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Charlz Guybon
Nov 16, 2010


Turtledove has good twitter game

https://twitter.com/HNTurtledove/status/1436760474771603456

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Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."




The Guns of The South begins in an Army Of Northern Virginia camp in January of 1864. The previous year, Lee's second invasion of the North met a spectacular end at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and fallen back into Virginia. Attempts to inflict a matching defeat by exploiting General Meade's indifferent pursuit failed, as did Meade's belated attempt to catch and destroy Lee's forces at the Battle of Mine Run, less than a month before the novel begins. Our point of divergence here comes right at the beginning of the novel, while Lee is composing letters.

Chapter 1: Robert E. Lee

quote:

Headquarters
January 20, 1864
Mr. President:
I have delayed replying to your letter of the 4th until the time arrived for the execution of the attempt on New Berne. I regret very much that the boats on the Neuse & Roanoke are not completed. With their aid I think success would be certain. Without them, though the place may be captured, the fruits of the expedition will be lessened and our maintenance of the command of the waters in North Carolina uncertain.


Robert E. Lee paused to dip his pen once more in the inkwell. Despite flannel shirt, uniform coat, and heavy winter boots, he shivered a little. The headquarters tent was cold. The winter had been harsh, and showed no signs of growing any milder. New England weather, he thought, and wondered why God had chosen to visit it upon his Virginia.
With a small sigh, he bent over the folding table once more to detail for President Davis the arrangements he had made to send General Hoke’s brigade down into North Carolina for the attack on New Berne. Re had but small hope the attack would succeed, but the President had ordered it, and his duty was to carry out his orders as best he could. Even without the boats, the plan he had devised was not actually a bad one, and president Davis reckoned the matter urgent..

In view of the opinion expressed in your letter, I would go to North Carolina myself But I consider my presence here always necessary, especially now when there is such a struggle to keep the army fed & clothed.



Lee here is describing preparations for the attempt to recapture the town of New Bern (no "e") North Carolina. There's one great problem here, on page 1 of the book. The New Bern campaign had nothing to do with Lee. Lee was never the commander of the entire Confederate Army - just the Army of Northern Virginia. The attack on New Berne was led by General George Pickett and supported by General Robert Hoke's 21st North Carolina. Neither Pickett or Hoke were under Lee's command, which does largely shield him from blame for the result. The Battle of New Bern was a Union victory, with little bloodshed. The most significant result came afterward, when Pickett discovered that 22 Union prisoners were born in North Carolina and had them shot as deserters..

Lee continues his letter before being interrupted by gunfire.

quote:

A gun cracked, quite close to the tent. Soldier’s instinct pulled Lee’s head up. Then he smiled and laughed at himself. One of his staff officers, most likely, shooting at a possum or a squirrel. He hoped the young man scored a hit.
But no sooner had the smile appeared than it vanished. The report of the gun sounded--odd. It had been an abrupt bark, not a pistol shot or the deeper boom of an Enfield rifle musket. Maybe it was a captured Federal weapon.
The gun cracked again and again and again. Each report came closer to the one before than two heartbeats were to each other. A Federal weapon indeed, Lee thought: one of those fancy repeaters their cavalry like so well. The fusillade went on and on. He frowned at the waste of precious cartridges--no Southern armory could easily duplicate them.
He frowned once more, this time in puzzlement, when silence fell. He had automatically kept count of the number of rounds fired. No Northern rifle he knew was a thirty-shooter.

There were two famous repeaters used by Union troops during the Civil War, most of which were privately purchased by soldiers or officers. The Henry Repeating Rifle (the design of which would form the basis for the famous Winchester line of leverguns) was a lever action rifle firing the .44 Henry cartrige from a 15-round tubular magazine located under the barrel. The primary weakness of the Henry was that .44 Henry is a relatively low-powered round - far closer to the rounds fired from a Colt 1860 revolver than to those fired by the standard Springfield carbine or rifle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofGnRSE7lpI

The other famous repeater of the war was the Spencer. Also a lever design, the Spencer fired .56-56 Spencer cartridges from a 7-round magazine located in the buttstock. Less reliable than the Henry, and with lower magazine capacity, the primary advantage of the Spencer was the cartridge - .56-56 Spencer was on par with the standard muzzleloaders in both bullet weight and muzzle velocity.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8eQmTUHzeU

As Lee helpfully explains, neither is a thirty-shooter.



Lee returns to his letter, only to almost immediately hear another burst of gunfire, this one being a large number in very close succession. Lee hastily begins to exit his tent, running right into an aide bearing a letter.

quote:

Bureau of Ordnance, Richmond
January 17, 1864
General Lee:
I have the honor to present to you with this letter Mr. Andries Rhoodie of Rivington, North Carolina, who has demonstrated in my presence a new rifle, which I believe may prove to be of the most significant benefit conceivable to our soldiers. As he expressed the desire of making your acquaintance & as the Army of Northern Virginia will again, it is likely, face hard fighting in the months ahead, I send him on to you that you may judge both him & his remarkable weapon for yourself. I remain,
Your most ob’t servant,
Josiah Gorgas,
Colonel


Lee folded the letter, handed it back to Taylor. As he returned his glasses to their pocket, he said, “Very well, Major. I was curious before; now I find my curiosity doubled. Take me to Mr.--Rhoodie, was it?”
“Yes, sir. He’s around behind the tents here. If you will come with me--”
Breath smoking in the chilly air, Lee followed his aide-decamp. He was not surprised to see the flaps from the other three tents that made up his headquarters were open; anyone who had heard that gunfire would want to learn what had made it. Sure enough, the rest of his officers were gathered round a big man who did not wear Confederate gray.

The big man did not wear the yellow-brown that was the true color of most home-dyed uniforms, either, nor the black of the general run of civilian clothes. Lee had never seen an outfit like the one he had on. His coat and trousers were of mottled green and brown, so that he almost seemed to disappear against dirt and brush and bare-branched trees. A similarly mottled cap had flaps to keep his ears warm.


Rhoodie is very polite, well fed, and speaks with an odd accent. After exchanging pleasantries, he gets down to business.

quote:


“I thank you for your patience with me,” he said now in that not-quite-British accent. “Tell me this, then: what do you make of the Confederacy’s chances for the coming year’s campaign and for the war as a whole?”
“To be or not to be, that is the question,” Marshall murmured.
“I hope our prospects are somewhat better than poor Hamlet’s, Major,” Lee said. His staff officers smiled. Rhoodie, though, simply waited. Lee paused to marshal his thoughts. “Sir, since I have but so briefly had the honor of your acquaintance, I hope you will forgive me for clinging to what may be plainly seen by any man with some knowledge and some wit: that is, our enemies are superior to us in numbers, resources, and the means and appliances for carrying on the war. If those people”--his common euphemism for the Federals--”use their advantages vigorously, we can but counterpoise to them the courage of our soldiers and our confidence in Heaven’s judgment of the justice of our cause. Those have sufficed thus far. God willing, they shall continue to do so.”
“Who said God is for the big battalions?” Rhoodie asked.
“Voltaire, wasn’t it?” Charles Venable said. He had been a professor of mathematics before the war, and was widely read.
“A freethinker if ever there was one,” Marshall added disapprovingly.
“Oh, indeed,” Rhoodie said, “but far from a fool. When you are weaker than your foes, should you not take the best advantage of what you do have?”
“That is but plain sense,” Lee said. “No one could disagree.”
Now Rhoodie smiled, or his mouth did; the expression stopped just short of his eyes. “Thank you, General Lee. You have just given much of my sales talk for me.”
“Have I?”
“Yes, sir, you have. You see, my rifle will let you conserve your most precious resource of all-your men.”
Walter Taylor, who had seen the gun in action, sucked in a long, deep breath. “It could be so,” he said quietly.
“I await the demonstration, Mr. Rhoodie,” Lee said. “You will have it.” Rhoodie unslung the weapon. Lee had already noted it was of carbine length, stubby next to an infantry musket. Because it was so short, its socket bayonet seemed the longer. Rhoodie reached over his shoulder into his haversack. That was made of mottled cloth like his trousers and coat, and looked to be of finer manufacture than even a Union man carried. Most of Lee’s soldiers made do with a rolled-up blanket.
The tall stranger produced a curved metal object, perhaps eight inches long and an inch and a half or two inches wide. He clicked it into place in front of the carbine’s trigger. “This is the magazine,” he said. “When it’s full, it holds thirty rounds.”
“In fine, the rifle now has bullets in it,” Taylor said.” As all of you will no doubt have noticed, it is a breechloader.” The other aides nodded. Lee kept his own counsel.

An odd uniform, equipment of extremely high quality, and this marvelous rifle. Where could this guy have come from?

Rhoodie pulls sheets of paer from his bag, which prove to be targets bearing a life-size sillohette of a man's torso and head. He requests that these be put up to demonstrate accuracy, out to 4 or 5 hundred yards.

quote:

When the aides were through, a ragged column of thirty targets straggled southeast toward Orange Court House a couple of miles off. The knot of tents that was Lee’s headquarters lay on a steep hillside, well away from encamped troops or any other human habitations. The young men laughed and joked as they came back to Rhoodie and Lee. “There’s General McClellan!” Charles Marshall said, stabbing a thumb in the direction of the nearest target. “Give him what he deserves!”
The others took up the cry: “There’s General Burnside!” “General Hooker!” “General Meade!” “Hancock!” “Warren!” “Stoneman!” “Howard!” “There’s Honest Abe! Give him his deserts, by God!”
Lee turned to Rhoodie. “At your convenience, sir.” The aides fell silent at once.
“One of your men might want to look at a watch,” Rhoodie said.
“I will, sir.” Charles Venable drew one from his waistcoat pocket. “Shall I give you a mark at which to begin?” Rhoodie nodded. Venable held the watch close to his face so he could see the second hand crawling around its tiny separate dial. “Now!”
The rifle leaped to the big stranger’s shoulder. He squeezed the trigger. Craack! A brass cartridge case flipped up into the air. It glittered in the sun as it fell. Craack! Another cartridge case. Craack! Another. This was the same sort of quick firing as that which had interrupted Lee’s letter to President Davis.
Rhoodie paused once for a moment.” Adjusting the sights,” he explained. He was shooting again as soon as the last word left his mouth. Finally the rifle clicked harmlessly instead of blasting out another round.
Charles Venable looked up. “Thirty aimed shots. Thirty-two seconds. Most impressive.” He looked from the rifle to Rhoodie, back again. “Thirty shots,” he repeated, half to himself. “Where is the smoke from thirty shots?”
“By God!” Walter Taylor sounded astonished, both at the lack of smoke and at himself. “Why didn’t I notice that before?”
Lee had also failed to notice it. Thirty closely spaced shots should have left this Andries Rhoodie in the middle of a young fogbank. Instead, only a few hazy wisps of smoke floated from the breech and muzzle of his rifle. “How do you achieve this, sir?” he asked.

The answer is unhelpful - Rhoodie just explains that he uses a different powder than normal. The targets are brought in, and 28 out of 30 targets have been struck - impressive by any standard. After reloading, he demonstrates a second feature.

quote:

“Sorry. The Yankees, I mean. What if the Yankees are too close for aimed fire?” Below the handle was a small metal lever. Rhoodie clicked it down so that, instead of being parallel to the handle’s track, its front end pointed more nearly toward the ground. He turned away from Lee and his staff officers. “This is what.”
The rifle roared. Flame spurted from its muzzle. Cartridges flew out of it in a glittering stream. The silence that followed the shooting came hard and abrupt as a blow. Into it, Lee asked, “Major Venable, did you time that?”
“Uh, no, sir,” Venable said, “I’m sorry, sir.”
“Never mind, It was quite rapid enough.”
Rhoodie said, “Except at close range or into big crowds, full automatic fire isn’t nearly as effective or accurate as single shots. The weapon pulls up and to the right.”
“Full automatic fire.” Lee tasted the words. “How does this repeater operate, if I may ask, sir? I have seen, for example, the Spencer repeating carbines the enemy cavalrymen employ, with a lever action to advance each successive bullet. But you worked no lever, save to chamber your first round. The rifle simply fired, again and again.”

Rhoodie's rifle, as he helpfully explains, uses the gas from each shot to push the bolt back. Lee is impressed, but fears that this is all pointless - after all, how many of these wonder weapons can he acquire, when the Confederacy is unable to produce even conventional arms in quantity.

quote:

Rhoodie smiled broadly. “How many would you like?”
“I would like as many as you can furnish,” Lee said. “The use to which I might put them, however, would depend on the number available. If you can provide me with, say, a hundred, I might furnish them to horse artillery batteries, so they might protect themselves against attacks by the enemy infantry. If, on the other hand, you are fortunate enough to possess five hundred or so--and the requisite ammunition--I would consider outfitting a cavalry regiment with them. It would be pleasant to have our horsemen able to match the firepower those people are able to bring to bear, rather than opposing them with pistols and shotguns.”
Andries Rhoodie’s smile grew wider still, yet it was not the smile of someone sharing something pleasant with friends. Lee was reminded instead of the professional grimace of a stage magician about to produce two doves from inside his hat. Rhoodie said,” And suppose, General Lee, suppose I am able to get you a hundred thousand of these rifles, with their ammunition? How would you--how would the Confederacy--use them?”
“A hundred thousand?” Lee kept his voice low and steady, but only with a distinct effort. Rather than pulling two doves out of his hat, the big stranger had turned loose a whole flock. “Sir, that is not a piker’s offer.”
“Nor a likely one, if you will forgive my saying so,” Charles Marshall said. “That is nearly as many weapons as we have been able to realize from all of Europe in three years of war. I suppose you will deliver the first shipment by the next northbound train?” Irony flavored every word.
Rhoodie took no notice of it. “Close enough,” he said coolly. “My comrades and I have spent some time getting ready for this day. General Lee, you will be sending General Hoke’s brigade down to North Carolina over the next couple of nights--am I right?”
“Yes, that is so,” Lee said without much thought. Then all at once he swung the full weight of his attention to Rhoodie. “But how do you know of it, sir? I wrote those orders just today, and was in the process of informing President Davis of them when interrupted by you and your repeater. So how can you have learned of my plans for General Hoke’s movements?”
“My comrades and I are well informed in any area we choose,” Rhoodie answered. He was easy, even amused; Lee abstractly admired that; he knew his own presence overawed most men. The stranger went on, “We do not aim to harm you or your army or the Confederacy in any way, General. Please believe me when I say that. No less than you, we aim to see the South free and independent.”

So this guy not only has wonderous equipment, he knows all kinds of information that he shouldn't.

The proposal is to have Holk's trains stop at the town of Rivington, North Carolina on their way back from delivering the troops. There, they can take on the first shipment of 25,000 rifles with a supply of ammunition, and can repeat this until the initial order is filled. 100,000 rifles is more than the Army of Northern Virginia requires, but the Confederacy has other commands. A point which Rhoodie makes clear.

quote:

“The Confederacy has more armies than yours. Don’t you think General Johnston will be able to use some when General Sherman brings the whole Military Division of the Mississippi down against him come spring?”
“General Grant commands the Military Division of the Mississippi,” Walter Taylor said: “all the Federal troops between the Alleghenies and the river.”
“Oh, yes, that’s right, so he does, for now. My mistake,” Rhoodie said. He turned back to Lee, this time with a hunter’s intent expression on his face. “And don’t you think, General, that Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troopers would enjoy being able to outshoot the Federals as well as outride and outfight them?”
“What I think, sir, is that you are building mighty castles in the air on the strength of a single rifle,” Lee answered. He did not care for the way Andries Rhoodie looked at him, did not care for the arrogant way the man spoke, did not care for anything about him...except for his rifle. If one Southern man could deliver the fire of five or ten Unionists, the odds against which Confederate armies had to fight in every engagement might all at once be set at naught.
Rhoodie still studied him. Lee felt his cheeks go hot, even on this icy winter’s day, for he knew the stranger could see he was tempted. The book of Matthew came into his mind: Again the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
But Rhoodie did not ask for worship, and he was no devil, only a big, tough man, who was not too tough to wear a cap with flaps to keep his ears warm. For all that Lee had not taken to him, he spoke like a reasonable man, and now said, reasonably, “General, I will stay here and guarantee with my person that what I say is true. Give the order for the train to stop and pick up the rifles and ammunition. If they do not come as I say they will, why, you can do whatever you please with me. Where is your risk in that?”

Lee can find no trap here, and no risk to him. He decides to accept Rhoodie's offer. This leaves only one matter in need of resolution.

quote:

Walter Taylor asked, “Mr. Rhoodie, what do you call this rifle of yours. Is it a Rhoodie, too? Most inventors name their products for themselves, do they not?”
“No, it’s not a Rhoodie.” The big stranger unslung the title, held it in both hands as gently as if it were a baby. “Give it its proper name, Major. It’s an AK-47.”

The Автома́т Кала́шникова (Avtomat Kalashnikova, or "Kalishnikov's Automatic Rifle"), more commonly known as the AK or AK-47, is a rifle developed in the Soviet Union immediately after the end of the Second World War. Although the designer took lessons from existing weapons - primarily the American M1 Garand, the German Sturmgewer 44, and the Soviet SKS - the final desing was entirely his own work. Perhaps the most famous firearm on the planet, the AK and derived designs have seen combat service on five continents and played a part in just about every war since Korea. Some estimates suggest that one out of every five firearms worldwide is an AK or derivative.

The AK-47 fires the 7.62x39mm cartridge from a thirty-round detachable box magazine, is extremely accurate out to 500 meters, and is extremely robust. Not, perhaps, as robust as the gun's reputation suggests, but robust nontheless.


After finishing his letter, Lee heads back outside. Rhoodie is boiling water, and it is growing time for Lee to eat as well.

quote:

Lee’s servant came up. “Supper be ready soon, Marse Robert.”
“Thank you, Perry. What do we have tonight?”
“Possum soup, all nice and thick with peanuts,” the black man answered.
“That sounds very fine.” Lee walked over to Rhoodie. “Would you care to share supper with me, sir? Perry has not much to work with here, but one would never know it by the meals he turns out.”
Rhoodie’s eyes flicked toward Perry. “Your slave?”
“He’s free,” Lee answered.
Rhoodie shrugged. Lee could see he did not approve. The stranger started to say something, then evidently thought better of it, which was just as well. When he did speak, it was about supper: “Will you let me add to the meal? I know you’re on short rations here.”
“I wouldn’t want to deprive you. Times are hard everywhere.”
“It’s no trouble. I have plenty.” Rhoodie peered into the pot. “Ah, good; it’s boiling.” He set it on the ground. “Excuse me.” He went back into the tent. When he came out, he was holding a couple of packages whose sides and bottoms reflected the firelight metallically. He peeled a lid off each of them. The insides of the lids looked metallic, too. He set down the packages, poured hot water into each of them. Instantly, savory steam rose.
Lee watched--and sniffed--with interest. “Is that desiccated stew you have there? The Federals use desiccated vegetables, but I did not know anyone was preparing whole meals that way.”
“Desiccated stew it is, General.” The tall stranger’s voice was oddly constrained, as if he’d expected Lee to be more surprised. He passed him one of the packages and a spoon. “Before you eat, stir it about a little.”
Lee stirred, then tasted. His eyebrows rose. “This is excellent. Were they to taste it, the wits in the army wouldn’t joke so about’ desecrated’ vegetables.” He ate another couple of spoonfuls; “Very good indeed. Now I find myself embarrassed at. having nothing better than possum soup to offer in exchange.”
“Don’t fret about it, General,” Rhoodie said. He held out his metal packet as a bowl when Perry came by a couple of minutes later with the kettle. Perry ladled the container full. He smiled. “You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Your black is a fine cook.”

Note Rhoodie's treatment of Perry here. Among everything else, he compliments Lee on Perry's cooking, not the man himself.

