A Rainbow of Blood: The Union in Peril—An Alternate History (Britannias First Trilogy)
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The war that began in Peter G. From the bayous of Louisiana to the green hills of the Hudson Valley, from Chicago in flames to the gates of Washington itself, the Great War uncoils in ropes of fire. French and British armies are on the march, and heavy reinforcements have put to sea. Copperheads have risen in revolt to drag the Midwest into the Confederacy as a vital Union army stands starving and under siege in Tennessee. Lee and the Royal Navy set in motion a stroke that is boldness itself. The Union staggers under these blows.
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To stop them is a war-worn regiment of New York soldiers. To their backs Washington burns. But new technologies and the art of intelligence are thrown onto the scales, while Russia plans to enter the war to avenge its humiliation in the Crimean War. A Rainbow of Blood brings forward the Great War from its outbreak to the first great crisis of the embattled republic. Peopled with remarkable personalities of the age, the book rattles with the tramp of armies marching down one of the most intriguing roads not taken—or even imagined—until now.
Hardcover , pages. Britannia's Fist Trilogy 2. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about A Rainbow of Blood , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Dec 01, Mark rated it it was ok. Having entered the war as a result of a naval incident off the coast of Ireland, the British have occupied parts of Maine and upstate New York. Portland lies under siege, and the Royal Navy has broken the blockade of the South, though at considerable cost. Now with new life breathed into the Confederate cause, a French army marches up from Mexico to aid in the recapture of New Orleans and Lee outmaneuvers Meade to strike as Washington itself.
Yet with the Copperhead rebellion broken in the Midwest, the battle-hardened Union responds to the new threats, aided by a host of new technologies. But will it be enough to save the United States from its host of enemies? The Civil War is as well-trodden a subject for alternate history as it is for military history. The second is his expertise. With a background in military intelligence, Tsouras brings considerable knowledge of martial affairs, which adds to the verisimilitude to his narrative.
These two elements often combine to make for dramatic descriptions of battles in places like Kennebunk and Claverack, accounts that are among the high points of this book. Some of that effort would have been better spent familiarizing himself with the broader historical background, as his plot exposes some disappointing gaps in his knowledge. Errors such as this can temper the enjoyment of the novel and raise doubts about the depth of his research in non-military affairs. Hopefully Tsouras will address these weaknesses while building upon his strengths in the final volume, which holds promise for a dramatic end to his alternate history series.
Jun 14, Ronald Tobin rated it it was amazing. In this novel, second in the trilogy Britannia's Fist started, most would figure that applies to the budding alliance between the United States and the Russian Empire. The year is , Britain and France have intervened on the side of the Confederacy. This really throws the Union back and makes for an interesting what if. British forces fight alongside the Army of Northern Virginia and they are able to attack Washington DC and cause a great deal of damage before being thrown back. There are poignant scenes here of Lee visiting Mount Vernon and seeing what has become of Arlington House.
This also ends up causing some difficulty, in that Napoleon III wants to establish a protectorate that the Confederates really don't want. However, they know they will not prevail without this foreign assistance Upstate New York and Maine are invaded from Canada. However, Russia, smarting from the results of the recent Crimean War, start to become involved on the side of the Union.
This seems like a strange bedfellows situation, but I think it could have happened. Tsouras does a great deal of research and it shows in his alternate history novels. They are always very believable. However, HMS Nettle engaged with Union dockworkers at the Washington Arsenal, and started a fire that would lead to an immense explosion.
The arsenal blew apart, obliterating Nettle , shattering windows for miles around, and raining fire down on half of Washington and Dunlop's fleet, stunned from the blast and burst eardrums. Lowe and his friend Ferdinand von Zeppelin had been in the air observing the British and Confederate advances from over the Navy Yard when the blast physically pushed their balloon horizontally away, the telegrapher losing his grip and falling out of the basket.
Lowe returned to the ground and reloaded the balloon with five 9-inch shells and Ketchum grenades with the help of one of the officers at the Navy Yard, Lieutenant William B. Lowe re-ascended with Cushing and left Zeppelin on the ground. At 8 am, something unexpected occurred - one of Lafayette Baker's new bodyguards for the president, disguised Copperhead "Big Jim" Smoke, attempted to assassinate President Lincoln.
The blast from the Washington Arsenal had sent flaming debris through the walls and roof of the White House , and Smoke attempted to use to confusion to shoot Lincoln, but Smoke only grazed Lincoln's head. However, Abraham Lincoln recovered from his head wound and the former wrestler crushed Smoke's grip on his gun and smashed his head on the ground until Smoke died. Dunlop had also landed Captain Cooke's Confederate contingent to attack the Long Bridge and Royal Marines to attempt to flank the seaborne defenses of the Navy Yard.
The dockworkers and sailors at the Navy Yard manned unarmored Dahlgren guns and took up rifles, while Lowe and Cushing floated overhead to lend support. The first 9-inch shell Cushing dropped landed astern of target and detonated in the water, while the second bounced off the deck of the gunboat HMS Racer and went down a hatch to the powder-strewn lower decks. Cushing was heaving a third 9-inch shell overboard when HMS Racer shredded apart in the first confirmed air-to-sea kill.
After another hour of patiently waiting for the balloon to float over another viable target, Lowe and Cushing dropped their remaining two 9-inch shells over HMS Spiteful , the first bouncing off the deck into the water and the second falling into the broken smokestack, destroying the boilers and catching the ship ablaze. Lee's descent on Washington: Fort Runyon had a 2,man garrison with 21 guns and a balloon to defend against assaults, and many Confederate attacks had been repulsed when Cooke's men joined the fight. Cooke attacked and surprised Fort Jackson, then rushed over the lightly defended rear of Fort Runyon and overwhelmed the defenses.
