Thursday, 9 October 2014

"Military Calvinism" and General McClellan

Dennis Showalter noted that there is a trend towards secular calvinism in military history, as Ethan Rafuse pointed out on Civil War Talk Radio. In short, there is a tendency to separate characters (usually Generals) in the narrative into the blessèd elect and those who are damned, usually with battlefield success being the judgement that sits upon them.
For the elect, all their sins are wiped clean, every mistake made is forgiven and passed off onto others, usually "stupid" and "incompetent" subordinates, or the weather, or simply dumb luck. The opposite is true for those cast out into the outer darkness, any progress made in achieving their goals is denigrated somehow, often by passing on their achievements onto others, or again, simple dumb luck.

We have this in spades in the historiography of the American Civil War, and the originator is the late Kenneth P. Williams in his unfinished "Lincoln Finds a General" thesis. Here is an extreme example of a calvinist approach, with Grant as the major member of the elect (although almost as if channelling the ghost of Ben Wade he decided to elevate Pope to the elect, leading to an oxymoric "papal calvinism"!). Most other generals are cast down, and the chief devil is of course McClellan, who dared challenge the sanctified Lincoln for the throne of heaven, errr, the Presidency. What K.P. Williams started, Harry T. Williams would continue, in his McClellan, Sherman and Grant - a book so wrapped up in psychodrama and impossibly flimsy evidence that Thomas J. Rowland felt the need to reanalyse the same topic and convincingly overturn the Williams's pet theories.

The treadmill however has accelerated, and the likes of Stephen Sears seethe with vitriol against McClellan and can find only praise for Grant and his friends. They don't let little things like facts get in the way of their ideas.

So, what of McClellan? If I may quote the late Joseph Harsh "He was a competent general who could have won the Civil War for the North... ", and that is absolutely true. McClellan is not so chronically flawed as some would have us believe and came close to actualling winning the whole war for the north in 1862. The reasons why he didn't are an interesting story, but are not as simplistic as the egregious Kevin Kiley would put it "he was a wuss". Great copy for those who don't do their research, and lack curiousity, but very poor history.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Research Exercise - How Many Mistakes in One Paragraph of Sears' "To the Gates of Richmond"

Since I now have obtained a copy of the Comte de Paris' journal I have decided to analyse this paragraph from Sears' "To the Gates of Richmond" (page 280):

"General McClellan, however, would not be sharing any dangers in this battle. Instead he was five miles away, at Haxall's Landing on the James behind Malvern Hill, without telegraphic communications and too distant to command the army. Among general and staff, the Comte de Paris reported, each one expressed great pleasure "upon seeing with his own eyes the goal of our efforts, the end of our retreat." (A newspaper correspondent compared it to what the Greek Xenophon must have felt upon reaching the sea after his epic retreat.) At four o'clock that afternoon, distancing himself even further from the responsibilities of command, General McClellan boarded the gunboat Galena, and forty-five minutes later, with McClellan aboard, the Galena steamed off upriver to shell an enemy column  sighted on the River Road west of Malvern Hill. That evening the general would dine at Commander Rodgers's table aboard the Galena where, the Comte de Paris noted appreciatively, the linen was white and there was "a good dinner with some good wine."

So taking the sentences in order:

General McClellan, however, would not be sharing any dangers in this battle.

Indeed, nor would Grant in any of his battles, or Sherman in any of his. A few stray artillery rounds at Gettysburg caused Meade to flee his headquarters and he was unable to reestablish control for the rest of the day. The expectation that a commanding general should share the dangers of a private soldier are ridiculous in the extreme.

Instead he was five miles away, at Haxall's Landing on the James behind Malvern Hill, without telegraphic communications and too distant to command the army. 

