this unhappy land and assure them that, in her enforced absence, the Queen has thought of nothing else beyond the hardships inflicted upon these shores. She rejoices at the rightful freedoms now regained and vows that such a dreadful fate shall never again befall her people.”

“On behalf of a grateful English and Welsh people, I receive Her Majesty’s blessings with all the warmth they were intended.”

Disraeli smiled at Gladstone’s terse rejoinder. Ignoring the clipped nature of the response, the lean figure continued, “And by Her Majesty’s grace by virtue of Act of Parliament, Queen Charlotte has dispatched this advance party to clean out the last remnants of foreign rule and prepare for Her triumphant return.” Disraeli ceremoniously handed Gladstone a bundle of parchments, “As so approved by Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of Great Britain.”

Gladstone limply held the documents in one hand, a curious mixture of incredulousness and contempt spreading across his haggard features. Longstreet suspected the ERA politician might have been considered handsome in his youth. A life of oppression and deprivation had a hardening effect on any man. With an almost effeminate gesture, Gladstone dropped the parcel in one of his aide’s hands.

“Just out of curiosity….do you truly believe that England and Wales has been waiting breathlessly in anticipation of your return? And Mr. Palmerston…”

“Prime Minister Palmerston of Great Britain!” the Duke broke in gruffly, obviously as tired of the pointless ceremony as Gladstone, “Personally selected by the Queen upon receiving a majority in Parliament!”

The ERA political leader barely glanced in the Duke’s direction, as if deciding if the blustering soldier wasn’t even worth responding too. At length, Gladstone retorted coldly, “Yes, I understand now, sir. You appear to be under the impression that the collection of spineless nobles who fled across the Atlantic thirty-four years past, stripping this nation of all items of value in their cowardly retreat and abandonment of the people they’d pledged to protect, will find a warm welcome among those whom they discarded with such loathsome ease.”

The middle-aged Englishman leaned forward, his previously docile manner cast aside, “You believe that the people of England and Wales, who suffered deprivation and famine as their noble gentry resided in comfortable prosperity in New York, Montevideo and Kingston, have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to return to your service as vassals? Have you walked the streets of Brooklyn, arm in arm, with this ridiculous “Prime Minister in exile” and discussed your dreams of massive, lucrative estates soon to return to your possession, filled with serfs to toil in your fields?”

“Do you believe, Sir,” Gladstone’s voice rose with the fervor of a southern preacher condemning Satan. Longstreet had to admit that he was impressed as the Englishman continued, “that the people of Great Britain, who have suffered a generation of tyranny and subjugation by foreign powers, will meekly return to the repression of their own entitled betters? The men and women who toiled the vast farmlands of Britain will jubilantly yield them for the privilege of watching the fruits of their labors embezzled by the descendants of the aristocratic robber barons who stole the property in the first place?”

Cambridge glared daggers at the populist leader, through gritted teeth, he warned, “The Queen is inclined to pardon any of the traitors that collaborated with the French and Irish in suborning her country. But be warned, you shall face the full wrath of the Houses of Commons and Lords should…”

Gladstone emitted a rough bark of laughter, “House of Lords?! Oh, my, Mr. Hanover…or whatever the hell your family calls itself without an actual Kingdom to command…I fear you are still under the delusion that the entitled nobility still exists merely because you bow and scrape towards one another with the “My Lords” and “Your Graces” throughout the streets of New York. Well, the people of England and Wales have spoken with their votes and, unlike the electoral shams of bygone days where barely one in six held a voice, and most of those bought off by your ilk, this time the whole of England spoke as one. Your kind are no longer wanted here.”

“You….will…hang…for this outrage…”

Ignoring the fuming Duke, Gladstone returned his attention to Disraeli, who had watched the proceedings with great interest, and stated, “The constitution instituted by the French and Irish maintains flaws, one which we might reconcile now that those inflicting such damage have departed these shores. Should Parliament vote, the Queen would certainly be returned to Her former glory, though without many of the powers her ancestors wield through the previous Parliaments. All those accompanying her flight to the Americas will be welcomed as well, provided they mind the new order, meaning no House of Lords. Those dark days have passed.”

“Of course, the good Duke here and his ilk would be free to run for office. Oh my, yes. Perhaps the platform of re-confiscating their great estates from the peasants and rolling back the enfranchisement for most of the population might resonate among the masses…but I do not fancy your chances.” Gladstone’s eyes swiveled in their sockets towards Cambridge, “To be blunt, Mr. Hanover…to know you is not to love you.”

“This parley is over. Return to your boats and deliver the Queen’s invitation to return, without an armed escort, and she shall be made welcome in every corner of Great Britain. To tarry is to invite destruction at the hands of General Nolan, and severely degrade the affection for our exiled Queen permeating every British soul.”

With that, Gladstone stood, turned his back on the “Army of Liberation” and ambled back towards his own lines. Cambridge, almost incoherent with fury, bellowed, “We shall hang every ERA traitor throughout England! No! We shall have you all drawn and quartered!”

Gladstone halted momentarily to glance over his shoulder, an almost imperceptible smirk spreading across his features, “Yes…and won’t the people will love you for that, given that the ERA garnered the majority of the popular vote? Depart these shores within seventy-two hours or else the force of arms shall carry the day. “
 
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