The Dead Skunk

Could someone create a story only or threadmark? And a map of north America?
I tried my hand at making a map of North America in the early 1830's, using the best of my historical knowledge coupled with the prose. I tried following the info from the prose and Lycaon's maps as best they could unless they didn't reflect reality. Some parts of this map are hard to find info on both OTL and ATL, and are thus pure speculation on my part as to borders and control.

This map is not canon and I do not intend to imply it is so, it is purely my own idea of the borders.

View attachment 481271

Some notes:

- The southern area of the border of Russian Alaska doesn't really look like that. The area wasn't exactly defined and was disputed until the early 1900s, but the modern day border is close enough to a midway point.
- The entirety of Labrador is disputed between the colonies of Newfoundland and Quebec. That red border is pretty much meaningless.
- The status of present-day British Columbia and Washington beyond "under British control" perplexed me. With no joint occupation of the Oregon Country, I imagined at some point they just gave a chunk of it to the Hudson's Bay Company, the boundaries of which I abstractly chose as the Columbia River drainage basin border and I just followed some rivers down to the Pacific.

Other than these speculative areas, the map should be more or less wholly authentic to the prose. I'm still not satisfied with the Maine border but whatever, this took me ten hours to make.

Full-size version here: https://imgur.com/a/NtC1YMW
SuperZtar64, this is is awesome. You are awesome. This was a lot of work to do on behalf of my little project, and I can't find a single fault with it.

I've been kind of swamped with real-life work, but I will be threadmarking it within the next few days.

(That squiggly bit of the U.S./New Spain border between the straight latitude lines is the Continental Divide, if anybody's wondering.)
 
SuperZtar64, this is is awesome. You are awesome. This was a lot of work to do on behalf of my little project, and I can't find a single fault with it.
I'm very grateful you like my work, it's an honor. But you know what's even more awesome? You, for making this amazing story I just binge-read in the last three days.

Keep up the great work, this really is one of the best and most detailed TL's i've ever read.
 
So Who Did Start the Fire? (1)
“It was a Friday night, as I recall, near the end of my seventeenth year. To facilitate my care of the horses, my master had granted me a bed in the barn loft, which meant I was plagued with flies in the summer but enjoyed a fair amount of warmth in the winter, as I kept it well fortified against drafts. As on every other night, I had gone to bed aching from the labors of the day and fell quickly into slumber; but I was not to sleep through the night.

“I cannot say at what hour of the night I was awakened by the restless noises of the horses and mules. I thanked Providence that I was in the habit of keeping the barn well-ordered, so that I might go about in in pitch darkness with no fear of mishap, letting memory be my eyes as blind men do; for I had no lamp-oil handy. By the sound of them, the horses were uneasy, but far from panic.

“I descended the stairs, and saw at once that the shutters had fallen open on the window facing the south. When I went to close them, I was taken aback by what I saw. The moon had long since set, leaving the world outside lit only by winter stars—yet there was an unaccustomed glow on the horizon between the trees, a glow of an ominous red.

“It was a chill night, near cold enough for frost, and I had only my shirt on; therefore I did not wish to leave the warmth of the barn for a better look. I consoled the horses and set them at ease, then returned to the window and watched. The glow grew no brighter, so I secured the shutters and returned to my bed, but sleep was slow to return to me that night.”

From Narrative of the Life of John March



“This morning everybody in town went down to the docks and we saw a long cloud of smoke on the horizin to the south. I was scared it would come closer but it just kept on going further out to sea. Papa took me home and said not to talk about it to anybody especially where the n_____s could hear. They didn't say what it was but somebody must have lit the biggest fire in the world to make a smoke like that…”
From the journal of Elizabeth Miller (age 9), December 14, 1833.
 
So Who Did Start the Fire? (2)
Good guesses, everybody! (Content note: racial epithet.)

The controversy over the question “Who burned Savannah?” began before the embers had gotten cold, and has never ended. Although existing accounts provide us with a rough idea of where at least three of the fires began, they say nothing of how—and the sort of forensic investigative tools that might have helped answer the question would not be invented until long after the physical evidence was gone. Of those who have tried to solve the mystery, very few—then or since—could be said to have been acting without an agenda.

