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New Story announcedEdit

Every time I think I'm going to take myself off of the Videssos list, we get some piece of wonderful exciting awesome news that stays my hand.

Per Steven H. Silver: "Harry also just dropped me a line to let me know he sold another story to Tor.com. He is not sure, however, when "Lee at the Alamo" will appear." TR 22:29, May 5, 2011 (UTC)

Lee at the Alamo, huh? I assume he becomes some sort of adventurer in his youth rather than respectably going to West Point? That would be an interesting change-up for him. Turtle Fan 00:52, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
That seems a logical assumption. I suppose it's possible that HT is screwing with us, and he'll have a much older Lee make some sort of pilgrimage to the Alamo and meet the ghost of Davy Crockett or something. Or, HT could have Light Horse Harry live longer (but he'd have been just turing 80 at the time of the Alamo if he'd lived), or some other schmuck named Lee. But I'm inclined to believe this will be Robert E. at the Alamo.
You see it's here a Lee, there a Lee, everywhere a Lee a Lee, here a Lee, there a Lee, everywhere a Lee, a Lee! There's Arthur Lee! Bobby Lee! And General Light Horse Harry Lee! Willie Lee! Jesse Lee! and Richard H-- That's me!
Sure were a lot of them, though that would be a very cruel tease on HT's part. So would sending Old Man Lee to the Alamo for a little communing with the ghosts, even if it's in a Rebs Win timeline. Maybe especially then: Even if a Rebs Win timeline is a pretty dead horse to be beating at this point, there's got to be something more interesting to do with it than send Lee to the Alamo. Especially if this turns out to be a short that's set within TL-191. It would just make me sick if after all these years we get to explore the Lost Years of that timeline, and all we get is something this out of left field. (Or maybe since it's TL-191 I should say "out of the red zone" or some such.) Turtle Fan 15:42, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
This begs the obvious question: Does Lee change the battle, or does he die along with everyone else? I can't see the former happening; that was a battle that really boiled down to sheer numbers rather than any great strategy or tactic. If the latter, then it begs another question: is HT considering some sort of 19th-Century-without-Lee TL? (Based on other works like "The Daimon", I doubt it; based on the Evidence!, it's an inevitability). TR 14:48, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
Lee was 37 at the time of the Alamo. If he's an ex-US Army officer with an impressive service record who took an honorable discharge and turned to adventuring (and why would he do that? Maybe his wife died young and he decided to pull a TR?) he might be pretty high in the Texan command structure. Hell, conceivab-LEE he might even command the Alamo. Let's see what we can do with that.
No, he'd just turned 29 at the time of the Alamo (born in January, 1807; the Alamo was February-March, 1836). He could still attend and graduate West Point, though-he attended 1825-1829 in OTL, so some of the rest of your analysis could stand. TR 18:00, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
Of course, thanks. I use a lot of shortcuts for counting things in my head and every now and then one gets away from me. Turtle Fan 18:41, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
Maybe he's been in command for a long while, and using his military engineer's eye and his experiences with the coastal defense installations, he's decided the Alamo is hideously vulnerable and has been fortifying like there's no tomorrow? He did that on the Peninsula when he inherited command of the ANV and was so unpopular among the men he was forcing to dig that they derisively called him the King of Spades. Of course, all the ranks came around and respected and loved him soon enough, but that's another story.
Based on his age, I'd modify your proposal and suggest that he's an aide-de-camp or good strong right arm for Travis. That would place him in the position to change fortifications, etc. But I think you are on something.
I really don't know whether it would be possible to fortify the area around the Alamo to the point that it could have held out. I vaguely remember something about Santa Anna delaying the attack for days because he didn't want to cross a certain moat. But the numerical disadvantage still approached 20-1, steeper odds than even Appomattox; and unlike McClellan, Santa Anna wouldn't jump at his shadow till he was convinced Lee had more men than he did.
Yes, the numbers are the killer. From reviewing the history, if the garrison had been large enough, I suspect it would have been a perfectly defensible little fortress. An engineer, particularly an untested one, would probably make little difference. TR 22:03, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
It could be a very poignant, sad story in which Lee is convinced that his fortification plan will save the day, but in the end the Alamo is just as doomed as ever.
Or it could be that Lee brings numbers with him: A massive volunteer force of Virginians, or even a couple of regiments of the US Army, Jackson having decided to support the Texan cause openly.