McClellan's command post in the afternoon of the 30th June was not at Haxall's, and wouldn't be until the evening. The Haxall House was the site of Keyes's 4th corps headquarters, and the army HQ did indeed set up there in the evening. McClellan visited Keyes, but then headed up Malvern Hill and commanded from "a house belonging to a former volunteer of the Mexican war who lost a leg in the fighting of the campaign". The Comte de Paris describes the panoramic view the position gave, "This high point enabled us to see all the surroundings." and notes "In front of us, surrounded by a cloud of dust, was our endless convoy of wagons as far as could be seen". This places the CP most likely at the West House, although the Binford and Warren Houses are possibilities. These are about 2 miles from the crossroads, and Haxall's is 3 miles from the crossroads. As google maps showed, the West House is just over the crest of the hill, and affords a good view of the position of the army (google streetview). It also happens to be the location of the signals station, which also suggests the presence of a CP (Myers full report).

As to telegraphic communications - this is flat out contradicted by both the reports of the chief signaller in the OR, and various accounts. 

"during the afternoon and night of June 30, communication [was had] between the forces on the field of battle and the general commanding the army on the United States Steamship Galena, while he remained on that ship"

(from Myer's preliminary report)

Simply not one of the clauses of this sentence stands up to scrutiny.

Among general and staff, the Comte de Paris reported, each one expressed great pleasure "upon seeing with his own eyes the goal of our efforts, the end of our retreat." (A newspaper correspondent compared it to what the Greek Xenophon must have felt upon reaching the sea after his epic retreat.) 

I've read the Comte de Paris's account, and it is significantly different. For a start the timing is different, with Paris giving this as his impression upon approaching Keyes headquarters around midday, before McClellan headed north up Malvern Hill. The full quote is:

"Quelques pas encore et nous sommes au bord de la James River, ou Keyes à établi son quartier général. Il est difficle de dire la plasir que chacun éprouva en voyant de ses yeux le but de nos efforts."

The end clause of the quote; "the end of our retreat", is an insertion. It is absolutely not present in any form in the original. The tenses in the original indicate a sense of celebration amongst everyone observing it.

At four o'clock that afternoon, distancing himself even further from the responsibilities of command, General McClellan boarded the gunboat Galena, and forty-five minutes later, with McClellan aboard, the Galena steamed off upriver to shell an enemy column sighted on the River Road west of Malvern Hill.

The timings are slightly off, maybe. The waters are muddied because only a heavily edited version of the Galenas logbook is available (in the Lincoln Papers, the same one Sears used, link). However it indicates McClellan was aboard about 1645, and they got up steam to go and shell Holmes at 1700. Nowhere is there any timing of 1600 I can locate (including the cited newspaper, which is online at the LoC). As a time it may be right, since observations of Rodgers say he went ashore at 1500, and came back an hour later with McClellan. Charles Edge reported he met Rodgers at Haxall's, who offered him dinner (link).

I of course have read the timings put forward by a "ward room officer" in the NY Tribune on the 20th September 1864 (link), which appear to be out an hour (numerous sources put the sighting of Holmes at 1700, including the extract of the Galena's log). I've also read the Comte de Paris' account, and he relates that he carried the notification of the attack, which may be confused.

That evening the general would dine at Commander Rodgers's table aboard the Galena where, the Comte de Paris noted appreciatively, the linen was white and there was "a good dinner with some good wine.

This is not what the Comte de Paris noted at all. Paris's actually noted:

"Lorsqu'on à mène pendant quelques jours une vie aussi rude, l'on se sent tout dépaysé en arrivant sur un navire ou tout est propre, ou les officers ont ligne blanc et ou l'on trouve subitement un bon dîner et du bon vin."

The word "dépaysé" means disorientated, which is the emotion he is expressing, not approval. He is shocked to see how well the navy officers have life compared to his rough life ("vie rude") in the field. He notes the navy officers get to sleep in clean white bed-linen, and they get good dinners and good wine. It is not a description of McClellan leading the high life, Paris notes "je me hatai de prendre ma part du repas" -  literally "I quickly take my part of the meal" whilst departing McClellan with orders for the army.

One notes Sears has adopted a much more severe position even than 1864 Republican election propaganda, such as Ben Wade's quoting of the above (link). Very little of this paragraph stands up to scrutiny, yet it is accepted unchallenged, and has contaminated the historiography.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Comte de Paris' account of the Battle of Glendale

My French is very poor, but with some help I have translated the Comte de Paris' account of the Battle of Glendale from his journal (published in France as Voyage en Amérique - link). It is an interesting account, and it differs in several parts to the only author who has quoted fragments of it in their account of the battle (Sears). I may comment further at a later date, but now I'll simply put it up. Errors expected, obviously.