Sharpe had the coffee mill gunners drag their pieces into position and a battery up into the nearby Long Bridge Hotel to give enfilading fire on the Confederate cannons. The Confederates were swept away by the barrage, and the th charged back into the previous Union defensive position. The Coffee Mill guns were arrayed to fire down the bridge from different angles and the Union soldiers waited at the barricades for the inevitable assault.
Early's division was the spearhead that charged down the mile-length of Long Bridge at General Lee also received an urgent communication from J. Stuart , saying that Meade was pressing hard to relieve Washington and to finish the battle quickly. What the British ships did not accomplish on their own the marines finished: As the balloon was already losing altitude from bullet holes, Lowe signaled his ground crew to lower him down so they could join the fight against the British marines.
However, a sudden breeze pushed the balloon north, and Lowe decided to belay his previous order and get rid of the grenades in the balloon where they would do the most good, in the thick of the attacking British. The pair worked to stop the impending British attack on the gate into the Navy Yard, Lowe activating the grenades and Cushing throwing them. At feet up, the British fire into the basket became more intense - Lowe was hit in the leg and Cushing in the arm, and Cushing took another bullet wound at feet. The American defenders desperately held off the more numerous Royal marines when American sailors with Colt revolvers and cutlasses rushed to reinforce the American marines.
Lowe's balloon collapsed at fifty feet up because of the number of holes in the fabric, and the basket snagged on the Naval Yard fence. Gordon led his Georgia men over the Long Bridge at Sharpe's eleven coffee mill guns erupted in response, and where Gordon raised his saber marked the high watermark of the Confederate attack. In addition to the staccato fire from the coffee mill guns, four cannons sent solid shot through the dense Confederate ranks to gory effect, and the American soldiers with their repeating rifles added to the mix.
With a heavy heart, Lee ordered a retreat from Washington before Meade fell upon the bloodied Army of Northern Virginia. Paulet and the Albany Field Force arrived in Hudson, New York , early on the morning of October 28, and he had with him 21, men of roughly half-and-half British and Canadian makeup with 90 guns. Hooker with the Army of the Hudson had a comparable army with 19, men with 84 guns. Paulet's advantage was the densely forested terrain that had similarly stymied British armies eighty-six years earlier at the Battles of Saratoga , as the ground from which to fight and had restricted the movement of troops to natural bottlenecks.
They learned from locals about the British presence in force at Hudson, and sent riders for the Army of the Hudson while moving to screen and delay Paulet's advance. Five miles north of Hudson, Colonel Alger of the 5th Michigan Cavalry , a unit of the Wolverines, sabotaged a section of railroad track on the Hudson River Railroad from Albany and caused the crash of a locomotive carrying parts of Paulet's Second Division. The delay of half of his field force left Paulet in the uncomfortable position of fighting Hooker with only the 12, men of his First Division and cavalry.
Slocum despised Hooker, and Hooker relieved him of command on the spot, taking personal control of the XII Corps and ordering it to double-time to relieve the beleaguered Union cavalry. Geary had the men of Third Brigade under Colonel David Ireland flank the British right using leapfrog advances, wherein one regiment would cover the movement of another to a covered position. The British and Canadians attempted to reply using standard volley fire tactics, but the Union soldiers were in protected positions before the order could be given.
Focusing their fire on the greener Canadian units, Ireland's brigade smashed the Canadian 19th Battalion and 10th Battalion, causing them to flee and crumpling Paulet's extreme right flank. Hooker expected Paulet to throw his reserve in, but Paulet simply pulled his embattled right flank back, waiting to use his reserve where it be the crushing blow.
The lead American division, the Second Division led by Brig. General Adolph von Steinwehr , was just as surprised as the Canadian units they found, but the Americans attacked first from multiple directions through Stottsville, causing a rout in the Canadian column, its attached artillery unable to unlimber and fire with the packed mass of fleeing soldiers. However, the Americans dispersed to capture individual soldiers and in turn became vulnerable to counterattack.
The Canadians reformed outside of town and attacked the strung out American units, causing a rout of their own until held by th NY Regiment. Meagher heard the gunfire and moved his troops to assist. Taking advantage of the focus of the battle concentrated on Stottsville, Lt. Paulet had his center and left flank advance on the Americans, supported by artillery.
American artillery in turn fired on the smartly advancing British and Canadian troops. It was not until Each side refused to give ground, and a brutal slugging match ensued. On the American left and British right, the remaining British troops were being hard pressed by Geary's division, surrounded in many places and on the verge of breaking. Paulet was indecisive on whether to throw his remaining reserve to the left in an expensive gamble to win the day or on the right to save his flank and hope the center could push through. Wolseley suggested saving the right flank, and Paulet agreed, sending the Lt.
The Guard caught the Americans just as they were on the verge of capturing the British colors, sending Geary's men into disarray and causing them to retreat. All along the center of the XII Corps's line, the Americans were receiving the worst of the British fire, as the British artillery was faster firing and more accurate than American artillery and British units were larger than American units, often double the size. Hooker rushed around with his small reserve, two regiments from Geary's division, to plug any gaps.
Hooker sent two orders, one for the 13th NJ regiment to retreat and one for the 29th PN regiment to take its place. Hooker's message reached 1st Lt. Franklin Murphy of the 13th NJ first, and he pulled his men out of position without waiting for a unit to fill his place. The gap in the American line was immediately seen by the British, who ordered their units to attack the vulnerable flanks of the Americans. British units rolled up the American center and it began to flee south.