You bring up Johnston later on. You are no doubt aware that Johnston was Lee's classmate at West Point, graduated the same year. This might be akin to HT writing in Molotov and the boys in "Joe Steele". TR 04:55, May 7, 2011 (UTC)
Yes, that could be. Of course, I suggested Johnston would be a better choice than Lee to do what's probably the only POD that would prevent the slaughter, give Santa Anna the Alamo but get the garrison out to offer battle in the future on more advantageous terms for the Texans. Given that the story is "Lee at the Alamo," having Johnston perform the critical action would be kind of lame. But then, he's got to sell the story, and Lee's a more marketable figure than Johnston. Turtle Fan 05:48, May 7, 2011 (UTC)
Actually that allows us to get Lee to the Alamo by following the orders of his duly-constituted superiors, which is a helluva lot more in his character than just leaving his career, family, and Northern Virginia society behind and going off on some frontier adventure. Go ahead, tell me it's easy to picture Lee in a coonskin cap using a Bowie knife to pick scraps of squirrel meat from between his teeth. Turtle Fan 23:35, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
His mother died after he graduated from West Point in 1829. That might be a plausible point where the always proper Lee said "Fuck it, I'm outta here." TR 04:55, May 7, 2011 (UTC)
Then as now, graduation from West Point entailed a five-year commitment, and while Lee did turn his back on the army and the flag when he felt strongly compelled to do so by his conscience (and it was a highly conscientious decision, even if it was appallingly misguided) I can't conceive of him shirking his duty out of purely personal reasons. Duty is the sublimest word in the English language.
Now maybe he spent his entire five year tour muddling through a deep depression that he just couldn't shake, and decided to leave in 1834, which would allow him to get to Texas with as much as a year and a half to spare. It would still be very unlike him, though. Turtle Fan 05:48, May 7, 2011 (UTC)
By the way, I have a vague recollection of reading about a group of table top wargamers who fought the battle thousands of times over. The Texans won about once every 400 rounds. Turtle Fan 23:35, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
I guess the other difference a commander could make would be to use the better part of valor before it was too late. Travis and Bowie always struck me as hotheads, and to my knowledge--which is slight, slight--there was no real strategic reason that the Texans had to hold the mission.
My vague recollection (and Googling did nothing to dispel or support it) was that in the long run, the battle helped buy Houston enough time to make San Jacinto possible. That wasn't the concious intent of the Alamo garrison; they were there to fight the bad guys, and they were pretty sure help was coming (which it wasn't). So I guess any strategic value was "emotional" and accidental, rather than based upon a reasoned assessment. TR 22:03, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
Maybe Lee convinces Travis and Bowie to withdraw, and in the short term it looks like he's saved the day, but then in the long term disaster ensues? Turtle Fan 23:35, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
A tactical withdrawal, a willingness to trade space for time, isn't really what Lee's famous for: After Gettysburg and Petersburg he withdrew because he'd gotten his ass kicked and had no choice, and during the Overland Campaign he fell back because Grant had the unmitigated gall to keep advancing despite casualties and Lee had to keep between the Army of the Potomac and the capital. I guess he wasn't forced to retreat at Antietam, but there was really nothing to gain by hanging around for another day, and even McClellan would have committed the reserve against him sooner or later (probably later, of course). If not, Lincoln would have sacked McClellan and replaced him with someone who would fight, and he wouldn't have waited until November in such a case. If you want a Confederate general who's likely to give Santa Anna the Alamo and move the garrison to a stronger position, Joe Johnston's the man. But he doesn't have a name to conjure with the way Lee does.
At any rate, I'm excited about the high probability of being able to write articles on Crockett, Bowie, Travis, and Santa Anna. I guess we already have one on Houston, but it's likely to get another section. Turtle Fan 15:42, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
Yes, there was a neat little story in Golden Reflections involving the Alamo, which left me trying to figure out how to backdoor those characters into our litle project here. TR 18:00, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
As tempting as that would be, we really can't, can we. But this will help. Turtle Fan 18:41, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
This may also justify a possible "Citizens of the Republic of Texas" category. TR 22:03, May 6, 2011 (UTC)
Actually, we could do it now, though it would be a bit backasswards: Sam Houston, Albert Sidney Johnston, Wright Patman. With an Alamo story on the horizon we've got growth potential, certainly. Turtle Fan 23:35, May 6, 2011 (UTC)