The Battle of Glendale according to Phillipe, Comte de Paris

The day of the 30th was, I think, the hottest I have ever experienced. In the morning, the General sent me to see the position of the side of White Oak. Smith occupied it. The bridge was destroyed, but the enemy was still showing a few skirmishers. To his left was Slocum, who had taken his place in line since the arrival of Heintzelman and Sedgwick, McCall and Richardson. The troops were in lines in the wood, parallel to the road and a little distance back, giving free passage to the trains.

Once our camp was established we set out for the James River, the General had remained for a while in a neighboring house called Glendale. The heat was stultifying. Hundreds of soldiers lined up at a muddy pit to get a sip of dirty water. The Staff was demoralized. General Marcy, too old for such an exercise, was broken. Colburn was ill and completely annihilated. The rest were growing isolated in a frightening way. Finally, everyone felt that if a panic were to disrupt the Army, the fatal moment had arrived.

The enemy, however, had still not made a serious demonstration, and everyone was wondering what this incessant waiting meant. My uncle Joinville, with his speedy and correct instinct, observed the road from Richmond meeting in New Market Cross Road and opening of the center of our long line. He was convinced that the enemy, once he had information about our march, would descend from Richmond by these roads and, finding no obstacle, would make a great effort to cut in half our line. He had guessed perfectly correctly, and Longstreet himself the next day told McCall, now a prisoner, that such was exactly the plan of Lee.  They hoped thereby to cut off the James River from our rear-guard, so the bridge was the vital and needed to be defended at all costs. My uncle spoke to the General about this, and soon McCall was sent to reinforce the troops that were already occupying that position.

It was about nine or ten in the morning. Here is what our situation was then. It was known that Keyes and Porter had earlier in the morning reached the James River, and had occupied Haxell, Turkey Bend and Malvern Hill. Between them and the rest of the army was an unoccupied space. However, it was discovered to the left of the Quaker Road roads through the woods which formed runs to the edge of the river. Heintzelman had quit his earlier position on the Charles City Road. He had since positioned Kearney between this road and the Cross Road and Hooker was pushed forward on the Quaker Road. Sumner and Franklin were the rear-guard, extending to White Oak Bridge. McCall was ordered to occupy the same Cross Road and connect his right with Kearney, Sumner was ordered to take position on the left of McCall. The General went himself reconnoiter this important position. During this time, he sent me to Hooker. This was the last time I saw this brave soldier. I found him as calm and resolved as he was at Williamsburg and Fair Oaks.

The General joined us and ordered Hooker has to form with his right on the road descending from the Cross Road toward Malvern and was told that Sumner would form on him the extreme left of our line.

Mr. LeClerc, our French domestic, and our Irish grooms (all on horseback and carrying as much food as possible in their saddlebags) formed a column that followed the Army Staff. As no one knew what would happen, and, in the case of a rout, it was necessary to ensure that all our people could get out of the battle. However, no news, no noise heralded any attack by the enemy. The General, after having thus organized the troops who were to cover the march of our trains wanted to go personally reconnoiter the positions by the James River on which he could concentrate his army and ensure the state of affairs in Porter and Keyes. This was because, as the army approached them, and as time went by, these points became more important and the chances of an attack there were increasing. He set off at a trot, and the long and fast ride was sorely felt some members of the Military Staff, especially Wright and Judge Grant whose riding left much to be desired. We continued down the Quaker Road and soon the ground rose, the woods thinned and gave way to a slightly undulating plateau, open and well cultivated. These are the foothills of Malvern Hill. The General examined the field carefully and repeatedly. I heard him say to himself: "Magnificent position, but it would take 30,000 men to defend." A little beyond was Malvern Hill; a wide oval convex hill covered only by a few clumps of Locust Trees which gave shade to the cottages there. Its southern slopes are steep and forested but between the northeast and west, the slopes are gentle and open, admirably adapted to artillery. Upon reaching the top of the hill the road bifurcates. There, we found a picket of cavalry which informed us that the direct route to the right was not yet reconnoitered. We descended and along the foot of the hill was a wooded valley adorned with fresh grass and clear water, we had arrived in the vast glade of Haxall, where we found Couch’s encamped division.

