Winter Soldiers (3)
Posting this one a little early because I've got a conference on Saturday. Also I want to know if I got anything wrong—much of it is based on one book, Byron Farwell's Mr. Kipling's Army.

Even as the war in Louisiana seemingly reached stalemate, the news from Florida was not getting any better for the Americans. General Twiggs, never a man to abandon the offensive, had begun the siege of Fort Weatherford almost as soon as he was able to put together an army big enough to surround it. The fort occupied a bend in the Suwanee near the border, and was surrounded by moats. It was more lightly built and armed than Louisiana’s Fort-Douane, which made it less prone to subsidence, but left it vulnerable to heavy artillery.

Twiggs, however, would not wait for that artillery to arrive. After his first charge on November 21 failed to capture the fort, he settled in for a siege. On the night of December 6, two battalions of Creek waterdragoons[1] canoed upriver, took his left flank by surprise and forced him to withdraw from the walls rather than be completely rolled up. Knowing that Twiggs enjoyed the President’s favor[2], Secretary Poinsett took the unusual step of ordering his brother, Captain Levi Twiggs of the U.S. Marines, to the border to talk sense into him.

Up north, William S. Harney committed an even greater blunder. Having been promoted to brigadier general (by order of Berrien and Poinsett, and against the advice of Gen. Scott) for his heroism in the battle of Mount Hope, his first act on returning to the northern front was to ride to the front and order an attack on Molson’s regiment across the frozen Saint John River. What he discovered the hard way was that at this point, the river was frozen to a depth that would allow men to cross on foot, but not horses or artillery. Harney was immediately sent to the Louisiana front by an outraged Scott…

Charles Cerniglia, 1837

December 19, 1837
No. 10 Downing Street

Henry Brougham had never thought of himself as a war leader, and he was certain no one had ever imagined him as one. Yet here he was, presiding over a government that was involved in three wars at once.

The war in Persia was going well, but Russia kept shoveling more and more men into it. Which meant Britain would have to respond likewise, with regiments from India. That was not good news, for two reasons. The longer the civil war went on, the weaker Persia would be when it was over, and the more it would depend on British support to protect it from Russia and the Arabs. This was turning into a long-term obligation. More immediately, it meant there was no prospect of war with the Sikh Empire. Not that Ranjit Singh had given them any pretext—he was being very careful about that. Lord Elphinstone[3] was of the opinion that the best option was to wait for the man to die. He was a warlord, after all. The main part of his empire’s strength was his own martial skill. Which made sense, but Brougham couldn’t help thinking isn’t that what they said about Napoleon?

And now Palmerston was briefing him on the latest news from Bosnia-Rumelia, another war that was going well, but still managed to worry him somewhat. It had long been one of the basic goals of British foreign policy that no one power be allowed to dominate the Continent. At the moment, Russia was the main concern—Britain was fighting two wars against them, after all.

But France was strong and getting stronger. In Italy they had a capable ally, and with Napoleon II marrying an Italian noblewoman next spring[4], that alliance would only grow closer together. Something had to be done to prevent the emperor from becoming the master of Europe his father had tried to be. Unlike the fight against the Sikh Empire, that absolutely could not be put off too long.

“The Greek army, such as it was, was advancing this way,” he said, pointing at a map. “They were coming northwest from Thermopylae—I suppose for the symbolic value. We sailed into the Malian Gulf under cover of darkness. Dean-Pitt landed here and met them at Lamia. They never saw us coming. We routed them.”

“Dean-Pitt?” The general had been serving unofficially as minder to the Prince of Wales and his regiment. “Was His Highness involved?”

“Yes. Fortunately, he was not harmed. They say he acquitted himself gallantly.”

“Nonetheless, it would be better to arrange a more… logistical posting for him soon.” The infant Princess Julia had given birth to in June—a daughter they had named Elizabeth Charlotte Julia—had died last month. The kingdom was still in mourning. Julia herself seemed healthy enough and could bear more children, provided the heir to the throne was there to do his part. “And I hope Dean-Pitt understands—we do not seek to conquer Greece. We seek to convince Kolokotronis to withdraw from the war.”

Russell nodded. “I have made that clear in all my dispatches.”

“Turning back to the war,” said Palmerston, “I wish the Austrians were doing so well. They’ve been pushed back into the Carpathians and the Balkan mountains, here and here. The Italians continue to hold Varna and supply it by sea, but by now the Danube will have begun to freeze over, so they’ll have to hold off on any further attacks on Russian logistics until spring.[5]” He paused.

“Apparently Sultan Husein’s Arab allies are giving him some trouble. Their generals are people that Muhammad Ali identified as potential rivals or troublemakers, and it seems he was right. They keep trying to win glorious victories when a better strategy would be to stand on the defensive.

“And then there’s France. Officially their contribution is to reinforce Husein’s rule in Thessalonica, in case the Greeks attack.”

“The Greeks we just trounced?” said Brougham.

“Yes, but after all they do have more than one force headed north, so it may not be useless. What I don’t understand is why the French force came with representatives of the Grand Sanhedrin and a former mayor of Bordeaux.”

“The Sanhedrin, eh?”

“There are many Jews in that city. It could be just an effort to maintain good relations with the community.” Palmerston sighed. “The truth is, the situation in Macedonia is…”


Opaque might be a better word—or, to be quite honest, we failed to gain good intelligence in the first place and are now seeking to remedy that. It seems Husein’s rule suffered particular opposition there, but as to who did the opposing, or why, or where things stand right now… it’s possible the French know something we don’t.”