And even historians with the same agenda can disagree over how best to further that agenda. As Fessler notes in her chapter of An Anthology of American Historiography (1997), “many of the great controversies of the history of the American South are not between Northern and Southern historians, but between Southern historians arguing among themselves over which interpretation of their history inspires the greatest pride—or, it might be better to say, the least embarrassment.” Certainly the question of the burning of Savannah could be described this way. Is it worse, from a Southern white perspective, to say that a slave uprising with little planning or organization was able to burn down a vital port, or to say that Southern whites torched it themselves by accident while suppressing the rebellion? It may have been an attempt to salvage some dignity from the situation when Governor Berrien claimed that the fire was the work of British agents “in retribution for the death of the Negro named John Glasgow[1], a radical abolitionist from British Florida who perished after taking up arms against the lawful government of the State of Georgia.” He offered no evidence for this, and as abolitionists like Benjamin Lundy were quick to point out, there was no way to determine if any of the fires had been set before or after Glasgow’s death. (Moreover, although Glasgow almost certainly was a radical abolitionist at the time of the incident, he had never distinguished himself as such until he had been arrested and was facing the prospect of enslavement.)

But it is not only Southerners who disagree over this point. At the time, abolitionists, both black and white, were divided on the question of whether to cite the destruction of Savannah as a dire warning of the horrors that the continuation of slavery might yet bring to the republic, or to accuse the city authorities of trying to place the blame for their own fatal blunders on a handful of Negroes. To put it another way, they were divided on the question of whether it was most useful to the cause to present the slave as an object of pity or an object of terror. As for the legal decision that triggered the rebellion within which the fire occurred, Daniel Webster placed the blame on the conveniently late Judge Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, calling his decision in Second Bank v. SINC (Georgia) “mischievous in its intent and disastrous in its consequence.” William Lloyd Garrison, on the other hand, denounced “the Philadelphia man who has become the single greatest and most callous slaveholder in the United States, Nicholas Biddle.” For his part, Biddle insisted that the first he’d heard about the case was reading about it in the papers in the days following the rebellion and fire…


With or without slavery, major fires had struck American cities before—Boston in 1760, New York in 1776, Detroit in 1805 and several cities during the War of 1812[2]—and would continue to do so long after the death of slavery. To see a growing, hopeful city like Savannah burn to the ground was a terrible blow to Southern pride, but Savannah was vulnerable to fire precisely because it was a boom town. Its population had expanded from 7,520 in 1820 to 25,739 in 1830.[3] A crowded belt of shantytowns had sprung up all around the city in the last decade, and building cheap housing was a much simpler process than it is today. There were no building codes, no water and sewer planning, no zoning laws to balance housing and commercial space and keep heavy industry separate from housing, no tributological studies to confirm that future property taxes would cover infrastructure maintenance—and above all, no fire codes. And the smallest, most closely packed and most fire-prone shacks were inevitably those belonging to the trusted slaves hired out by their masters to work in the city.

And in December, these shacks were half-deserted, because winter was the time when the slave population of Savannah was at its lowest. In Savannah, as in most southern cities in the pre-Troubles, pre-frescador[4] era, free labor was highly seasonal. The only people willing to perform heavy labor in that kind of heat and humidity were people who were either being coerced into working or had no other options. Because of this, the population of Savannah increased to at least 27,000 during the summer. And because of this, while city authorities had planned for a slave insurrection, all their plans were based on the assumption that it would take place during the summer when slaves were at their most numerous and (presumably) most angry. No one anticipated trouble in the winter…


Judge Lamar’s decision—that the wages SINC had held in trust for its slaves should be considered as attached to the slaves and included in their auction price—was not atypical of antebellum jurisprudence in the slave states, but for the slaves themselves it was a disaster. The money they had spent years working for was to be used not to release them, but to make manumission difficult if not impossible for whoever purchased them.

The only surviving account of what happened next comes from William Wilberforce Byron[5] one of the SINC slaves who had fallen into the hands of the Second Bank. Byron, at the time simply known as “Fed,” was one of several slaves who had been cynical enough to fear that either SINC or the state of Georgia or Alabama would find some pretext to keep them in bondage. These slaves had obtained a set of handcuffs from “Wild Joe” Baldy, who showed them how to pick the lock with a small, flattened piece of metal, such as a specially hammered nail…


Another point of contention is whether the Savannah authorities intended to release John Glasgow once his court costs were paid, or whether they intended to condemn the the free-born black British sailor into slavery no matter what money was offered. No records exist of what money was even offered. Crewmen from the British East Indiaman Ogle Castle, who survived the fire by abandoning ship and rowing far out to sea, swore that their captain had offered to pay the full cost, but that (as the Manchester Champion would put it) “Shylock-like, the American court preferred man’s flesh to any amount of money.” Byron, on the other hand, stated in his memoirs that the captain had refused to pay the exorbitant costs demanded…


As of 6 p.m. that Friday, the group of “some thirty or forty” rebels had taken over the new courthouse, but were well aware that they could not afford to be cornered in there—they had only eleven guns between them, and a limited supply of powder and shot. At this point, they were divided as to what to do next. Eighteen of them—some with family among the Gullah—chose to take five of the guns and follow Byron in fleeing the city and heading down the coast to Florida. Although one member of this group was killed and two others were recaptured after suffering injury, sixteen remained to board the Trafalgar-built clipper Jubilee in Blackbeard Creek and escape three nights later.