Lee's immediately requests that Rhoodie start supplying these magic rations along with the magic rifles. Rhoodie hems and haws, but allows that he might be able to provide some, given time. After eating, he begins to boil more water to Lee's surprise.

quote:

“I was going to boil water for coffee. Would you like some?”
“Real coffee?” Lee asked. Rhoodie nodded. With a rueful smile, Lee said, “I almost think real coffee might be too potent for me, after so long drinking chicory and scorched grain masquerading under the name. Still, I will gladly hazard the experiment, provided you have enough for my staff as well. I would not see them deprived of what I enjoy.”
“They’re welcome,” Rhoodie said. “They need their own mugs, though.”
“By all means,” Lee called his aides, gave them the good news. They exclaimed in delight and hurried back to their tents. Lee went off to fetch his own mug.
By the time everyone converged, mug in hand, on Rhoodie’s shelter, he had his pot back over the fire. With his free hand, he passed each Confederate officer a small, flat packet. Rhoodie said, “Tear it open and pour it into the bottom of your cup.”
FOLGER’S INSTANT COFFEE, Lee read on the packet. Below that, in much smaller print, was something he could not make out. He put on his glasses. The words came clear: MADE IN U.S.A. He returned the glasses to his pocket, thinking he should have been able to guess that without reading it.
As Rhoodie had directed, he poured the contents of the packet into his cup. The stuff did not look like ground coffee. “Is this another of your desiccations?” he asked.
“You might say so, yes, General. Now if you’ll hold out your cup--” Rhoodie filled it to the brim with hot water. All at once, it smelled like coffee. “Stir it about to dissolve it all,” Rhoodie said as he filled the aides’ mugs in turn.
Lee raised the cup to his lips. It was not the best coffee he’d ever had. But coffee it unmistakably was. He took a long, slow sip, closed his eyes with pleasure. “That is most welcome,” he said. One after another, the staff officers echoed him.
“I’m glad you enjoy it,” Rhoodie said. Charles Venable had been examining his packet, too. “Instant coffee,” he said musingly.” An apt description, though not one I’ve heard before. Is this little envelope made of tinfoil, Mr. Rhoodie?”
“I think so,” the big stranger answered after a slight hesitation, which Lee believed he recognized; it sounded like the pause of a man who was not telling everything he knew. Andries Rhoodie seemed to know a fair number of things he wasn’t telling. The things he had already spoken of and shown were quite remarkable enough. Lee wondered what secrets he still kept.
Walter Taylor pointed to Rhoodie’s coffee mug. “What is that emblem your cup bears, sir, if I may ask? At first, seeing the red background and the white, I took it for a Confederate symbol, but now I see it is not.”
Rhoodie held the mug close to the fire to give Taylor a better view of it. Lee looked, too. Inside a white circle on the red background was a spiky, black emblem that reminded him of a caltrop:



Under the emblem stood three letters: AWB. Rhoodie said, “It is the sign of my organization.” He was good at appearing to answer while actually saying little.
Lee asked, “What do the initials signify?”
“Our motto,” Rhoodie replied with a smile: “America Will Break.”

AWB does NOT stand for America Will Break. The Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) began as a political party in South Africa devoted to the preservation of apartheid and other white-supremacy laws. Better armed and more vicious than the American Ku Klux Klan, and using a distinctive three-armed swastika as their symbol, they eventually rallied around the cause of seceeding from the South African government on the grounds that it wasn't racist enough, and were the primary opponent of groups such as Nelson Mandela's African National Congress. By the time this book was written in 1992, the AWB was still strong but the writing on the wall was clear. The group fell into a sharp decline after majority rule came to South Africa in 1994, and today they are just another group of bitter and virulent neo-Nazi leftovers.

Later that evening, Lee encounters Rhoodie reading the Bible by firelight while making a call of nature, and finds it easy to sleep despite the coffee. This act of devotion gives Lee more reason to trust the man.


A few days later, after having to order the army's rations reduced due to supply issues, Lee recieves a telegram from the trains. Many crates were loaded in Rivington, and inspection found them to be filled with rifles and cartridges of unknown design. This does not wholly alleviate Lee's suspicions.

quote:

“Yes, sir.” Venable hesitated, then went on, “May I ask, sir, what you think of Mr. Rhoodie?”
“Well, I certainly think a good deal better of him now that I know for a fact he is not a solitary charlatan with a solitary, if marvelous, carbine,” Lee said at once. Then he too paused. “But that wasn’t the whole of what you asked, was it, Major?”
“No, sir.” Normally a fluent speaker, Venable seemed to be struggling to put what he thought into words: “I do believe he is the most peculiar man I’ve ever met. His carbine, his gear, even the food he eats and the coffee he drinks...I’ve not seen nor heard of their like anywhere.”
“Nor have I, and with their uniform excellence and convenience, I should hope I would have, the better to wage this war,” Lee said. “There is also more to it than that. The man knows more than he lets on. How could he have learned of my orders sending General Hoke south? That still perplexes me, and worries me no small amount as well. Had he been exposed ‘as a fraud, I would have had some hard questions to ask him about it, and asked them in as hard way as need. As is--” Lee shrugged. “He is manifestly a good Southern man. How long do you suppose we could have lasted, Major, had he chosen to go north and sell his rifles to the enemy?”
Venable made a sour face, as if disliking the taste of that idea. “Not long, sir.”
“I quite agree. They outweigh us enough as is. But he chose our cause instead, so for the time being the hard questions can wait. And he is a pious man. No one who was not would read his Testament late at night where nobody could be expected to see him.”

Some time later, Lee meets the train carrying the rifles himself.

quote:

A plume of woodsmoke announced a train heading up the Orange and Alexandria Railroad to the little town of Orange Court House. Lee pointed to it with the eagerness of a boy who spies his Christmas present being fetched in. “If I have calculated rightly, gentlemen, that will be the train from Rivington. Shall we ride to meet it, and see this first consignment of Mr. Rhoodie’s rifles?”

The slaves unloading the train are supervised by Confederate soldiers as well as more men in the strange mottled clothes. All are big men, with the same accent as Rhoodie. Attempts to get information from Rhoodie about this are deflected.

quote:

Lee dismounted. His aides and Rhoodie followed him to the ground; Venable hitched Traveller to the rail. A soldier with two bars on either side of his collar walked up to them. His face, Lee thought, was too thin for the whiskers he’d chosen, which were like those of the Federal general Burnside. He saluted. “Asbury Finch, sir, 21st Georgia.”
“Yes, Lieutenant. I received your telegram.”
“Yes, sir.” Finch sent a glance to Andries Rhoodie, who had gone over to greet his comrades. “So you’ve already met one of these all-over-spots fellows, have you, sir? They’ve purely done wonders for Rivington, that they have.”
“I commanded in North Carolina a couple of years ago, Lieutenant, but I must confess I do not remember the town,” Lee said
“A couple years ago, General Lee, sir, wasn’t nothin’ worth remembering, just a town barely big enough for the train to bother stoppin’ at it. But it’s growin’ to beat the band now, thanks to these folks. A big bunch of ‘em done settled there, bought a raft o’ n*****s, and run up new houses and warehouses and I don’t know what all. And all in the last three, four months, too; I heard that from one of the folks who’s lived there all his life while we were takin’ on these crates. They pay gold for everything, too, he says.”
“No wonder they’re welcome, then,” Lee said. Confederate paper money had weakened to the point where a pair of shoes cost a private soldier three or four months’ wages. That was one reason so many men in the Army of Northern Virginia went barefoot even in winter. Another was that there were not enough shoes to be had at any price.
“Pity they couldn’t have come a year ago,” Walter Taylor said. “Think what we might have done with those rifles at Chancellorsville, or up in Pennsylvania.”
“I have had that thought myself a fair number of times the last few days, Major,” Lee said. “What’s past is past, though, and cannot be changed.”
“The guns, they’re as fine as all that, sir?” Finch asked. “They are indeed, Lieutenant,” Taylor said. “With them, I feel we truly may hold in our hands the goose that lays the golden eggs.”
“Or it holds us,” Charles Marshall said, his voice sour.

Lee considers this a valid concern. He promptly issues orders to have the head of the Bureau of Ordnance to investigate copying the weapon, and to send a rifle (with a supply of cartridges) to the Army's expert on gunpowder. Detailed plans on how to disperse the new arms are made.

quote:


Lee thought about that. At last he said, “With the cavalry spread out on the countryside as it is, the more efficient course would appear to be convening General Stuart and his divisional and brigade commanders here at Orange Court House so they can judge your repeaters for themselves.”
“Fine,” Rhoodie said. “When we shoot, though, better we go back up to your headquarters, to keep word of what these guns can do from reaching the enemy.”
“A sensible plan,” Lee agreed.
Talking to himself as much as to Lee, Rhoodie went on, “Since this will be the center from which we give out guns to your army, we ought to rent quarters here, and warehouse space, too. We have a lot of work to do before spring, getting your men ready.”
“The officers of the Army of Northern Virginia should prove of some assistance to you,” Lee said drily.
Irony bounced from Andries Rhoodie like solid shot off an ironclad’s armored hull. He looked Lee full in the face and said, “Some will help us, General; I don’t doubt it. But if I were on the other side of the Rapidan and dealing with the Federals, say with General Burnside or General Sigel, they might not even have given me a hearing. They have their Springfields, after all, and once a routineer settles in with something, it’s hard to boot him loose from it.”
“You will be treating with better men in this army than the two you named,” Lee said. “I should certainly hope so, at any rate.”
“You vouch for every brigadier, every colonel?” Rhoodie persisted. “My comrades and I haven’t enough manpower to do more than show the basics of how to shoot and clean the AK-47, regiment by regiment. Getting your soldiers to use it afterwards will be up to those commanders. Some of them will mistrust anything new and different.”
“I see what you are saying, sir,” Lee admitted. There was some truth to it, too. The Confederate States themselves had banded together in the hope of preserving their old way of life against the growing numbers and growing factories of the North. But here--”You get my men these repeaters, Mr. Rhoodie, and I shall undertake to see they are used,”
“That’s what I wanted to hear, General Lee.”
“You have heard it.”
Singing as they worked, slaves carried long crates with rifles in them and square crates of ammunition out of the freight cars and stacked them beside the railroad tracks. The stacks grew higher and higher and higher.

Note here how Rhoodie talks to the white Confederates. He isn't nearly as dismissive of them as he was Perry, but he still has an air of arrogance and superiority.

Gnoman fucked around with this message at 05:18 on Sep 13, 2021

Hyrax Attack!
Jan 13, 2009

We demand to be taken seriously



Gnoman posted:

Chapter 1: Robert E. Lee

Lee here is describing preparations for the attempt to recapture the town of New Bern (no "e") North Carolina. There's one great problem here, on page 1 of the book. The New Bern campaign had nothing to do with Lee. Lee was never the commander of the entire Confederate Army - just the Army of Northern Virginia. The attack on New Berne was led by General George Pickett and supported by General Robert Hoke's 21st North Carolina. Neither Pickett or Hoke were under Lee's command, which does largely shield him from blame for the result. The Battle of New Bern was a Union victory, with little bloodshed. The most significant result came afterward, when Pickett discovered that 22 Union prisoners were born in North Carolina and had them shot as deserters..

Thanks for write up, this is excellent.

One minor point regarding the letter Lee was writing, you are right that Lee wasn't commanding the troops for that battle. But in the real timeline he did write that letter on 1/20/1864, so it being included wasn't a mistake by Turtledove but more of an exact moment to show when history was diverging. https://books.google.com/books?id=v...erne%22&f=false

Sorry minor quibble, looking forward to more please.

Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."


The letter is historical, but the narration implies that Lee was the guy who came up with the plan of attack, which I don't think is accurate.

Hyrax Attack!
Jan 13, 2009

We demand to be taken seriously



Gnoman posted:

The letter is historical, but the narration implies that Lee was the guy who came up with the plan of attack, which I don't think is accurate.

Oh you're right, missed that part about his inner thoughts. My mistake.

Tree Bucket
Apr 1, 2016



I remember being handed Worldwar by my weird uncle. I'll be following this thread!

coathat
May 21, 2007



Awhile ago I spent entirely too much time trying to remember a short story that I loved as a teen. Turns out it was Designated Hitter which you can find in Departures. For some reason I didn't think of Turtledove when looking for a scifi story about baseball which is almost as stupid as me searching for it with duckduckgo when the right answer came up instantly on google.

Check it out if you haven't read it.

Drakyn
Dec 26, 2012



coathat posted:

Awhile ago I spent entirely too much time trying to remember a short story that I loved as a teen. Turns out it was Designated Hitter which you can find in Departures. For some reason I didn't think of Turtledove when looking for a scifi story about baseball which is almost as stupid as me searching for it with duckduckgo when the right answer came up instantly on google.

Check it out if you haven't read it.
Misread as Designated Hitler and frankly that caused me to imagine a very different sort of alt-history story.

Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."


Chapter 2: Nate Caudell

quote:

“What else, Alsie?” First Sergeant Nate Caudell asked patiently.
Private Alsie Hopkins furrowed his brow, as well as a man in his early twenties could. “Tell ‘em I feel good,” he said at last. “Tell ‘em the arm where I got shot at Gettysburg don’t hurt no more, and the diarrhea ain’t troublin’ me, neither.”
Caudell’s pen scratched across the page. Actually, it wasn’t a proper page, but the back of a piece of old wallpaper. He wrote around a chunk of paste that still clung to it. He was sure he wrote more letters than anyone else in Company D--maybe more than anyone else in the whole 47th North Carolina. That went with being a schoolteacher in a unit full of farmers, many of whom--like Alsie Hopkins--could neither read nor write for themselves.
Caudell continues the letter for the illiterate private until a bugle blows for an officer’s assembly, which turns out to center around a man with mottled clothing and a strange carbine on his back.

quote:

Excitement ran through Caudell. The cavalry had got itself new rifles the past couple of weeks. So had Major General Anderson’s infantry division, whose winter quarters were even closer to Orange Court House than those of Henry Heth’s division, of which the 47th North Carolina was a part. If half--if a tithe--of the stories about those rifles were true
The new man is Benny Lang, and is here to teach the officers how to use the new AK-47

quote:

Lang jumped lightly down from the wagon. He was about five-ten, dark, and on the skinny side. His clothes bore no rank badges of any sort, but he carried himself like a soldier. “I usually get two questions at a time like this,” he said. “The first one is, why don’t you teach everyone yourself? Sorry, but we haven’t the manpower.

Immediately, Caudell notices something is wrong - he's from Nash County, North Carolina. This is where the fictional town of Rivington - where the rifles are supposed to be coming from - is located, and the man's accent doesn't match. Lang opens with a demonstration, and asks the best shot with a rifle-musket to give him a baseline.

quote:

Watching the ordnance sergeant handle his rifle, Nate Caudell thought, was like being back on the target range at Camp Mangum outside of Raleigh, hearing the command, “Load in nine times: load!” Hines did everything perfectly, smoothly, just as the manual said he should. To load, he held the rifle upright between his feet, with the muzzle in his left hand and with his right already going to the cartridge box he wore at his belt.
Caudell imagined the invisible drillmaster barking, “Handle cartridge!” Hines brought the paper cartridge from the box to his mouth, bit off the end, poured the powder down the muzzle of his piece, and put the Minié ball in the muzzle. The bluntly. pointed bullet was about the size of the last joint of a man’s finger, with three grooves around its hollow base which expanded to fill the grooves on the inside of the rifle barrel.
At the remembered command of “Draw rammer!” the long piece of iron emerged from its place under the rifle barrel. Next in the series was “Ram,” which the ordnance sergeant did with a couple of sharp strokes before returning the ramrod to its tube. At “Prime,” he half-cocked the hammer with his right thumb, then took out a copper percussion cap and put it on the nipple.
The next four steps went in quick sequence. “Shoulder” brought the weapon up. At “Ready” it went down again for a moment, while Hines took the proper stance. Then up it came once more, with his thumb fully cocking the hammer. “Aim” had him peering down the sights, his forefinger set on the trigger. “Fire,” and the rifle roared and bucked against his shoulder.
He set the butt end of the piece on the ground, repeated the process without a single changed motion. He fired again. Another cloud of fireworks-smelling smoke spurted from his rifle. The two shots were less than half a minute apart. He scrubbed at the black powder stain on his chin with his sleeve, then turned with quiet pride to face Lang. “Anything else, sir?”
“No, Ordnance Sergeant. You’re as good with a rifle musket as any man I’ve seen. However--” Lang brought up his own rifle, blazed away at the white paper target. The sharp staccato bark, repeated again and again and again, was like nothing Caudell had ever heard. Silence fell again in less time than Hines had needed to fire twice. Lang said, “That was thirty rounds. If I had this weapon and the ordnance sergeant that one, whose chances would you gentlemen like better?”

The regulation and expected rate of fire for a Springfield or Enfield rifle musket was three rounds a minute. Two aimed shots in thirty seconds, or four rounds a minute, is a good time. The standard cartridge box held forty rounds - enough for around 13 minutes of fire at the standard rate. This video demonstrates the described procedure, albeit at a sedate pace.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCAYXQ1Z6q4

The men are organized into training groups for the two dozen rifles that Lang brought with him.

quote:

“Here you go, First Sergeant.” Ben Whitley handed Caudell a repeater. He held it in both hands, marveling at how light it was compared to the Springfield that hung from pegs on the wall back in his cabin. He slung it as Lang had done. It seemed to weigh next to nothing on his shoulder. Toting this kind of rifle, a man might march forever before he got sore.
“Let me have a turn with it, Nate,” Edwin Powell said. With a twinge of regret, Caudell passed him the carbine. He brought it up to firing position, looked down the barrel. “Fancy kind of sight,” he remarked. His grin turned rueful. “Maybe I can nail me a Yankee or two without get tin’ hit my own self.”
“Goin’ up to the firin’ line without your ‘shoot me’ sign’d probably be a good idea, too, Edwin,” Dempsey Eure said. The sergeants all laughed. So far as anybody knew, Powell was the only man in the regiment who’d been wounded at three different fights.
Ben Whitley came by again a few minutes later. This time, he gave Caudell a curved, black-painted metal object. Caudell had no idea what it was until he turned it and saw that it held brass cartridges. “Talk about your fancy now, Edwin,” he said, handing it on to Powell. “This looks to beat Minié balls all hollow.”
“Sure does, if there’s enough of these here bullets so as we don’t run out halfway through a battle,” Powell answered--anybody who’d been shot three times developed a certain concern about such things.

Depending on the exact version, an unloaded AK weighs between 6.5 and 7.7 pounds. The most common variant, the AKM, is also the lightest due to stamped construction. The magazine adds another .7 pounds or so, giving a loaded weight of 7.2 pounds for an AKM. An 1861 Springfield rifle-musket (the weapon Caudell is using as a reference) is 9 pounds, while the 1851 Enfield (common in Confederate forces) tops the scales at a hefty 9.5. 2 pounds may not seem like an enormous amount, but it matters quite a bit. Powell's comment is a bit anachronistic. The 1861 Springfield had simple flip up sights with two "leaves" (both flipped down - 100 yards, flip up one for 300 yards, and the other for 500), the 1851 Enfield had a fairly complicated ladder sight system that was adjustable from 100 yards to 400, with a flip-up option finely adjustble to 900. The AK uses a ladder sight system very similar to that of an Enfield. The sights were not particularly important to Civil War troops - neither side trained their men in proper use of the sights, focusing instead on steady rate of fire.

The standard ammunition for a rifle musket was the .58" diameter "Minié ball", a pointed soft lead projectile with an open base. When the gun was fired, the cavity at the rear of the bullet expands to engage the rifling in the barrel, imparting spin and forming a tight gas seal. This revolutionary invention is what made rifled muzzle-loaders practical for military use, because you could now load a rifle as easily and quickly as you can a smoothbore musket. This bullet would be around 500 grains, and was propelled by 60 grains of black powder, giving a velocity in the range of 900-1200 FPS. This works out to around 1300-1400 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. This would be provided in the form of a pre-loaded paper cartridge, and a seperate percussion cap would be added to the lock before firing.