A few more steps and we are on the banks of the James River; here Keyes had established his headquarters. It is hard for us to say but everyone felt the jamboree when their eyes saw the goal of our efforts. This beautiful river like the Rhine at Cologne flowed slowly between two banks lined with high forests; a burning sun gilded his yellow waters such as the Nile and framed the lush scene with a special luster. Three or four gunboats were anchored in the middle of the river flying the Stars and Stripes. A great crowd of stragglers ran to refresh themselves in its waters or on its edges were gathering, simply because they represented for them the impending end of their march, or rather to ascertain for themselves the presence of the ships with the big guns which were seen as the only effective protection against an enemy they expected every moment to appear. The contrast was striking between this oasis of calm and the perilous situation of the army. Indeed, it was necessary to completely disrupt the propagation of this thinking to seek protection under the guns of the fleet, or we would have seen then regiments merge into a tumultuous crowd that lining the banks of the James, who, unable to be effectively protected by a few guns against the attacks of an enemy emboldened by success, would eventually be pushed pell-mell into the cul-de-sac formed by the confluence of the Chickahominy and James. The thought weighed on all commanders and especially on General McClellan that at any moment, a simple accident could magnify into a huge disaster and irreparably damage their clever plans.

However, it was hoped that things would turn out differently. When night arrived, the troops had to retreat and take up the next morning a concentrated position anchored on Turkey Bend, where they could wait with impunity the attacks of the enemy, and our trains could find safety. So if the day went well, if the enemy did not affect us until the evening, then the harsh reality would be that thankfully the retreat would be accomplished, hopefully with fewer losses than the Battle of Gaines' Mill. The army once established in a good position would be proof against further Confederate attacks, and all who knew Americans would predict it to reorganize quickly and quickly return to action after a few days. This marked the opportune moment for us to resume our suspended projects interrupted by the events of previous days. Uncle Joinville spoke to General McClellan about our resignation letters submitted on the 22nd. It was agreed that if the day went well, that is he considered as accomplished the dangerous operation in which we had to share the fate of our comrades, we would leave in the evening on a boat heading to Fort Monroe, acting as couriers for the first dispatches the General sent.

However, we returned to Malvern Hill that was occupied by the remains of the Sykes’ division, and several batteries of reserve. Morell’s division occupied a clearing along the James at the foot of Malvern. Between this clearing and the hill through the thick woods snaked the Quaker Road, already flooded with our trains. At the point the road descends the hill into a wood, where it joined a different path, which I have already mentioned, coming down from Richmond along the banks of the James. It was the middle of a thick wood that these two roads came together. The junction point was important and dangerous. It was likely that Wise’s division, which was known to be encamped for several days at Drewry's Bluff, would come and attack us. This would cause inexpressible trouble to our movement by; taking our troops in flank, threatening the road that led them to James, and appearing in the midst of the trains and crowds of stragglers. Peck was sent to occupy that position. Morell advanced to be within supporting distance.

To Keyes and his Staff was entrusted the difficult task of reassembling and reordering the stragglers who were beginning to arrive on Quaker Road not singly, but in groups of ten, twenty and even forty. Their number increased with frightening rapidity, and when we returned to Malvern Hill, we were not very sure of ever seeing the James River and the gunboats ever again.

At Malvern Hill, we stopped in a house belonging to a former volunteer of the Mexican war who lost a leg in the fighting of the campaign. This high point enabled us to see all the surroundings. In front of us, surrounded by a cloud of dust, was our endless convoy of wagons as far as could be seen; sometimes there is a shudder. The Teamsters are urging their horses, wagons, and disaster seems imminent, then everything falls into place. The rest of the Generals Headquarters joins us, and we learn that a bloody battle has pounded Smith, who successfully defended the passage of White Oak Bridge against Jackson. Our losses have been serious, and in a violent cannonade from one side of the swamp to the other, Mott saw all the guns of his battery successively dismounted. However, Franklin assures us he can hold until the evening.

