The Dead Skunk

Great update. Bragg was a really nice portrait of someone who, without any particular great evil, is just a real shit who makes the world a worse place because it's easy. I also liked the little glimpse at who the totemic faces of evil TTL are at the end in par
 
Stupid little shit. There’s free horse blood all over everything, my blood all over everything, and you just had to try and get a drink out of my neck.
There’s a remark about accidental metaphors for this whole debacle somewhere in this line, but for the life of me I can’t find it.
 
The fact remains, however, that of the 203 people kidnapped by slavers during the ill-fated invasion, only eight were of entirely non-African ancestry. It is sheer historical accident that one of them happened to be Anil Malakar…
Hmmm.... we've seen him before.
Anil Malakar turned 10 years old April 30. He speaks Bengali, passable English and a smattering of Hindi and Seminole. His family has a farm along the Hillsborough River, and his father sometimes works with the crews rafting hickory, pine and cypress down to Trafalgar.
Anil is deeply curious about God, which worries his family more than you might think. They’re deeply versed in Sufi traditions, but they haven’t seen a teacher of Islam since they came to Florida, nobody in his tiny community even has a Quran and Florida is full of all sorts of weird idolaters that no one back in the Ganges delta had ever heard of. That, at least, they don’t need to worry about—Anil is already quite clear on the oneness of God.
“Let those with voices sing! Let those with legs dance! Let those with minds meditate!” — Anil Malakar

Because nobody ever sets out to create a new ethnic group. Different tribes and nations can and do exchange ideas, skills, the odd strand of DNA, and even whole languages with each other, but as Anil Malakar will one day say, “Identity and pride—whether it be that of an army, a faith or a people—are forged by the Creator in the fires of shared travail.” British Florida is hardly a generation old, and apart from the bad hurricane back in ’28 and a couple of outbreaks of yellow fever, it’s not a place where much shared travail has happened… yet.
 
Hmmm.... we've seen him before.

One of my favorite parts of this timeline is seeing all the people whose birhts were mentioned earlier on show up later, even if I often can't keep track of all of them. I remembered that alt-Bragg was mentioned earlier on, but didn't remember who Amil Malakar was. I'm sure we'll get more of those future famous people later on.

Something like that incident was probably inevitable, I was always wondering what exactly the US was going to do with those groups (Indians[1], Chinese, etc.) in Florida that didn't exactly fit into the Old South's racial system, should it have been conquered.

I've been enjoying this timeline, keep it up. I'm curious to see how the War of 1837 settles. Probably not a complete loss, given the repeated implications that the US and Britain will go to war yet again down the line, so the US must gain at least something, or at least not lose significant territory. On the other hand.,it seems that Louisiana will remain independent (IIRC it was mentioned their culture still has influence, which I'm not sure the US would let happen) and Florida will stay British (given that it seems what the US is about to do down there will forge a new national identity which, again, I doubt would survive a hypothetical US occupation for long). Plus, there will be resistance from the people down there, and I'm not sure the US can install any friendly government in annexed or occupied territory without mass resistance. For instance, is there really anyone in Louisiana willing to play "Quisling" if the US overruns the Republic, given the events leading to its independence in the last war?

On another note, are the governments in either Spain or Mexico preparing for a potential war with the US, or otherwise reacting to the current conflict? After all, Texas is on Berrien's "places to secure for the US and for slavery, not necessarily in that order" list...

[1] The ones from India, not the Native Americans. Has to be confusing having two different groups referred to by a similar name in the colony.
 
Well, well, these last couple chapters have been quite a ride! I'm fascinated by how the little changes of history can be so different! Loving where you're going with this!
 
I feel so bad for her.
 

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So I take it this invasion is not actually meant to achieve that much? Namely their goal is a revenge raid in force, to punish the British and the people of Florida for the 'audacity' of raiding the USA with Colonial troopers?

There will definitely be hard feelings in the North when word gets out the Army was used for a slaving raid.

Well written as ever.
 
So I take it this invasion is not actually meant to achieve that much? Namely their goal is a revenge raid in force, to punish the British and the people of Florida for the 'audacity' of raiding the USA with Colonial troopers?

There will definitely be hard feelings in the North when word gets out the Army was used for a slaving raid.

Well written as ever.
Thank you. If you were to ask Berrien, Poinsett, or Twiggs, they'd tell you that this is the spearhead of the invasion and that they're expecting reinforcements, but not right away because the railroad doesn't yet reach as far south as Georgia and canal boats can only go so fast. All of these people have made the mistake of thinking that only British soldiers, Creeks and Seminoles will fight, so they've seriously underestimated what they'll need even for a spearhead. And while some of the U.S. commanders are thinking and acting like professional soldiers, Hart's militia and Fannin's regiment (which is so new, with so few trained officers, that it's not much better than a militia unit) are just there to catch slaves.
 