The standard bullet fired by an AK is a 7.62mm (.30") jacketed 7.9 gram (123 grains) bullet propelled by 1.6 grams of smokeless powder. This gives a muzzle velocity of around 730 meters/second (2400 feet per second) and a muzzle energy of ~2000 joules (~1500 foot pounds). This is provided in a ready-to-use paper cartridge that contains a primer at the rear. All that is needed to fire is placing it in the gun. In addition to being easier to load, the slimmer bullet loses less energy to air resistance (meaning it retains velocity longer), and the much higher velocity results in far less bullet drop. At any relevant range, the bullet might as well be going straight, while a Minié ball is performing a parabolic arc due to the need to significantly elevate the muzzle. This ammunition does, in fact "beat Minié balls all hollow.”



quote:

“Does every group have an AK-47 and a banana clip?” Lang asked. He waited to see if anyone would say no. When no one did, he continued: “Turn your weapon upside down. In front of your trigger guard, you’ll see a catch. It holds the clip in place.” He pointed to it on his own carbine. “Everyone finger that catch. Pass your weapon back and forth. Everyone needs to put hands on it, not just watch me.”
When the AK-47 came back to him, Caudell obediently fingered the catch. Lang had the air of a man who’d taught this lesson many times and knew it backwards and forwards. As a teacher himself, Caudell recognized the signs.
The man in the patchwork-looking clothes went on, “Now everyone take turns clicking the clip into place and freeing it. The curved end goes toward the muzzle. Go ahead, try it a few times.” Caudell inserted the clip, released the catch, took it away. Lang said, “This is one place where you want to be careful. Warn your other ranks about it, too. If the lips of the magazine are bent, or if you get dirt in there, it won’t feed rounds properly. In combat, that could prove embarrassing.”
He let out a dry chuckle. The laughs that rose in answer were grim. A rifle that wouldn’t shoot hundreds of rounds a minute was less use than one that would shoot two or three.
In the group next to Caudell, his captain stuck up his hand. “Mr. Lang?”
“Yes, Captain, ah--?”
“I’m George Lewis, sir. What do we do if the lips of this--banana clip, you called it?--somehow do get bent? I’ve been shot once, sir”--he was only recently back to the regiment himself--”and I don’t care a drat to be, ah, embarrassed again.”
“Don’t blame you a bit, Captain. The obvious answer is, switch to a fresh clip. If you haven’t but one good one left, you can load cartridges into it one at a time, in two staggered rows, like this. As I said when I fired, the clip holds thirty rounds.” He pulled a clip and some loose cartridges from his haversack and demonstrated. “We’ll come back to that later. You’ll all have a chance to do it. Now, though, let whoever’s holding the gun put that magazine in place.”
Caudell was holding the AK-47. He carefully worked the banana clip into position, listened for the click that showed it was where it belonged. “Good,” Lang said. “Now you’re ready to chamber your first round. Here, pull this handle all the way back.” Again, he demonstrated. Caudell followed suit. The action worked with a resistant smoothness that was unlike anything he had ever felt before.
“Very good once more,” Lang said. “All of you with rifles come forward and form a firing line. Take aim at your target and fire.” Caudell pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. No one else’s carbine went off, either. The instructor chuckled. “No, they’re not defective. Look at the short black lever under the handle you just pulled. See how it’s parallel to the muzzle. That little lever is called the change lever. When it’s in the top position, it’s on safety, and the weapon can’t fire. That’s how you’ll carry it on march, to avoid accidents. Now move it down two positions--make sure it’s two, mind--then aim and fire again.”
Caudell peered down the sights. They seemed close together; he was used to a longer weapon. He squeezed the trigger. The rifle barked and spat out a cartridge case. Compared to what he was used to, the kick was light. “Lordy,” someone halfway down the line exclaimed, “I could fire this piece right off my nose.” The kick wasn’t that light, but it wasn’t far away, either.
“Fire another round,” Lang said. “You don’t have to do anything but pull the trigger again.” Caudell pulled. The repeater fired. Intellectually, he had expected it would. Intellectually expecting something, though, was different from having it happen. The chorus of whistles and low-voiced exclamations of wonder that went up from the firing line showed he was not alone.
“Thirty rounds to this thing?” somebody said. “Hell, just load it on Sunday and shoot it all week long.”
The 7.62x39 round is a slightly unusual shape, with a distinct taper to the cartridge. This is intended to reduce friction when chambering and ejecting and thus prevent jams. The effect of this is that the cartridges don't stack neatly like other rounds, giving the AK's detachable box magazine a pronounced and distinct curve. This results in the slang term "bannana clip". I don't know if Turtledove is using the slang term deliberately, or if that's the term he heard and it stuck. The instruction on how to load said magazine is somewhat strangely placed - perhaps because of the question being asked - and would fit better in a different section. Turtledove's description here is a little confusing, so here's an animation of AK operation.

The last line is a somewhat clever reference - "That damned Yankee rifle that they load on Sunday and shoot all week!" is a complaint about the Henry rifle often attributed to Confederate soldiers.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUq2yd1Nc_s

After everybody has had three rounds of fire, Lang decides to demonstrate one more thing.

quote:

Lang kept at it until everyone had had a turn shooting an AK-47. Then he said, “This weapon can do one other thing I haven’t shown you yet. When you move the change lever all the way down instead of to the middle position, this is what happens.” He stuck a fresh clip in the repeater, turned toward the target circle, and blasted away. He went through the whole magazine almost before Caudell could draw in a startled breath.
“Good God almighty,” Rufus Daniel said, peering in awe at the brass cartridge cases scattered around Lang’s feet “Why didn’t he show us that in the first place?”
An AK in full-auto mode burns through ammunition extremely quickly. Not quite as quickly as this implies, but still fast. This video should serve as a demonstration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vh3dsbCRJs#t=224s

Lang tells them exactly why – it isn’t accurate, and uses a ton of ammunition quckly. Training proceeds to disassembly and cleaning. The Confederates are not happy with the complexity of the weapon.

quote:

“Reassembly procedure is the exact reverse of what we’ve just done. The bolt goes on the carrier”--he deftly matched action to words--”and they both go into the receiver. Then the recoil spring and its guide fit in back of the bolt carrier. Push ‘em forward till the rear of the guide clears the back of the receiver, then push down to engage the guide. Then you put the receiver plate in place, push in on the spring guide, and push the plate down to lock it.” He grinned at the North Carolinians. “Now you try it. Don’t bother cleaning your weapon this first time. Just get it apart and back together.”
“That don’t look too hard,” Edwin Powell said. Caudell wasn’t so sure. He didn’t trust the look on Benny Lang’s face. The last time he’d seen a look like that, Billy Beddingfield of Company F had been wearing it in a poker game. Billy had also had an extra ace stuck up his sleeve.
The spring, gleaming with gun oil, went back where it belonged with no particular argument. The bolt was something else again. Powell tried to fit it into place as Lang had. It did not want to fit. “Shitfire,” Powell said softly after several futile tries. “Far as I’m concerned, the drat thing can stay dirty.”
He was far from the only man having trouble. Lang went from group to group, explaining the trick. There obviously was a trick, for people looked happier once he’d worked with them. After a while, he came to Caudell’s group, where Powell was still wrestling with the bolt. “It goes on the carrier like--this,” he said. His hands underscored his words. “Do you see?”
“Yes, sir, I think so,” Powell answered, as humbly as if speaking to one of the Camp Mangum drill sergeants who had turned the 47th North Carolina from a collection of raw companies into a regiment that marched and maneuvered like a single living creature. Lang carried the same air of omniscience, even if he didn’t display it so loudly or profanely.

I can't find the relevant tweet, but Turteldove mentioned on his Twitter at some point that he prepared for this by finding a friend who owned an AK and asking to be shown how take it apart and put it back together. Anything he had trouble with, that's where his Confederates were going to have trouble. A sound method. I'm not actually sure what the "trick" is that they need to learn, as none of the AK guides I'm finding emphasize trouble with this step, and I don't own one myself.

As training finishes, Lang prepares to end things, asking for questions.

quote:

“Yeah, I got one,” somebody said immediately. Heads turned toward him as he took a swaggering step out of his group. “You got your fancy-pants rifle there, Mr. Benny Lang, kill anything that twitches twenty miles away; What I want to know is, how good a man are you without it?” He gazed toward Lang with insolent challenge in his eyes.
“Beddingfield!” Captain Lankford of Company F and Colonel Faribault barked the name in the same breath. Caudell said it, too, softly.
“How’d Billy Beddingfield ever make corporal?” Rufus Daniel whispered. “He could teach mean to a snapping turtle.”
“You don’t want to get on his wrong side, though,” Caudell whispered back. “If I were a private in his squad, I’d be more afraid of him than of any Yankee ever born.”
“You got that right, Nate,” Daniel said, chuckling.
“Back in ranks, Beddingfield,” Captain Lankford snapped.
“I don’t mind, Captain,” Benny Lang said. “Let him come ahead, if he cares to. This might be--instructive, too. Come on, Corporal, if you‘ve the stomach for it.” He set down his repeater and stood waiting.
“Is he out of his mind?” Edwin Powell said. “Billy’ll tear him in half.”
Looking at the two men, Caudell found it hard to disagree. Lang was taller, but on the skinny side. Built like a bull, Beddingfield had to outweigh him by twenty pounds. And, as Rufus Daniel had said, Beddingfield had a mean streak as wide as he was. He was a terror in battle, but a different sort of terror in camp.
He grinned a school bully’s nasty grin as he stepped forward to square off with Lang. “That man’s face is made for a slap,” Caudell said to Allison High.
“Reckon you’re right, Nate, but I got ten dollars Confed says Lang ain’t the one to slap it for him,” High answered.
Ten dollars Confederate was most of a month’s pay for a private. Caudell liked to gamble now and then, but he didn’t believe in throwing away money. “No thanks, Allison. I won’t touch that one.”
High laughed. Edwin Powell said, “I’ll match you, Allison. That there Lang, he looks to have a way of knowin’ what he’s doin’. He wouldn’t’ve called Billy out if he didn’t expect he could lick him.”
One of Caudell’s sandy eyebrows quirked up toward his hairline. He hadn’t thought of it in those terms. “Can I change my mind?” he asked High.
“Sure thing, Nate. I got another ten that ain’t doin’ nothin’. I--”
He shut up. Big knobby fists churning, Beddingfield rushed at Benny Lang. Lang brought up his own hands, but not to hit back. He grabbed Billy Beddingfield’s right wrist, turned, ducked, threw. Beddingfield flew over his shoulder, landed hard on the frozen ground.
He bounced to his feet. He wasn’t grinning anymore. “Bastard,” he snarled, and waded back in. A moment later, he went flying again. This time he landed on his face. His nose dripped blood onto his tunic as he got up. Lang wasn’t breathing hard.
“You fight dirty,” Beddingfield said, wiping his face with his sleeve.
Now Lang smiled, coldly. “I fight to win, Corporal. If you can’t stand it, go home to your momma.”

Beddingfield tries more blind attack, is put down just as easily, and savagely beaten while on the ground as well. The Colonel is not upset by this, as Beddingfield just attacked a valuable ally for no reason.

quote:

The other sergeants from Company D solemnly nodded: Caudell said, “Talk has it, he and his people are from Rivington, right in our home county.”
“You cut out that ‘our’ and speak for your own self, Nate,” Allison High said; unlike his messmates, he was from Wilson County, just south of Nash.
Rufus Daniel said, “I don’t give a drat how talk has it; and that’s a fact. Here’s two more facts--Lang don’t talk like he’s from Nash County”--he exaggerated his drawl till everyone around him smiled--”and he don’t fight like he’s from Nash County, neither. I wish he’d learn me that fancy rasslin’ of his along with this here repeater. Old Billy Beddingfield, he never knew what hit him. Look, he’s still lyin’ there cold as a torch throwed in a snowbank.”
The wagon started out of camp, harness jingling, wheels squeaking, and horses’ hooves ringing against the ground. It swung off the camp lane onto the road north. Billy Beddingfield still did not move. Caudell wondered if Lang had hurt him worse than he thought.
So, evidently, did Colonel Faribault. He limped over to the fallen corporal, stirred him with his stick. Bedtlingfield wiggled and moaned. Nodding as if satisfied, Faribault stepped back. “Flip water in his face, somebody, till he revives. Then, Captain Lankford, along with whatever punishment details you give him, have the stripes off his sleeves. A raw brawler like that doesn’t deserve to wear them.”
Note that even the raw privates aren't buying the Rivington act. Granted that these are from the area and know what the accent sounds like, but these strange men really aren't trying to hard to hide that they don't belong in the Confederate States of 1864.

The Confederates are absolutely delighted with the new weapon, with the only drawback being that it isn't great for hand-to-hand. There are concerns about the shipment arriving on time, and of ammunition supply.

quote:


“That’s so,” Daniel allowed. “Well, we’ll use ‘em hard these next couple of months till we break camp. That’ll tell us what we need to know. And if they ain’t to be trusted, well, George Hines can put Minié balls in the ammunition wagons, too. We still got our old rifles. Be just like the first days of the war again, when the springfields and Enfields was the new guns, and a lot o’ the boys just had smoothbore muskets, an’ we needed t’carry bullets for both. I don’t miss my old smoothbore, and that’s a fact, though I did a heap o’ missin’ with it when I carried it.”
“You got that right,” Dempsey Eure said. “Dan’l Boone couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a goddam smoothbore, an’ anybody who says different is a goddam liar.”
“Goddam right,” Rufus Daniel said.
Before the war, Caudell would have boxed the ears of any boy who dared swear in his hearing. Now, half the time, he didn’t even notice the profanity that filled the air around him. These days he swore, too, when he felt like it, not so much to fit in as because sometimes nothing felt better than a ripe, round oath.
He said, “Can’t be sure, of course, but I have a notion we’ll get all the cartridges we need. That Benny Lang, he knows what he’s doing. Look at the way he handled Billy. Like Edwin said, he knew he could take him, and he did. If he says we’ll have repeaters here tomorrow, I’m inclined to believe him. I expect he and his people can manage cartridges, too.”
“Double or nothin’ on our bet that them guns don’t come tomorrow,” High said.
“You’re on,” Caudell replied at once.
“I want my ten now,” Edwin Powell said.
High turned around as if to punch him, then looked back to the parade ground. He pointed. “See, Nate, there’s one man who doesn’t know if you’re right about them cartridges.” Caudell turned too. George Hines was on his hands and knees, picking up spent cartridge cases.
“He’s a good ordnance sergeant,” Caudell said. “He doesn’t want to lose anything he doesn’t have to. Remember after the first day at Gettysburg, when they told off a couple of regiments to glean the battlefield for rifles and ammunition, both?”
“I remember that,” Powell said. His long face grew longer. “I wish they could have gleaned for men, too.” He’d taken his second wound at Gettysburg.
Note the bolded line for later. The supply concerns are extremely valid - the Confederate forces never had enough of anything, and their logistics were garbage. Railroads were scarce in the 19th century south, and wagons thus had to take up much more of the slack than in the Union forces. Even when food, ammunition, and weapons were available in country, getting them to the troops was extremely difficult. The comment about gleaning for men is a somber one - the Army of Northern Virginia suffered heavy casualties at that battle, with some estimates reaching an appalling 37%, including six generals killed, 4 badly wounded (2 of which were also captured) and 1 captured unwounded. Union forces suffered almost as badly, with a solid 28% and 4-5 generals killed, 4 more severely wounded. While Antietam was the bloodiest single day of the war, Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle by a signficant margin.

Practice continues until and through the evening meal.

quote:

“What do you have, Edwin?” Dempsey Eure demanded when Powell returned. Caudell’s stomach growled like a starving bear. He’d known some lean times before the war--what man hadn’t, save maybe a planter like Faribault? --but he’d never known what real hunger was till he joined the army.
Powell said; “Got me some cornmeal and a bit o’ beef. Likely be tough as mule leather, but I won’t complain till after I get me outside of it. We still have any o’ that bacon your sister sent you, Dempsey?”
“Little bit,” Eure answered. “You thinkin’ o’ makin’ up some good ol’ Confederate cush?”
“I will unless you got a better notion,” Powell said.” Ain’t none of us what you’d call fancy cooks. Why don’t you get out that bacon and toss me our fryin’ pan? Here, Nate, you cut the beef small.” He handed Caudell the meat, the hairy skin still on it.
The pan had once been half a Federal canteen; its handle was a nailed-on stick. Powell tossed in the small chunk of bacon and held the pan over the tire. When he had cooked the grease out so it bubbled and spattered in the bottom of the pan, Caudell added the cubed beef. After a minute or two, he poured in some water. Meanwhile, Allison High used more water to make the cornmeal into a tin of mush. He passed the mush to Caudell, who upended the tin over the frying pan. Powell stirred the mixture together, then kept the pan on the tire until the mush soaked up all the water and a brown crust began to form along the sides.
He took the pan off the fire, set it down. with his knife, he sliced the cush into five more-or-less-equal pieces. “There you go, boys. Dig in.”
“I hate this goddam slosh,” Rufus Daniel said. “When I get home from this drat war, I ain’t goin’ to eat nothin’ but fried chicken and sweet-potato pie and ham and biscuits and gravy just as thick as you please. Aii, that goddam pan’s still hot.” He stuck a burned knuckle into his mouth. While he’d been complaining, he’d also been using belt knife and fingers to get his portion of supper out of the frying pan.
Caudell tossed his slab of cush from hand to hand till it was cool enough to bite. He wolfed it down and licked his fingers when he was through. It wasn’t what he would have eaten by choice--it was as far as the moon from the feast Rufus Daniel had been imagining--but cornmeal had a way of sticking to the ribs that made a man forget he was hungry for a while.
Dempsey Eure lit a twig at the fire, got his pipe going. Daniel did the same. Caudell lit up a cigar, tilted his head back, and blew a smoke ring at the ceiling. The cabin filled with fragrant smoke. “Glad we’re not short of tobacco, anyhow,” he said.
“Not in this regiment,” Eure said. The 47th drew its men from the heart of North Carolina’s tobacco country; half a dozen soldiers had been tobacconists before the war.
“Almost makes me wish I was on picket duty up by the Rapidan,” Powell said, shifting a chaw from one cheek to the other. “Might could be I’d find mea friendly Yank on the other side, trade him some tobacco for coffee and sugar and maybe some o’ them little hard candies they have sometimes.”


Before widespread canning, it was most common to issue raw ingredients and have food prepared much like this. This often resulted in improvised dishes like this one, which tend to have long-standing cultural associations.