However, a dull and difficult to distinguish noise seemed to reveal a fight on the side of New Market Cross Road. Soon Radowitz, who has been running around since the morning, joins us. Nothing had troubled him so far, but despite his calm and silence, his countenance promised bad news. I never knew what he told the general, but I think it was a panic in the convoy, caused by some shells astray the battle of New Market Cross Road.

Shortly after, the General mounted his horse. We charged Mr. LeClerc to go with our column, we expect to Haxall along the James, which was the expected rendezvous, and followed the General. To our astonishment the General himself turned that way. I will not judge him on this point, not knowing what information he had. I do not know if he was informed of the bloody and important fight was occurring at the Cross Road. My brother and I were privately annoyed not to have  the satisfaction of attending this last fight, but after having eagerly seized the opportunity to take part in the Battle of Gaines' Mill, we were true soldiers, obedient to duty with complete disregard of danger, but to expose oneself without utility is the mark of an amateur.

So we followed the General to the James. There was a house the Signals Corps had established as a station. I was left there with Hammerstein, while the General was taking my uncle, my brother, very ill then, and General Marcy aboard the Galena, which carried the flag of Rodgers. When important news arrived it was my duty to personally bring it to the General. Some came immediately and I was told it was good. The General was found at a table with the officers of the navy and my message being delivered, quickly took my part of the meal. When you have lead for a few days such a rough life, it feels very out of place arriving on a ship where everything is clean, and the ships officers have white linen bedsheets and can get a good dinner and a good wine on a whim.

The dispatch I brought was from Heintzelman. He announced that the enemy made ​​a terrible attack at the Cross Road, that McCall had broken, but Kearney had restored the fight, and that the enemy had been repulsed with the heavy losses, and that he (Heintzelman) was preparing to make a counter-offensive to reconquer lost ground and cover our movement. To indicate the state of mind of a few people I would note that General Marcy, who is very deaf, having trouble hearing the extended orders the General gave from a high point, thought he understood that Heintzelman and Sumner had been surrounded and taken prisoners with all their forces. He seemed distressed, but not astonished.

I returned ashore with some orders and with the intention of preparing our departure, if things continued to go well. I found our column a little bewildered. Soon, I gave our grooms instructions for giving our horses to the people we had promised them to the last fortnight. I gave them some money and assured them we had the permission of the General, I brought Mr. Leclerc, our domestics and our small luggage aboard the Galena from which we were intended to tranship to another steamer that night.

But as soon as we were aboard, the signals announced that we could see a body of enemy troops moving on the position of Peck, and at the same time a cannonade engaged the side of Malvern Hill. Soon, the Galena and one other gunboat were steaming rapidly up the river. Here it is so deep that the Galena can dock to the banks, but overconfident in this, our driver made ​​a wrong move and planted the bow right into an old pier made of earth and wood. The position was unpleasant because the bank was occupied by the enemy, and fifty sharpshooters in the woods ambushed us and we could not return fire. Fortunately, the Galena pulled away and the two steamers only had paintwork damaged. It was thought that the enemy had concentrated his reserves. The gunboats elevated their big guns at a considerable angle to exceed the rather high banks of the river, and opened fire on the woods, aiming just behind the line indicating the smoke of battle. While the two pieces of Galena, a Parrott of 100 pounds and a [8]-inch Dahlgren were firing, the ship shook with their detonations. Looking down from the crow's nest we could see their projectiles bursting through the trees, we could not believe that they had no effect, and watched the shot like it was a game. The damage caused was not great, but it seems from the tales of the enemy, that the moral effect was considerable. These huge shells arrived without warning, breaking all the trees and bursting with noise, throwing into confusion the troops were which were massing to attack Malvern Hill and the position of Peck. They abandoned the attack and the fight stopped just before sunset.

So too, we have the precise details of everything that occurred during the day. I indicated the position that the troops took before noon, mentioning the murderous attack that pushed Smith.