Cobham of the 29th PN was all that was left to prevent a defeat in the center, and the Pennsylvanians bought enough time for some American units to reconstitute. Paulet had seen the collapse of the American center and prepared to send his remaining reserve, the First Battalion of the Grenadier Guards , to complete the victory. Hooker had also ordered Kilpatrick to re-enter the fray, and Kilpatrick noticed the now naked British rear was a tempting target. His 2, cavalrymen charged the British position, but peeled off troops to savage the British wagon train. The British cavalry, returned from holding the right flank before the timely arrival of the Scots Fusilier Guard, counter-charged the American cavalry that outnumbered them three to one.
Kilpatrick then wanted to attack the Grenadiers and the British artillery, but Custer and his fellow commander Davies vehemently disagreed. Kilpatrick overruled them, and ordered a cavalry charge on the British position, which as Custer feared, savaged the American cavalry. Kilpatrick was killed in the attack, so the cavalry retreated north. Arriving on the field at this time were cadets from West Point academy, victors of Cold Spring but hardly veterans. Hooker sent these young men to defend the flank of Cobham's Pennsylvanians from the advancing Grenadier Guard.
The cadets charged the Grenadier Guard unit three times their size, and were torn apart. On the American left, Geary regrouped his men to attack the Scots Fusilier Guard, and a sniper picked off their commander, Lt. The capture of the British artillery behind Stottsville and the exhaustion of the Second Division's ammunition had led to a British retreat, allowing Meagher to continue on his circle around Claverack.
Unit by unit, he ordered a controlled retreat back to the wagon trains that had survived the Union cavalry. Hooker did not notice the withdrawal of the British right because of the brutal destruction of the West Point cadets and his distressing lack of any remaining reserves. To his immense relief, double-timing up the road were the men of the 20th NY militia along with a battery of twelve coffee mill guns. Hooker ordered the men to stop the relentless advance of the Grenadier Guard, and the coffee mill guns unlimbered and fired.
The Grenadier Guard was scythed apart, refusing to retreat in the face of overwhelming firepower. Unit after unit of the 1, Grenadiers advanced into the same hail of fire, and they fell to a man. Lord Paulet's exposed position also drew the fire of the coffee mill guns, and he and Sir James Lindsay were both slain, decapitating command of the Albany Field Force.
Meagher positioned Custer's dismounted cavalry back among the buildings of Claverack, anticipating the line of British retreat. The Wolverines took special pleasure in killing the gunners of the artillery that had taken such a toll on the Americans, but Wolseley forced his men through the Americans with bayonets and desperation, using the Scots Fusilier Guards as a rearguard. The remaining Canadian and British units had retreated after the absolute annihilation of the Grenadiers Guards, and Wolseley found himself in command of the remnants of the Albany Field Force.
Hooker's XII Corps was in no shape to pursue, and it was not until October 30, two days later, that the recombined American command of the Army of the Hudson took up pursuit of the retreating British and Canadians. Wolseley retreated up through Albany, collecting garrisons on his march and dodging Custer's cavalry, reaching the entrenched defensive positions of Lower Canada in early November.
Hooker's attempts to send Custer to raise havoc were for naught because of the incoming snow storms. The Army of the Hudson camped for winter in positions stretching from Plattsburgh to Albany. Total losses of the battle came to 6, casualties for the Americans, with dead, 4, wounded, and missing for 32 percent of their force, and 8, casualties for the British and Canadians, with 1, dead, 4, wounded, and 2, prisoners for 42 percent of their force.
Washington's role as a military logistics hub had been smashed, and half of the city was in ruins thanks to the joint Anglo-Confederate assault on the city. Upstate New York was a charred mass of destroyed factories and foundries. Imports had ceased with the new blockade by the Royal Navy. The two Gulf Blockading squadrons had fled to friendly ports, and New Orleans was once again in enemy hands. Martial law reigned over the Midwestern states as Sherman left the region to return to Grant. Nevertheless, the Union found itself no longer troubled with conscription as tens of thousands of men joined or rejoined the Army and Navy.
Previously anti-war aristocrats like Theodore Roosevelt Sr. Additionally, Lincoln signed into being laws allowing the formation of African-American units with the same pay-scale as white units, making available another , soldiers and sailors. The financial markets, incredibly disrupted by the British blockade, were uplifted by cash from some of the wealthiest men in the country such as Cornelius Vanderbilt , giving no interest loans to the government to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars and subsidizing the construction of whole warships.
The territory of Nevada quickly reached statehood despite technically not qualifying because of the silver and gold mines that poured life into the Union. More problematic was the lack of niter for use in gunpowder, as natural sources could only produce minuscule amounts, and after the destruction of the Washington Arsenal, the Union had only enough for another years worth of fighting.
Another Union combat multiplier was the selection of Andrew Carnegie to form the War Production Board in the style of Roosevelt's War Production Board and more efficiently allocate Union resources and wealth. Carnegie stopped the bickering between contractors and accelerated the monitor and balloon construction programs, as well as retooling Colt factories to produce Spencer repeating rifles.
Lincoln also took the step of selecting the Spencer as the main firearm of all Union infantry, replacing the Springfield Model The enormous success of Lowe's balloons in a tactical role led to a wholesale reconstruction of the Balloon Corps into an Aeronautical Corps, with the Army and Navy both vying for balloons. Additionally, the brutal destruction unleashed by the coffee mill guns cemented their importance to the American war effort, and more were being produced to be distributed to all Army units.