The next morning is bright and cold.

quote:

“Yes, sir.” Caudell took from his pocket a much-folded piece of paper. After so many repetitions, he hardly needed to look at it as he called the men’s names: “Bailey, Ransom...Barnes, Lewis D. W…. Bass, Gideon...” He finished a few minutes later: “Winstead, John A....Winstead, William T.” He turned back to Lewis with a salute.” All present, sir.”
“Very good. Sick call?”
“Sick call!” Caudell said loudly. A couple of men took a step forward. “What’s your trouble, Granbury?” he asked one of them.
“I got the shits--beggin’ your pardon, First Sergeant, the runs--again,” Granbury Proctor said.
Caudell sighed. With the bad food and bad water the regiment got, diarrhea was a common complaint. This was Proctor’s third bout this winter. Caudell said, “Go see the assistant surgeon, Granbury. Maybe he can do something for you.” Proctor nodded and walked off. Caudell turned to the other sufferer. “What about you, Southard?”
“Don’t rightly know, First Sergeant,” Bob Southard answered. His voice cracked as he answered; he was only eighteen or so. He bent his head and coughed. “I’m feelin’ right poorly, though.”
Caudell put a skeptical hand on the youngster’s forehead. Southard had already deserted the regiment once; he was a shirker. “No fever. Get back in line.” Dejectedly, the private went back into his slot. The cook banged on his pan. Caudell said, “Dismissed for breakfast.”
Breakfast was corn bread. The meal from which it had been made was ground so coarse that some kernels lay in wait, intact and rock-hard, to ambush the teeth. Caudell plucked at his beard to knock crumbs loose. He heard a wagon--no, more than one--rolling down from Orange Court House. “You don’t suppose--?” he said to Rufus Daniel.
“This early? Naah,” Daniel said.
But it was. The wagon train turned off the road and rumbled toward the regimental parade ground. Benny Lang rode beside the lead wagon’s driver. Slaves accompanied the others. Caudell held out his hand, palm up, to Allison High. “Pay up.”
“Hell.” High reached into his hip pocket, drew out a wad of bills, and gave two of them to Caudell. “Here’s your twenty. Who’d’ve thought anybody’d move so quick? Hell.” He walked off scowling, his head down.
“Easy there, Allison,” Caudell called after him. “It’s only. twenty dollars Confederate, not like before the war when that was a lot of money.

In the American Civil War, sickness was a far greater killer than the enemy, no matter which side you happened to be on. Bad food, bad water, and (quite often) excreble camp hygeine invited a host of diseases to come out in force. The grim reality is that five soldiers died of sickness for every three that were shot. This was standard for all wars until relatively recently - the first war where more men died in action than were carried off by sickness was the First World War (1914-1918). Even then, this might not have been the case if the war had continued after the Spanish Flu really got going.

quote:

“Benny Lang leaped down from his wagon and started shouting like a man possessed: “Come on, get those crates off! This isn’t a bloody picnic, so move it, you lazy k*****s!” The slaves started unloading the wagons at the same steady but leisurely pace they usually used. It was not fast enough to suit Lang. “Move, drat you!” he shouted again.
The blacks were used to letting such shouts roll off their backs, secure in the knowledge that the work would eventually get done and the yelling white man would shut up and leave them alone. Lang met that quiet resistance head on. He stamped over to one of the slaves, threw him to the ground with a flip like the one he’d used against Billy Beddingfield. “Ow!” the man cried. “What’d I do, boss?”
“Not bloody much,” Lang snarled, punctuating his words with a kick. The slave cried out again. Lang said scornfully, “You aren’t hurt. Now get up and work. And I mean work, drat you. That goes for the rest of you lazy buggers, too, or you’ll get worse than I just gave him. Move!”
The black men moved. Boxes came down from wagons at an astonishing rate. “Will you look at that?” Rufus Daniel said...If I had me enough n*****s to hire an overseer, that there Lang’d be first man I’d pick for the job.”
“Maybe so,” Caudell said. But he watched the sidelong glances that were the only safe way the slaves could use to show their resentment. “If he treats ‘em like that all the time, though, he’d better grow eyes in the back of his head, or else he’ll have an accident one fine day--or lots of runaways, anyhow.”
“Might could be you’re right,” Daniel allowed.

Note that, while the Confederate troops have no problem with this abuse in ethical terms, there's real debate on the practicality. Meanwhile Lang seems to be doing this as much for enjoyment as for getting the work done.

quote:


Once the wagons were unloaded, Lang ordered the work crew to carry a share of the crates to each company standard. When the slaves again didn’t work fast enough to suit him, he booted one of them in the backside. They moved quicker after that.
Lang followed them from company to company. When he came to the Castalia Invincibles, he picked Caudell out by his chevrons, handed him a length of iron with a curved and flattened end. “Here you are, First Sergeant--a ripping bar to get the crates open. We found some of your units had a spot of trouble with that.”
“You think of everything,” Caudell said admiringly.
“We do try. You’ll have two magazines per weapon there, more or less--enough ammunition to get a start at practicing. Your ordnance sergeant needn’t fret. We’ll get you plenty more as you need it.” With a nod, Lang was off to Company E.
Caudell watched him go. After yesterday and this morning, he believed Lang’s promise. This was a man who delivered, But then, the Army of Northern Virginia always got the ammunition it needed, one way or another. Caudell wished Benny Lang or someone like him would take over the Confederate commissary department.
The soldiers gathered round the stacked crates. “Those the repeaters the bad-tempered feller was showin’ off to y’all yesterday?” asked Melvin Bean, a smooth-faced private with a light, clear voice.
“Yup.” Caudell attacked a crate with the bar. The lid came up with a groan of nails leaving wood. Sure enough, an AK-47 lay inside. Caudell said,” Anybody with the tools to give me a hand, run and fetch ‘em. We’ll get the job done that much quicker.” Tom Short, who worked as a saddler, left and returned shortly with a claw hammer. He fell to work beside Caudell. Before too long, all the Castalia Invincibles held new repeaters.
A heavyset private named Ruffin Biggs gave his weapon a dubious look. “We’re supposed to whup the Yankees with these little things?”
“It ain’t the size of the dog in the fight, Ruffin,” Dempsey Eure drawled, “it’s the size of the fight in the dog. These here puppies got plenty of fight in ‘em, believe you me.”
Captain Lewis said, “Break into groups of six or seven men each. That way, everyone who learned about these repeaters yesterday will have one group to teach.”
The division, into groups smaller than squads, went rather awkwardly. Eyeing the soldiers in his group, Caudell suspected that the sergeants and corporals--the company’s regular squad leaders--had stuck him and the officers with the men they wanted least.
He shrugged. Everyone would have to learn. He held up his rifle, pointed to the lever below the charging handle. “This is the change lever. See, it has three positions. For now, I want you to make sure you have it in the topmost one.”
“Why’s that, First Sergeant?” Melvin Bean asked.
“Because if you don’t, you’re liable to end up shooting yourself before you find out how not to,” Caudell answered drily. That made everyone sit up and take notice.
He went through the lesson Lang had given him. The soldiers practiced attaching and removing a magazine. He showed them how rounds were arranged inside the clip and had them practice putting rounds into it.
A rifle cracked, over in another company. Shouts of alarm rose after the gunshot. “That’s why I want that change lever up top,” Caudell said. “As long as it’s there, the repeater can’t go off by accident. It’s called the safety.”

The concept of a safety catch was not unknown during the American Civil War, but were generally uncommon, especially on rifles. This is primarily because weapons were rarely in a state where you would carry them for a long time in a ready to fire state. Manual safeties became much more common with cartridge arms, due to how easy it was to carry those "at the ready".

Shots fired on purpose begin to ring out as troops begin live fire practice. Soon, it is the Castallia Invincibles turn.

quote:

“Enough,” Caudell said. Horseplay was fun, but horseplay between men who carried rifles had to be controlled before it got out of hand.
Companies B and C--neither of which had a name--took their first turns practicing with the AK-47. The men came away from the firing line exclaiming and shaking their heads in wonder. Some of them slung the new repeaters on their backs. Others carried the carbines in both hands, as if they could not bear to let them go. Three or four men from Company C started a chant: “Enfield, Springfield, throw ‘em in the cornfield!” Before long the whole company, officers and all, was singing it.
Captain Lewis said, “Form column of fours...to the parade ground, march.” A couple of new men just up from North Carolina started off on the wrong foot, but growls from the sergeants soon had them in step with everyone else. “Shift to the left from column to line...move,” Lewis said.
The company performed the evolution with mindless precision born of unending practice. Caudell remembered the first day of marching down at Camp Mangum, when an irate drill sergeant had compared their ragged line to a drunken centipede in an rear end-kicking contest. Even that drill sergeant, assuming he was still alive, would have been satisfied to see them now.
“Load your rifles,” Captain Lewis said. In one motion the men drew back their charging handles, and each chambered a round. “Fire!”
Not every repeater spat flame. “Check your change lever!” Caudell shouted, along with everyone else who had had instruction the day before. Soldiers checked. Some of them swore at themselves. The next volley was fuller; in a moment, a fusillade of shots made separate volleys impossible to distinguish.
The company’s privates shouted in wonder and delight at how rapidly their repeaters fired and how easy they were to shoot, Caudell knew how they felt. The AK-47 was so different from any other rifle that hearing about it wasn’t enough. Even after you shot with it, it was hard to believe.
“What happens if you put this here change lever thing on the middle notch?” Henry Joyner asked. “If it’s as much different from the bottom one as that there one is from the top, reckon this gun’ll march out and shoot Yankees an by its lonesome. I’m for it, I tell you that.”
“Sorry, Henry.” Caudell explained about full automatic fire. He also explained about how much ammunition it chewed up, finishing, “Shooting fast can be bad if you run out of cartridges before the battle’s over. That’s not easy to do with a rifle musket. With one of these repeaters, especially on full automatic, it’s easy as pie. You’ll want to be careful about that.”
Melvin Bean said, “I got shot in the arm the first day at Gettysburg after I’d used up all my cartridges. Even if I’d seen the drat yankee who nailed me, I couldn’t’ve done nothin’ about him.” The new men listened and nodded solemnly. Caudell reflected that a wound on the first day had kept Bean out of the third day’s charge and very possibly kept the private from being captured or killed.
Ruffin Biggs fired one more round at the paper target circle, which by now looked as if it were suffering from measles or smallpox. He yelped out a rebel yell, then said, “Next time the drummers play the long roll, them Yankees is gonna wish they was never born. This here rifle shoots like hell-beatin’-tanbark.”

Running out of ammunition with a rifle musket wasn't that hard. There are many accounts of soldiers taking advantage of lulls in the fighting to loot the cartridge boxes of fallen comrades, and there were more serious incidents as well. One of the most famous examples happened in the battle of Antietam, where Burnsides's troops were largely ineffective due to wasting all their ammunition in pointless skirmishing, which greatly aided the Confederate forces.

The Invincibles proceed through the same drill as the other units, with the same chant. Cleaining is every bit as popular among the men as it was the officers, and they have the same problems.

quote:

“More questions?” he said at last. “All right, then--dismissed.” Most of the men drifted away, still talking excitedly about the new repeaters they were carrying. The other groups had already broken up, some a good while before. Caudell cared nothing about that. Thoroughness counted here, and he was used to repeating himself any number of times until students caught on to what he was saying. Melvin Bean did not wander off. The private removed the receiver plate, took out the rifle’s works, tried to put them back together. Caudell watched. They proved balky. Bean swore softly, then said, “I just can’t make the pesky thing fit. Do you want to come back to my hut with me and show me what I’m doin’ wrong?”
“I’d be glad to do that,” Caudell said.
They walked down the straight muddy lane between rows of shelters. Bean’s cabin was small but neat; its one window even boasted shutters. No one else lived here, which was unusual, if not quite unique, in the regiment.
Bean opened the door. “Go right on in, First Sergeant.” Caudell did. The private followed, closing and barring the door behind the two of them. “Now show me that trick of puttin’ this fool rifle back together again.”
“You really were having trouble, then?”
“I said as much, didn’t I? Thought I had it when you showed me before, but I lost the knack again.” They sat together on the blanket-covered pine boughs that did duty for a bed. Bean watched intently as Caudell went through everything. “So that’s what y’all were doin’! Here, let me have a go, Nate--I reckon I really have got it now.” Sure enough, the pieces went back together smoothly.
“Do it some more. Show me it wasn’t a fluke,” Caudell said.
Bean did, twice running. Caudell nodded. Bean checked to make sure the repeater’s change lever was in the safe position, ‘then set the weapons aside. “Good. I need to be able to do that.” Mischief sparked in the private’s eyes. “And now, Nate Caudell, I expect you’ll be lookin’ to find out how your own bolt fits.”
“I’d like that a lot.” Bean had not waited for him to reply, but was already opening the seven-button private’s tunic. Caudell reached out and gently touched one of the small but perfectly feminine breasts that unbuttoning revealed. He smiled. “You know, Mollie, if you were one of those bosomy girls, you’d never get by with this.”

All of the Castallia Invincibles are, according to Turtledove, historical characters. The names are taken from the muster rolls, characterizations are extrapolated from the available data (Turtledove notes that the real Beddingfield, for example, was constantly being busted in rank and then re-promoted, so was given a pugnacious and combative personality), and there really was a Mollie "Melvin" Bean. The historical Bean was obviously not a resident of of the wholly fictional town of Rivington, and her exact unit was unknown to the author.


Melvin Bean is actually a whore (her literal profession) by the name of Mollie.

quote:


He studied her as if she were a difficult problem in trigonometry. She was very different from the hard-eyed Richmond whores to whom he’d occasionally resorted when he got leave. He supposed that was because he saw her every day and knew her as a person, not just a convenient receptacle for his lust, to be forgotten as soon as he was out the door. “Ask you something?” he said.
She shrugged. “Go ahead.”
“How come you did--this?”
“You mean, how come I came up to the fightin’?” she said. He nodded. She shrugged again. “I was bored down home. Wasn’t hardly nobody comin’ by the bawdyhouse where I was at, either, what with so many men bein’ away to the war. Guess I figured I’d come up and see it for myself, see what it was like.”
“And?”
Her face twisted into a wry grin. She still wasn’t pretty in any conventional sense of the word, especially with her black hair clipped off short like a man’s, but her wide, full-lipped smile made her seem much more feminine when she smiled. She said, “Didn’t like get tin’ shot worth a drat, I tell you that, Nate.”
“I believe you.” He thanked his lucky stars he was still unwounded. Few bullets were as merciful as the one that had found her. The ghastly piles of arms and legs outside the surgeon’s tent after every fight, the screams of men shot in the belly, the dying gurgles of men shot through the chest
He was glad to forget those images when she went on, “But for that, though, y’all in the company are more like family ‘n anything I ever knew ‘fore I got here. Y’all care about me like you was my brothers, and y’all keep th’ officers from findin’ out what I am”--her wry grin flashed again--” ‘cause you know blamed well I ain’t your sister.”
He laughed at that. He’d never asked before, though she’d been with the regiment a year. He didn’t know what he’d expected to hear--perhaps something more melodramatic than her plain story. He took out the twenty dollars Confederate he’d won from Allison High, gave the bills to her.
“Wish it was Federal greenbacks,” she said, “but it’ll do, Nate, it’ll do. Want to go another round?”
He thought about it, but shook his head. “I’d better not. I can’t afford the time; I’ve been away too long as is.”
“You care about what you’re doin’, That’s a good thing.”. Mollie made a face at him. “Or is it just I’m gettin‘ old? Cain ‘t think o’ many who would’ve turned me down if I’d asked ‘em when I was down in Rivington.”
“You’re a drat sight younger than I am. You--” Caudell stopped. “You were in Rivington before you joined up? They say these new repeaters come from there, and the people who make them or sell them or whatever it is they do.”
“I’ve heard that, too,” Mollie said. Caudell reflected that she’d probably heard it well before he did; she usually got news even before Colonel Faribault heard it. She went on, “Don’t know nothin’ about it, though. Them fellers weren’t there when I left the place a year ago. Not much else was, neither, ‘specially not men, so I got out. Sure you don’t want to go again?”
“What I want to do and what I have to do are two different things,” Caudell said. “This is the army, remember?”
Her laugh followed him as he returned to the cold and military world outside her cabin door. He looked down the lane toward the parade ground. George Hines was out there on his hands and knees, gathering up brass cartridge cases.

The most salient information here is that there was no sign of the newcomers in town a year ago. They seem to have appeared out of nowhere. The continued pessimisim about the ammunition supply is also interesting, as not everyone trusts these men to continue their bounty.

Hyrax Attack!
Jan 13, 2009

We demand to be taken seriously



That's interesting about how the details of the different rifles. I didn't know the Springfields fired in a parabolic arc or why AKs have the curved clip.

Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."


The arc thing is a bit oversimplified - I couldn't find a concise video to explain it, and didn't want to spend a huge number of words. Fundamentally, all black powder guns are lower velocity than their counterparts that use smokeless propellants, and that means that gravity pulls them down more over a given distance. So you have to start compensating for vertical drop a lot earlier, and compensate a lot more.

Rounds fired with smokeless powders can (and usually do) go a lot faster, so you don't have to compensate nearly as much.


My main focus here was trying to emphasize exactly how far ahead of what they're used to (and thus just how insane the advantage they now have) the AK is.

ninjahedgehog
Feb 17, 2011

It's time to kick the tires and light the fires, Big Bird.




Read this book probably 15 years ago and was impressed in how much smarter it is than its elevator pitch -- "the Confederacy gets Kalashnikovs" but with 350 pages thoughtfully exloring what that world would actually look like. Curious to see how it's aged.

I love how in the beginning Rhoodie expects Lee to be blown away by his MRE but Lee immediately clocks it as just the logical extension of what they already have. Kind of a foreshadowing to something that is revealed later -- The AWB doesn't actually have a great sense of the history they're altering, their Civil War knowledge largely comes from a picture book that's heavily implied to be geared towards children.

Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."


Chapter 3: Robert E. Lee

quote:

The locomotive snorted and hissed as it slowed. The shriek of the locked driving wheels against sanded rails reminded General Lee of the cries of wounded horses, the most piteous sound on any battlefield. The train stopped. There was a last jolt as the cars came together with a clanking clatter of link-and-pin couplings.
Lee and the other passengers got to their feet.” All out to Richmond!” the conductor called before hurrying down to the next car to repeat the cry.
Carpetbag in hand, Lee descended to the muddy ground outside the Virginia Central Railroad depot at the corner of sixteenth and Broad. The depot was a plain wooden shed; much in need of paint. A banner on the door of the tavern across the street advertised fried oysters at half price in honor of George Washington’s birthday.
The banner made Lee pause in mild bemusement: strange how the Confederacy still revered the founding fathers of the United States. Or perhaps it was not so strange. Surely Washington, were he somehow to whirl through time to the present, would find himself more at home on a Southern plantation than in a brawling Northern factory town like Pittsburgh or New York. And, of course, Washington was a Virginian, so where better to celebrate his birthday than Richmond?

Lee is met by a carriage, and is here to consult with Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

quote:

The Confederate flag waved bravely over the Capitol, red canton with blue saltire cross and thirteen stars on a white ground. The Stainless Banner would come down soon; sunset was near. It was both like enough to the Stars and Stripes and different enough from it to stir conflicting feelings in Lee. He remembered the day, almost three years gone now, when he had gone into the House of Delegates to take charge of Virginia’s forces. He shook his head. Four days before that, Winfield Scott had offered him command over the armies of the United States, to lead them against their seceded brethren. He still thought he had made the right--for him, the only--choice.
The massive rectangle of the former customhouse took up a whole city block. Built from concrete and steel, it might have served duty as a fortress. Unlike most of Richmond’s major buildings, it was in Italianate rather than neoclassic style, its three stories shown by the tall windows with arched tops.

I have no idea what building Turtledove is describing here. The Confederate Capitol in Richmond is still in use today, as the central portion of the Virginia State Capitol (wings were added in 1904 to support the expanding state government). The building is a perfect example of the neo-Classical architecuural tradition, designed by Thomas Jefferson in direct imitation of an ancient Roman building. Note that the actual structure has square-topped windows.

EDIT: Mystery solved

Epicurius posted:

The old Richmond Custom House is right across from the State Capitol, and was, during the Civil War, the home of the offices of the President and the Confederate cabinet. Currently, as the Lewis F. Powell Jr. United States Courthouse, it's where the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals sets. Here's a picture of it from just after the Richmond fire of 1865.




Robert E. Lee was, in fact, offered a high command in the Union Army in 1861. The timing here is slightly off - Lee's formal resignation from the United States Army came three days before he accepted command in the newly formed army of Virginia (the Confederate States Army was already authorized, but did not start forming for another 4 days), but the Union offer came nearly a month earlier. Accounts from his eldest daughter hold that he spent much of that time deliberating - it was not the automatic that Turtledove suggests.