Of those who remained with John Glasgow, none survived. Nor did the much larger group of militiamen and volunteers who tried to overcome them, or most physical evidence of the fight. According to Byron’s account, Glasgow’s plan had been to return to his ship shortly before midnight, when the tide was rising and the ship would be able to escape into international waters. But with the city already on the alert, this would have been impossible.

So was born the myth of a group of twelve to twenty-two men with six guns among them, led by a man born in freedom, choosing to make a heroic last stand in the warehouses near the riverfront and destroy the city around them like Samson in the temple. The best-known depiction of this is the K-graph American Masada (1977), in which John Glasgow not only shoots Judge Lamar off his horse, but, in the culmination of the firefight with the Georgia militia, throws a flaming bottle of zark[6] into a stolen cache of gunpowder and “experimental incendiaries,” creating a firestorm which destroys the city.

There is simply no reason, beyond romanticism, to believe that anything like these dramatic events ever happened. Most obviously, zark would not be available for this or any other purpose until the late 1840s. In addition, Judge Lamar had left the courthouse two hours before the revolt. His corpse was fortunate enough to escape burning or trampling, and showed all the marks of death by traumatic injury to the head and neck caused by falling or being thrown from a panicking horse—as would be expected to happen in a burning city wracked by occasional explosions. These explosions were caused by several illegal caches of gunpowder that did in fact exist in various parts of the city.[7] In addition, a local apothecary reported the loss of a crate of “Dr. Prometheus’ Authentic Greek Fire” which was intended for the War Department and had been kept in a warehouse near the harbor. The fact that investigators were unable to determine from the rubble which warehouse it had been kept in, however, suggests that whatever its composition, it was only marginally more hot-burning than many other things kept in those same warehouses.

This is a key point. Raw cotton was Savannah’s largest export, and it was stored in bulk in all the warehouses, along with bulk hemp, flax fiber and dried tobacco. Textile firms in the Girard-Alpheus area sent bolts of cotton cloth and linen to Savannah for export to countries with less of a textile industry than Britain or France, and casks of cottonseed and linseed oil went with them. Not only exports, but imports were stored near the riverfront, including rum from Florida and the West Indies, brandy from France and palm oil from Pays-Crou. The boatyards and shipyards always had great quantities of lumber, cordage and sailcloth on hand, and steamboat companies maintained supplies of coal and charcoal for the boats that plied the Grand Southern. In short, when Glasgow and his men were cornered near the riverfront, they and their assailants were surrounded by mountains of flammables. A single spark, a bit of still-burning gunpowder landing in the wrong place, would have been enough to burn the harbor.

It would not, however, have been enough to burn the city. The wind on the night of December 13 was blowing almost due northeast, carrying the smoke and flames over the mouth of the river (according to eyewitnesses, the smoke was visible as far away as Charleston) and destroying much of the shipping, including Glasgow’s own ship. To understand what happened to the rest of Savannah, one must remember the shantytowns on the outskirts of the city, and at least attempt to understand the mindset of those who lived there. Their cardinal rule was this—if there’s trouble, especially violence, run away from it. Their only defense against being savagely attacked by militiamen—or any random armed white man—was to be somewhere else. The trouble was that an individual Negro, or a small family of them, could secure their own safety by heading for the fields and woods until things calmed down. But when a thousand or more of them tried to do this, it looked to the militia very much like further escape attempts if not insurrection.

Here is yet another point of controversy. No one has been able to confirm a source for the quote “Do y’all think we’re stupid? We only burned the nigger part of town!” and it is most likely apocryphal, but it seems likely that at least some of the fires started on the southwestern edge of the city were started either by the militia or by white men hastily deputized to suppress the “insurrection” in this part of town. It was once common for Southern historians to blame the fleeing Negroes for burning their own neighborhood out of malice or carelessness, and there may have been a grain of truth in this. When over a thousand people flee a city at once, after all, accidents happen. Lamps are kicked over, candles dropped, cooking-fires not fully extinguished—and with all the residents fled and half the houses in these neighborhoods abandoned for the winter in any case, a fire could spread very far with no one to fight it.

