(Note: I apologize for any mistakes in this post or the next one. Chemistry, like rocketry, isn't my field, and I'm definitely not going to be experimenting with incendiaries in my apartment.)
In 1834, the boiler on USS Election—one of the two demologoi protecting the lower Chesapeake Bay—had exploded while it was in the mouth of the Potomac, returning to the Washington Navy Yard for maintenance. Rather than try to replace it, the Navy had decided that the Election was already in nearly the best possible place for defense of the capital, and simply towed it a few kilometers further upriver and anchored it there as a floating battery. The Representation was a faster vessel, and could cover the mouth of the Chesapeake.
When the Representation was out of action in Sinepuxent, Upshur realized that the Election had to be made seaworthy again, or at least bayworthy. He ordered that repairs to the vessel be expedited. On the advice of Captain S.S. Lee, he also ordered that each demologos have a company of U.S. Marines assigned to it, for the purpose of repelling boarders.
But the demologoi had never been intended to accommodate large bodies of troops. Sustaining Marines on them while they were on patrol required regular shipments of food and fresh water, and it was more practical to obtain permission from the shipowners to keep most of the Marines on the ships carrying this freight… or rather, it would have been more practical if this were peacetime.
But it was war, and before dawn on November 13, off Gwynn’s Island, the war came to the Election in the form of three companies of Colonial Marines in small boats. By the time the dozen or so U.S. Marines actually on board were ready to fight, the far more numerous Colonial Marines had already cast their grappling hooks and were climbing up rope ladders. The U.S. Marines might still have held off their counterparts by throwing off the grappling hooks, but the Colonial Marines had a much simpler job—not to take the Election, but to destroy it, throwing incendiaries onto the wooden deck behind the iron outer hull…
Charles Cerniglia, 1837
“Imagine that G.G. Elmar’s travels had ended with him drowning in a shipwreck. Imagine Feuerbach and Fitzhugh had both been in the path of stray musket-balls when war came to their respective hometowns (within a few years of each other—what a coincidence that is!) Imagine, more humanely, that Carlyle himself just hadn’t been so shoved down as a schoolboy and had grown up healthier in spirit. What then? Would human civilization have spent the past hundred years luxuriating in a comfortable Golden Age of unchallenged liberal democracy and shared prosperity?
“Probably not. In the first place, I have no intention of lending any credence to the idea that ‘all history is but the biography of Great Men’…”
Jenny Flynn, Looking Back
November 15, 1837
Port Royal, Virginia
“We are now, therefore, got to that black precipitous Abyss; whither all things have long been tending; where, having now arrived on the giddy verge, they hurl down, in confused ruin; headlong, pellmell, down, down”—George Fitzhugh was interrupted in his reading by a knocking at the door.
This had better be important
, he thought. He was heartily glad his copy of Carlyle’s work had come before the war choked off trade with Britain.
“Mistuh Fitzhugh,” said the house slave—what was her name again? Doris, probably—“it’s the militia.”
Sure enough, there was already a squad of men in red-trimmed blue coats over civilian clothes. “The British are coming up the river,” said the man who appeared to be in charge. “We need to mobilize now.”
Fitzhugh was not a martial man at all, and knew it. But he was a white man of property who could fire a gun, and he lived in plantation country on what was technically a part of the coast, since it was accessible—and apparently was now being accessed—by oceangoing ships. In the event of a slave revolt or invasion, everyone would expect him to fight, including himself. And only yesterday he’d heard that the Navy squadron guarding the mouth of the Chesapeake in USS Representation’s
, and the rest—had been seen retreating to Baltimore or up the Potomac to the Navy Yard, much the worse for wear, and that Enterprise
had been scuttled to prevent capture. Worse, the demologos Election
had been burned to the waterline down near Gwynn’s Island, and could not protect the approaches to Washington, DC.
Doris had already brought the uniform by the time he’d found his musket. He needed another embarrassing minute to get the mantle on the right way, and then he was off to save Virginia. There was no mistaking which way he was meant to run—he could already hear the cannons firing.