Lee makes his way to Davis's office.

quote:

“Well enough, sir,” Lee answered with a shrug. “I left this morning and am here now. If I am a trifle later than the railroad men claimed I would be when I set out, well, what train ever runs dead on time?”
“None, I think; none on our railroads, at any rate.” Davis glanced to a tall clock that ticked in a corner of the office. His nostrils flared with exasperation. “Nor is Mr. Seddon. I had hoped him to be here half an hour ago.”
Lee shrugged again. The Secretary of War had doubtless expected his train to run even later than it did; unlike the young lieutenant, he was sufficiently important in his own right to take such chances. In any case, President Davis was for all practical purposes his own Secretary of War. Lee knew he would sooner have been commanding Confederate armies in the field than governing from Richmond.
As luck would have it, James Seddon walked into the office n()t fifteen seconds after Davis had complained about him. Lee rose to shake his hand. Seddon was tall, thin, and resembled nothing so much as a tired vulture. He wore his gray hair combed straight back from his forehead (it was thin in those parts anyhow) and long enough on the sides to cover his ears. At the president’s murmured invitation, he drew up a chair beside Lee’s. They sat together.
“To business,” Davis said. “General Lee, I’ve heard great things of these new repeating carbines the soldiers are being issued. Even General Johnston has written to me from Dalton, singing hosannas in their praise.”
If anything, praise from Joe Johnston was liable to make the President suspicious about the new rifles; if Johnston said it looked like rain, Davis would expect a drought, and the lack of affinity was mutual. Lee said quickly, “For once, Mr. President, I would say the reports are, if anything, understated. The repeaters are robust, they are reasonably accurate with adequate range, and they and their ammunition appear to be available in quantities sufficient to permit us to take the field with them. When spring comes, I intend to do so.”
“They improve our prospects by so much, then?” Seddon asked.
“They do indeed, sir,” Lee said. “The Federals have always had more weight than we, could they but effectively bring it to bear. These repeaters go far toward righting the balance. Without them, our chances were become rather bleak. In saying this, I know I catch neither of you gentlemen by surprise.”
“No, indeed,” Davis said. “I am most pleased to hear this news from you, General, for some of the counsel I have had from others approaches desperation.” He rose from his desk, strode over to close the door that led out to the hallway. As he turned back, he went on, “What I tell you now, gentlemen, must not leave this room. Do you understand?”
“Certainly, Mr. President,” said Seddon, who usually said yes to whatever Jefferson Davis wanted. Lee bent his head to show he also agreed.
“Very well, then, I shall hold you to that promise,” Davis said. “To give you the full import of the remedies which have been contemplated out of anxiety for our future, let me tell you that last month I received a memorial from General Cleburne of the Army of Tennessee”
“Ah, that,” Seddon said. “Yes, that needs to stay under the rose.” He was familiar with the memorial, then.
“Cleburne is an able officer,” Lee said. “He fought well in the Chattanooga campaign, by all accounts.”
“As may be. He stirred up a fight of his own, among the generals of his army. You see, in his memorial, he proposed freeing and arming some portion of our Negroes, to use them as soldiers against the Yankees.”
“Many might say, what point to the Confederacy, then?” Seddon remarked. “What point to our revolution?”
Lee’s brows came together as he thought. At last he said, “The Federals let some of their Negroes put on the blue uniform. They will surely take away ours if we are defeated. Would it not be better to preserve our independence by whatever means we may, and measure the cost to our social institutions once that independence is guaranteed? Fighting for their freedom, Negroes might well make good soldiers.”
“Put that way, it might be so,” Seddon said. “Still, the agitation and controversy which must spring from the presentation of such views by officers high in the public confidence are to be deeply deprecated.”
“I agree. We cannot afford such controversy now,” Davis said...Cleburne’s memorial is a counsel of the last ditch. At the last ditch, I would consider it--at the last ditch, I would consider any course that promised to stay our subjugation by the tyranny in Washington. What I hope, however, General Lee, is that, newly armed as we shall be, we succeed in keeping ourselves from that last ditch., and thus preserve our institutions unblemished by unwelcome change.”
“I hope so, too, Mr. President,” Lee said. “It may be so. That our prospects are better with these repeating carbines than they would be without them cannot be denied. Whether they will bring us victory--God alone can answer that. I shall do my best to foster that victory, as will your other commanders.” That was as much as Lee felt he could say. He wished Davis would trust General Johnston further, wished the two of them could compose their quarrel. He was not, however, in a position to suggest it. Both proud, touchy men would surely take it wrong.
Davis said, “General, am I to understand that these amazing rifles spring from Rivington, North Carolina? I had not thought of Rivington as a center of manufacture. Indeed”--he smiled frostily--”up until this past month I had not thought of Rivington at all.”
“I’d never heard of the place, either,” Seddon put in.
“Nor had I,” Lee said. “Since it was brought to my attention, my staff officers and I have inquired about it of train crews and soldiers who pass through the place. Their reports only leave me more puzzled, for it has not the appearance of a manufacturing town: no smelting works, no forges, no factories. There has lately been a good deal of building there, but of homes and warehouses, not the sort of buildings required to produce rifles, cartridges, or powder. Moreover--Mr. President, have you had the opportunity to examine these rifles for yourself?”
“Not yet, no,” Davis said.
“Among other things, they bear truly astonishing gunsmiths, marks. Some proclaim themselves to have been manufactured in the People’s Republic of China, a part of that country no one has been able to locate in any atlas. Others say they were made in Yugoslavia, a country which appears in no atlas. And still others are marked in what, after some effort, we determined to be Russian. I have learned they were made in the SSSR, but what the SSSR may be, I cannot tell you. It is, I confess, a considerable puzzlement.”
“By what you are telling us, Rivington seems more likely a transshipment point than one where the weapons are actually made,” Seddon said.
Jefferson Davis was the United States Secretary of War (the position now called the Secretary of Defense) under President Franklin Pierce from 1853 to 1857. By all accounts an able administrator, he was responsible for expanding the size of the regular Army, the widespread introduction of the new rifle-muskets (The Springfield 1855, which differed from the more familiar 1861 model only in the priming system - the 1851 used the Maynard Tape Primer, which was very similar to the roll caps used today in toy cap pistols - it proved unreliable under field conditions) based on his experience with the pre-Minie Model 1841 rifle in the Mexican War, and surveys for railroad expansion.

As President, Davis faced a problem very similar to the one Lincoln did in Washington. Most of his Cabinet picks were based on political connections (particulary placating the various Confederate States, who all wanted input) more than merit, and there was constant turnover. James Seddon was the fourth Secretary Of War under Davis, replacing George Randolph who replaced Judah Benjamin who replaced LeRoy Walker. Seddon would be the longest-serving of the five Confederate Secretaries of War, serving from late 1862 until early 1865, when he was replaced by John C. Breckenridge. This longevity likely had to do with the fact that Seddon doesn't appear to have done much of anything, freeing Davis to run the war personally. Many of his strategic decisions were poor ones, and his relationship with General Johnston was one of them. The quarrel between Davis and Johnston began quite early, when the latter wrote a letter to Davis out of fury that he was not the most senior Confederate general despite having had higher senority in the Union Army than all the men who outranked him. Johnston was also overly considered cautious, which caused Davis to begin bypassing the general with direct orders to subordinate units. At the time of this novel, the primary point of contention between the two was the loss of Vicksburg in 1863. Johnston advocated withdrawing forces from the city to more defensible positions, while Davis ordered the forces in the city to stand at all costs. This led Davis to see Johnston as a coward afraid to fight, while Johnston saw Davis as a micromanager who threw away battles out of pride and spite. Only Johnston's popularity with the press and Senate prevented him from being fired.

Patrick Cleburne did, in fact, advocate freeing and arming slaves in 1864. Turtledove gets it wrong, or else is deliberately changing it, because Cleburne did not advocate freeing "some portion" of the slaves. He advocated "emancipating the whole race upon reasonable terms, and within such reasonable time", along with "wise legislation" to prevent any true equality. The only historical result of the proposal was that Cleburne was blacklisted from any further promotion despite a reputation for great ability, and remained a division commander until he was killed in action at the Battle Of Franklin on November 30.

His proposal to keep the blacks "in their place" comes across as very similar to the passbook system introduced after abolition was forced on the CSA in Turtledove's other "South wins the Civil War" series, in which Cleburne survives the war.


ninjahedgehog posted:

I love how in the beginning Rhoodie expects Lee to be blown away by his MRE but Lee immediately clocks it as just the logical extension of what they already have.

This comment is already relevant again. Not so much the logical extension part, but they're immediately clocking all the oddities of the AK. It wouldn't be that difficult to grind off the markings in question and leave the weapons unmarked or remark them with Confederate markinst or the AWB's three-armed swastika. They didn't even bother to launder the guns in this way, which is throwing serious doubts on their cover storie immediately.

After deciding to try planting agents in Rivington, the meeting adjourns, and Lee is free to head to his family.










quote:

Lee smiled and shifted forward in his seat as the carriage rolled past the church. The house Mary Custis Lee was renting lay halfway down the same block, on the opposite side of the street.
“Yours is the middle house, am I right, Marse Robert?” Luke said.
“Yes, and thank you, Luke.” Lee descended from the carriage before it had quite stopped. Luke flicked the whip over the horses. As they began to move faster again, he reached down for the flask he had put away. He swallowed and sighed with pleasure.
The house across the street from 707 Franklin had in front of it a young maple in a planter painted with chevrons. “As you were, Sergeant,” Lee told it, smiling slightly. He opened the gate to the cast-iron fence in front 707 Franklin, hurried up the short walk to the porch. There he paused to wipe the mud from the unpaved street off his boots before he knocked on the door.
He heard footsteps inside. The door opened. Lamplight spilled onto the porch. Silhouetted by it, Agnes Lee peered out. “Father!” she exclaimed, and threw herself into his arms.
“Hello, my precious little Agnes,” he said. “You must be careful with your knitting needles there behind my back, lest you do me an injury worse than any those people have yet managed to inflict on me.”
She looked up at him with a doubtful smile. All her smiles were doubtful these days, and had been since her sister Annie died a year and a half before; she and Annie had been almost as close as twins. After he kissed her on the cheek, she pulled herself free and called, “Mother, Mary, Mildred--Father’s here!”
Mildred came rushing up first. “Precious life,” he said indulgently as he hugged her. “And how is my pet this evening?”
“Father,” she said, in the tone of voice any eighteen-year-old uses when her elderly and obviously decrepit parent presumes to allude to the unfortunate fact that she was once much younger than her present peak of maturity.
Lee did not mind; his youngest child was his pet, regardless of what she thought of the matter. “How is Custis Morgan?” he asked her.
“He’s happy and fat,” she answered. “Acorns are easier to come by than human provender.”
“Such a happy, fat squirrel had best not be seen in camp,” he teased, “lest he exit the stage in a stewpot-bound blaze of glory.” She made a face at him. He shook his head in mock reproof.
His eldest daughter came into the front hall a moment later, pushing his wife ahead of her in a wheeled chair. “Hello, Mary,” he called to them both. Mary his daughter bore a strong resemblance to his wife, though her hair was darker than Mary Custis Lee’s had been when she was young.
He took three quick steps to his wife, bent a little so he could clasp her hand in his. “How are you, my dear Mary?” he asked her. She stayed in her chair most of the time; rheumatism had so crippled her that she could hardly walk.
“You didn’t write to let us know you were coming,” she said, a little sharply. Even when she’d been young and pretty and well--more than half a lifetime ago, Lee thought with some surprise, he could call up in his mind the picture of her then as easily as if it had been day before yesterday--her temper was uncertain. Years as an invalid had done nothing to soften her.
He said, “I was summoned down to confer with the President, and took the first train south. A letter could hardly have outrun me, so here I am, my own messenger. I am glad to see you--glad to see you all. Your hands, I note, dear Mary, are not too poorly for you to knit.” He pointed to the yarn, needles, and half-finished sock that lay in her lap.
“When I can no. longer knit, you may lay me in my grave, for I’ll be utterly useless then,” she answered. She’d loved to ply the needles since she was a girl. Now she went on, “Since you are here, you may take the next bundle back with you for the men. Between our daughters and me, we’ve finished nearly four dozen pairs since we last sent them. And with them in your hands, the count should be right when they reach camp.”

Mary Custis Lee suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis despite being only in late middle age. At this point in her life she was only 56 years old, but had been wheelchair bound for nearly 2 years. Historically, she would live until 1873, at which point she was nearly invalid.

They settle in for a rare family evening, and the conversation eventually turns to the war.

quote:

“Our own soldiers suffer in Northern prison camps,” Lee said, “though the North has more to spare for captives than do we. The North has more to spare for everyone.” He sighed. “I have said that, thought that, wrestled with that for too long. I wish this war had never come; it wastes both sides.”
“I said as much when it began,” his wife observed.
“I know you did, nor did I disagree with you. I wanted no flag but the Star-Spangled Banner, no song besides ‘Hail Columbia.’ But once here, the thing must be fought through.” He hesitated, then continued: “It may even--may, I say--have seen a turn in our favor.”
The knitting needles stopped. His wife and daughters all looked at him. He had always done his best to sound hopeful in his letters and to act so when he saw them, but he was not one to be falsely or blindly optimistic, and they knew it. His daughter Mary asked, “From where has this good news come?”
“From Rivington, North Carolina, as a matter of fact,” Lee said. The name of the place meant no more to his family than it had to him a month before. He quickly told the story of the new repeaters and the curiously accented men who supplied them, finishing, “We cannot outnumber the Federals; if we outshoot them, though, that may serve as well.”
His daughters seemed more interested in his account of the strangers and their gear than in details of the carbines. Mildred said, “I wonder if those are the same men as the ones who not long ago rented a whole floor in the building across from Mechanic’s Hall.”
“Why do you say that, precious life?” Lee asked.
“Any time anyone pays his bills in gold these days, word gets around, and by what you said, these--what did your lieutenant call them?--these all-over-spots fellows appear to have an unmatched supply of it. And if I were selling guns to the War Department instead of making socks, I should like my offices close by theirs.”
“None of which necessarily proves a thing,” he said. Mildred’s lively features started to cloud up, but he went on, “Still, I think you may well be right. It could do with some looking into, perhaps.”
“Why, Father?” Agnes scratched her head. Her hair, now tightly done up with pins, came closest of all his children’s to matching the rich yellow that had been her mother’s. “Why?” she asked again. “From all you’ve said, these men from Rivington mean us nothing but good.”
“The old homely saying is, look not a gift horse in the mouth. If you follow that saying, you will end up with a great many old, hard-mouthed horses in your barn,” Lee answered. “When the gift is of such magnitude as that which these men are giving us, I would examine it as closely as possible to learn if it is in fact as fine as it appears and to see if it comes attached to strings.”
“Even if it does, you will have to accept it, Father, won’t you?” Mary asked.
“You always did see clearly, my dear,” he said. “Yes, I think we must, if our Southern Confederacy is to survive, which God grant.”
“Amen,” Agnes said softly.
The slave woman brought in a tray with cups and a steaming pot. The spicy scent of sassafras tea filled the parlor. “Thank you, Julia,” Lee said as she poured for him. The tea made him think of the “instant coffee” Andries Rhoodie had brought up to the headquarters near Orange Court House.
“Coffee,” his wife said longingly when he spoke of it. “We’ve been some time without it here.”
“Surely it would come to Richmond more readily than to a small town like Rivington, North Carolina, especially if, as you say, Father, it was made in the United States,” Mary said.
“That’s true, and I should have thought of it for myself,” Lee said. “Still, with gold, a great many things become possible. Rivington is on the railroad up from Wilmington; maybe a blockade runner brought it in there, rather than something more truly useful to our cause. Maybe.” He found himself yawning.
Mary Custis Lee put down her needles. “There; this sock is finished, and a good enough place to call the day’s work finished as well. Knitting by the light of lamp and candle is hard on the eyes.”
“Which does not stop you from doing so, Mother,” Agnes said reprovingly.
“Not on most nights,” her mother agreed. “But tonight we find Robert here, so halting early is easier to square with my conscience.”
“I wish I were here with you and my girls every night, both for the pleasure of your company and because it would mean the war was over and our independence won,” Lee said. He yawned again. “Tonight, though, I own myself tired. Riding the train with the rails in their present sadly decrepit state is hardly more enjoyable than driving a light buggy headlong down a corduroy road.”
“Then let us seek our beds,” his wife said. “Surely you will rest better in a real bed and a warm house than in your tent by the Rapidan. Mary, dear, if you would be so kind?” Mary got up and wheeled her mother to the base of the stairs.
Lee rose quickly too, to go with them. As he stood, he felt a probing pain in his chest. That pain had been with him now and again all through the winter. Doctors thumped his chest and made learned noises, without finding its source or doing him any good to speak of. He endured it stoically; Mary, he knew, suffered far worse.

Note that even Lee's daughters, who have almost no information, can see at once that there is something wrong with the AWB men. Lee reported suffering from chest pains and numbness in some of his letters starting in the latter half of the war, and it is commonly believed that he suffered from undiagnosed coronary artery disease. There is reliable evidence that he may have suffered from a heart attack around the time of Gettysburg, and this is consistent with the stroke that killed him in 1870.

The next morning, Lee heads to the armory to confer with Colonel Josiah Gorgas.

quote:

The carriage rolled down Seventh Street toward the James River. The armory sprawled at the foot of Gamble’s Hill, diagonally between Seventh and Fourth. The Kanawha Canal ran behind it. Luke pulled up to the columned central entranceway; the dome that surmounted it did not seem to be of a piece with the rest of the long, low brick building.
The armory rang with the sounds of metalwork and carpentry. Drills and lathes and dies and punches and molds turned wood and iron and lead into small arms and bullets. No other Confederate arsenal came close to matching its production. Without the machines captured at Harpers Ferry and moved here in the first days of the war, the South would have been hardpressed for weapons.

The Virginia Manufactory of Arms was originally established in 1798 to ensure a supply of arms for the militia of the state of Virginia, and shut down in 1821. Virginia attempted to reopen the facility in 1860 with equipment purchased from England, but the outbreak of open fighting prevented this equipment from being delivered. Thus, production did not begin until after the capture of equipment at Harper's Ferry in 1861, at which time production began on the "Richmond rifles", copies of the 1855 Springfield converted to standard percussion caps. Roughly 37,000 complete weapons were produced here durng the course of the war. The facility was destroyed when Richmond fell in 1865, much of the surviving equipment was used in the restoration of the Tredegar Iron Works postwar, and the few remaining ruins were demolished in 1900.

Discussion turns to the reason that Lee is here - the AK-47.

quote:

Lee considered. “Henry Heth said something to that effect to me once,” he remarked. “It may be so. Hemmed in as I am by responsibility, I have few opportunities personally to demonstrate it, if it is. But I would surely rather strike a blow than either flee of remain quiet, waiting to be struck. Enough of my ramblings now, sir--to business. I thank God for these gentlemen from Rivington and for the arms with which they are supplying us. I am not, however, eager to forever depend on them for weapons. If anyone, if any establishment in the Confederacy can manufacture their like, you are the; man, and this is the place.”
Gorgas looked baffled and unhappy, like a hound that has taken a scent and then lost it in the middle of an open meadow. “General Lee, I do not know. I thank you for being thoughtful enough to provide me with more of these carbines and a stock of ammunition. I already had one, and a couple of magazines, from Andries Rhoodie. I have been puzzling at it since before he departed for Orange Court House. And--I do not know.”
“What perplexes you so about the rifle?” Lee asked. He had his own list; he wanted to see what the Confederacy’s ordnance wizard would add to it.
“First, that it springs ex nihilo, like Minerva from love’s forehead.” Colonel Gorgas evidently had a list, too--he was ticking off points on his fingers. “Generally speaking, a new type of weapon will have defects, which may in some cases be ameliorated through modifications made in the light of experience. The next defect I discover in this AK-47 will be the first. The gun works, sir, which is no small wonder in itself.”
“I had not thought of it in those terms,” Lee said slowly. “You mean it gives the impression of being a finished arm, like, for example, a Springfield.”
“Exactly so. The Springfield rifle musket has a great number of less efficient ancestors, So, logically, must the AK-47. Yet where are they? Even a less efficient rifle based on its principles would be better than anything we or the Federals have.”
“That is the case, I have noticed, with much of the equipment borne by Andries Rhoodie and his colleagues,” Lee said, remembering a tasty tin of desiccated stew. “Carry on.”

