The Dead Skunk

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Lycaon pictus, May 7, 2011.

  1. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    April 17, 1815
    Halifax, Nova Scotia

    The Duke of Wellington looked up from his desk.

    “What is it?”

    “Cochrane and Murray are here, sir,” said Morriset in that odd whistling voice that no one else could imitate, although a good many sailors had been flogged for trying over the course of their journey. (Personally, Wellington thought the man was doing well to be able to talk at all out of that skewed and slightly off-center mouth.)

    Major James Morisset, recently of the 80th Foot, was his aide-de-camp for this expedition. The major always wore his dress uniform, with well-polished buttons and as much gold braid as he could get away with. He looked more like a dandy than a soldier, until you caught sight of his face, and then you wished you had kept your eyes shut.

    “Bring them in,” said Wellington.

    Morisset was an old Spanish hand who’d had the misfortune of fighting at Albuera under Beresford. In his case, the great misfortune — the bones of his face had been shattered by an explosion, and had healed… wrong. Fortunately, his brain was undamaged, and he was a harsher disciplinarian than Wellington, which was a useful quality in a subordinate.

    He also had a gift for intimidation. As Cochrane entered, Morriset turned his head to show the admiral the most damaged part of his face. (The major had the habit of doing this — partly as a way of daring other men to look at him, and partly because, although he could still see out of the eye on that side, he couldn’t move it.)

    “Good morning, Your Grace,” said Cochrane.

    “’Sir’ will suffice,” said Wellington. “I have been given plenipotentiary power here, which makes me your commanding officer. Something I hope Keane, Sherbrooke and yourself will bear in mind, as you have all exceeded your authority to a degree that I have never before seen in British officers.” Cochrane had the grace to look a little ashamed.

    “Now then… what is the situation in Louisiana?”

    “When I left, it was a cease-fire. General Keane was still offering to mediate the matter, but the dirty-shirts were determined to retake the place by force and the New Orleanians were refusing to allow it.”

    “Well, that does make things more complicated.” The duke spared a moment to think a few more disgusted thoughts about the mess Cousin Jonathan had made. Trying to burn down your own city… Lisbon wasn't even a British city, but if Masséna had somehow pierced the Lines of Torres Vedras, Wellington would not have destroyed it on the way out any more than Moore had torched Corunna.

    “If it is not out of line for me to say so, sir,” said Cochrane, “although the decision lies in your hands, I can’t believe that the Crown would send such a large body of men with you on the expectation that you wouldn’t use it.”

    “You are most likely right,” said Wellington, “but if I can resolve this matter peacefully, I will do so. To that end…” He turned to Sir George Murray, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada.

    “You have delivered my message?” Wellington had sent a message to the president, offering to negotiate over the disposition and boundaries of Louisiana.

    “I have,” said Murray, “but… permission to speak freely?”

    “By all means.”

    “President Madison has issued an ultimatum. He’s given us until the end of April to quit all U.S. territory, or he will give the order to resume the war. From the tone of his remarks, I don’t imagine he will accept another negotiated peace — not even from yourself. What he wants, I think, is for the world to respect his nation.”

    Cochrane made a noise that was half laugh, half gasp of disbelief. “A little bandits’ lair on the far side of the pond, shouting out death threats to every crowned head on Earth… what about that are we supposed to respect? What have they done in this war to command respect? Do they think themselves conquistadors because His Majesty decided they weren’t worth”—

    “Be silent,” said Wellington. “Now, Lieutenant-Governor, how do the colonial forces stand?”

    “Ready to resume the war, if necessary,” said Murray.

    “What about Prévost? Is he gone?”

    “Yes, sir. He left Quebec not two weeks ago. Sir Gordon Drummond is in command of Canadian forces.”

    “Excellent.”

    “He’s concentrating his army north of Lake Champlain. He’s expecting you to join him.”

    “Is he? Well, Sir Gordon may do as he pleases, but not with my army. We have attacked the United States twice by way of that corridor, and failed both times. If we come at them the same old way, they’ll beat us the same old way.”

    “If you wish, sir,” said Cochrane, much more humbly than before, “I could undertake the transfer of your army to Louisiana or Florida.”

    “That would take too long,” said Wellington. “I have already sent reinforcements to both places. If it comes to war, they’ll have to stand on the defensive.” Most of his army was positioned on the Maine-New Brunswick border. (The old border, not the Penobscot. Wellington still held out some hope of peace, and he certainly wasn’t going to go to war for the sake of Sherbrooke’s “New Ireland.”)