“And Talleyrand is still alive.” Palmerston nodded grimly.

“There is another matter which may or may not prove relevant,” said Palmerston. “King Milos of Serbia turned up in Pesth[6] seeking asylum.”

“Lost his civil war, has he?”

“It would seem so.”

The discussion continued in that vein for another ten minutes or so. They weren’t losing, the Tsar seemed to be doing rather well until you remembered that he’d begun this war with the intent of seizing power in a single fell swoop and had now committed an army as large as the one that had served under Barclay de Tolly at Nancy with no immediate prospect of victory, and the whole peninsula was a complicated place where no one really knew what was going on.

That was the pleasant part of the discussion. “And now,” said Brougham, “the moment we’ve been dreading. We must discuss the news from America. Frederick, you needn’t worry—I will take full responsibility for this disaster.” Mentally, he once again cursed himself for an arrogant fool. I thought we were being so cautious, building up much greater forces than we’d attacked with last time. It wasn’t nearly enough. We know at least as much of railroads as the Yanks—how could I not have anticipated the effect they would have?

“I would call it a defeat rather than a disaster,” said Russell. “Our strategic position remains what it was out the outset, and the armies we sent are intact and ready to be sent to other fronts. I recommend sending Cole and FitzGerald to Trafalgar, and Kerrison and Slade—just Slade, for the moment—to Halifax.”

“Talking of Kerrison, how is he?”

“They say he’ll lose the arm, but he’ll live. I recommend letting him rest at Bermuda until he’s fully healed.”

Brougham nodded. “GIve the orders. Any idea what the concoction they used at Fort Severn was?”

“Without a sample, we can’t say for sure. Some of our chemists believe it was a form of phosphorus—at least in part.”

Brougham nodded. To his way of thinking, that incendiary was worse news than Sinepuxent. There were only five demologoi left, and everyone knew where they were. No one but the enemy knew where that evil white fire would turn up next.

“Any word on our expedition to Louisiana?”

“None yet.”

“At last report, Louisiana had lost ground but not yet fallen, and Florida was still secure,” said Palmerston. “And I hear that… other little project of yours is beginning to bear fruit. Two, maybe three regiments.”

“Excellent.” There would be questions raised in Parliament when this was all over, but there was no help for it. Britain had the money to win this war. The problem was getting enough men in place quickly enough.

And that would continue to be a problem. Britain’s army was one of the finest in the world, but from a certain point of view, Britain didn’t have an army at all. What she had was a great many regiments.

Brougham was sure these were the finest regiments in the world. Bands of brothers, every one. The old established units each had their own storied history and reputation for heroism that every soldier would die to uphold, and when new regiments were formed, they sought to earn such reputations for themselves. Sometimes their gallantry galloped ahead of their common sense (witness Brooke’s charge at Mount Hope) but that was a better problem to have than the opposite.

And the system itself had many advantages. It (and of course the Royal Navy) were why Britain could pursue different wars in different parts of the world, assembling the proper force for any task great or small. Seeing that such a useful and adaptable system had emerged entirely by chance made Brougham understand conservatives and their skepticism toward the power of human planning to improve on what had happened. No one could say this system had failed in the wars of the last generation, or the Seven Years’ War.

The problem was numbers. Britain was outmanned in America, against an enemy with perhaps sixty percent of the population. Of course, part of that was that Britain had to send every soldier across by ship, with supplies and provisions, whereas Americans could simply walk to the battlefield. But in the east, Italy had almost as many troops committed to the war as Britain, and France a third again as many, despite the fact that they were also arriving by ships and had fewer ships to work with.

And it was likely to stay that way, because Britain’s army could not expand its ranks as quickly as that of other nations. There was no central office either to recruit or conscript—instead, each regiment did its own recruiting. The system had long ago chosen quality over quantity. It was recruiting men, training them and sending them into the field as fast as it could, and they weren’t coming fast enough. Given time, the War and Colonial Office could field armies in the hundreds of thousands, but it would be a bad sign if the war should drag on so long.

That was the problem, and it should not be an insurmountable one. Nor would it necessarily prevent the kingdom from winning the conflicts it was in. But if they didn’t solve it… Brougham could see the future of war, and even by the standards of war it was dismal. The guns of tomorrow would be better than the guns of today—deadlier, more accurate, carrying more ammunition, able to be fired more rapidly—because ingenious minds like his were always trying to think of ways to make them so. They would improve with every generation.

But the men who held those guns would remain men. Some said that human faculties diminished as civilization advanced. Brougham wasn’t sure if that was true or not, but even if it wasn’t, those faculties would not increase. Bones would be no stronger, eyes no sharper, hearts no braver, hands and brains no more cunning.

And so, in a generation or two, the difference in valour and skill between Britain’s finest soldiers and the conscripts of Russia, Italy, or France would be utterly eclipsed by the sheer power of their weapons. In any contest between nations of comparable technical skill, raw numbers would become the deciding factor. Of course, no matter how far back you went in history—even into the realm of myth—strength, skill, and even courage had never guaranteed victory. Achilles was the greatest fighter of the age, but a pampered prince killed him with a poisoned arrow to the foot. The mighty Goliath was a warrior from youth who intimidated whole armies, but a shepherd boy struck him down with a sling and a river rock. But one day there would be no more Goliaths. There would only be many, many Davids with many, many rocks.