The AK does indeed have a number of less efficient ancestors, dating back to the 1908 Mondragón (the first gas-operated autoloading rifle) or to the failed recoil-operated rifles designed by Ferdinand Mannlicher in 1885. A less capable weapon would still have been a huge improvement to Confederate firepower, and would have raised far less suspicion. This raises the question of why the AWB chose the AK. Obviously it was an easy weapon for them to obtain in large numbers, but the same would have been true of other, less suspicious designs. Either they didn't care about maintaining their cover story, or they blithley assumed that the primitive 19th century Confederates were too stupid to figure it out.

quote:

“From the general to the particular.” Gorgas reached into a desk drawer, took out a couple of rounds for the AK-47. He passed them over to Lee. “You will observe that the bullets are not simply lead.”
“Yes, I had seen that,” Lee agreed, putting on his glasses for a clearer look at the ammunition. The cartridges were surely brass. As for the bullets--”Are they copper an the way through?”
“No, sir. They have a lead interior, sheathed with copper. We might be able to match that, though it is expensive, and we are short of enough copper even now to be commandeering coils from whiskey cookers’ stills. Then again, unsheathed lead might serve at need. But do you see the cleverness of this ammunition? It all but eliminates lead fouling of the barrel.”
“Less need for Williams bullets, then,” Lee said. The Williams bullet had a zinc washer at the base of the lead slug, which served to scour away fouling from the inside of a rifle barrel when it was fired. Lee went on, “But would a copper-sheathed bullet not be too hard to take rifling well? And would it not wear away the interior grooves in short order?”
“With any normal barrel, the answer to both those questions would be yes.” Gorgas ticked off another point. “The steel--or whatever alloy it may be--in the barrel of this weapon, however, Is hard enough to lessen the difficulties. Again, I doubt we could produce its like, let alone work it once manufactured.”
“They seem to manage in Rivington,” Lee said.
“I know they do, sir. But--I--don’t--know--how.” The colonel ground out the words one by one through clenched teeth. He was a man of sanguine temperament and great resource, as he had to be to keep the Confederacy supplied with armaments in the face of an ever-tightening Federal blockade and its own inadequate factories. When he said, “I am thwarted; I admit it,” it was as if he threw down his sword to surrender to superior force.

The Williams bullet is apparently controversial. That the thing existed is certain, but it is unclear what the actual intended purpose was (it may well have been intended for greater accuracy, with any cleaning being a side effect), if it worked, and to what extent it was actually used. One thing is certain - the design was not introduced until after the outbreak of war, and it was manufactured exclusively by the Union. Lee and Gorges might well know what it was, but they would not expect it to be regularly used.

Jacketed projectiles began to see use in 1882 during experiments with smaller, higher-velocity projectiles - pushing the bullet faster made leading worse. A beneficial side effect is that, when applied to a magazine system, jacketed rounds are less likely to deform and jam than bare lead ones.


quote:

“Tell me what else you do know,” Lee urged, not liking to see such a capable officer so downhearted.
“Very well, sir. You mentioned the Williams bullet. As you must know, the chief fouling problem it is designed to alleviate comes not from the lead of the Minié ball but rather from the powder which propels it. Whatever powder is in these AK-47 cartridges, it produces far less fouling than even the finest gunpowder with which I was previously familiar.”
“Has that a connection with the lack of smoke from this powder upon discharge?” Lee asked.
“Exactly: fouling consists of smoke and tiny bits of unburned powder that congeal, so to speak, on the inside of a gun barrel. With this powder, there is next to no smoke and, thus, next to no fouling.”
“I have sent a good deal of ammunition down to Colonel George Rains at the powder works in Augusta, Georgia,” Lee said. “With his knowledge of chemistry in general and gunpowder in particular, I thought him the man best suited to penetrate the mystery of these rounds, if anyone can.”
“If anyone can,” Gorgas echoed gloomily. But after a moment, he brightened a little.” As you say, if anyone can, Colonel Rains is the man. Without his expertise, we should be much the poorer for powder.”
“There I quite agree with you, Colonel. Chemical knowledge is too uncommon in the Confederacy. Of course, the same also obtains among the Federals.” Lee smiled at a memory. “When I administered West Point a few years ago, I had to dismiss from the academy a cadet who informed his instructor and fellow chemistry students that silicon was a gas. Do you know, Colonel, were silicon truly a gas, that lad would likely be a Federal general today.”
As Lee had hoped, Gorgas also smiled at the story. His amusement, though, soon faded. He said,” And now, General, I come to the particular most baffling of all, and when I speak of this weapon, that is no small claim. Do you know, sir, what these Rivington men charge the Ordnance Bureau for each AK-47 carbine? Fifty dollars, sir.”
“It hardly seems excessive. A Henry rifle goes for a similar price in the North, I understand, and this weapon is surely far superior to a Henry. Of course, the Treasury Department will doubtless be anguished at the prospect of discovering sufficient specie to purchase the number of carbines we require, but--what is it, Colonel?”
Gorgas had lifted his hand, as if he wanted to speak. Now he said, “You misapprehend, General, not that I can blame you for it. The asking price is fifty dollars Confederate paper per carbine.”
“You must be mistaken,” Lee said. Gorgas shook his head. Lee saw he knew whereof he spoke. “But how is that possible? While I love our country, I am not blind to our financial straits. Fifty dollars of Confederate paper will not buy two gold dollars.”
“Nor much of anything else,” Gorgas said. “Save these AK-47s. The asking price for their ammunition is similarly, ah, reasonable.”
Lee frowned ferociously, as if facing foes in the field. “You are correct, Colonel; the cost of an AK-47 is even more perplexing than any of its mechanical aspects, extraordinary as those are.”
“Yes, sir. The only thing I thought of was ‘that these Rivington men are such strong patriots that they insist on our dollar’s equality to that of the North. But no one is that patriotic, sir.”
“Nor should anyone be, with the manifest untruth of the proposition demonstrated every day of the year,” Lee said. “Yet the Rivington men, despite the money they surely lose on every repeater they sell us, seem to have plenty of it. When they came to Rivington, they paid gold for homes and warehouses and slaves, and I am given to understand they have also put down gold here in Richmond for offices across from Mechanic’s Hall.”
“I’d heard that, too,” Gorgas said. “Even the rumor of gold, let alone the sight of it, will set tongues wagging here. What are we to make of it, though? That they have so much money, they care nothing for how much these carbines bring them? The notion is logical but not reasonable, if you take my distinction, sir.”

At the time of the Civil War, all firearms used corned black powder, which had changed little (save in purity and manufacturing quality) in almost half a millenium. Experiments in creating a firearms propellent to replace it had been proceeding since the invention of guncotton in 1846, but this was dangerous to produce and unstable to use. Real progress didn't come until the late 1860s, and the first truly practical smokeless powder would not come until 1884 with the introduction of Poudre B, used in the revolutionary 1866 Lebel rifle.

The price being charged is perhaps the most egregious error made by the AWB. While it is possible to come up with a plausible excuse, the fact that they offer none is proof that they either didn't care, or didn't comprehend the difference between gold and Confederate paper.


The two agree that there are too many suspicious things about the AWB to really trust them, despite the benefit they bring.

quote:

“That is exactly my view.” Lee really stood this time. Through the window in Gorgas’s office, he saw the white frame buildings of the Confederate laboratory on Brown’s Island, separated from the mainland by a thin stretch of the James. Pointing across to them, he said, “I trust everyone at the cartridge loading works is busily engaged.”
“Yes, sir,” Gorgas said. “We have put last spring’s misfortune behind us and go on, as we must. My wife fatigued herself very much, visiting and relieving the poor sufferers injured in the blast.”
“How many died?” Lee asked.
“Ten women were killed at once; another twenty perished over the next several weeks. A considerable number more were burned but recovered.”
“Terrible.” Lee shook his head. “And as terrible that we must employ women and girls to produce the sinews of war for us. But with even our armies ever short of men, I suppose no good choice exists. You and your wife have your living quarters here in the armory, do you not?”

The Brown's Island facility was the largest ammunition factory the Confederacy possessed, producing over a million cartridges of small arms ammunition each week, and employed more than 600 workers. On March 13, 1863, a badly organized workroom combined with careless handling of shock-sensitive ammunition componets to produce an enormous explosion. The casualties Turtledove gives here are incorrect - ten women and girls were killed instantly, with the final death toll reaching 50. Another 14 were badly wounded but would heal, after a fashion. The youngest of the dead was only ten years old. Operations resumed on the 4th of April, the minimum working age was raised to 15, and no further accidents happened during the war.

Leaving the armory, lee heads to the War Department to meet somebody quite important.

quote:

The clerk--John Beauchamp Jones his nameplate proclaimed him to be, as if by trumpeting his middle name he could make up for the utter plainness of those that flanked it--finished writing his sentence before he looked up. His thin, clean-shaven face bore a sour expression at the interruption. That quickly changed when he saw who stood before him. “Yes, General, he does. He’s there now, I believe; I saw him go up this morning.”
“Thank you, sir.” Lee had not taken two steps toward, the stairway before Jones returned to his writing.
He fielded more salutes on the second floor as he made’ his way down the hall to his son Custis’s office. Custis was writing when he tapped on the open door, though with less zeal than John Jones had displayed. “Father! Sir!” he exclaimed, springing to his feet. He too saluted, then stuck out his hand.
Lee took it, swept his eldest son into an embrace. “Hello, my dear boy. You’re looking very well. I see it is possible to find adequate victuals in Richmond after all.”
Custis laughed. “I’ve always been heavier than you, Father. Here, sit down. Tell me what I can do for you. Is it--I hope it is--a post in the field?”
“I have none to give, son; I wish I did. I know how you chafe as President Davis’s aide,” Lee said.
Custis nodded, tugging at his beard in frustration. Though he was past thirty, it remained boyishly thin and silky on his upper cheeks. He said, “How am I ever to deserve command if I have not led men ill the field?”
“Soon, I am sure, you will take the field in some capacity--everyone who has ability will be needed when spring comes. Do not think you have no value in your current post, either; you render the President and the nation important service.”
“It is not the service I would give,” Custis said stiffly.
“I know. I have been in that predicament myself, in western Virginia and then in the Carolinas. At the moment, however, your presence in Richmond may prove of considerable advantage to me.”
“How so, sir?” The younger Lee still sounded dubious, as if he suspected his father of devising some make-work assignment to reconcile him to remaining in the Confederate capital.
But interest flowered on his face when Lee asked, “Do you remember the organization that calls itself America Will Break, of which I wrote you? The one which appears centered in the town of Rivington, North Carolina?”
“The people with those amazing repeaters?” Custis said. “Yes, of course I do. I shouldn’t mind getting my hands on one of their carbines myself.”
“That can be quite simply arranged, I think: you need only walk across the street, as the organization has established offices right opposite Mechanic’s Hall. But I wish you would not.”
Custis smiled. “You’d best have a good reason, Father, for if they are so close, I think I shall straightaway beat a path to their door.”
“I believe I do have a good reason, Custis, or rather several of them.”
Lee briefly outlined his conversations with Major Venable back at army headquarters and with Colonel Gorgas not an hour earlier. When he finished by telling Custis what the Rivington men were selling their repeaters for, his son stared and exclaimed, “You’re joking!”
“No, my dear boy, lam not,” Lee assured him. “And so you: will grasp that I have cause to wonder about these people who call themselves America Will Break. They are on their way to becoming a power in the Confederacy, and I do not know whether they will prove a power for good or ill. There is a great deal I do not know about them, and I wish I did. That is where you come in.”
“How?” Now Custis seemed eager, not doubtful. Before his father could answer, he went on, “Fifty dollars Confederate? Fifty dollars Confederate won’t buy a pocket knife, let alone a repeating rifle.”
“That is why I want you,” his father said. “I cannot personally investigate these AWB establishments myself. Even if I had the time, I am too readily recognizable. For that matter, you may be as well; you favor your mother as much as me, but the name Lee draws attention to its bearer.”
“Thanks to you, sir--what you have done makes me proud to bear it.”
“You have made your own contributions to it, and will, I am confident, make more. You can aid your country now by recruiting a band of men--I care not whether soldiers or civilians--whose names and faces will certainly draw no notice, and by using them to keep watch on the men and offices of America Will Break. Report what you learn to me and, if it is of sufficient urgency, directly to President Davis. Your being his aide may well prove valuable in this task, for it gives you his ear.”
Custis’s face grew set and abstracted. Lee knew the look; his son was thinking through the task he had been given. It was not a formal order; he was not under his father’s command. But he said, “Of course I’ll take it on, sir. I see the need. Perhaps I ought to enlist some Negroes among my--my spies, not to mince words. To a white man, no one is more invisible than a slave.”

Custis Lee did eventually achieve field command in the defense of Richmond against Grant. He was captured in action three days before the end of the war, held several academic posts afterward, and made headlines by suing to regain the family manision at Arlington. After winning the case, he sold the property to the US Government. He died in 1913.

Note how incredibly suspicious the AWB men have been - nobody is buying their story, and the Confederates are almost forming a line to start prying into their secrets. Careless.



quote:

Lee walked out of his son’s office and down the stairs. His way out to the street carried him past John Jones’s desk. The clerk was turned away from him, talking to the man at the next desk: “My boy Custis’s parrot happened to be loose from its cage. It swooped down on the meat as if it were a hawk, the miserable bird, and gulped it down before we could get it back again. Meat is too hard to come by in Richmond these days to waste on a parrot; we’ll go without on account of it. I wish the damned talking feather duster would flyaway for good.”
Luke was waiting patiently outside Mechanic’s Hall. He waved when he saw Lee, and called, “I’ll get the carriage for you, Marse Robert.” He hurried off to fetch it. Lee went down the marble stairs and stood to one side of them so he would not be in the way of people going in and out on War Department business.
“Good to see you smiling, General Lee, sir,” a friendly passerby said, tipping his stovepipe hat. “Now I know things can’t be bad.” Without waiting for an answer, he went up the stairs two at a time and disappeared into Mechanic’s Hall.
Lee’s smile grew broader, though the stranger had been cheered by an amusement which had nothing to do with the prospective course of the war between Confederacy and Union. The thought uppermost in Lee’s mind was that Custis Jones’s parrot ought to make the acquaintance of Custis Morgan the squirrel.

Gnoman fucked around with this message at 20:04 on Sep 25, 2021

quantumfoam
Dec 25, 2003



Gnoman posted:

Guns of the South
Chapter 2: Nate Caudell

The standard bullet fired by an AK is a 7.62mm (.30") jacketed 7.9 gram (123 grains) bullet propelled by 1.6 grams of smokeless powder. This gives a muzzle velocity of around 730 meters/second (2400 feet per second) and a muzzle energy of ~2000 joules (~1500 foot pounds). This is provided in a ready-to-use paper cartridge that contains a primer at the rear. All that is needed to fire is placing it in the gun. In addition to being easier to load, the slimmer bullet loses less energy to air resistance (meaning it retains velocity longer), and the much higher velocity results in far less bullet drop. At any relevant range, the bullet might as well be going straight, while a Minié ball is performing a parabolic arc due to the need to significantly elevate the muzzle. This ammunition does, in fact "beat Minié balls all hollow.”


I think you meant to write metallic cartridge instead of "paper cartridge" when describing AK ammunition.
Otherwise pretty good and accurate.

Epicurius
Apr 10, 2010


College Slice

Gnoman posted:


[i]I have no idea what building Turtledove is describing here. The Confederate Capitol in Richmond is still in use today, as the central portion of the Virginia State Capitol (wings were added in 1904 to support the expanding state government). The building is a perfect example of the neo-Classical architecuural tradition, designed by Thomas Jefferson in direct imitation of an ancient Roman building. Note that the actual structure has square-topped windows.

The old Richmond Custom House is right across from the State Capitol, and was, during the Civil War, the home of the offices of the President and the Confederate cabinet. Currently, as the Lewis F. Powell Jr. United States Courthouse, it's where the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals sets. Here's a picture of it from just after the Richmond fire of 1865.

ninjahedgehog
Feb 17, 2011

It's time to kick the tires and light the fires, Big Bird.




Gnoman posted:

Discussion turns to the reason that Lee is here - the AK-47.

The AK does indeed have a number of less efficient ancestors, dating back to the 1908 Mondragón (the first gas-operated autoloading rifle) or to the failed recoil-operated rifles designed by Ferdinand Mannlicher in 1885. A less capable weapon would still have been a huge improvement to Confederate firepower, and would have raised far less suspicion. This raises the question of why the AWB chose the AK. Obviously it was an easy weapon for them to obtain in large numbers, but the same would have been true of other, less suspicious designs. Either they didn't care about maintaining their cover story, or they blithley assumed that the primitive 19th century Confederates were too stupid to figure it out.


Obviously the real answer is that the AK is more iconic than possibly any other firearm in history and makes for a better book cover, but in-universe I bet AWB also chose it for its legendary reliability. Like you said, they're severely underestimating how savvy the Confederates are and probably wanted something that, from their perspective, even these backwards hillbillies would be hard pressed to break.

Unkempt
May 24, 2003

...perfect spiral, scientists are still figuring it out...


You know the book by an SF author named Harry where a racist travels back in time to give the confederates machine guns to try and help them win the american civil war?

No, the other one?



Well this guy takes back a Sten gun and the plans for same so they can make their own. I honestly can't remember how it works out because I haven't read it for 30 years or so, but it's from 1983, nearly 10 years before Guns of the South.

(Guns of the South is a much better book, imo.)

Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."


quantumfoam posted:

I think you meant to write metallic cartridge instead of "paper cartridge" when describing AK ammunition.
Otherwise pretty good and accurate.

While I can see how it happened going back and forth between the different kinds of ammunition, that is a truly embarrassing error to make.

Epicurius posted:

The old Richmond Custom House is right across from the State Capitol, and was, during the Civil War, the home of the offices of the President and the Confederate cabinet. Currently, as the Lewis F. Powell Jr. United States Courthouse, it's where the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals sets. Here's a picture of it from just after the Richmond fire of 1865.



Edited into the post, thanks for that.


ninjahedgehog posted:

Obviously the real answer is that the AK is more iconic than possibly any other firearm in history and makes for a better book cover, but in-universe I bet AWB also chose it for its legendary reliability. Like you said, they're severely underestimating how savvy the Confederates are and probably wanted something that, from their perspective, even these backwards hillbillies would be hard pressed to break.

Out of universe, the inspiration for the book was supposedly a complaint from another author (I'm finding conflicting information on precisely which author it was - some sources are saying Tanith Lee, others Judith Tarr) that the cover of her latest novel was as anachronistic as "Robert E. Lee holding an UZI". Turtledove was taken by the idea, but decided that the Uzi was not the proper weapon and substituted the AK. That said, speculating on in-universe reasons is entertaining.

Hyrax Attack!
Jan 13, 2009

We demand to be taken seriously



ninjahedgehog posted:

Obviously the real answer is that the AK is more iconic than possibly any other firearm in history and makes for a better book cover, but in-universe I bet AWB also chose it for its legendary reliability. Like you said, they're severely underestimating how savvy the Confederates are and probably wanted something that, from their perspective, even these backwards hillbillies would be hard pressed to break.

Yeah that makes sense. I agree it would be more plausible for them to use early 1900s rifles but it would have been hard for them to obtain those and their ammo in large numbers, while for the AK-47 they seem to just be buying them by the shipping container and sending them through the time machine. Plus they’d have familiarity and could be trainers.