Conversely, the success of American repeating arms was noted by the British, who sought new tactics to negate this unprecedented weapon. The British Army settled upon using the impressive accuracy and high fire-rate of the breech-loading Armstrong field gun to shoot the repeating gun batteries once they had exposed their position before sending infantry to assault American positions.
Lieutenant General Braxton Bragg of the Army of the Tennessee had been a caustic and ineffectual commander for some time before his removal from command in December and replacement with James Longstreet. Bragg had argued with his division commanders until they no longer trusted or respected him, and clamored for his replacement, but the tipping point was Bragg's passive-aggressive removal of cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest from command, who furiously challenged him to a duel and shot him in the foot out of disgust.
Longstreet had a good rapport with the Army of the Tennessee because of his instrumental effect in the previous victory of Chickamauga several months earlier that had bottled up the Union Army of the Cumberland in Chattanooga. The key to the defense of Chattanooga was Brown's Ferry , part of the so-called "Cracker Line" keeping hardtack and other supplies trickling in to the besieged city. In November , Longstreet attacked Brown's Ferry with his prided unit, the mighty First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia , but unbeknownst to him, General Thomas and the Army of the Cumberland had received reinforcements in the forms of Richard Gatling's new weapon, the ten-barreled Gatling Gun.
Bolstered by this fearsome weapon, the Union defenders inflicted a bloody failure on Longstreet's attack. With the return of General Grant from the west with the Army of the Tennessee to relieve Chattanooga, the Confederates were forced to retreat south once more. Longstreet returned to the Eastern Theater with only half of the First Corps he had set out with. General Joseph Hooker had boasted that under his command, the "third time would be the charm" in conquering Canada, referencing the earlier American failures to conquer Canada during the American Revolutionary War and the War of This had the effect of goading much of Canada into throwing their full weight behind the war effort to resist the Americans.
General Hope Grant well understood his opponent Major General Hooker, and used Hooker's overconfidence to his advantage by beginning his attack south a month before Hooker thought it feasible, before the grass had sprouted for forage. Hooker's units, bolstered with volunteers and reinforcements, were scattered up and down the Hudson Valley, not yet concentrated and thus vulnerable. American intelligence in Canada and on the border began to pick up on the warning signals of an impending attack in March, and Lt.
General Ulysses Grant along with Maj. General George Sharpe arrived in Plattsburgh on March 18 to convince Hooker to accelerate his timetables. Incidentally, Hope Grant had actually initiated his grand attack that same afternoon, sending his elite Royal Guides cavalry and the 9th Lancers through the American lines to cut telegraph wires, destroy railroad lines, and capture messengers while advancing his main force, the 30, men of the Montreal Field Force.
General Geary's three brigades at Rouses Point and Champlain. The new British-Canadian tactics to negate the advantage of American repeating guns were highly successful in the destruction of the picket batteries in front of Geary's Second Brigade, led by Brig. General Charles Candy , at Rouses Point. In response, Candy had his men attack the British while information about the size of the approaching force was unknown. Geary's messengers sent to alert the third brigade in Chazy were intercepted by the 9th Lancers.
Geary's First Brigade, led by Brig. The Third Brigade men retreated into the houses and began picking off the outnumbered cavalry, so the Lancers retreated to the bridge north of town. Vivian, pulled his command together once the houses in Chazy began to catch on fire and set up two cannons to defend the bridge.
Silently, the Americans fixed bayonets and carried coffee mill guns closer to the road before attacking simultaneously. British units north and south of Vivian's men reacted by unlimbering artillery to fire case shot and redeploying into formation. Once the shells started to land, Vivian had his men and their prisoners retreat east off the road.
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The remaining British troops, advancing from north and south, made contact with each other in the dark and discovered the Americans had disappeared just as quickly as they had appeared. Winding their way east, Vivian met with Geary and his party retreating south, who reported the loss of contact with Candy's brigade. Hooker had his men de-train and prepare to march north while Grant took his cavalry retinue along with Sharpe north to Chazy. General Ruger , arrived in Chazy by 7: Hooker ordered Ruger to take his men and recapture the bridge, a difficult task during the day but nigh impossible during the night.
Sharpe advised Ruger to cancel the ill-conceived assault as the senior officer on the field, and a wounded Grant concurred. By March 22, Hope Grant's spoiling attack had lost its impetus. American artillery slowly gained the upper hand in the slugging match over the Chazy bridge, as the Americans had a greater supply of ammunition. Wolseley and Hope Grant agreed to a measured withdrawal that evening to prevent a flanking move spotted to the west. However, the flanking move believed by the British was, in fact, Custer's fast-moving cavalry moving around the British flank while the American artillery and large numbers of bonfires fixated British attention on Chazy.
The real American attack was made up of Maj. The XI Corps began its advance at 7: Because of the pre-sighted ranges, the American artillery took an unexpected toll on the British wagon trains, causing them to panic and stampede in the dark. Coffee Mill Guns fired into the dark to fixate British attention, and the gleaming helmets of Hope Grant's cavalry retinue caught their attention, killing several and wounding Hope Grant with a bullet to the leg and shoulder. Command once more fell into Garnet Wolseley's lap, and he ordered all haste to Coopersville Bridge before the XII Corps attacked over the bridge as was expected.
Wolseley ordered William McBean of the 78th Highlanders Foot to hold out for at least an hour on the north side of Chazy bridge in order to allow the Montreal Field Force to retreat. General Ruger led his men in a charge across the bridge with artillery fire in support, and was killed by a Highlander bayonet. The American attack faltered and fell back. Another two attacks were defeated at the high cost of leaving the 78th Foot with only men remaining. McBean had his men retreat up the road by 2: It had taken several hours of hard fighting and the assistance of several slower accompanying infantry units and artillery to reduce the small town and its defenders.
