I received this work of alternate history recently as a birthday present (October 10th for those who want to know) from my former room mate Rob Burr. The book detail the diplomatic back ground of and the opening moves of British intervention into the American Civil War.
The Author Peter G. Tsouras does a good job out lining the complex relationship Britain has with the American Civil are. While many of Britain's leaders felt a divided United States was a good thing for the British Empire the average British citizen had no interest in going to war to support the cause of slavery. As the book is set in the latter half of 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation has happen and so have the twin Union Victories of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. This puts the war firmly in the phase were slavery is a real issue of the war and any though of a quick Victory on either side has fled.
The cause of the war is the building of warships for the Confederates States Navy by British Firms that are then manned with crews of British citizens (many of them ex-Royal Navy) in particular the construction of two Iron Clad rams. Historically Britain decided to seize the rams and the situation defused. Here Lincoln send a US warship to British waters and when one of the rams slips out of liver pool and is sunk by the USS Gettysburg in British Waters under the eyes of a Royal Navy Frigate. The RN naturally tries to take both ships into custody and a battle breaks out the starts a war.
Tsouras sets a plausible start to the war, both side act with courage and skill. There is enough bungling by officers and politicians involved to make things believable. Three major battles are described in the book the chase of the US Warship involved int he sinking of the ram and the British attack on Portland ME and the British attack on the Blockading fleet out side Charleston.
The Battle of Portland involves the Maine regiments including the famed 20th Maine who have been sent home as a precaution by the Union command. Joshua L. Chamberlain naturally has a prominent and believable roll in the battle. On the British side a mixed force of British Army and Canadian Militia also play their roll well. The confrontation between the 19th and 20th Maine and the 62nd Regiment is especially dramatic (much honor is done to both sides). An order of battle is included and this would make a great Black Powder scenario.
The Battle of Charleston is equally dramatic though the the British Admiral is forced to fight a pitch battle by his orders rather then play for time and force his Yankee opponent to come to him. The result is bloody and the book does not make it clear who won. My thinking is that both fleets batter each other to splinters and scrap metal. The Yankees are implied to have gotten the better of it though its unclear if they can maintain their blockade after the fight.(we get an order of battle for this one as well)
This is an excellent book for war gamers. One thing I did not like was the incision of "fictional foot notes" these work in some of Tsouras' other books but those are written as history books not a novels. In a novel the foot notes are distracting and I feel they give away some of the story to come, avoid reading them if you like surprises.
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