Brougham shut his eyes and imagined some fine old regiment, some assembly of heroes for whom battle was their life’s work… obliterated in a matter of moments by a hail of bullets from a horde of farm-boys, shop-boys, stevedores, and millworkers who’d been pulled from their tasks by the State and given a few months of training in the art of firing their guns at the enemy and just wanted to get this done as quickly as possible so they could go home. It will happen one day, if we do not change. If we’re lucky, it will happen in Normandy or Flanders or Picardy, or outside New York or Constantinople.

If we’re unlucky, it will happen in Kent or Sussex, or outside London.

Brougham put that thought away. Now was not the hour for reform. If he won the wars, he might be able to affect some sort of structural change amid the glow of victory. If he lost the war, he would also lose the next election and the Tories would do as they saw fit.

There was a knock at the door. “The two men from the Canadas are here to see you, sir.”

“Talbot and Papineau? Excellent. Send them in at once.”

[1] A translation of dragons d’eau, the official term for those Louisiana army units that use rafts and small boats to get around but do most of their fighting on shore.
[2] Which is why he wasn’t fired after he lost his entire army in September.
[3] Recently appointed Governor-General of India to replace the retiring Lord William Bentinck.
[4] Donna Ippolita dei Principi Ruspoli, second daughter of Don Lorenzo dei Principi Ruspoli and Camilla Curti. They’ll be married April 8, 1838, the bride’s 21st birthday.
[5] One of the things complicating the war is that the Italians really, really don’t want to fight alongside Austrians, even though they’re technically allies.
[6] The merger of Buda and Pest hasn’t happened yet.
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Starting to get a good picture of just how complex the wars are going right now with Britain and the other powers struggling in Europe. Plenty to fight there, although with Russia able to keep on pushing men into the front, seems like things aren't going to ease off anytime soon. The Florida front is going well and it seems as if something big is about to happen in Louisiana alright. I doubt it'll be much good if Harney is the fellow I think he is.

Hope the conference goes well too.
Some stuff has happened since then:
The Duke’s other job has been preventing anything serious from happening between the Cub (a nickname which doesn’t really suit him any more, as he turned 17 a month ago and he’s over six feet tall) and Crawford’s 16-year-old daughter Mabel.[4] It will be a relief when the young prince joins the Army next year, and Wellington dares hope the young prince will prove halfway competent—certainly better than his maternal grandfather.
In the summer of 1836, with Britain’s economy still mired in the Hiemal Period, there were two great celebrations in London that changed not only British culture, but the culture of much of the world. The first of these was the June 30 celebration decreed by Parliament at the request of Queen Charlotte, to note the completion of the emancipation process and the final end of slavery in the British Empire. This was the first Emancipation Day, which the queen described as “a day of rejoicing in freedom, and praise to God for leading our nation on the path of wisdom and compassion.” Although the Jamaican assemblyman Robert Osborn, in London at the time, famously dismissed the festivities as “an extravaganza of white self-congratulation,” Emancipation Day became a major national holiday throughout the British West Indies, and (back in London) a day that would soon be co-opted by Chartists[5] and other radicals for the purpose of advocating other great reforms.
The second was the August 8 wedding of Leopold Prince of Wales to Princess Julia of Denmark. In the same way that the weddings of Napoleon II and Achille I cemented the white and gold wedding dress in the culture of France, Italy and the United States, the traditional British wedding dress—red or burgundy (madder red for preference) with white trim—has its origins in the August wedding of Prince Leopold and Princess Julia. Ironically enough, the dress was based on the national colors of Denmark…
P.G. Sherman, A Cultural History of Early Charlottean Britain
I have trouble keeping track of everything myself.
So if I read that right the American cavalry an artillery train sank in the Saint John's? From the Molson regiment, was Washington DC hearing dark laughter or stunned silence?

Is the other project of Brougham the Astoria campaign or something else?

Now I wonder what is so special about the expedition to New Orleans? Whatever it is the Americans are helping by sending this Harney fellow it seems.
So if I read that right the American cavalry an artillery train sank in the Saint John's? From the Molson regiment, was Washington DC hearing dark laughter or stunned silence?

Is the other project of Brougham the Astoria campaign or something else?

Now I wonder what is so special about the expedition to New Orleans? Whatever it is the Americans are helping by sending this Harney fellow it seems.
1. Pretty much. They saved most of the horses, but lost a lot of baggage and artillery pieces. The Molson regiment is certainly having a good laugh. "Our commanding officer is a beer merchant, and HE wouldn't screw up like that!"
2. It's something else.
3. As it happens, by the time Harney gets anywhere near Louisiana (it's the middle of winter up north and he can only go by rail from Augusta to Richmond) the situation will have changed dramatically.
2. It's something else.
I don't think this is it, but I can't help but wonder whether, even with slaves kept away from anything sensitive and the SINC as a safety valve, the British are investing in potential insurgency. It seems like a potentially smart idea, heightening both domestic contradictions within the US and the moral stakes of the conflict. On a related note, I wonder what John March is up to and how he's doing.
"Even If We Win…" (1)
“The two great enemies of the escapee are Ignorance and Treachery. For the greatest difficulty lies not in the escape itself; plantations are no prisons, and slaves are often sent away to other farms on errands. But if a man has never left the county where he was born, if he has no map or cannot read one, a few days on foot will take him to a strange land where he is quite lost and where near every man’s hand is against him. In this land, he must somehow find a safe house on the Hidden Trail while making his way north or south by the stars. As he journeys, he must often trust in his fellow escapees, and in the guidance, generosity, and above all the discretion of his fellow Negroes, free or slave. If only one should fail or prove untrustworthy, it is as though a ship had only one hole in its hull below the waterline—there can be no hope of reaching port.