His target was Champlain, the cork in the bottle to truly trap the British in New York. However, the sole country road he took petered out into forest, and his men picked their way through the dark forest, getting lost and slowing down. By 4 AM, he had only advanced five miles north of Sciota, but his lead cavalry force, the 6th Michigan, had already arrived in Champlain.
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The Bridge was taken without casualties and the guards all taken prisoner. Even more serendipitous, a train with fifty boxcars of supplies sat on a nearby siding for the Americans to loot.
A Rainbow of Blood: The Union in Peril
Colonel Hecker's brigade followed behind Krzysanowski on the road to Coopersville Bridge, but British and Canadian units heading in the same direction ran into his rear guard at 4: By the heroic actions of an American private who raced to friendly lines to warn his comrades, the rearmost American unit, the 82nd Illinois , was able to form a battle line and fight off the oncoming attack of the Queen's Own Rifles led by Colonel Pitt-Rivers.
Hecker's units redeployed to retreat back to the other side of the bridge with the other Union brigade. The swirling battle in the dark was just as confusing for Wolseley as it was for Sharpe. The firefight to his north began to concern Wolseley, and General Sherman arrived in Chazy to take command from Sharpe. Sharpe had the goodwill to defer command to Sherman despite the fact that he would lose credit for the victory in the battle, but Sherman also complemented Sharpe's plan and brushed off the fact that his party had been shot at no less than three times by American pickets. Wolseley had decided that abandoning his troops in the midst of a firefight was unacceptable, and so deployed his troops rather than continuing his retreat.
McBean's Highlanders fought a running retreat, using the dark and the terrain to slow his pursuers. The British 11th Hussars led by Lt. Colonel Alexander Roberts Dunn , captured one of the American pickets and surprised the sleepy Americans with a charge over the bridge, killing the unarmed Americans outside. The 6th Michigan fired on the Hussars from inside the houses in Champlain, their Spencer Repeating Rifles far outweighing the British firepower.
The nearby 1st Michigan cavalry charged into town with sabers in hand, and met the Hussars in swirling melee. Custer and Dunn engaged in single combat, but the fight broke them apart. The rapidly approaching 55th Foot turned the cavalry battle into an infantry battle, and the Americans fought on dismounted. Custer fed any newly arriving men into the battle as soon as they arrived, but his ammunition began to run low, and by 6: A thunderstorm broke just as Custer fell back from Champlain, turning to roads into mud and effectively ending the battle. Ironically, both sides claimed victory, as Hope Grant's aim had been to spoil the American spring offensive, to which he had succeeded, but the Americans had begun from a poor position and responded very well, driving the British back to their previous siege lines.
Total British and Canadian losses were killed, 1, wounded, and 3, missing with 1, prisoners taken, while total American losses were killed, 2, wounded, and 2, missing with 2, prisoners taken. The high missing counts on both sides came from the prisoners taken during the fighting. With the foreknowledge of low American quantities of niter and British concentrations of gunpowder depots and storage facilities, President Lincoln initiated a daring raid on the British Isles to be made up of three parts: Of additional importance during the raid was the capture of British scientist and chemist Frederick Abel , a leading authority on alternate productions of niter.
The Washington-class dirigible was powered by a light steel steam engine that turned a propeller for propulsion, and carried specially redesigned 72 pound 9-inch shells as armament. The squadron advanced into the North Atlantic the long way, avoiding normal sea lanes and flying false colors. Nevertheless, by 26 March, three merchant ships had been spotted, two British and one Dutch, and the Russians pounced on them, sinking the British ships and sending a prize crew with the Dutch ship to sail slowly home.
The Russo-American squadron then split into two parts: Colonel Uhlric's men were the cavalry of the 1st Massachusetts , marines, and a battery of Gatling guns. All the soldiers were armed with Spencer Repeating Rifles. Of vital diplomatic importance was the Russian delivery of war before the fighting actually began, so Russian Ambassador in London Baron Phillip de Brunnow had the task of delivering the Russian declaration of war upon notification of Lisovsky's fleet reaching the open sea. However, an early delivery would hurt the chances of success, while a late delivery would be a severe political liability.
Estimating that the fleets would both strike on April 3, Ambassador Brunnow delivered the parcel to Foreign Minister Lord Derby's estate on the evening of April 2, but found Lord Derby not home. Brunnow asked the sole clerk of the residence to deliver the message as soon as possible, but the clerk misunderstood the urgency of the note and placed it in a pile with all the other foreign dispatches to be delivered the following morning. Accompanying the Americans was Lt. Rimsky-Korsakov and his two bodyguards.
The troops departed the boats at 7 am and took the customs official prisoner, and had secured the town, its telegraph station, and the railroad station by 11 am. The American troops then fanned out to their respective targets while spreading as much panic as possible. Colonel Charles Francis Adams Jr. In each place, Adams and his men cut telegraph wires, burned anything of military value, and proclaimed to the people that the Royal Navy had been crushed and that General Ulysses S. Grant was leading a mighty army to conquer Great Britain.
Meanwhile, Colonel Dahlgren took the other five companies of 1st Massachusetts cavalry west by train to their targets, arriving at the town of Romford an hour after leaving Southend-on-Sea. In Dublin, the Irish-American soldiers landed without opposition at 7: Meagher and his men achieved rapid success, capturing the Volunteer troops still in their barracks and seizing all targets save for the Viceroy, who fled north to concentrate the remaining garrison.