About four o’clock, the enemy having finally massed between the marsh and the river of considerable force, some from Richmond, the rest probably coming via Gaines Mill, the Chickahominy and through the swamp, made their major attack on the center of our line. This was the decisive action because the actions of Savage and White Oak Bridge were only rear-guard affairs, and Malvern Hill merely a desperate attempt.  The great attack on New Market Cross Road had great chances of success and promised many other results. The corps of AP Hill and Longstreet, who had fought at Gaines Mill, came from the left. Magruder, who had not been committed the foregoing days, came directly from Richmond on the right. All their efforts converged on New Market Cross Road. The attack began on our right. McCall's division, reduced to 6,000 men, which was in advance of all the others, sustained the attack of the enemy alone. This fight was one of the worst of the war, the Confederates advancing on the guns without canister, and only musketry might stop them. The Pennsylvanians did not yield an inch of ground, and more than once it came to bayonets. The batteries were taken and retaken many times. Old Biddle was killed, Meade hurt. Finally, the left of McCall was broken, a number of guns taken and the enemy turned McCall on that side. However they met four brigades of Sumner’s corps (two had stayed at White Oak Bridge) who arrested him and restored the fight. The line formed again. Hill, Longstreet and Magruder resumed the attack at once. In desperate fighting in the woods, without any possibility for maneuver, it all depends on the individual soldier's tenacity. It must be terrible. McCall was pressed on the right and soon after taken prisoner himself. Then Kearney intervened in time and drove the enemy back. Sumner, shaken at this moment in time was reinforced by his last two brigades; the impetuous valor of Magruder could not move Hooker; and gave him the opportunity to make a large number of prisoners.

Finally, the enemy was so fatigued that he stopped the attack, but it was for a renewed effort on our left against Peck and Sykes, but he did so tentatively, and, as I said, the shells of Galena troubled him and he stopped the fight.

In the latter case, one of our English companions, Captain Lamy, who had climbed a Locust Tree to see the country, saw a shell bursting on the same tree trunk. He went down as fast as the proverbial rat and is still talking about this adventure.

The enemy was thus pushing down the line. Our trains had already travelled down to Harrison's Landing and the night was done, allowing the troops to make their last move. Daybreak was sure to see them concentrated in a position they could easily defend against any enemy.

The moment of departure had arrived for us. The sense of honor that had kept us with the Army of the Potomac during this difficult ordeal was satisfied. We had done our duty on this side, and our other duties to the Empire had to be resumed.

[Skip several pages of goodbyes, and his opinions about how Stanton had destroyed the Peninsula campaign]

In the evening, General McClellan left the Galena and established his General Headquarters at Malvern Hill. The success of New Market Cross Road made it, I think, his desire to maintain the line to White Oak rather than retire directly to Harrison's Landing. However Franklin, not expecting to be able to maintain his position, evacuated during the evening. With this news Sumner and Heintzelman found themselves obliged to do so too. It was, I think, a happiness because the line was too extended. The general then decided definitely to concentrate all his army on Malvern Hill.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Timeline Review - Burnished Rows of Steel

I've previously reserved these critical reviews for published AH books on the Trent Affair, like Harry Harrison's Stars and Stripes Forever. However, here I will engage in criticism of an AH "timeline" created by an American PhD student, Ty Smith. This is an abridged version as I had 2,000 words of criticism of the mistakes made in his Battle of Rouses Point alone! I will these stop myself at about a paragraph (maybe two) each for most points.

Burnished Rows of Steel is a timeline based upon a war arising from the Trent Affair. It is an Ameriwank/ Britscrew is evidenced by it's author rather egregiously declaring the British would need more than 13 million troops in Canada to successfully defend it (post 323). No guessing which way the war in Canada will go in this timeline is there?

The general technique being applied is that the Americans are allowed to make sudden leaps in technology/ logistics etc., whereas for the British the most mundane tasks, like sailing across the Atlantic become Herculean tasks. In some ways this is a rerun of the technique Harry Harrison used in his Stars and Stripes series, and the TL shares much in common with it.