One of my favorite little things in the book are hints about how the north is starting to adapt the AK-47, especially as they wound up with hundreds of captured rifles and have far more engineers and factories than the south. Not something the Rivington men are shown to care about but as the north is already starting to use an early model of the AK against the UK, interesting to imagine how odd the timeline will get. Especially as by the end plenty of people know about the time travel and the houses in Rivington were loaded with books and tech, good chance lots of that would go missing and end up north. The Rivington men were all over the south, good odds a few of them didn’t feel like joining the last stand and put on different clothes or sailed for Europe.

Definitely agree they don’t bother much to have a real cover story, especially in Rivington where they build houses with electricity and AC and don’t turn those off when they have visitors, and anyone can visit the town pre-insurrection. As those men all seem focused on living in big houses with lots of slaves seems like they don’t care about maintaining the masquerade and it might have been hard for their leaders to make everyone live in primitive conditions indefinitely and not risk an internal coup.

Gnoman posted:

Out of universe, the inspiration for the book was supposedly a complaint from another author (I'm finding conflicting information on precisely which author it was - some sources are saying Tanith Lee, others Judith Tarr) that the cover of her latest novel was as anachronistic as "Robert E. Lee holding an UZI". Turtledove was taken by the idea, but decided that the Uzi was not the proper weapon and substituted the AK. That said, speculating on in-universe reasons is entertaining.

I didn’t know there were conflicting sources on that, the thanks section at the end of my copy says Judith Tarr. They also teamed up to write Household Gods about an LA woman who inhabits a Roman woman’s body. Pretty good.

Mycroft Holmes
Mar 26, 2010

:wotwot: To the Moon! For Queen and Country!


thanks for doing a let's read of this. I remember reading it in high school.

Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."


Have to break this chapter into parts because there's a lot to comment on here

Chapter 4 Part I: Robert E. Lee

This chapter begins with Lee meeting several of his officers who have just used the AK-47 in combat. Reviews are good.

quote:

With his small, bald head, long nose, and long neck, Richard Ewell inevitably reminded everyone who met him of a stork. Having lost a leg at Groveton during Second Manassas, he could now also imitate the big white bird’s one-footed stance. He was sitting at the moment, however, sitting and pounding one, fist into the other palm to emphasize his words: “We smashed ‘em, sir, smashed ‘em, I tell you.” His voice was high and thin, almost piping.
“I am very glad to hear it, General Ewell,” Lee replied. “If those people send raiders down toward Richmond with the intention of seizing their prisoners there--and perhaps even the city itself--they must expect not to be welcomed with open arms.”
“Oh, we met ‘em with arms, all right,” Jeb Stuart said with a grin, patting the AK-47 that leaned against his camp stool. The repeater’s woodwork was not so perfectly varnished as it had been fresh out of the crate; it had seen use since then. Stuart patted it again.” And we sent Kilpatrick’s riders back over the Rapidan with their tails between their legs.”
Lee smiled. He’d liked Stuart for years, ever since the young cavalry corps commander’s days at West Point with Custis. He said, “Excellent. But don’t you think that leather might better have gone into shoes for the men?”
Ever flamboyant, Stuart wore crossed leather belts over, his shoulders, each one with loops enough to hold a magazine’s worth of brass AK-47 cartridges. The effect was piratical. But Stuart instantly became a contrite swashbuckler, saying, “I’m sorry, General Lee; it never crossed my mind.”
“Let it go,” Lee said. “I doubt the Confederacy will founder for want of a couple of feet of cowhide. But I take it I am to infer from your ornaments that you are pleased with the performance of the new repeaters in action.”
“General Lee, yesterday I sold my LeMat,” Stuart said. Lee blinked at that; Stuart had carried the fancy revolver with an extra charge of buckshot in a separate lower barrel ever since the war was young.


James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart was a highly successful cavalry commander who was responsible for multiple Confederate victories through reconnaissance and flanking maneuvers. He also performed very well at the Battle Of Chancellorsville, where he was pressed into service as an infantry commander due to the wounding of AP Hill. Accounts from contemporaries assign a large portion of the credit for winning that battle on Stuart's actions.

Famed for his flamboyant manner of dress and behavior, his aggressive flair would lead to disaster. After fighting Union cavalry to a draw (rather than the victory to which he had been accustomed) in June of 1863, Stuart sought to reclaim his glory with aggressive action, possibly with a repeat of his earlier ride around the entire Union Army. Without Stuart to provide vital information on Union troop movements, the Army Of Northern Virginia blundered into US forces at a place called Gettysburg, resulting in what is likely the most critical defeat of the war. He never received a promotion beyond Major General, fought a grinding campaign against Grant's forces that rapidly eroded the remaining Confederate cavalry, and was shot by a Union private with a revolver on May 11, 1865. This would would kill him on the morning of the 12th.

Richard Stoddert Ewell was a Virginian who served in combat during the Mexican-American War and in actions against the Apaches between the wars. He publicly condemned secession until Virginia seceded, at which time he resigned his commission in the US Army to join the Virginian Army and later the Confederate Army, and was the first Confederate officer of significant rank to be wounded in action. He received his commission on May 9, 1861 and was shot in the shoulder on May 31, 1861. After the First Battle Of Bull Run (Called First Manassas by the CSA), he advocated freeing and arming portions the black population of the CSA in order to achieve victory. Unlike Patrick Cleburne, he did this in private conversation with Jefferson Davis, and thus avoided significant backlash. He was (as Turtledove correctly states) shot in the leg at the Second Battle Of Bull Run (Second Manassas) resulting in the amputation of the limb.

Ewell had the opportunity to take critical ground in the early stages of the Battle Of Gettysburg, but failed to for various reasons - not least of them conflicting orders from Lee. It is very likely that had he taken this ground, Gettysburg would have been a Confederate victory instead of a decisive defeat. His career continued downward from that point. He survived the war and died of pneumonia in 1872.

The LeMat revolver was invented by a Frenchman in New Orleans in 1859 in partnership with Major Beauregard of the US Army. Beauregard would be one of the first US officers to switch to Confederate service. As the gun was invented immediately before the war and made primarily in Europe, it was quite rare - only 2900 or so were made, and most were intercepted by the US blockade. The most common model, and probably the sort Stuart carried, held 9 rounds of .42 ball in the cylinder. The most famous feature of the gun was the underbarrel smoothbore barrel for buckshot, which was 20 gauge (0.60")in the most common model.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpYoh2yzPqw




quote:

“The rifles are outstanding,” General Ewell agreed. “So are the men who furnish them. If I had a drink in my hand, I’d toast them.”
“I have some blackberry wine here in my tent, brought up from Richmond,” Lee said. “If you truly feel the need, I should be glad to bring it out.”
Ewell shook his head. “Thank you, but let it be. Still, had we not heard from those America Will Break fellows that Kilpatrick was on the move, who knows how much mischief he might have done before we beat him back?”
“As it was, I understand, some of their cavalry captured a train station on the line up from the capital not long after I passed through on the way back to the army,” Lee said.
“Fugitives from the main band, after we scattered them,” Stuart said. “I’m glad they got to the station too late to nab you. Otherwise, however badly the rest of their plan failed, they would have won a great victory.”
“If a republic will stand or fall on the fate of any single man, it finds itself in grave danger indeed,” Lee observed.
But Ewell said, “Our republic is in great danger, as well you know, sir. We would be in graver danger still, were it not for your Andries Rhoodie and his fellows. When Meade sent Sedgwick west with the VI Corps, when Custer went haring off toward Charlottesville, I would have shifted the entire army to meet them had Rhoodie not warned me of a possible cavalry thrust south from Ely’s Ford.”
“But Fitz Lee was sitting there waiting for the bold Kilpatrick,” Stuart said with the smile of a cat who has caught his canary. “General Kill-Cavalry killed a good many of his Yankees by Spotsylvania Court House.”
Hugh Judson Kilpatrick was the first US Army officer to be wounded (as a low ranking captain) in the Civil War, being stuck by a canister ball on June 10 1861. Overly aggressive as a commander of cavalry, he regularly suffered heavy casualties in foolhardy cavalry charges against modern rifle-muskets and artillery. This earned him the nickname of "Kill Cavalry" by the men under his command, who disliked him greatly.

quote:

Ewell’s pale eyes turned inward as he pondered that. “Very competently. Sedgwick’s as good a corps commander as the Federals have, and Custer--what can I say about Custer, save that he wishes he were Jeb Stuart?” Stuart smiled again, a smile the brighter for peeping out through his forest of brown beard.
“Under normal circumstances, you might have been deceived, then, General Ewell, at least long enough for Kilpatrick to slip past you and make for Richmond?” Lee asked. Ewell nodded. “And you had picked up nothing from spies and agents to warn you Kilpatrick might be on the move?” Ewell nodded once more. Lee plucked at his beard. “How did Rhoodie know?”
“Why don’t you ask him, sir?” Jeb Stuart said.
“I think I shall,” Lee said.

The raid being discussed here was a disaster historically. Kilpatrick intended to assault Richmond and rescue US prisoners of war being held in that city, but was quickly repulsed. His response to this failure was to charge further south, looting and burning as he went More than 300 Union cavalrymen became casualties, and more than a thousand were captured. To make matters worse, papers found in the possession of Ulric Dahlgren, one of Kilpatrick's subordinates, suggested that Kilpatrick intended to lynch Jefferson Davis and most of the rest of the Confederate government in addition to freeing prisoners and torching the city. Only the direct intervention of Lee, who feared retaliation against Confederate prisoners, prevented the execution of the captured cavarlymen. Kilpatrick was sent to the Western theater in disgrace, where he participated in Sherman's scorched-earth March To The Sea in Georgia. His postwar political career was hounded by charges of corruption, and he died in 1881.

Rhoodie meets with Lee, and is offered the same blackberry wine that was offered to Early.

quote:

“I believe I set out two glasses. Would you be kind enough to pour, sir? Ah, thank you. Your very good health.” Lee took a small sip. He was pleased to see Rhoodie toss off half his glass at a swallow; wine might help loosen the fellow’s tongue. He said, “From what General Ewell tells me, the Confederacy finds itself in your debt once more. Without your timely warning, Kilpatrick’s raiders might have done far worse than they actually succeeded in accomplishing.”
“So they might.” Rhoodie finished his wine. “I am pleased to help in any way I can. Can I fill you up again, General?”
“No, thank you, not yet, but by all means help yourself.” Lee took another sip to indicate he was not far behind Rhoodie. He nodded imperceptibly to himself when the big man did pour again, as a fisherman will when his bait is taken. He said, “Interesting how you got wind of Kilpatrick’s plans when the rest of the army would have been hoodwinked by Meade’s motion toward our left.”
Rhoodie looked smug. “We have our ways, General Lee.”
“Marvelously good ones they must be, too. As with your rifles, they altogether outdistance that which anyone else may hope to accomplish. But how do you know what you know, Mr. Rhoodie? Be assured that I ask in the most friendly way imaginable; my chief concern is to be able to form a judgment of your reliability, so I may know how far I may count on it in the crises which surely lie ahead.”
“As I think I told you once before, General, my friends and I can find out whatever we think important enough to know.” Yes, Rhoodie was smug.
Lee said, “That hardly appears open to question, sir, not after your repeaters, your desiccated foods--though I wish you might find a way to provide us with more of the latter--and now your ability to ferret out the Federals’ plans. But I did not ask what you could do; I asked how you did it. The difference is small, but I think it important.”
“I--see.” Suddenly Andries Rhoodie’s face showed nothing at all, save a polite mask behind which any thoughts whatever might form. Seeing that mask, Lee knew he had been foolish to hope to loosen this man’s tongue with a couple of glasses of homemade wine. After a small but noticeable pause, the big man with the odd accent said, “Even if I were to tell you, I fear you would not believe me--you would be more likely to take me for a madman or a liar.”

Lee is handling this well - not only is he trying to get Rhoodie off-balance with alcohol, but throwing all the suspicious elements right in Rhoodie's face is pretty much guaranteed to unsettle him. How will Rhoodie get out of this?

quote:

Rhoodie’s poker face hid whatever calculations were going on behind it. At last he said,” All right, General Lee, I will. My friends and I--everyone who belongs to America Will Break--come from a hundred and fifty years in your future.” He folded his arms across his broad chest and waited to see what Lee would make of that.
Lee opened his mouth to reply, then closed it again while he did some thinking of his own. He did not know what he had expected Rhoodie to say, but the big man’s calm assertion was nothing he had imagined. He studied Rhoodie, wondering if he had made a joke. If he had, his face did not show it. Lee said, “If that be so--note I say if--then why have you come?”
“I told you that the day I met you: to help the Confederacy win this war and gain its freedom.”
“Have you any proof of what you allege?” Lee asked.
Now Rhoodie smiled, rather coldly: “General Lee, if you can match the AK-47 anywhere in the year 1864, then I am the greatest liar since Ananias.”
Lee plucked at his beard. He himself had brought up the excellence of Rhoodie’s equipment, but had not thought that very excellence might be evidence they were from out of time. Now he considered the notion. What would Napoleon have thought of locomotives to carry whole armies more than a hundred miles in the course of a day, of steam-powered ironclads, of rifled artillery, of rifle muskets with interchangeable parts, common enough for every soldier to carry one? And Napoleon was less than fifty years dead and had rampaged across Russia while Lee was a small boy. Who could say what progress another century and a half would bring? Andries Rhoodie might. To his own surprise, Lee realized he believed the big man. Rhoodie was simply too strange in too many ways to belong to the nineteenth century.

Oh. He just admits it at the slightest pressure. They weren't doing a very good job of keeping it secret, but they certainly seemed to be trying.

Lee asks why they didn't come sooner, to which Rhoodie explains that their time machine only works in an increment of exactly 150 years. And that they didn't manage to steal it until late 2013. This is followed by the almost offhand comment that another year would have been too late. The Union will defeat the Confederacy.

quote:


“They do just that,” Rhoodie said grimly. “They force you to free your k*****s--your n*****s, I mean--at the point of a bayonet, then set them over you, with the bayonet still there to make you bow down. The Southern white man is ruined absolutely, and the Southern white woman--no, I won’t go on. That is why we had to steal our time machine, sir; the white man’s cause is so hated in times to come that we could obtain it by no other means.”
There was one question ‘answered before Lee had the chance to ask it. He sadly shook his head. “I had not looked for such, not even from those people. President Lincoln always struck me as true to his principles, however much I may disagree with those.”
“In his second term, he shows what he really is. He does not aim to stand for election after that, so he need not mask himself any longer. And Thaddeus Stevens, who comes after him, is even worse.”
“That I believe.” Lee wondered at Rhoodie’s claims for Lincoln, but Thaddeus Stevens had always been a passionate abolitionist; his mouth was so thin and straight that, but for its bloodlessness, it reminded Lee of a knife gash. Set a Stevens over the prostrate South and any horror was conceivable. Lee went on, “Somewhere, though, in your world of 2013--no, it would be 2014 now--sympathy for our lost cause must remain, or you would not be here.”
“So it does, I’m proud to say,” Rhoodie answered, “even if it is not as much as it should be. N*****s still lord it over white Southern men. Because they have done it for so long, they think it is their right. The bloody k*****s lord it over South Africa, too, my own homeland--over the white men who built the country up from nothing. There are even blacks in England, millions of them, and blacks in Parliament, if you can believe it.”
“How do I know I can believe any of what you say?” Lee asked. “I have not been to the future to see it for myself; I have only your word that it is as you assert.”
“If you want them, General Lee, I can bring you documents and pictures that make the slave revolt in Santo Domingo look like a Sunday picnic. I will be happy to give you those. But, General, let me ask you this: Why would my friends and I be here if these things were not as I say?”

There was a slave revolt in Santo Domingo in 1521 that was put down with great bloodshed, but Turtledove is more likely to be referring to the Hatian Revolution of 1791-1804 that began as a slave uprising in the French colony of Saint-Domingue. Not only is this much more recent and relevant to somebody like Lee, the slaves actually won in Hati. The French colonizers were thrown out, the Hatians successfully defended attempts at reconquest, and a republic of sorts was set up out of the formerly servile population. Equally relevant, the last stages of the uprising involved a massacre of 3000-5000 men, women, and children, which was virtually the entire remaining white population. This was commonly used as an argument that abolition was too dangerous to be considered. I cannot find anything other than RW propaganda from groups like the AWB that come close to such levels, let alone surpass it to the level that Rhoodie is suggesting. Therefore he is creating any such incidents out of whole cloth, and is counting on either unquestioning acceptance from Lee or is confident that any proofs he manufactures will be good enough to accept. This is an effective lie precisely because many opponents of abolition believed, or claimed to believe, that freeing the slaves would inevitably result in such actions.

Thaddeus Stevens was a firebrand abolitionist who advocated that the purpose of the Civil War should be the eradication of the "peculiar institution" with no concessions made to former slaveowners. He was the prime proponent of the 13th amendment banning slavery, and advocated seizing the property of traitors in order to give the newly-freed blacks a leg up on building a new life. An opponent of the reconciliatory policies of Reconstruction, he was one of the loudest voices in the impeachment proceedings against Andrew Johnson in 1867. His attempts to make the party focus on ensuring the black vote failed repeatedly, and he died at the age of 76 of illness. While his death was not universally mourned, he was the third man to lie in state at the US Capitol rotunda, with black troops providing his honor guard. Few men in the North would be as horrifying a leader from a Confederate standpoint, meaning that this lie is also well chosen.


Lee accepts this for now, and turns to what Rhoodie knows about the course of the war. Rhoodie explains that he only knows the OTL course of the war - what actually happened. The new timeline that is being created is as much a mystery to Rhoodie and the AWB as it is to the Confederacy. Lee responds to this by demanding the most detailed information available right now - the AK-47 has been used in only very limited ways thus far, and thus hasn't had a chance to change much. Rhoodie agrees, and they begin to break up the meeting.

quote:

“My pleasure, General.” Rhoodie stood to go. Lee also rose. As he did so, the pain that sometimes clogged his chest struck him a stinging blow. He tried to bear up under it, but it must have shown on his face, for Rhoodie took a step toward him and asked, “Are you all right, General?”
“Yes,” Lee said, though he needed an effort to force the word past his teeth. He gathered himself. “Yes, I am all right, Mr. Rhoodie; thank you. I ceased to be a young man some years ago. From time to time, my body insists on reminding me of the fact. I shall last as long as I am required, I assure you.”
Rhoodie, he realized, must know the year--perhaps the day and hour--in which he was to die. That was a question he did not intend to put to the Rivington man; about some things, one was better ignorant. Then it occurred to him that if the course of battles and nations was mutable, so small a thing as a single lifespan must also be. The thought cheered him. He did not care to be only a figure in a dusty text, pinned down as immovably as a butterfly in a naturalist’s collection.
“Is it your heart, General?” Rhoodie asked.
“My chest, at any rate. The doctors know no more than that, which I could tell them for myself.”
“Doctors in my time can do quite a lot better, General Lee. I can bring you medicine that may really help you. I’ll see to it as soon as I can. With the campaign coming up, we want you as well as you can be.”
“You are too kind, sir.” Yes, Rhoodie knew Lee’s allotted number of days could change. He wanted to make sure they didn’t unexpectedly shorten. Even that possibility made Lee feel freer. He thought of something else. “May I ask you an unrelated question, Mr. Rhoodie?”
“Of course.” Rhoodie was the picture of polite attentiveness.
“These Negroes you mentioned who were elected to the British Parliament--what manner of legislators do they make? And how were they elected, if I may ask? By other Negroes voting?”
“Mostly, yes, but, to the shame of the English, some deluded whites sank low enough to vote for them as well. As for what sort of members they make, they’re what you’d expect. They always push for more for the n*****s, not that they don’t have too much already.”
“If they were elected to stand for their people, how are they to be blamed for carrying out that charge?” Storm clouds came over Andries Rhoodie’s face. Lee said, “Well, Mr. Rhoodie, it’s neither here nor there. Thank you once more for all of this. You’ve given me a great deal to think on further. And I do want to see that plan of what General Meade will attempt.”
Once off the topic of Negroes, Rhoodie relaxed again. “It will be General Grant, sir,” he said.