Thank you. If you were to ask Berrien, Poinsett, or Twiggs, they'd tell you that this is the spearhead of the invasion and that they're expecting reinforcements, but not right away because the railroad doesn't yet reach as far south as Georgia and canal boats can only go so fast. All of these people have made the mistake of thinking that only British soldiers, Creeks and Seminoles will fight, so they've seriously underestimated what they'll need even for a spearhead. And while some of the U.S. commanders are thinking and acting like professional soldiers, Hart's militia and Fannin's regiment (which is so new, with so few trained officers, that it's not much better than a militia unit) are just there to catch slaves.

Well isn't that a recipe for success? For the Empire that is.

Grab the popcorn, this' gonna be good.
 
South for the Winter (2)
September 6
St. Marys River, south bank

Being kidnapped like this had given Anil Malakar a new understanding of what was and was not in his control. There was no way here to do the ritual bathing—or, alas, any other kind of bathing. Nor was he always free to stop in place for prayer, and even when he was he had no prayer rug. But the inside of his head was his own province to govern in the name of al-Malik, the King. The Yankees could not prevent him from cultivating the intention to pray, so he concentrated on that.

It was hard to figure out which way he should kneel. Sunrise was easier—you just pointed yourself a little south of where the sun was rising. (This had the added benefit of making it clear that you were definitely not worshipping the sun, but the One who had made it.) There was probably some inaccuracy there, but so long as you put the effort into getting it right, the Omniscient understood your intent. And here, the river seemed to be pointing more or less in the direction he wanted to pray.

When he did kneel to pray, someone usually came along and hit him with something, which was a distraction. But right now everyone was here, on the bank of the river, waiting for a boat. Now was about noon, the right time for the Zuhor.[1]

Anil prayed in Arabic. He did not know the language, but he knew what each phrase meant. As his mouth ran through the words, he let his spirit shape the thought: God, Your will is paramount. But you are merciful. And I wish to live through this. I wish to see my home again. I wish to see my family again. Whatever happens, I will never let my courage falter.

As his prayer was ending, he heard an outcry from up ahead. The rest of the people in this crowd were the sort of people he’d never thought much of—they weren’t Bengali and their hair looked like black wool. But the Creator had made them, and it seemed that in the eyes of some white men, they and he were similar enough. And they were courteous enough not to interrupt him in prayer.

Now that he was back on his feet, Anil could see what the fuss was about. There were ships coming up the river—not the biggest ones he’d ever seen, but they had gunports along the sides, and the Union Jack flew overhead. For some reason, the two ships had what looked like sheets and strips of wet sailcloth hanging over the side, with holes cut in them that Anil could see the gunports through as they approached.

The Yankee boats on the north bank launched. They were small—basically longboats, and clearly no match for the British vessels—but Anil could barely make out something on the boats that looked like tripods. The Yankees fired six rockets from those tripods, one after the other.

Five of them missed, exploding too far away to do any harm[2]. The sixth hit the side of a ship in a burst of flame that scorched the wet sailcloth.

And then… it took a moment to be sure what they were doing, but the Yankee boats were retreating to the north bank.

Alaahu akbar!” Anil shouted. Another captive shouted it with him. Of the rest, about half looked at him funny. Of course. Very few of those here were of the Faithful, and for some, he had the honour of being the first Muslim they’d ever met.

One of them turned to the others and said, “That means ‘God is the greatest!” This was followed by cheers of and something that sounded like “Well, ‘Ah-loo akbar’ then!” which made Anil wince. It’s just noises to them. They know what it means because I told them. But am I any better? The only Arabic I know is the prayers and names of God that Father and Mother taught me.

For that matter, how do I know I’m saying it any better? Or my parents? I’ve never in my life heard a native speaker of Arabic. And is not God as far beyond my understanding as He is beyond theirs?
Anil tried to find occasions to use the many names of God, as a way of trying to expand his own understanding of what God truly was, but he knew that understanding would never come within an infinity of the reality.

One day, I would like to go to Mecca and Medina. It didn’t seem likely—his family had had to borrow money even to leave Bengal. And he wasn’t going to earn that kind of money harvesting rice or picking fruit, which was most of what he knew how to do.

In the meantime… the crowd, made up of Christians and Hindus and all manner of strange idolaters, was chanting “God is the GREATEST! God is the GREATEST!” in the only language they all shared. And who could find fault with this? (From the looks on their faces, the white men on horseback found fault with it, but with boatloads of other white men with guns coming from the British ships on the river, they had more important things on their mind—like getting ready to flee.)


September 7, 1837
An hour after sunset
St. Johns River, east bank

The moon was one day past half, heading for full. At the moment, a patch of cloud blocked its light, leaving the sky a deep, dark blue and the paddies and the river beyond them as black as the inside of a cave.