Whatever the case, the inferno at the harbor was hot enough to create its own winds which pulled oxygen into it from all directions. In the process, it pulled the fires from around the edges of Savannah into the heart of the city…

Robert W. Derek, Great Controversies of American History



[1] John Glasgow existed and experienced similar misfortunes IOTL, although ITTL his story has a more violent end.
[2] Including Savannah itself in 1820 IOTL, but not ITTL. This, of course, means that more older wooden buildings survive and the resulting fire is worse when it does happen ITTL.
[3] If you’re curious, Mobile is about the same size. This means they’re roughly tied for eighth largest city in the United States, the seventh being Northern Liberties, a suburb of Philadelphia. With New Orleans out of the picture, Charleston is the largest city in TTL’s South in the 1830s with over 30,000 people.
[4] OTL air conditioner
[5] IOTL he named himself “John Brown.”
[6] Short for “Ozark brandy” or “Ozark whiskey,” a triple-distilled mixture of corn and grape alcohol. Often stored (at least temporarily) in pine barrels, which makes it taste like a cross between moonshine and brandy with a hint of Lysol. Not an upper-class beverage.
[7] A cache like this caused the Great Savannah Fire of 1820 IOTL.
 
Quite the event indeed and one can only imagine how people will take this once the news spreads around. Any idea the number of casualties?
 
I'll have more on the aftermath of Savannah later. I've been very busy lately with an entirely different AH novella, "Investigation Into the Velazquez Shooting," which I'll be posting here over the next few days.

The Class of 1823: Ten Years Later


Prince August Wilhelm turned 10 on New Year’s Day. At the moment, he has a bad case of the croup, but he doesn’t mind. He feels like this is the most attention he’s had in years.

“The time has come, as the great philosopher of Scotland has said, to cast down the last of the Mock-Authorities so that the Real-Authorities may emerge and rule.” — Prince August Wilhelm


His Grace Prince Christian Adolphus Alfred turned 10 on Feb. 9, and his best friend Henry James Brougham turned 10 on March 15. The weird young Duke of York is an endless source of frustration for his tutors—brilliant in some respects, slow on the uptake in others, and absolute rubbish at the task of maintaining personal poise and elegant conversation while wearing uncomfortable clothes, which is practically the job description of half the aristocracy. The one who’s best at communicating with him is young Henry James, who has social skills enough for two and has more or less gotten a sense of how his mind works.

“All a man needs in life is love and the ability to pursue his interests.” — Prince Christian Duke of York
“Well, that and money.” — Henry James Brougham



Satinder Singh turned 10 on September 9. This is also the year his family moved from Jind State (a British protectorate) to Lahore. Satinder is delighted. He’s heard all sorts of stories about the great Ranjit Singh.

“Your Company and your nation will come no further. We will paint the border with your blood and ours.” — General Satinder Singh


Johann Feuerbach turned 10 July 9. His hometown (called Spire on the maps and Speyer on the ground) is an interesting little place. It’s in the Mont-Tonnerre department of France, south of Mayence, but it’s not in any ethnic or linguistic sense French, and the people’s feelings about this are mixed. Paris has been its usual high-handed self here, widening streets and putting up French street signs, but after the war they generously agreed to stop stabling cattle in the cathedral. People here have a lot more freedom of expression than Germans in Prussia or Austria, and they’re very proud of that fact, but if they want anybody outside the vicinity to pay attention to what they’re expressing, they have to express it in French, which is annoying. And now there’s the kingdom of Hannover, which seems determined to prove that German people really can have nice things… only there’s a lot of Prussia between Speyer and Hannover.

Anyway, when you’re the son of a philologist and archeologist, you get big Latin and more Greek at an early age, so picking up French along with them is less of a challenge. It won’t be long before young Johann is reading Plato in the original.

“The Eldorado sought by Radicals (and by Liberals, if with less fervor) is a country where the State undertakes the evenhanded redistribution to all the peasantry, not of wealth, but of respect and importance; one where no man (nor woman, nor possibly child) ever finds himself constrained to a life not of his choosing.” — Johann Feuerbach, The Fatal Quest


Jane Arundel Acland turned October 14 in Devon. The youngest of the Acland children is a smart girl, but with a stubborn streak. Her father, a moderate Conservative MP of the Peel/Ellenborough wing of the party, sometimes worries that she may find it hard to attract a good husband.

“Not everyone has the innate powers of mind or hand to be a doctor. But Verdonian discipline can save at least as many lives as medicine at its best, and anyone can learn it.” — Jane Acland
 
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