“For this reason, I decided upon two things; that I should commit to memory the maps I found of South Carolina and all neighboring states, and that I should make my escape alone.”

Narrative of the Life of John March

December 20, 1837
Maryville, Tennessee

In spite of the fact that he was warm and had a full belly for the first time in days, March had a hard time getting comfortable. He couldn’t quite trust a white man, and here he was in the home of this Rev. Isaac L. Anderson, in what was still a slave state, with nothing to do but hope that the man would not betray him.

“You heard about the cholera down in the rice country[1], sir?”

“A little.”

“It’s bad, sir. White or black don’t make no difference—people die. So when folks started getting sick down the road a ways, my master and his family up and left town. Took shelter at the McBee[2] place up in the mountains.”

“They brought you with them?”

“Couldn’t hardly not, sir. I did the driving. Spent well nigh my whole life preparing, and here was the opportunity. After dark I took one of the cart-horses and a sack of provisions. I rode north all night”—which he’d had to do bareback, since the cart-horse had no saddle on it—“then set the horse free and kept going on foot. I reckon it’ll find its way back.”

“Did you have a destination in mind?”

“Well… I had it in mind. I’d read maps of South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee. Only when I actually went to all those places…”

Anderson nodded. “The map is not the territory.”

“It sure ain’t, sir. I’d been told to go east till I hit the railroad from Columbia to Salem, then follow it to Claysburgh.” March shook his head. “Seemed like an easy way to get caught.”

“You’re quite right. Slave-catchers also follow the railroad. More than one runaway has fallen foul of them.”

“So instead, first I went to the vineyard at Black Mountain. I heard there was work there for freedmen who know how to handle horse and mule carts. Driver I met there said they didn’t shelter no runaways. He said I should come to you, then go on to Friendsville. Quaker town.”

“So it is,” said Anderson. “And you crossed the Smokies in December on foot?”

“I did, sir.”

“A hard journey. But as for Friendsville, I cannot recommend you go there. The people themselves are sympathetic, but slave-catchers patrol the town these days. They’ve grown terribly bold since the election, and they have the state militia behind them. I suppose it lets them feel like heroes without having to risk life or limb in Berrien’s war. And they know that however unpopular they are, no one in a Quaker community will shoot them from ambush.” March nodded.

“My family and I will gladly shelter you for the winter.” March blinked. This was generosity he hadn’t expected. “You won’t want to try to go north until spring, and it would be more than your life is worth to try to cross the Florida border right now. Even Georgia might be unsafe right now, with the fighting in the mountains.

“And—without false modesty—I have some standing in Maryville. I’m the pastor of the New Providence Presbyterian Church and founder of the Southern and Western Theological Seminary. You needn’t fear the slave-catchers will come to this house.”

“Th- thank you, sir.”

“Think nothing of it. It is what Christ expects.”

March thought for a moment. This man was obviously educated. He could see several bookshelves in this study. A couple of months here would give him a chance to expand his education a little.

“Only one thing worries me, sir. Longer I stay in one place, more likely somebody’ll catch up.”

“Very wise. I wonder… you’re a young man, no attachments, plainly of some strength and fortitude. You keep your wits about you, and I dare say you could fight at need. Have you heard of Kyantine Territory?”

“Yes, sir,” said March. “Never seen a map that goes that far west, though. Out past Arkansaw, ain’t it?”

Anderson nodded. “I mention it only because I’m not sure how long the northern states will remain safe for escapees. The Quids are proposing laws to order local authorities to assist slave-catchers. God willing, these laws will never pass, but I thought the same of the ascent of the Quids… and Berrien’s election… and the war.

“Of course, Kyantine is harder to reach than the northern states. It would mean going through western Tennessee—not friendly territory. And beyond lies Arkansaw. If there are Hidden Trail safehouses in that state, I couldn’t tell you where they are.” He thought for a moment. “I don’t suppose you’ve ever worked in an iron foundry.”

“No, sir.”

“But you say you have some skill at drayage?”

March blinked. His education, such as it was, didn’t happen to have included that word.

“Carts? Horses, mules, oxen?”

“Oh, yes, sir. They hired me out sometimes to help haul the rice into Georgetown after the harvest.”

“Well, the state government is positively frantic to build the railroad from Asheville to Memphis before Kentucky finishes the R&M. Any man delivering iron rails should be able to get as far as Memphis unmolested—and if anyone asks to see your papers, the Embreeville Ironworks will provide you with whatever papers you need. You’ve heard of Elihu Embree?”

“Yes, I have, sir.” March had mostly heard the name in the context of white men cursing it, but he would accept that as a letter of commendation until he knew more.

“His brother owns the foundry,” said Anderson. “Elijah isn’t so public an abolitionist, but he’s helped others before. The trick will be getting you into Memphis while the steamboat Parthenopean is in town. You won’t want to linger there—the city is a notorious slave market. Not at all friendly.