    Wellington took out a map of New England.

    “This afternoon I will take ship for St. George, New Brunswick,” he said. “That will be my command post.

    “If it comes to war, this is my plan of attack. We will start here and proceed south along the coast, supplying the army by sea — you will be in charge of that aspect, Admiral Cochrane. Our aim will be not to conquer and hold territory, but to force the United States to the negotiating table.”

    “The terrain will be difficult, sir,” said Murray.

    “The terrain is difficult? Heavens,” said Wellington dryly, thinking of the rocky hillsides of Maharashtra and Spain, where he had done quite well.

    “And there are several rivers you would have to cross — the Penobscot, the Merrimack…”

    Wellington restrained himself from rolling his eyes. For as long as he’d been in the army, it seemed, he’d had to put up with people who treated rivers as though they were impassable barriers — too deep, too swift, the bridges were out, the water was full of crocodiles, etc. His first victory had been at Assaye — two villages within five hundred yards of one another on either side of a river, and the natives had had the cheek to tell him there was no ford between them.

    “I crossed an ocean to get here,” he said. “I think I can manage a few rivers. Of course, if the president agrees to talk, all this will become moot.”

    “What about Sherbrooke, sir?” said Murray. “Will you be commanding him to leave Castine?”

    “As I said in my letter to Madison, my first act on receiving his reply will be to give that order. We have no real claim on it, and so long as we control the sea it adds nothing to our strategic advantage. Nonetheless, it does not pay to make concessions until the other side at least shows some willingness to negotiate.”
     
  2. stevep Member

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    Mar 21, 2006
    Lycaon pictus

    Right, it's all a matter of timing. From the comment about standing on the defensive in the event of war, which seems to include Keane's force, the latter hasn't been ordered to withdraw from New Orleans yet. War is almost certain to come by the end of the month as Madison has left himself no alternative approach but when will Wellington hear the bad news from Europe.

    I'm a bit surprised that he didn't order Sherbrooke to withdraw as a sign of good faith. Doubt it would work but might be worth a try. Also would make clear that he could stamp out irresponsible behaviour on the British side at least.

    Steve
     
  3. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    The Battle of Castine
    4/24​

    “Benedict Arnold proved that a hero can die a traitor. Caleb Strong proved that a traitor can die a hero.” — historian Charles Cerniglia
    “Bloody May” — the sudden resumption in hostilities after three months of cease-fire — actually began in the last week of April, when Governor Strong led a force of 10,000 Massachusetts militiamen towards the British-occupied town of Castine to demand Sherbrooke’s immediate withdrawal. There he found the 29th encamped across the not-quite-half-mile-wide isthmus between Wadsworth Cove and Hatch Cove.
    Which side is to blame for starting the battle is a matter of historical contention. The general agreement is that the British refused to get out of the Americans’ way, and opened fire when the Americans refused to stop.
    After taking heavy casualties, the militiamen drove the British back from the isthmus. Sherbrooke re-formed his lines behind the canal. It was while forcing a crossing of this canal that Governor Strong was killed. When they found themselves charging uphill towards Fort George, occupied by two more regiments, the militia had had enough. They retreated to Bucksport, and from there began marching to reinforce the border.

    David Harvey Copp, Military Engagements of the War of 1812
     
  4. stevep Member

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    Mar 21, 2006
    Lycaon pictus

    Well the cat has well and truly arrived amongst the pigeons. If not for the parallel crisis in the south it might be possible that a settlement would be sorted out but I think things will go downhill rapidly now.

    It doesn't say on his Wiki entry as to how things were resolved OTL other than he entered negotiations with Britain but matters ended after the Treaty of Ghent. Interesting that he was already 70 at this point so actually leading a force into battle.:eek: Checking what it says about Sherbrooke this section is rather surprising.;) "His active defense of the colony during the War of 1812 led to his appointment as Governor General of British North America in 1816. His talent as a mediator helped settle disputes between anglophones and francophones, and he won the confidence of Louis-Joseph Papineau" So his OTL opposition to the peace terms didn't noticably affect his career. Although he lived until 1830 he retired from the above post due to ill health, probably a stroke.