Much to unpack here. The first is Lee's relief that his fate is not - can not be - preordained. An incredibly human thought, and a very nice touch. We also see the possibility that Lee will die sooner rather than later being raised for the first time, something that will be relevant later.
By far, however, the most important exchange here is the last one. While Lee's oddly reasonable thought toward the possibility of black lawmakers stands out the most, as does Rhoodie's obvious anger that Lee is not the unthinkingly racist caricature that Rhoodie is himself, the more interesting element is perhaps more subtle. It might go unnoticed compared to the sparks starting to fly, but note the casual racism inherent in Lee's response - he takes it almost as granted that black lawmakers could only have been elected by black voters, and assumes without question that blacks being separate from whites is the natural way of the world.

How realistic Lee's response is in other respects is a difficult question to answer. The historical Lee opposed the black vote unconditionally, stating that "at this time, they [black Southerners] cannot vote intelligently, and that giving them the [vote] would lead to a great deal of demagogism, and lead to embarrassments in various ways.". He also expressed "a deep-seated conviction that, at present, the negroes have neither the intelligence nor the other qualifications which are necessary to make them safe depositories of political power." This would indicate that the historical Lee would not have responded to the idea of black lawmakers nearly as well as the Lee that Turtledove writes. The counter-argument, that Lee lived only a few years after abolition and thus had no opportunity to test or improve his views, or to conclude that his weasel-words "at this time" or "at present" would allow him to reject those stances with time, seems a thin reed. That said, there is no record that the historical Lee was ever given a glimpse, however twisted, into the state of affairs one hundred and fifty years in the future, which kind of has to have an effect on one's outlook.



Lee ends this segment by considering telling his staff the great secret, concluding that it is a bad idea, and savoring the notion of turning the tide of history against Ulysses S. Grant.

Gnoman fucked around with this message at 03:11 on Oct 18, 2021

Gnoman
Feb 11, 2014

"What we therefore hath joined together, let Gnoman put asunder..."


Chapter 4 Part II: Nate Caudell

quote:

“Here you go, First Sergeant,” Preston Kelly said. “They’re ‘most as good as new.”
Nate Caudell tried on the shoes Kelly had repaired. He walked a few steps, smiled broadly. “Yup, that’s licked it. The cold doesn’t blow in between the soles and the uppers anymore. Thank you kindly. Pity you can’t do more; a good many of us don’t even have shoes to repair these days. Are you the only shoemaker in the regiment?”
“Heard tell there’s another one ‘mongst the Alamance Minute Men,” Kelly answered. “Couldn’t rightly swear to it, though. Them boys from Company K, they still stick close to themselves after all this time.” Alamance County lay a fair ways west of Wake, Nash; Franklin, and Granville, which provided most of the manpower for the regiment’s other nine companies.

This little exchange perfectly illustrates the dire straits that the Confederacy is in at this point. While Union troops were generally well supplied unless they were cut off due to a combination of the Union's superiority in wealth and the fact that General George McClellan was, for all his faults, a genuine genius at logistics, the Confederates were not nearly as lucky. The southern states had far less to begin with due to the nature of their economy, and after 4 years the Union blockade is doing an excellent job of strangling their commerce. Equally important, the states that would form the CSA were not well supplied with railroads, and most of the lines that did exist were optimized for moving cash crops to the ports for export, as that was the economic lifeblood of the region. This made it very hard to move goods around.

This is also a pretty good parallel to Lee's opening lines in his segment of this chapter. He reprimands Stuart on wasting leather on fancy bandoliers instead of providing a soldier with shoes, and here we get a soldier's eye view of the shoe situation.


Caudell watches a baseball game for a bit before wandering over to talk to "Melvin".

quote:


“Hello, Melvin,” Caudell said, seeing Mollie Bean outside her cabin. She was feeding rounds into a banana clip.
“Hello, First Sergeant,” she answered. “Reckon we’re gonna get ourselves some Yankees ‘fore too long?”
Caudell took a step. He squelched in mud. Thanks to the work he’d just had done, it didn’t soak his toes. All the same, he said, “My guess is, we won’t move for a while yet unless the Yanks try something sneaky. Marching on muddy roads wears a man down too much for good fighting afterwards.” Or even a woman, he thought, remembering to whom he was talking.
She said, “You’re likely right. Comin’ back from Gettysburg in the rain, wasn’t nothin‘ but slog, slog, slog till a body wanted to fall down dead at the end of a day.”
“Makes me tired just remembering,” Caudell agreed. The 47th North Carolina had been part of the rear guard at Falling Rivers, Maryland, as the Army of Northern Virginia drew back into its home state, and had lost many men captured because they could not keep up.
All at once, Mollie Bean became intensely interested in the AK-47 magazine in her lap, bending her head down over it. “I need to see you, First Sergeant,” someone said from behind Caudell.
He turned, lifted his hat. “Yes, sir. What is it, Captain Lewis?”
“Walk with me,” Lewis said. Caudell obeyed, matching his pace to the captain’s slow and halting strides. Lewis went by Mollie Bean without the least notice of her. With her head down, the brim of her cap hid her face from him. Caudell smiled to himself; she was expert at such small concealments. After a few steps, Lewis went on, “We have to get the most we can out of these new repeaters.”
“Certainly, sir.”
“I think that means thinning our firing lines,” Lewis said. “With these rifles, we don’t need to stand shoulder to shoulder to put out a large volume of fire. The more widely we space ourselves out, the more front we can cover and the smaller the target each individual man presents to the enemy.”
“Sounds good to me, sir,” Caudell said at once. “We were packed together so tight in the charge at Gettysburg, I still think it’s a wonder all of us didn’t get shot. The more space between us for the bullets to go by, the better.”
“Space for the bullets to go by,” Lewis echoed musingly. “I like that. You have a way with words, First Sergeant.”
“Thank you, sir,” Caudell said, thinking that if he did, it was because he wrote so many of them for other people. As with anything else, practice made them come easier.

"They should have thinned out instead of standing in tight lines" is a common criticism directed towards armies of the past. A big amount of US mythmaking holds that the Continentals defeated the Redcoats by using dispersed riflemen to peck at and destroy the rigid lines of the Redcoats, as seen in Mel Gibson's love letter to Mel Gibson The Patriot. This is hogwash. If a tight body of men closes to bayonet range with a dispersed body, they'll sweep the enemy aside with ease. Preventing such a force from closing requires a very high density of fire - a density impossible to achieve with single-shot muzzle-loaders unless you have a densely packed line that can discharge a wall of bullets. It isn't until breech loaders that you start to see situations where a handful of men can make a massed charge suicidally dangerous.

Or, in other words, the sort of formation Lewis is suggesting would be suicide with any normal weapon of the ACW - but is doable with the AK, and represents a huge step toward the sort of infantry tactics that would be developed to deal with such weapons almost 60 years later OTL. Having the "natives" recognize this almost immediately before ever seeing the new weapon in action is a good way to show that these people are not idiots just because they lived around a century and a half ago.


Caudell begins to instruct his subordinates in the new plan at the first opportunity, and the value is seen immediately.

quote:

Having made up his mind thus, he ran into Otis Massey not five minutes later. “Makes sense to me, First Sergeant,” Massey said when Caudell was through relaying Captain Lewis’s words. “ ‘Course, rememberin’ it when them damnyankees is shootin’ at us might could take a bit o’ doin’.”
“That’s why we practice it beforehand,” Caudell said patiently.
Massey shifted his chaw from one cheek to the other, which made him look for a moment like a sheep chewing its cud. “Yeah, reckon so.” He’d always been a good soldier; that was how he’d got himself promoted. He was slower to grasp that, as corporal, he was responsible for his whole squad, not just himself.
Caudell walked down to his hut. He was about to go in when he saw a black man in Confederate grey going by with an AK-47 slung on his back. “How you doin’, Georgie?” he called.
George Ballentine looked to see who was talking to him. “I’s right well, First Sergeant, suh,” he answered. “How you be?”
“I’m all right,” Caudell answered. “So the boys in Company H let you have one of the new repeaters, did they?”
“Yassuh, they did. I’s a regular No’th Carolina Tiger, I is,” Ballentine said. “If’n I goes to the fightin’ with food or some such, I gets to shoot back if the Yankees shoots at me.”
“You’ve got a better rifle there than your master ever dreamed of. He’d have one too, if he hadn’t run away on us,” Caudell said. Ballentine had come to the regiment as bodyguard to Addison Holland of Company H. Holland was a deserter, six months gone now. Ballentine had stayed with the North Carolina Tigers as company cook, tailor, and general handyman. Caudell wondered about that. “Why didn’t you take off too, Georgie? We haven’t caught your master yet. Odds are we never would have got you.”
Something changed in the black man’s face; all at once it became a fortress to guard the thoughts behind it. Though he owned no slaves himself, Caudell had seen that guarded look on other men’s Negroes many times. “Don’ wanna be no runaway,” Ballentine said. Caudell thought that would end the conversation; the black man had said what a black man had to say to get by in a white man’s world. But Ballentine chose to elaborate: “I’s just about like a free man now. The men, they treats me like one o’ them. I don’ belong to nobody in particular--jus’ about as good as not belongin’ t’nobody at all. Like you say, I even gots this here nice gun. How’s I gonna do better’n that, runnin’ away?”
Go north was the unspoken thought in Caudell’s mind. It had to be in George Ballentine’s, too. But risks went with it. If a Confederate picket spotted him trying to cross the Rapidan, he was dead. The other thing that struck Caudell was how much Ballentine’s answer reminded him of Mollie Bean’s. Neither had any prospects to speak of in the outside world; both had found in the army niches that suited them and people who cared about them.

The power dynamics are extremely well portrayed here. Caudell views the black man in a fairly positive way, but from an undeniable position of authority. His treatment of George here is more in the manner of a favored pet than you would give another man. Meanwhile, George is very disarmingly pleasant towards the white man who is so high above him, but locks down the second it goes toward anything that might reveal his true thoughts. From this exchange, it is unclear if his elaboration is a genuine unbending because they're closer than they should be, or a way to assure Caudell that he doesn't need to set a closer watch on George because George is really happy, honest.

The comparison with Mollie will show up again soon, and I'll reserve commentary until then.


Unfortunately for all concerned, Ballentine draws the attention of one of the men from the future. Lang is furious at the rifle on his back.

quote:

“He’s not in my company, so I can’t answer you exactly, Mr. Lang,” Caudell said, speaking as carefully as if the Rivington man were an officer.
“Whose bloody company is he in, then?” Lang demanded.
“Company H, sir,” Caudell said. He explained how Ballentine had come to be there, and how he had stayed with the company after Addison Holland abandoned it. “I’m sure it’s all right.”
“In a pig’s arse it is. Teach a kaf--a n****r--to use a weapon, and next thing you know, he’ll be aiming at you. Company H, you say? Who’s captain there?”
“That would be Captain Mitchell, sir. Captain Sidney Mitchell.”
“I am going to have a small chat with Captain Sidney loving Mitchell, then, First Sergeant. We’ll see if he lets a n****r touch a weapon after that, by God!” He jerked savagely on the reins to turn the horse, dug his heels into its sides. The animal let out an angry neigh and bounded off. Space showed between the saddle and Lang’s backside at every stride; he was anything but a polished rider. But he clung to his seat with grim determination.
Rufus Daniel came out of the cabin. Along with Caudell, he watched Benny Lang’s furious ride. “I take back what I told you a while ago, Nate,” Daniel said. “Wouldn’t want him for overseer after all--he purely hates n*****s. That’d bring a farm nothin’ but grief. Georgie Ballentine; I druther have him alongside me ‘n half the white men in this company.”
“Me, too.” Caudell took off his hat so he could scratch his head. “Lang hates n*****s as if they’d done something to him personally, not just--you know what I mean.”
“Reckon I do,” Daniel said. Hardly a white man in the South failed to look down on blacks. But the two races lived and worked side by side. They saw each other, dealt with each other, every day. Caudell could think of nothing likelier to spark a slave revolt than all whites displaying the ferocity Benny Lang showed.

The commentary on race relations here is surprisingly nuanced. There's no attempt to downplay Confederate racism, but they view their "property" in an altogether different light from the way the AWB men do. There's the awareness that there are limits they don't dare exceeed, and they have to deal with these people in a way that you can't just slot them into an easy stereotype in the brain - there's too many seen too frequently to do otherwise. Meanwhile, the AWB men would deal with black South Africans very rarely, and can keep their attitudes "pure". Their time in the Confederacy is a game to them as much as anything else - they can finally do all the things that they've wanted to do for so long.


The discussion is interrupted by smoke pouring out of a cabin. Fear of fire is quickly dispelled by noticing that the chimney had been blocked with a board - a prank. Caudell is forced to break up the ensuing assault on the prankster, and the scene ends.

quote:

When Sunday morning rolled around, Caudell joined most of the regiment at divine services. Chaplain William Lacy was a Presbyterian, while the majority of the men he served--Caudell among them--were Baptists, but he had proved himself a good and pious man, which counted for more than differences in creed.
“Let us bend our heads in prayer,” he said. “May God remember our beloved Confederacy and keep it safe. May He lift up his hand and smite that of the oppressor, and may our true patriots in gray withstand their test with bravery.”
“Amen,” Caudell said. He added a silent prayer of his own for General Lee.
Lacy said, “I will take as my text today Romans 8:28: ‘We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.’ We see it illustrated in the events of the past few weeks. When our army came short of success at Gettysburg, many may have suffered a loss of faith that our cause would triumph. But now God has delivered into our hands these fine new repeaters with which to renew the fight, and through them He will deliver into our hands the Yankees who seek to subjugate us.”

As the service progress, Caudell notices something odd about the hymns. George never misses a service, but his distinctive voice is absent from the singing. Some investigation reveals that George had run away because his AK got confiscated.

quote:

“Yup,” Caudell said. Instead of waiting for the next hymn, he drifted away from the open-air assembly. Johnson had hit the nail on the head. Not giving George Ballentine a repeater in the first place would have been one thing. But to give him one and then take it away--that was wrong. He hoped Ballentine made it over the Rapidan to freedom, too.
But the slave’s luck as a runaway was no better than his luck with the AK-47 had been. Three days later, a wagon came squelching down the muddy highway from Orange Court House in the late afternoon. It wasn’t a scheduled stop. “You have a load of those desiccated dinners for us?” Caudell called hopefully as the driver pulled off the main road.
“No, just a dead n****r--picket shot him up by the Rapidan Station. He was headin’ for the river. Hear tell he likely belongs to this regiment.” The driver jumped down and lowered the rear gate. “Want to see if it’s him?”
Caudell hurried over, peered in. George Ballentine lay limp and dead on the planks, without even a cloth over his staring eyes. The lower part of his gray tunic was soaked with blood; he’d been shot in the belly, a hard, hard way to die. Caudell clicked his tongue between his teeth. “Yeah, that’s Georgie.”
“You gonna take charge of him?”
“Take him over to Company H, why don’t you? He belonged to them.” Caudell pointed the way. “I expect they’ll want to give him a proper burial.”
“What the hell for? He was a goddam runaway.”
“Just do it,” Caudell snapped. As if by accident, he brushed a hand against his sleeve to call attention to his chevrons. The driver spat in the roadway, but he obeyed.

Again, you can see the Confederate attitude towards race from both characters. Caudell finds nothing wrong with denying the rifle as a matter of course, only with revoking the "privilege" once it had been generously granted. Meanwhile, the wagon driver has no personal connection to George, and thus sees the body as just trash - an attitude that Caudell would probably share if it were just some random shot runaway.

A Caudell expected, George's regiment requests and recieves a full burial service. Consumed by guilt, but unwilling to talk to an officer, he consults Mollie Bean.

quote:


“Life ain’t fair, Nate,” she answered. “You was a woman, you’d know that. You ever work in a bawdyhouse, you’d sure as poo poo know that.” Her face clouded, as if at memories she’d have sooner forgotten. Then that wry smile of hers tugged one comer of her mouth upwards. “Hell, First Sergeant Caudell, sir, you was a private, you’d know that.”
“Maybe I would,” he said, startled into brief laughter. But just as Mollie could not stay gloomy, he had trouble remaining cheerful. “I expect I’d know it if I were a n****r, too. Georgie sure found out.”
“N*****s ain’t the same as white folks, they say--they just go on from day to day, don’t worry none about stuff like that.”
“Sure, people say that. I’ve said it myself, plenty of times. But if it’s true, why did Georgie run off when they took his repeater away?” Corporal Johnson’s words came back to Caudell: even a n****r, he’s got his pride.
“I know what you mean, Nate, but Georgie, he didn’t seem like your regular n*****,” Mollie said. “He just seemed like people--you know what I mean?”
“Yup,” Caudell said. “I felt the same way about him. That’s why he bothers me so much now.” Ballentine had seemed like a person to Caudell, not just some n****r, because he’d got to know him. In the same way, Mollie seemed like a person to him, not just some whore--because he’d got to know her. He kept that part of his thought to himself, but went on in musing tones, “Maybe a lot of n*****s seem like people to somebody who knows them.”
“Maybe.” But Mollie sounded dubious. “Some, though, you got to sell South, and that’s the truth. They ain’t nothin’ but trouble to their own selves an’ everybody around ‘em.”
“That’s true enough. But you know what else?” Caudell waited for her to shake her head, then said, “If Billy Beddingfield was black, I’d sell him South in a minute, too.”

Here, the attudes are stated straight out - George was "like a person" because they knew him - the notion that he was a person in his own right is beyond them. Meanwhile, the notion that some are disposable and have to be "sold south" is unquestioned, because they're dealing with an abstract "them" rather than a living, breathing reality - the same sort of attitude shown by the AWB men. To be "sold south", also called "sold down the river" typically refers to selling a slave into much harder conditions - either from a comparitively comfortable position as a house servant or similar to farm labor on a plantation or else from a plantation to swamp-clearing and similar work that consumed the lives of workers like water. Even here, though, there is some connection between them and their legal inferiors that is missing with the AWB men - they are able to concieve of one of their peers in the same situation, which is unlikely for the AWB men.

Here again we see Caudell (and Bean) making a connection between a lower-class white prostitute and a slave. I'm not sure where Turtledove was going with this, but it feels rather facile - the mere fact that Mollie is in the army at all points to her having far greater freedom of action than any slave, and she presents herself as being in her line of work willingly. It might work better if she were forced by circumstance or abuse into her role, but no sign of that is given.


After some further discussion, Caudell decides that he might as well give Mollie some business and the scene ends.

Turtledove is in rare restraint so far this book. That's two sex scenes involving a POV character, and both are fade-to-black. This is a great mercy for the reader.

Arbite
Nov 4, 2009







Very interesting to read this, glad you're doing it!

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Charlz Guybon posted:

If you're going to do a World War series you have to do the World War series! I want to talk about Lizards!

And on a semi-related note, I wish Turtledove would do a novel about Otto Skorzeny: Agent of Mossad

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Beefeater1980
Sep 12, 2008

My God, it's full of Horatios!





Unkempt posted:

You know the book by an SF author named Harry where a racist travels back in time to give the confederates machine guns to try and help them win the american civil war?

No, the other one?



Well this guy takes back a Sten gun and the plans for same so they can make their own. I honestly can't remember how it works out because I haven't read it for 30 years or so, but it's from 1983, nearly 10 years before Guns of the South.

(Guns of the South is a much better book, imo.)

I vaguely remember reading that at school, and didn’t realise it was a different book. Interesting!

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