“If you can find the Parthenopean, it’s run by Charcoal-Burners. They’ll take you up the Missouri to Freedmansville. Once there, look for a Negro carpenter by the name of Sion Harris[3]—I have his address here somewhere. He’ll see that you get to Kyantine.”

March nodded. “I like the sound of this plan, sir. May I ask one question?”


“This has got nothing to do with the Hidden Trails, sir. I’ve been thinking about the name I should have now that I’m free. I’m not taking my old master’s name, and… to be honest, I’m not too sure who my father was. Any reason March can’t be my family name?”

“None at all. Every family name has to start somewhere—yours can certainly begin with you. But you’ll need a Christian name.”

March nodded. “I was thinking I should choose a name that won’t draw too much attention, sir. James, William, Robert—something like that.”

“As far as I know, the most common Christian name is ‘John.’ It also happens to be the name of that fellow in the White House[4], but there are too many Johns in the world for any one man to disgrace the name.”

“John March.” March smiled. “I like it.”

With British and Spanish wool subject to tariffs at both the export and import end, the New England wool industry flourished in the late 1810s and all through the 1820s. Smugglers brought in merino ewes and rams from Spain to improve the local stock. Even during the Hiemal Period, the industry continued to expand as quickly as it was physically possible for Ovis aries to multiply.

At first, there was another limiting factor. Before being turned into cloth, wool goes through a process called fulling, which cleans it and improves its quality. The most useful substances for removing dirt and oil from wool (certainly preferable to the Roman method of using human urine) are various types of clay called fuller’s earth. In 1819, the main source of fuller’s earth was the United Kingdom, which once again placed heavy tariffs on it.

All this changed in 1820, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stumbled upon a rich bed of clay while digging fortifications near the border outside Attapulgus, Georgia. This clay, later known as attapulgite, proved to be some of the best fuller’s earth in the world.

But unlike SINC, the Georgia Mining Company, Inc., used slaves year-round and made no effort to manumit them. The result was a workforce of over 500 male slaves an hour’s brisk walk away from free Florida. The town became a regular center of militia patrols to keep them from escaping…

Thomas N. Wingrove, An Economic History of the United States, Vol. 2

December 21, 1837
Bainbridge, Georgia

The overseer screamed at the slaves in tones of personal affront. That was normal on the docks. What was strange—almost unheard of—was that the slaves appeared to be responding to his demands, actually trying to roll the heavy barrels onto the deck as fast as possible.

Normally there was no urgency, nor any need for it. Clay didn’t go bad, after all. And especially not now. With the canals in the north closed for the winter[5], the usual approach would be to take the cargo upriver, down the Grand Southern to Savannah and up the coast to New England. But even the most ardent pro-war Quid had to admit that declaring war on the British Empire had made shipping anything by sea on an American-flagged vessel just a bit chancy. So no matter how quickly the barrels of attapulgite were loaded onto this little mule boat (Miss Catherine was the name on the bow) they were destined to languish in some warehouse by the lower Ohio River until spring.

But today was the day that another regiment of Georgia militia would be coming down from Flintville[6] to guard Attapulgus. No wonder, then, that the crew from the Georgia Mining Company wanted to get their barrels on deck and get back to the mine before Bainbridge’s little river docks were crowded with soldiers.

The only person who didn’t seem to feel the urgency was the boatman. He was unkempt, unshaven and obviously drunk—unsteady on his feet, breath reeking of corn whiskey, stopping to listen as if startled by the roll of every passing barrel. Overseer and slaves alike ignored him until it was time for him to scrawl an X onto the receipt for delivery. Then he turned the mules around on the towpath and headed downriver, singing “Open the Lock”[7] much too loud:

Open the lock (Open the lock!)
We’re underway (We’re underway!)
Don’t you dare forget to close the gate behi-i-ind
With clay and cotton and tobacco (Tobacco!)
In Troy[8] our destination we shall fi-i-ind

Which, at this time of year, didn’t even make sense.

* * *​

As soon as the boat was out of sight of town, the boatman stopped pretending to be drunk, pulled a crowbar out from under his seat and headed for the first of the barrels that hadn’t sounded quite right as it rolled.

When the lid came off, a young Negro emerged. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen, and his hair was still caked with clay dust. While he was stretching the cramps out of his limbs, the boatman freed the other two.

None of the men on board were accustomed to luxuries. Which was just as well, since the boat cabin wasn’t much—a few bunks and a tiny stove that was now being used to boil some water for tea. (There was also corn whiskey, but since the boatman had been using it to rinse his mouth so he’d smell drunk, no one else wanted it.)

“The best part is,” said the boatman, “when they realize y’all are missing, they’ll look south, not north. All the same, y’all want to stay hidden till we’re past R’ville[9]. Once we’re on the Tombigbee, we’ll take that panel off the bow and replace it with this one.” He gestured to the wooden panel with the boat’s true name on it.

“Then if anybody comes looking we’ll say y’all belong to me and you’re the crew of the Weeping Nizzardo. I’ve got some very official-looking papers.

“We’re bound for Cairo. I know an abolitionist who builds houses, and he always need more hands. He’ll hire you three on. Any questions?”

“I got two,” said the youngest. “First off, if you got papers saying we belong to you, how do we know you ain’t gonna hold us to ‘em?”

“Fair question,” he said. “I don’t suppose the name ‘Joe Baldy’ means anything to y’all?”