    This clash could mean that the New England area is less hostile to a new conflict.:(

    Steve

     
  5. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    The Battle of the Great Chazy River
    5/6​


    “They are not monsters. They are not devils. They are men, they are no stronger or more enduring of body than we are, and THEY CAN BE DEFEATED. I have seen it done. I have done it before.” — General Jacob Jennings Brown
    Shortly after Wellington crossed the border, the Glengarry Light Infantry and a substantial force of Canadian militia, including the Voltigeurs, invaded the United States between Mooers and Champlain, headed for Plattsburgh.
    As they were fording the Great Chazy River (“Great compared to what?” said one Voltigeur) they were met by 5,000 U.S. army regulars from the Army of the Niagara, under the personal command of General Brown. The heavily wooded terrain did not allow either side to enter formation, but the Americans were able to make use of trees and improvised cover. Over 100 British and Canadians were killed, compared with 14 Americans, before the retreat. Brown did not pursue — Madison had ordered him not to attempt to hold Canadian territory, but instead to prepare to engage Wellington.

    David Harvey Copp, Military Engagements of the War of 1812
     
  6. stevep Member

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    Lycaon pictus

    A bit unclear here. Are you talking about two forces crossing the border, Wellington and the Canadian militia, the latter being checked by Brown who is now drawing up to fight Wellington? Presuming so as otherwise you seem to be repeating yourself and Brown wouldn't be engaging Wellington if he was back across the border.

    If so the next battle could be nasty. Wellington has a lot of veterans with experience of fighting in loose formation in rough terrain so should be a much tougher opponent.

    Steve
     
  7. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    Yes, this invasion force is separate from Wellington's. In fact, they're using the invasion route that Wellington didn't think was a good idea. I think it's time I started working on some maps.
     
  8. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    The Battle of Madambontis Lake
    5/6​

    “The trouble with being the fastest dog in the hunt is you might catch up to the bear before the others do.” — anonymous Massachusetts militia volunteer
    General Wellington and his army began their march through U.S. territory on May 5, slipping their army between two American forces guarding the border. The Americans immediately began pursuit. In their haste, the Massachusetts militiamen allowed some of their faster regiments to get too far ahead of the main body.
    As a result, when one regiment encountered Wellington’s rear guard the next day north of Madambontis Lake, it found itself severely outnumbered by soldiers who were already individually more competent. In the ensuing skirmish, seventeen Americans and nine Britons were killed or wounded before the Americans retreated.

    David Harvey Copp, Military Engagements of the War of 1812


    Note: Madambontis Lake is what we call (when we call it anything, which isn't often) Meddybemps Lake.

    DS Bloody May Basic 2.0.png
     
  9. stevep Member

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    Lycaon pictus

    Thanks for the map still but a bit puzzled? Last month saw Strong's attempt to expel Sherbrooke forces but it sounded like that was unsuccessful as his forces took heavy loses assualting defended positions, although they might have forced Sherbrooke's men back a bit on the battlefield. Now we have the American border forces clashing with Wellington's forces further to the NE.

    Were Sherbrooke's men actually driven out of the section of Maine they held or was this an isolated position and the Americans had forces to the north east?

    Given the numbers and experience edge it sounds like the America militia got off fairly lightly.

    Would this still be referred to as the 1812 conflict?

    Steve
     
  10. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    Sherbrooke's army isn't big enough to do more than hold the little peninsula where Castine is. He won't leave until Wellington comes by and he has a chance to join the larger army.

    And, not to give anything away, but the war won't go on much longer, and will still be called the "War of 1812" for want of a better name.
     
  11. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    The Second Siege of Detroit
    5/9-31​

    “I am not William Hull.” — Lieutenant Colonel (later General) George Armistead
    The 41st regiment, which had captured Detroit once before, was sent to do so again, backed up by the Michigan Fencibles and over 500 Native Americans of various tribes. When it crossed the river, it encountered over 600 regular U.S. troops under Armistead’s command.
    Following a brief battle, the Americans abandoned the waterfront and retreated to Fort Shelby. After the first two attacks failed on the fort failed, the British settled in for a siege. More Native Americans, primarily Shawnee and Wyandot, joined in the effort. However, the fort proved adequately equipped with food, powder and shot, and the new allies of the British overwhelmed the planned logistical support. The Native Americans dispersed when the food ran short. Seeing their allies leaving, the British abandoned the siege at the end of the month.
    Contrary to popular misimpression, Armistead was not killed in the battle, or even wounded. The prolonged effort took its toll on his health, however, and he died of heart failure shortly afterward.

    David Harvey Copp, Military Engagements of the War of 1812
     
  12. stevep Member

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    Lycaon pictus

    OK thanks for clarifying. Didn't realise he had such a small force.