Summary Timeline

Oct '61 - The St. Albans Raid occurs, only three years (to the day) too early.
Nov '61 - Trent Affair, made worse by the attack on Rinaldo
Dec ' 61 - Vermont troops ambush and massacre British troops around the Vermont border
Jan '62 - For no reason the British start acting like the US climbed down
Feb '62 - Ft Donelson falls as per OTL
Apr '62 - The British attempt to occupy Ft Montgomery and fail, the rest of the forces move to Portland and are still besieging it 5 months later
May '62 - Americans conquer most of Canada
upto Sep '62 - not a lot changes

1. Where is the Border?

TS states the British were invading Vermont when they crossed a bridge over the Coaticook River. In fact the border is technically about 50 m south of the bridge, being a simple straight line on a map. However if the train didn't stop at the station one can see the problem. However, as if they knew by telepathy the Vermont Militia ambush the train, kill and wound 156 regulars and militia and capture the rest. What a massive overreaction.

The Vermont Militia are puzzling. OTL the entire militia along with new recruits were mustered into the 1st Vermont Infantry in 1861, which had since been discharged and the vast majority of them reenlisted leaving about 150 militiamen in the whole state. This showed in August '62 when an attempt to call out the militia failed to produce more than half a battalion. It's doubtful the Vermont Militia would have won a firefight about several hundred regulars. To preserve any sense of realism one could assume that the Vermont government refused to hand over the 1st Vermont Cavalry to the Federal government citing the need to guard the border.

2. Norfolk?

TS fails to understand that OTL Norfolk was never assaulted. Huger abandoned it with all his stores, guns etc. when McClellan succeeded in gaining Yorktown. The assault by Burnside is against a massively superior force (outnumbering him more than 2:1) with heavy artillery covering all the possible landing beaches. It is simply impossible.

3. HMG Declares War when?

Using a misinterpretation of the declaration of war against Russia in 1854 TS argues that the British would spend months naval gazing. TS has in fact made the Trent Affair worse by having the USS San Jacinto then attack HMS Rinaldo (naturally the American wins, despite being outgunned 9 guns to 6 and being a slower ship) .

In fact HMG declared war against Russia the first working day after news their ultimatum was rejected. Following the Crimean schedule the news of Britains declaration of war should reach America in mid-January. This is pretty standard throughout the whole TL - slowing down the British, leading us onto:

4. Where is the British Army?

In the OTL troop movements to America were cancelled when news reached the UK of Americas climbdown. TS has then cancelling troop movements even with them planning to declare war at least opportune time for then (i.e. after the Americans get all their armies in place but before the St. Lawrence thaws).

5. Seniority? Regimental Names?

A petty point, but TS keeps putting senior officers under their juniors. He also doesn't understand the rank structure in the British Army, or why the 67th has a second Lt-Col.

TS also doesn't know the the county names of regiments were never used. The 16th did not refer to themselves as the "Bedfords" but rather "The Old Bucks", a name acquired in 1782 stressing their seniority.

6. Magic Trains at Rouses Point

There is no railroad connecting Plattsburgh and Rouses Point OTL. The Hudson and Delaware Railroad runs north from Plattsburgh and the closest it comes to Rouses Point is where it crosses the Ogdensburg and Lake Champlain RR 12 miles west of Rouses Point. Ergo the closest one could get to the action via rail is 12 miles away - the best part of a days march. Hooker's Division should have been walking further.

On this subject, the capacity of a boxcar is 40 men or 8 horses. A large train could carry a regiment of infantry, a battery of guns or a squadron of cavalry. TS has whole brigades getting on single trains, with the entraining and detraining taking no time at all. They are apparently TARDIS like, bigger on the inside and able to teleport, if not time travel.

7. HMS Terror

TS seems to think the Terror needs towing. This would be news to her crew who sailed her to Bermuda without tow in 1860, and have been cruising along the American coast for over a year. It would also be news to the crew of USS Dacotah who nearly opened fire on her off St. Thomas in late '61.

8. USS Mississippi

USS Mississippi, an old side-wheeler with a 6 gun broadside meets the faster and more modern HMS Racoon, with an 11 gun broadside (the heavy smoothbores may have been partially replaced with rifled guns). Naturally, as the American is only outgunned ca. 2 to 1 she rapidly finishes off the Racoon. The battleship Edgar and the ironclad Terror then proceed to smash Mississippi. However Mississippi's sacrifice allows two fast merchant steamers to run into Delaware Bay, and obviously a full battleship and an ironclad designed to work in the littoral don't enter despite there not being anything to stop them.