“You’re Wild Joe?” said another.

“That’s what they call me. I’ve never held a man against his will and never mean to. So you can trust me, or you can strike out on foot.”

“Reckon I’ll stay, then,” said the boy. “Second question. What’s a ‘nizzardo’ and why is it weeping?”

“A nizzardo is a fabulous beast of legend. It has the head of a wolf, the body of an alligator and the tail of a fox. Its only food is virtuous maidens. And that’s why it’s weeping—it can’t find anything to eat along the Grand Southern.”

[1] Rice was a big crop in South Carolina at this time.
[2] Vardry McBee, who more or less founded Greenville, S.C.
[3] IOTL one of the earliest emigrants to Liberia
[4] As IOTL, people were calling the president’s mansion this before it became the official name.
[5] Mostly. Some cargo still moves along the Erie Canal by sled, except for the stretches that have been drained for maintenance.
[6] OTL Albany, GA
[7] Sung to the tune of the old sea shanty “Paddy Lay Back.”
[8] Troy, NY, the eastern end of the Erie Canal
[9] Short for Republicville. Pronounced “Arr-ville.”
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A good insight into the methods to get slaves out of their chains and find freedom elsewhere. Does Joe Baldy have any basis in OTL at all?
A good insight into the methods to get slaves out of their chains and find freedom elsewhere. Does Joe Baldy have any basis in OTL at all?
IIRC, Joe Baldy was known in OTL as Giuseppe Garibaldi. He was one of those Italians that immigrated to the US in the earlier years of TTL.
The most useful substances for removing dirt and oil from wool (certainly preferable to the Roman method of using human urine) are various types of clay called fuller’s earth.
When I was young, our next-door neighbours were the Fullers. I always wondered what connected their family name to fuller’s earth. And now I know.

And not just that, we see John March become the man he’s been waiting to be, the return of Joe Baldy, and one of my favourite folk tunes. Wonderful update.
"Even if we win", interesting title for this sequence. Who is it referring to I wonder? My inclination is it is the Americans on how this war is bringing them apart by the seams either way.

Grand to see the Hidden Trail in action. A reminder despite the darkness of slavery and racism there are still people regardless of skin color willing to risk their lives helping their fellows.

Been awhile since we heard about Kyantine. Hope it comes up more. Statehood anyone?

And the Quids trying for Dred Scott for FSA shenanigans? It was a hard sell OTL I can't see them pulling it here; but them pushing might be be a reason Berrien will be the only Quid to hold the big chair.

I for one really hope in the Republic, Union, and Spain this war will really light more fire for abolitionism. For the Union at least I expect the war's loss will initially return the Dead Roses to power but the Quids while retreating will not collapse, and the Populists will rise to unseen levels as return to the preBerrien order will satisfy enough people.
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"Even If We Win…" (2)
“War is waste and destruction. It kills, it mutilates, and it impoverishes. And yet had it not been for war, I think civilization would have perished long ago, smothered by the weight of flattering illusions and self-serving lies that would accumulate over centuries of prosperity and comfort. Only the madness of war can cure the greater madness of peace.”
-Johann Feuerbach

Tyler was able to talk Berrien out of threatening retaliation, but he continued to insist that there would be no exchange of prisoners until Fannin and his men were pardoned and included with the other prisoners of war. This meant that prisoners taken in Canada or at Sinepuxent, who had yet to be paroled or exchanged, would remain in American custody.

Which put the question of what to do with the few black prisoners from Sinepuxent—to a man, ship-hands from the ravaged fleet rather than Colonial Marines—in the hands of Secretary of the Navy Abel Upshur. By conviction, Upshur was pro-slavery, and, indeed, an old-line Tertium Quid of the faction of John Randolph of Roanoke. Nonetheless, he refused to sell Negro prisoners as slaves, despite the demands of some Southern congressmen. Officially, this was not for fear of what the strongest navy in the world might do in vengeance, but because, in his words, “I will not visit the fate of Savannah on another Southern home.”

Instead, Upshur decided that all prisoners of the U.S. Navy would be sent to the same place as Army prisoners—Lynn’s Island[1] in the Susquehanna, near enough to the railroad grid that they could be kept in supplies, but in no danger of escaping. Upshur in fact recommended that Poinsett treat black and white prisoners the same. “That meddlesome woman in London professes negro equality,” he wrote in a letter to Poinsett. “Let her soldiers and sailors experience this ideal and see how they like it.”

For those who waited out the war on Lynn’s Island, the fact that their black shipmates were no worse off than themselves was the least of their problems even if they thought of it as a problem at all. Hygiene was poor, food was generally of low quality, the barracks were inadequately protected against the cold, and disease ran rampant. One in five prisoners kept on Lynn’s Island died there.[2]

The far more numerous American prisoners of the British were only a little better off. Prisoners on Key West and Ragged Island were supposed to receive, per man per day, 450 grams of dry rice, 225 grams of flour baked into dense, coarse bread, 225 grams of salted mutton (invariably in the form of stew, to which vegetables from the gardens were sometimes added), a cup of cornmeal, a quarter of a cup of sugar, two tablespoons of salt and 15 grams of tea, all divided into two meals[3].