    Steve
     
  13. Space Oddity That One Guy. You Know Who I Mean.

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    You know, just if I haven't made it clear before, this is a neat timeline.
     
  14. Gustavus Adolphus Greateast emperor of Sweden

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    Only read the beginning but an interesting start. Will follow. By the way I will also subscribe.
     
  15. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    Thanks, everyone. I aim to please.
     
  16. Sior Banned

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    Go the 41st Finest Regiment in the Army! (ex RRW)
     
  17. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    The Battle of Merrymeeting Bay
    5/11​

    Leave your weapons here. Go home. Pray you never cross my path again.” — Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, to the surviving militia
    Two days before the battle, Wellington’s already substantial army had been reinforced by the addition of the three regiments under the command of Sherbrooke. (History does not record what Wellington said to Sherbrooke when they met, but witnesses describe the lieutenant-governor as appearing “chastened” as he emerged from the tent.) The combined army was more than a match for the 15,000-strong force of Massachusetts militia encamped between Lily’s Cove and Cork Cove, under the command of Major General Joseph Whiton.
    Wellington chose to attack at first light, so that the sun would shine increasingly in the Americans’ eyes over the course of the battle. This, however, proved irrelevant. The militia were taken completely by surprise, and by the time the sun had cleared the treeline, they had been thoroughly routed. Whiton was killed in the opening volleys of the attack.
    In fifteen minutes, the militia had been driven into the bay. Literally — the senior surviving officer was standing in water up to the knees when he offered his surrender. The Americans suffered a loss of 1,128 killed and wounded to the British-Canadian loss of 42.

    David Harvey Copp, Military Engagements of the War of 1812
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2011
  18. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    The Second Battle of LaPlace
    5/13-17​

    “People of Louisiana! Here I am and here I shall remain, until the King of England or the Angel of Death command my departure.” — Major General John Keane, the day before the battle
    Keane’s army had built a fortified line upriver from New Orleans, stretching from the Mississippi to Lake Ponchartrain. There were several gunboats on the lake, and a number of the local “algerines” had been persuaded to patrol the river. On the American side, General Coffee’s losses at Natchez had been more than made up by Choctaws under the command of Pushmataha and additional regiments of Kentucky and Tennessee militia.
    On the first day, Coffee tried a series of probing attacks while keeping the bulk of his army in reserve, searching for a possible weak spot. On the second day, he ordered an all-out attack on the northern end of the line, near the lake, where there were only a few dozen New Orleans volunteers and no artillery. The lake gunboats arrived in time to strike his army with enfilading fire, and the attack was a disaster.
    The third day was quiet, except for a confused battle after dusk when Pushamataha’s Choctaws canoed past the pirates and attacked the city. Pirates, Choctaws and volunteers fought on the docks without being able to clearly see one another. Nonetheless, many of the Choctaws were killed or captured, and the attack yielded no tactical advantage.
    On the fourth day, Coffee had to turn upriver to deal with the fact that the Chickasaw had begun raiding his supply lines. (After the war, the Chickasaw would be granted a residency in Louisiana.)

    David Harvey Copp, Military Engagements of the War of 1812
     
  19. John Fredrick Parker Donor

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    Oh man, looks like the US will lose New Orleans after all...
     
  20. Lycaon pictus Author of "Locksmith's Closet" Donor

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    The Sack of the Ports
    5/14, 5/17​

    “Remember the ‘beauty and booty’ you were promised in New Orleans? Here it is, men! Make the most of it!” — Admiral Alexander Cochrane, at Portland
    Wellington’s overall strategy was to march down the coast, supplied by sea, torching the major American ports — Boston, Providence, the Connecticut ports, New York City if necessary — until the U.S. government agreed to come to the bargaining table. Due to the necessity for speed, there was a limit to how much damage his army could stop to commit, and stopping to loot was out of the question.
    No such restrictions applied to Cochrane. While the Portland militia and volunteers were arrayed in a line northeast of the city to meet Welllington, Cochrane sailed in virtually unopposed, and the Royal and Colonial Marines under his command sacked and burned much of the town center, then fought a defensive battle amid the flaming rubble as they retreated to the ships.
    Three days later, at Portsmouth, Cochrane found the city militia waiting at the docks for him. He was unable to loot the city, but did manage to set much of the port on fire, including the shipyard.

    David Harvey Copp, Military Engagements of the War of 1812