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Meagher took any deserters from the British volunteers to form new all-Irish units, but he was disappointed at how few came over. Likewise, most of Ireland held its breath at the newly arrived liberators, unsure whether to back the overwhelmingly powerful British Empire or the newly resurgent Irish Republic. Lisovsky and his six ships sailed at the mouth of entrance to Dublin, and were confused as ship after ship sailed on and were sunk. After bagging eighteen merchant ships that morning, Lisovsky upped his gamble by moving to the entrance of Liverpool by 3 pm and striking the merchant vessels waiting for the tide.
The burning hulks of ships all around, Lisovsky could only marvel at his luck. The source of Lisovsky's fortune was in fact Lord Derby's late wake-up and breakfast, such that he did not reach his dispatches and parcels until noon. Lord Derby rushed to London with this news, while his secretary took up news of the Russian declaration of war on the telegraph. Derby's message shocked the British government, which received word of Meagher's coup of Dublin first, having no real understanding of the threat in the Irish Sea nor any information of what was happening in Essex.
Dahlgren once more divided his force at the station of Romford at 5 pm, leaving men to guard the train station and rip up track and taking the other to Waltham Abbey. However, local riders moved in all directions to call for the Volunteer Force to mass on the American threat in Romford, and a telegraph was finally put through to London warning of the danger. Dahlgren and his soldiers arrived in Waltham Abbey by 5: Unluckily for the Americans, Sir Robert Wilson, ex-commander of the 9th Lancers, spotted the American troops and raced to Enfield to warn the militia. Dahlgren's men then split between a contingent to finish destroying the Royal Gunpowder Mills and the remainder led by Dahlgren, racing to destroy the Royal Smalls Arms Factory.
An hour later at 6: Though Disraeli at first dismissed it as fanciful, the cut telegraph lines to the region indicated their veracity, but the American Essex raid was confirmed when a shockwave reached London, followed by an enormous pillar of fire and smoke rising from Waltham Abbey. Dahlgren's troops met Wilson's militia in Enfield just as the powder mills detonated, concussing both sides and throwing men from horses; fire and chunks of rubble rained down on the area.
It was a number of minutes before both sides could regain some form of order, and Dahlgren demanded Wilson's surrender, which the latter vehemently denied, outnumbering the Americans three to one. Simultaneously, the troops defending Romford station were in serious trouble, only clinging on to the burning station from the firepower of the two Gatling guns brought along. The element of surprise was rapidly fading for the American raiders, and Adams and his troopers encountered heavier and heavier resistance at each Essex city.
At 7 pm, Wilson surprised Dahlren's dismounted cavalry with a charge from the front and rear, causing the Americans to panic. Dahlgren was stopped from entering the fray by Rimsky-Korsakov, who advised Dahlgren to flee and fight another day. Five of Dahlgren's company escaped, Rimsky-Korsakov and a bodyguard, an American private, Abel, and Dahlgren, and rode away to the east as the last vestiges of the defense of Romford fell. Taking shelter in the forests as night fell, they agreed to sneak east to the coast and take a boat to escape, since Lamson would almost certainly have left.
London was in a state of panic, and members of parliament and nobility fled north. Disraeli urged Queen Victoria to flee to her Channel Estate, but Victoria refused, stating that Queen Elizabeth would not have run from a Spanish invasion. Lamson and the marines in Southend-on-Sea became increasingly nervous as more and more time passed without the return of their forces. Lamson made the decision to leave at 9: Lamson had unintentionally been assisted by Meagher's seizure on Dublin, as British warships on the Thames steamed with all speed to the Irish Sea, rather than checking the two ships docked.
Just as Lamson was prepared to ship out, Adams arrived in Southend-on-Sea, and Lamson boarded him and his men and sailed away as fast as he could. After combing the countryside, the British found American dead and took another prisoners. Lisovsky split up his force to cover more ocean and catch more merchant ships, and ordered them to reconvene south of Ireland once they had run low on ammunition. As such, Captain Coles had been fruitlessly combing the seas until the evening of April 4, when he spotted outlines of burning wrecks on the horizon, a sure trail of Lisovsky's ships.
Coles used two large passing merchant ships to sail on either side of HMS Prince Albert to mask the size and type of ship it was. Lisovsky could only assume that the three ships were all merchant vessels until the turrets on HMS Prince Albert rotated and fired the largest guns in the Royal Navy, 9-inch guns, at yards at Alexander Nevsky. The ten-inch thick armor on the turrets repelled the IX-inch Dahlgren shells and the five-inch thick belt armor repelled everything else in the Russian arsenal.
Variag attempted to hit HMS Prince Albert from another angle, but had no Dahlgren guns to penetrate the British armor and instead tried to flee. Prince Albert ' s turret guns rotated and destroyed both rudder and propeller, causing Variag to strike her colors. The rest of the Russians were fought out and destroyed over the next several days.
Dahlgren and his companions carefully and quietly reached the marshes around the River Crouch by April 7. Behind him, Eastern England seethed with activity and Dahlgren had a , pound bounty on his head. In a battle with a small group of British cavalrymen of the 12th Royal Lancers near some boats, Rimsky-Korsakov was injured with a sword gash to the leg.
Of six lancers, four were killed, one wounded, and one captured. Dahlgren decided to take his chances in escaping without Abel, and released the two Lancers and Abel, indicating to the Lancers that the Russians and Americans would find refuge with the Irish in Eastern England. The ruse worked enough for the four remaining, including the increasingly sick Rimsky-Korsakov, to take a boat out into the North Sea, aiming for the Baltic and the closest friendly port, St.