On paper, this diet should have been sufficient to sustain men indefinitely, especially in warm climates with little hard labor. The rice and flour rations each had about 815 calories, the meat about 300, the cornmeal 580. In practice, flour and cornmeal were not always available and were often infested when they did arrive, and even salted meat will spoil eventually. Thanks to the invasion’s disruption of the rice harvest, even the rice sometimes fell short. As Hooper Bragg noted, “We never starved, but we were hungry every single day—and we could never have choked down the food if we weren’t. I saw two men come to blows over a carrot from the prison garden, just for the taste of something different.”

On Sable Island, the prisoners usually had salt pork instead of mutton and more bread instead of rice, but they were fed the same amount in a much colder climate where far more calories were needed…

Despite what was happening in Louisiana, on most other fronts, the war seemed to have reached a stalemate at the end of the year. The Americans held Upper Canada, a truce prevailed in Lower Canada until Papineau’s return from London, and in New Brunswick the St. John River still represented the front line—though it was frozen now to a suitable depth, any army trying to cross it would be exposed and fired on from cover.

In New York and New England, where the memory of the Hartford Convention was well-nigh banished, even those who had cheered the invasion of the Canadas were now remembering why they’d thought of war with Britain as something to avoid. Although the fleets off the American coast could not be called a blockade, they were a gauntlet to run for any American ship hoping to trade with the outside world and unwilling to fly a false flag. Baltimore clippers (including some that had only recently been involved in the slave trade) carried wines, medicines, and other high-value items, earning a fair amount of money—but only a fraction of what peacetime trade had brought. Meanwhile, French and Italian shipping to and from the United States was left untouched, so U.S. mills and factories did not even enjoy a domestic monopoly.

And there was no getting around the fact that Berrien had started this war not to strengthen the United States, but to strengthen the Slave Power. In every speech about the war, Webster called on Berrien not to forget the campaign in the north or forsake their allies in Toronto. “Men of every state in the union have shed their blood in this war, and the free states have contributed far more than their share of its materiel,” he said. “They did so to strengthen the whole of this republic, not to aggrandize one region or faction at the expense of the rest.”

From Pennsylvania down through Virginia, in the divided and indeterminate region called the “Mid-Atlantic” for want of a better name[4], the joy of Mount Hope and Falmouth had not yet faded. Unlike the invasions of unprepared Canada and outnumbered Louisiana, or the hapless Florida invasion, this was a contest where Americans had met Britons as equals and bested them. Win or lose, the military might of the United States would never again be held in contempt. Berrien himself was making the most of this, holding a public ceremony in which he drove the last spike that completed the repair of the railroad that had been damaged north of Falmouth. It was an unusual event in this pre-photography era, but a harbinger of what politics would become.

The exception to this was the Chesapeake Bay area. Although the armies of Cole and Kerrison had been driven back, until the Representation was patroling the mouth of the Bay again—and this wouldn’t be until February—the towns along the Bay were vulnerable to attack.

In this, the Bay area resembled the rest of the South. Charleston, Mobile, Savannah, and Wilmington were guarded by mighty fortresses, but none of them had a demologos of their own, and the railroad grid that had brought men and material to the D.C. area to thwart Cole and Kerrison could not yet do so for the Southern ports. And then there were the many less well-defended coastal towns on the Gulf Coast and the Atlantic south of Norfolk.

But while the rest of the South dreaded violence and mayhem, in Georgia it was already there. Not only were there skirmishes along the border, but in the mountains the Cherokee were under continuous attack. Militia who hadn’t been deployed to the border were burning their homes and attacking their villages. They struck back, attacking the homes of any prominent enemies who happened to live away from town, but they were losing.

Only in Alabama were they safe. Sam Houston, in charge of the Alabama militia, had deputized all the members of the disbanded regiments so they could return to defending the state. Governors Bagby of Alabama and Gilmer of Georgia were denouncing each other with increasing fury, with Gilmer calling Bagby and Houston “traitors to the white race” and Bagby accusing Gilmer of “sacrificing the safety of the republic for the sake of gold.”

Charles Cerniglia, 1837

December 25, 1837
New Orleans

By mutual unspoken agreement, the front had fallen silent for Christmas Day. No bullets or shells were fired. No advances into LaPlace, no raids out of Lake Maurepas.

That didn’t mean no one was planning for tomorrow, when the war would begin again. The Volonté de la République was in town, reloading with coal and cannonballs. Civilians were bringing fresh food from their own kitchens to share with the men at the front. And President Andre Roman was studying the map in front of him, alongside War Minister Keane. It was strange how much more afraid he was now that the future was something he dared think about again.

Our task was to hold out until the British came. We have done that. Twelve regiments—surely the finest Christmas present we’ve ever had—and just like that our strength has essentially doubled. And surely more will come. And they didn’t even send the Colonial Marines. That would have been awkward… but not awkward enough for me to say no.

At least he had excellent intelligence on the enemy. This was the situation: Gaines was at the outskirts of LaPlace with the main part of the American army—16,000 men, which was already more than the entire Grand Army. That didn’t include the whole regiments that were garrisoning Batôn-Rouge, St-Francisville, Port-Natalbany[5], and Wharton. Or the 5,000 men under General Wool that had just taken Fort-Nord-Est and would now be heading south to join the Wharton garrison and attack Villeréville[6]. Or Taylor’s force across the river in Thibodeauxville. (What a clever idea that must have looked like, to some Yankee studying a map like this one—march to the sea and cut New Orleans off from the rest of Louisiana. But there was a lot of bayou between Thibodeauxville and the Gulf of Mexico.)