The mosquitoes were as thick as ever, especially around the campfires, but Bragg could understand why Benning had led them here. Where do people go when they want to hide? If it’s just for a few hours, or a day, they can hide in the woods. But if they want to hide out for weeks or months, they look for some place that has walls. A town.

And the nearest town is Pilaktakta. That’s a few miles upstream, across the river. We’ll get there tomorrow.


It was also a few miles further out of their way than they already were. Anything could be happening downstream, on the road to St. Augustine. If the Injuns and the Brits surrounded the real army while we were in the middle of nowhere playing at being slave-catchers… then we sure wouldn’t be able to do anything about it right here. So forget about it and concentrate on keeping watch so everybody else can get some sleep.

But the more he sat and listened, the more sure he was that there was somebody out there. There was a breeze from the west—not enough to shift the mosquitoes, alas—so you’d expect a steady sort of whispering from the rice stalks brushing against each other, but he kept hearing noises that didn’t quite sound like that.

The other soldiers noticed it, too. Some thought it was alligators or big cats. Others whispered stories of ghosts and haunts that, well, haunted the swamp.

Only when Bragg finally decided it was time to take a look did he realize what a mistake it had been to stay so close to the campfires. He couldn’t see a damned thing.

But he could smell something—more smoke. And it smelled wrong, fouler than the good woodsmoke of campfires. Are they burning the paddy fields? Shouldn’t they be too damp to burn?

The smoke was stinging his eyes, making them water. Bragg had never experienced any smoke—not woodsmoke, gunsmoke, or the foulest excuse for tobacco ever grown—that stung so badly. It was actually burning his skin wherever it touched it. That’s not right. This isn’t just smoke. There’s some kind of poison in it.

“We’re under attack, men!” he said. “Follow me.” He led his own troop, and whoever else cared to follow, into the pitch blackness of the paddy fields. He had no idea where the enemy was, and with his eyes watering so much he could barely have seen them in daylight, but he was certain that if he led them in the direction of the smoke, it would be thicker but less spread out and easier to avoid.

Sure enough, there was a bundle of something on one of the raised paths up ahead, giving off clouds of smoke and little tongues of flame that stood out in the dark. Just by the light it was giving off, Bragg could see that whatever was burning was wrapped in old newsprint.[3]

Somebody got ahead of him and kicked it into a paddy field. An arrow whizzed by him.

Another private said, “I saw something!” and fired his gun. Bragg had no idea whether he’d hit anyone, but three arrows that he could see were fired in response. One of them hit the private in the shoulder.

Bragg turned to his men. “Don’t anybody fire a weapon,” he said, keeping his voice as low as he could. “Injuns can’t see in the dark any more than white men can, but they can spot a muzzle flash.” He’d bet that was why the Creeks were shooting arrows when everybody knew they had rifles.

“Sir,” said a man whose eyes had swollen shut, “if we can’t shoot and we can’t stay here, what can we do?”

There was only one answer. “Go north.” He stepped back and turned to the north. There was another one of those bundles on it, maybe twenty meters ahead, burning fiercely. His first thought was to walk up to it from windward and kick it into the water. Then he came up with a better idea, which was not to do anything that would let the little fire illuminate or silhouette him even for a moment. He led his men into the paddy fields, motioning for them to duck their heads… exactly the way those boys had done. Not a comparison he liked to think about.

When he had a chance, he looked at the wounded soldier. The private still had the use of that arm, so it couldn’t be too bad. Sure enough, the arrowhead was just below the skin.

“Private,” he said, “this will hurt.” Then he pushed it through the skin and pulled the arrow out of the body.

As a couple of the other men were tearing up the man’s shirt to make bandages out of, Bragg held the arrowhead up to the moonlight. There was something thick and white on it under the blood. He threw it away.

If we had whiskey or clean water, we could wash out the wound. I could try to suck the poison out of his shoulder, but I don’t know if I dare get any in my mouth. He swatted at another mosquito on his neck. Fuck Florida. Poison smoke and poison arrows and mosquitoes and cottonmouths and alligators. If Hell got waterlogged, this would be it.


[1] Known in Arabic as the zuhr
[2] Considering they’re trying to hit moving targets from not-entirely-stable moving platforms, this isn’t bad.
[3] The Creeks are burning leaves and twigs of the manchineel tree. The arrows are also coated with manchineel sap, which is believed to be what killed Ponce de Leon.
 
Well is young Anil going to be rescued here? We certainly are seeing the group barriers erode in shared travail. And as expected th British are trying to conter the rockets sooner than later.

Bragg has a good head on his shoulders, his men might avoid total disaster. At least they are heading North. Solid tactics from the Creeks, the poison smoke sounds like something from a movie. I get the feeling bitter feeling from campaign will leave quite the mark on the South.

And of course the big question is how the main US army in Florida is faring.
 
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