9. Portland

Banks has three divisions concentrated (Richardson's Sedgwick's and what was historically Butler's) to defend Maine. The British are going to attack by taking all their remaining defensive forces from Canada and Nova Scotia and land by ship, regardless of just how difficult getting the troops there was, the fact that the St. Lawrence is still frozen, and that it will leave the Province of Canada undefended.

The navy of course, despite having ironclads and full battleships refuse to challenge two weak, antique forts with an insignificant armament. The RN of course are famous for refusing to engage the enemy when they have a major advantage, it's far too unsporting. The landing force is of course stopped in their tracks by half a Union division and apparently they settle into a siege. Despite having total seapower domination, a massive manpower advantage because they've been boosted to 3 TS pattern British divisions (i.e. about 5 OTL ones) and assumidly surrounding the place the plucky Americans are still holding out in September where TS has currently got to. 

10. Upper Canada

The Union have formed a two Corps army under Grant to invade Canada by gutting other armies. One Corps is McCook's with half of Buell's Army, and another is under Sherman with half of Grant's Army. Lets cut a long story short, Grant have a magic wand and they occupy Upper Canada in July. Lets not worry that OTL Williams started preparing Toronto as a "Sebastapol" on 2nd December '61. Lets not even consider that with 8 months preparation the British might have an effective defence at Toronto.

Part of the problem here might by TS refusing to acknowledge that the Canadian militia may expend during threat of war. He also refused to acknowledge the existence of Williams embodying nearly 50,000 militia in late December '61. Ergo ITTL there are simply no defenders to man those works because they're all busy besieging Portland.

11. Torpedoes?

Of course, the Americans invent the spar torpedo several years early, and proceed to blow up a British battleship with them. Obviously that's how invention works, just because these were invented in another country, used against the Union and it took them two years to backengineer them is no bar to the Union inventing and fielding torpedo boats on a few weeks notice.

12. More ironclads!

In Summer of '62 "more ironclads" are Commissioning in US ports. Lets not worry that OTL with a major push and with access to more resources (like British machine parts and iron) in the summer of '62 the US Commissioned precisely one ironclad, the flawed New Ironsides (can maybe make an appearance in Sept'62, where the story has advanced too). So where are these new ironclads coming from?

13. Vive la Quebec!?

At some point Quebec is conquered and the much hated (by the Quebecois) Patriotes set up as a government. I seem to have missed to conquest, but then all the British defenders are busy besieging Portland. It seems that perhaps only western Quebec is occupied as TS is currently debating how to stage the British defeat battle of Berthierville.


It's pretty bad. How bad? It's approaching the level of realism of Harry Harrison's Stars of Stripes forever but without getting names wrong. Most of the minor details are wrong of course.

It is better than Tsouas's work? Hard to say, but both suffer similar faults. It is certainly much worse than Conroy's 1862.

Review Rankings

Writing: 5/10 - well written in parts but confusing to track events. Poorly written in other parts. Characters are unbelievable and the British read like an enemy in a Tom Clancy novel - nothing more than targets.
Reserach: 2/10 - whilst some research has been done the author does not understand the data he has compiled. He has not used most of the available resources on this matter such as Kenneth Bourne's "Great Britain and the Balance of Power in North America), Warren's "Fountain of Discontent" Ferris' "The Trent Affair" or any of the other standard works on this topic. He does not understand the British military system in the slightest, for example not even knowing the rank of a brigade commander in the UK system, or how many brigades constitute a division (two).

Realism: 1/10 - at no time did I ever consider the events realistic. Like a HH book the Americans are super-smart, and invent new gadgets with ease. American militiamen can easily defeat superior numbers of better armed British regulars. American ships easily smash RN ships that are faster, better protected and much more heavily armed.  The RN refuses to do what they historically planned to do, and the army refuses to attack, unless the Americans are heavily entrenched first. Very sporting.

Enjoyment: some - difficult to rate as this is clearly aimed at an American audience who appear to be insecure in their place in a changing world. To them it seems very enjoyable. To anyone that knows the subject the mistakes grate.

Overall - of some entertainment value, but poorly researched and unrealistic.