The captain was overjoyed to take Dahlgren and the three others aboard, as Dahlgren was feted by the whole of Sweden, and was already lionized by the Prussians, Austrians, Russians, and ironically, the French, as the young conquering hero who had threatened the very establishment of Great Britain. Rimsky-Korsakov's wound was attended to by a doctor on the boat, and the captain took them back to Stockholm.
On March 17, two of Colonel Lowe's Washington-class hydrogen dirigibles, the George Washington and Nathaniel Greene , flew into Portland to deliver much needed supplies and ammunition. Major General Doyle of the Portland Field Force also had new weapons, special pivoting mountings for Armstrong guns allowing for the breech loading gun to be used as an anti-balloon gun battery. The Washington and Greene began to take fire from these batteries, but the shells passed through the gasbags without igniting. Doyle's guns did eventually find their mark, hitting the basket of the Greene and sending the dirigible to ground in flames, but Lowe avenged her by bombing the anti-balloon gun battery and then the British ammunition dump before returning to Portland.
The coming spring rains increased the sick lists, and the relentless siege wore down the morale and supplies of the defenders. Very early on the morning of April 3, after three days of continuous rain, Doyle launched a seaward sneak attack. After the marines silently took out the sleepy American sentries, British artillery on the landward side opened fire, giving the impression of a landward assault.
A rainbow of blood : the Union in peril : an alternate history / Peter G. Tsouras - Details - Trove
As most of the troops were on the landward defences, the marines sneaked through the town and took Portland by surprise, capturing Chamberlain at gunpoint from his headquarters. The British exchanged the American defenders of Portland back for prisoners of their own. Popov had begged Rear Admiral Charles H.
Bell of the California Squadron to lend his two steam screw sloops to the raiding party with their eleven Dahlgren guns, but Bell refused and remained defensively in San Francisco. Additionally in Popov's favor, the British squadron in Vancouver only had two corvettes and a couple gunboats, outweighed seventy guns to forty-two guns. After sinking six merchant vessels, Popov's lookout spotted the British ships preparing for battle. Commander of the squadron, Captain E.
Turnour of HMS Charybdis , felt an obligation to at least be defeated in battle rather than passively accepting the destruction of British ships. Turnour's two battle-ready ships, HMS Charybdis and HMS Alert , also had the immediate advantage of being close enough to support each other, whereas Popov's ships were spread out to catch more merchant ships. Turnour advanced on the first ship he saw, which was Popov's flagship Bogatyr. This meant that rather than the British being outgunned, it was Bogatyr unless it retreated. Instead, Popov ordered the attack, and the three ships advanced towards one another.
The first hit landed was by HMS Charybdis on the mast of Bogatyr , slowing the ship and masking its port-side guns. With his ship taking water, Popov ordered a boarding party to grapple HMS Charybdis , and he led twenty sailors and marines armed with pikes and cutlasses to the British ship. Rynda and Kalevala rushed to Bogatyr ' s aid but their way was interdicted by the trailing British gunboats. Bravely fighting, Popov died with his men on the deck of Charybdis , his sword refused by Turnour out of respect. The remaining Russian vessels were ignorant of the battle to their west and saw a large cluster of sails on the horizon, coming upon a British convoy of 23 merchant ships guarded by the Royal Navy.
Rear Admiral Sir E. Long's convoy escort caught up with the remaining Russian ships and sank all five of them, as Russian captains were prohibited from striking. Captain Turnour was feted by the whole of Great Britain, and was later knighted for his courage in the naval battle. On April 17, the British landed 5, men in San Francisco Bay, betting on the foggy weather to hide their transports from American guns.
The gambit worked, and the British took San Francisco from the landward side, as its defenses faced the sea. British forces then began rolling up any other American forces along the Pacific coast. On March 18, the French attempted a major assault on the parapets of Port Hudson, Louisiana after several days of siege bombardment.
Bazaine's Sudanese contingent charged out the parallel trenches in front of the USCT Corps D'Afrique, and became stuck on the abatis while taking the close-range fire of canister shot and coffee mill guns. The Sudanese melted away, and Bazaine's revenge on the Sudanese for their actions at Vermillionville was complete. On March 28, 6, cavalry under command of Maj.
General Benjamin Grierson arrived via boat in Port Hudson. Franklin intended to use them to wreak havoc on French supply lines, as there was no direct railroad line to the Franco-Confederate Siege lines, just a single mile road connecting the railroad junction of Ponchatoula to Baton Rouge, and another mile trek to the Siege lines. By April 4, Grierson's attacks on the blockhouses guarding the logistics roads had the effect of concentrating the French cavalry away from his real objective, the railroad hub of Ponchatoula.
On the afternoon of April 4, Rear Admiral Porter added his river gunboats to the deception, sailing downriver to bombard various Franco-Confederate positions and land marine raiders. By hiding weapons in carts full of logs, soldiers of the Corps D'Afrique were able to surprise and kill the French guards at the gate of the camp, which was followed by Grierson's cavalry charging to the gate with the rest of the Corps D'Afrique double-timing to the help of their comrades.
The Black soldiers took terrible casualties from French artillery, but they obstinately fought on and coffee mill guns were wheeled into position to negate the French artillery. The French attempted a bayonet charge on the forces gathering at the gate, and the Corps D'Afrique and cavalry met bayonet charge with bayonet charge in savage fighting. With weight on numbers on their side, the French were forced back towards the swamp until the survivors threw down their weapons and surrendered.