Then he got to Water Street. Port Royal was no great city—little more than an offloading point for bales of tobacco, since the wine and medicine trade had bypassed it in favor of larger ports. The harbor took up the ends of King and Market Street. Fitzhugh knew this for a fact, having seen the ends of those streets often enough… but he could not see them now. Everything within a block of the river was engulfed in dust and smoke, both pale gunsmoke and the darker smoke of burning buildings.
Someone emerged from the haze. As soon as he was done coughing, he spoke.
“They’re not landing here,” he said. “They’re landing across the river at Port Conway. Reckon that’s the shortest way to the capital.”
On the same day that the larger northern wing of the British army was landing at Galesville, the southern wing marching up the north bank of the Rappahannock encountered its first serious resistance. Three regiments of the Virginia militia under Col. (and former governor) John Buchanan Floyd rallied 13 kilometers southeast of Fredericksburg.
Floyd deployed these regiments on the crests of hills above the Rappahannock and a tributary, Muddy Creek. The middle regiment, which Floyd himself commanded, held a ridge that directly overlooked the confluence of Muddy Creek and the river. That was where he placed his artillery. On his right—or, more accurately, behind him—was a cavalry regiment holding the western part of that same ridge, overlooking the Rappahannock. On his left, atop a lower hill on the other side of the creek, was an infantry regiment armed with Henry-Hunt rockets.
The battle began shortly after dawn, when the sun would still be in the eyes of anyone looking east. Major General Galbraith Lowry Cole ordered his army to cross the creek (this portion of which was technically part of the river) and take the central hill at its western end.
For the British, this was the bloodiest part of the battle—crossing a ten-meter-wide stream completely exposed while being fired at from the front and the right. The majority of the losses were borne by the 85th Regiment of Foot, which had the misfortune of crossing the part of the creek that was within range of the 500-meter rockets. (The one-kilometer rockets were useless here, as the British were already too close.) Some of these rockets contained canister, while others contained incendiaries—specifically the Stablers’ less notorious “No. 19,” a lightweight mixture of sunflower oil and acetone which gave a particularly wide spray and a fine, penetrating mist in the fraction of a second before it ignited, with grains of anthracite to continue smoldering wherever they landed after the rest of the incendiary had burned itself out. The one mercy was that the army was crossing a creek, which allowed those whose clothing or hair had caught fire to roll in the water and extinguish the flames.
The day was almost windless. This allowed the rockets to be aimed more precisely, but meant that the smoke they left behind lingered in the air until the artillery and riflemen at the point of the ridge were shooting blind. The gunsmoke from the hill also lingered in the air, making it harder for the militiamen to defend their position when the surviving British infantry converged on the western end of the hill, where Floyd was in command and had positioned many—but not enough—of the cannons. Cole’s own 27th Enniskillen Regiment of Foot, known as “the Skins,” was the first to take the hill.
At this point, Col. Floyd was killed and the regiment surrendered or retreated. The cavalry attacked, but were faced not only by British guns, but their own cannons, which the militia had not spiked before retreating. This attack failed, and the cavalry was forced to retreat. The regiment on the left simply withdrew, having exhausted their limited supply of rockets. Those who escaped death or capture rallied at Ferry Farm.
Muddy Creek was a British victory, and one that further weakened American morale after the disastrous first Florida campaign, the costly victory of Fort-Wellington and the stalemate at Fort-Nord-Est. It also further illustrated the advantage of regular armies over militia—the British had won because of greater willingness to take casualties and each unit’s greater ability to hold formation and carry out its part of the battle plan in chaotic conditions such as poor visibility. The greatest American failure had been one of professionalism, allowing artillery to fall unsabotaged into enemy hands.
But the militia had done all that could be expected of it. Outnumbered two to one, it had inflicted 372 casualties on the British at a cost of 259 casualties of its own. It had delayed, bloodied, and weakend General Cole’s army, which still had to face the regular American army under General Garland.
Eric Wayne Ellison, Anglo-American Wars of the 19th Century
 I.e., bullied.
 From Volume 3, Part 5, Chapter 1 of Carlyle’s The French Revolution: A History
 ITTL The French Revolution: A History
is published a year earlier. Among other things, John Stuart Mill’s maid didn’t burn the original manuscript of Volume 1 by mistake.
 The spelling was later changed to Iniskilling
 Once again I find myself with more major battles than I have the energy to describe in detail. Sorry.