All the Grand Army was in LaPlace except for three regiments. One of those three was in Villeréville waiting for Wool’s attack. The 1st Regiment of Dragons D’eau was operating in the swamps around Lake Maurepas. The 2nd Regiment of Dragons D’eau was keeping Taylor busy.

None of it was enough. The Grand Army made the Yankees fight for every inch of ground, but they fought and they won. Wherever the Volonté met the Yankees along the banks of the Mississippi, it reaped a bloody harvest of lives, but the Yankees had blood to spare and the Volonté could only be in one place at a time. The dragons d’eau had an effect far out of proportion to their numbers. They could strike out of nowhere and retreat where the Yankees had no way to follow. They could ambush the enemy, raid their supplies, kill their scouts, distract them to the point of madness… everything but stop them. If it weren’t for the British, all this would have been delaying the inevitable.

But here the British were. “I’ll be in charge of recruitment, logistics and so on,” said Keane, “but once the British are in the field, the commanding officer will be in charge of all decisions as to their deployment and use. That includes the Grand Army.”

A British soldier in command of the army of Louisiana. Very well. Just throw our pride on the pile of everything else we’re sacrificing in defense of home and hearth.

Keane seemed to recognize Roman’s unhappiness. “I recognize that you have the authority to override me in this, M. President,” he said, “but before you do I recommend you meet the general. You won’t be disappointed.”

“No, I’m sure he’s excellent.” But even if we win, will we ever be in charge of our own army again?

Even if we win.
That was why he was feeling so sick with fear for the future—those words meant something now.

Even if we win… back in September, before the first Yankee soldier (and half of them hated being called Yankees, not that Roman cared) had ever crossed the border, free coloreds and Negroes had begun fleeing from the border areas, into the city or out west. They’d heard about the Florida invasion and had no plans to be captured and enslaved. And with them had gone many planters with their own slaves, not wanting those slaves to be stolen. And how many slaves had escaped in the confusion?

Even if we win… there was a reason the 2nd Regiment of Dragons D’eau had been able to stop Taylor in his tracks. They weren’t fighting alone. The maroons—the runaway slaves who lurked in the bayou—had joined the effort to drive the Yankees out. Who knew there were so many of them? (Who knew, even now, how many there were? It wasn’t as though they answered the census. And they were almost as mobile as the dragons d’eau, which on the battlefield made them seem far more numerous than they were.) And who knew they were so well-armed? And how many of Louisiana’s free coloreds were now fighting alongside them, learning the art of guerrilla warfare? And what the hell are we supposed to do with these people when the war is over?

No, that’s the wrong question. The right question is… what are
they going to do with us? Negroes in arms, stalking the forests and swamps, killing white soldiers—under any other circumstances I would have called this the end of Louisiana. If it helps to save us…

Even if we win, our little republic will never be the same. No reform we could pass will make the chains comfortable enough for men who have fought for their own freedom.

Damn you, Taylor—you just had to invade the bayou. Damn you, Gaines, for sending him there.

Most of all, damn you, Berrien. The one thing you and I have in common is an interest in the future of slavery and the dominion of white men over men of other races, and this war of yours has compromised those things in a way no abolitionist could ever have managed. Even if
you win, the land you conquer will not be to your liking.

Ten years. Ten years of police work and we could have enforced the rule of law over the whole of Louisiana. Ten years of reforms, and we could have turned slavery into something Queen Charlotte herself would look upon and say, “This is no evil.”

All we needed was ten years.

Instead, we got John Macpherson Berrien and this damnable war.

But now, they also had the general. And here he was, striding into the room—only a couple of years shy of seventy, but still with that soldierly bearing that made him look taller than he was. “Merry Christmas, the lot of you.”

Formalities were brief. The general quickly addressed the map. “How long can your army hold in its current position?”

“Perhaps a month or more. The field favors the defense.” Keane could hardly conceal his dismay at the question.

“For heaven’s sake, man, I don’t intend to abandon you. But neither do I intend to send my army to LaPlace. It would be just as much a meat-grinder for us going upriver as it is for the dirty-shirts trying to get here.” Ramon tried to remember the last time he’d heard Yankees called that name.

“Cousin Jonathan has overextended himself. His flanks are vulnerable. Tomorrow before dawn we cross Lake Ponchartrain to reinforce Villeréville. We will crush Wool’s army, then go west, liberating these towns.” He gestured at the map.

“If Gaines is wise, he’ll withdraw from LaPlace and meet us at Batôn-Rouge, and recall Taylor while he’s at it. If he’s a damned fool, he’ll stay right where he is and we’ll soon have him surrounded—the Grand Army in front, my men to his rear, these waterdragoons of yours to his left and your armored gunboat on the river to his right. Does this plan meet with your approval?”

Roman had no response other than to nod.

“It does indeed, General Wellington,” said Keane.

[1] Today known as Packers Island, near Sunbury
[2] Slightly worse than Rock Island during the Civil War, but nowhere near as bad as Andersonville.
[3] This is based on the Australian convict diet, modified to reflect the supplies available in the area. Convicts got a lot more meat and no rice, but prisoners of war aren’t expected to do nearly as much labor as convicts.
[4] Cerniglia is being a little ahistorical here—at this point ITTL, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia are still very much part of the South.
[5] A small city that encompasses OTL Natalbany and Hammond
[6] Madisonville IOTL, and ITTL before 1815
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