The freed slaves and soldiers were shown by Grierson's cavalry how to make Ponchatoula hairpins , heating iron rails until malleable and then wrapping them around telegraph poles. Grierson's men also found two new English locomotives and fifty railcars to loot and destroy. American espionage in spreading more money around in New Orleans had the effect of driving the French to redouble their efforts to spread their own influence and cash around, driving Confederate jealousy and paranoia to all time highs. With no more battles after Vermillionville to be had and only the grinding siege of Port Hudson at hand, Taylor infuriated Bazaine by pulling his Confederate troops out of the siege and redirecting them to cause trouble in Union held Arkansas and Missouri.
Bazaine was in New Orleans when the news of the destruction of Ponchatoula arrived on April With its main supply line severed, the French army in the field was in severe danger of being trapped between the Mississippi river and the unforgiving swamps of Louisiana. Bazaine chartered a steamer and ordered it north.
Deciding that the only realistic route to safety was the most difficult, he led his men on a retreat along the riverbank of the Mississippi. Franklin saw the opportunity to capture the entire French army if Baton Rouge could be retaken quick enough, and he ordered Grierson to push to Baton Rouge with all haste and sent two infantry brigades to Porter to steam downriver to Baton Rouge.
Porter escorted the troopships but came upon the head of the French army, and used the heavy mortar ships for besieging Vicksburg to bombard the French columns from only yards. The mortars and cannonades achieved gruesome casualties among the French, killing Douay and sending the leaderless lead brigades fleeing inland. Porter's infantry swept aside the minuscule defenses in Baton Rouge, and Grierson took command upon his arrival. The remnants of the French cavalry desperately tried to force their way through Grierson, but only a single squadron of the Chasseurs d'Afrique found a way south.
Franklin's two corps made contact with the rear of the French columns, which clumsily deployed into battle formation, but once more Porter's heavy mortar ships caused atrocious casualties. French units began to unravel as men tried to surrender or flee, but a veteran core fought on regardless, making brave but hapless targets for coffee mill guns and infantry repeaters.
Bazaine's steamer was hit by a shell from a monitor and he swam to shore, only to find the cavalry survivors from Baton Rouge. He rode south with them, but they one by one deserted until he returned alone. Given that it was now an active theater with the British participation in the conflict, President Lincoln, Lt. On April 15, Longstreet's Corps arrived at the James Peninsula completely unbeknownst to Smith because of the tenuous telegraph lines across the Northern Neck cut by Confederate cavalry and British control of the Chesapeake Bay.
Additionally, the 40, troops of the X Corps and XVIII Corps were spread mostly around the Plymouth-Norfolk area, unable to properly set into defensive positions because of British control of the waterways. Union attention was mostly focused on the heavy British naval bombardment of Fort Monroe. Field , landed behind the Union defenses by barges at Warwick Courthouse. Field's target was the town of Hampton , immediately behind Fort Monroe, and marched his 10, men south. Simultaneously, 8, Union men of Colonel Thomas G. The Texans charged the 34th, and the inexperienced Union Black troops broke and fled, pursued by the enraged Texans who killed without quarter.
Behind the 34th, the Black 54th MA Regiment heard the gunfire and formed ranks to present a firing line. The fleeing troops of the 34th regiment streamed through the ranks of the 54th, and the 1st Texas was hit by the point-blank fire of the 54th regiment, which pursued the 1st Texas to the unit behind it, the 4th Texas Regiment.
The 4th Texas in turn halted the Union advance, and two sides entered a slugging match. The 3rd USCT Regiment moved to support the 54th's right flank while Colonel Stevenson arrived with his brigade to take command and feed his men into the ongoing battle. On the western coast of the peninsula, a Union brigade moving north from Hampton Roads met another Confederate force, and the two sides engaged in grinding, short-range combat.
As Longstreet finally smashed through Weitzel's defenses around Yorktown, he rushed his two divisions south to end the stalemate at Big Bethel. Weitzel pulled his troops back behind the fortifications of Yorktown proper and could only watch impotently as the Confederates marched south. His lone mobile unit, Colonel Benjamin F. Onderdonk was fully prepared to defend the ford, dismounting his men, but Longstreet instead pulled back Lomax's cavalry and used his artillery to bombard the Union cavalrymen and their horses while moving his infantry in for an assault.
Onderdonk realized that his position was untenable, and sent a messenger to Stevenson informing him that the ford was under heavy attack and to retreat back to the landward defenses of Fort Monroe. Stevenson pulled his troops back unit-by-unit while the cavalry held the flank, and ordered the Newport News Brigade to fall back to Hamilton. Onderdonk's cavalry held their position until Lomax's cavalry made another appearance from a hastily built bridge to the west, rolling up the Union cavalry position and routing the cavalrymen.
In the west, the line of retreat of the Newport News brigade was cut off, and only men made it to Hamilton, the remainder surrendering. The Union defeat put Fort Monroe under attack by both land and sea, and the 15, freed slaves in front of Fort Monroe were seized and enslaved once more by the Confederates. Disappointed as they were with the untimely fall of Portland, the Army of the Hudson was shipped from their positions opposite the Montreal Field Force in Upstate New York to Kennebunk in Maine, site of the previous American defeat in October.
With this, Sherman had at his disposal some 60, soldiers. Without enough niter for gunpowder to last in a prolonged exchange through the vastness of Canada, the American war council decided on a knock-out blow by capturing Halifax, the sole large Canadian Atlantic port and lifeline of British supplies. Hope Grant and Wolseley understood this well enough, and their scouts reported the movement of the Army of the Hudson from New York to Maine during March through April.