Here's one other possibility I just thought of: Lee's presence at the Alamo somehow dooms the Texan cause--perhaps by withdrawing with the best of intentions, and allowing Santa Anna to get the jump on Houston and avoid San Jacinto. This sets in motion a chain of events which leads to Mexico becoming the dominant power in North America. We don't actually see this happen, though, anymore than we saw Goliath beat David in "Occupation Duty." Instead, the actual story is set in the early twenty-first century and is told from the perspective of some Mexican cops cracking the heads of undocumented gringoes. For the sake of timely commentary he might even have them reference the fact that the governor--Dare I suggest naming her Joanna Cervecero?--has ordered them to demand papers from every blue-eyed person they see. I'd prefer a story that's actually about Lee at the Alamo, though. Turtle Fan 23:35, May 6, 2011 (UTC)

That idea could also work, although I too would prefer the story be about Lee proper. TR 04:55, May 7, 2011 (UTC)
Now that I think of it, an Ascendant Mexico timeline would be rich with promise, and I think Turtledove would be the perfect author for it, between "Occupation Duty" and "He Woke in Darkness." (I never read the latter, but it shows HT's mind works for that kind of inversion.) And "Next Year in Jerusalem," I guess, and hell, even "The Genetics Lecture."
But not here, not in this story. Turtle Fan 05:48, May 7, 2011 (UTC)

Summary at Tor's websiteEdit

Here. So Lee joins the Union? What's that got to do with the Alamo? TR 15:53, July 30, 2011 (UTC)

Well that wasn't terribly helpful.
My guess: I don't have any dates on these events, but the chronology went something like this: Texas seceded. Its secessionist government told the US Army to turn over all its supplies and installations to the Rangers and then get the fuck out. The commander in Texas, David Twiggs, whose home state of Georgia had also seceded, said "Yeah, here, take it. We'll leave." Buchanan and Scott heard of this, relieved Twiggs, and dispatched an officer from a northern state to go salvage the situation. Twiggs learned that his relief was on the way and invited the Texas Rangers into his HQ in San Antonio, of which the Alamo made up a part, so that he could claim it had been taken by force. He would soon defect to them officially and become a Confederate general, their oldest general that I know of (71). All of this, except for Twiggs's donning the gray, happened before the secession of Virginia.
In OTL, Lee commanded the 2nd Cavalry, which was part of the Department of Texas, for most of the 1850s. I believe he was on compassionate leave in Arlington in 1859 to execute his father-in-law's will. While he was there John Brown launched the Harper's Ferry raid, and if memory serves the rest went something like this: Scott realized that his favorite protege was just a short ride away and sent Lee to take command of the situation. Lee's successful handling of the raid led Scott to decide keeping Lee close at hand was a good idea as regional tensions mounted in and around the capital, and reassigned Lee away from the Department of Texas.
Assume Lee's father-in-law died at a different time, or Brown's raid was foiled before it could be launched, or happened at a time when Lee wasn't around. Lee returns to/stays in Texas and is still there when the secession crisis begins. I'm pretty sure he would be the second-ranking officer in the state. Virginia's continued loyalty (for the moment) equals Lee's continued loyalty.
Lee's out riding on the frontier somewhere when he receives Twiggs's orders, which he recognizes as illegal and invalid. He rides for San Antonio, arrests Twiggs, takes command of the Department of Texas, and countermands Twiggs's order. Since he didn't need to come all the way from the East Coast, Twiggs didn't have enough advance notice to bring the Rangers into HQ, but by the time his orders reached Lee at his remote outpost, and Lee had time to return to SA in force, Twiggs's orders are well on the way to being carried out elsewhere: Many of the US troops in Texas have left already, and the Rangers have already taken possession of most of their weapons, making them a match for the Second Cavalry. Deep Southern soldiers who had agreed with Twiggs mutiny, defect to the Rangers, and they all march on San Antonio with a force that outnumbers that at Lee's disposal. Despite a rather inauspicious historical precedent, Lee sees his best option as holing up in the Alamo and standing siege. . . .
Actually I think that's a pretty good guess based on the information provided: Virginia's secession or lack thereof decides Lee's loyalties, he's honor-bound to defend the Union, events are only slightly different, and the Alamo is involved. I can't imagine any other possible explanation that would satisfy all these points. Turtle Fan 03:51, July 31, 2011 (UTC)
Indeed, I think you've covered everything that we know about this story. One other possible detail might be that Lee did somehow have an opportunity to participate in the original Alamo, which would prompt him to redeem his honor now. That could account for why he picks that spot to fight. The only reason I suggest this is the shredded white flag behind Lee in the illo. White flag is the symbol of surrender, and the shape of Texas is part of the holes and shreds. TR 21:59, July 31, 2011 (UTC)
Another, much crappier option that occurred to me in the wee hours is that Lee is offered by Scott not command of the US forces marching into Virginia but of the Trans-Mississippi Department. Since he'd not be attacking his home state he finds this more palatable and launches an invasion of Texas instead, ending up besieging Confederate forces at the Alamo. I don't think I'd find that terribly interesting, though based on GotS HT does seem to be able to write Lee well.
As for the white flag, I was trying to figure it out myself. The Tor.com illustrations have been a lot more relevant than, say, Del Rey book covers, so it's not a fool's game to work it into the situation. The best I could do is that Lee is forced to surrender in the end.
The implications of this scenario would be interesting: armed conflict between the forces of one of the secesh states and the US Army before the secesh cobble together a centralized government and pool their military resources. The sovereign nation-states of Mississippi, Alabama, Louisianna, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina would consider themselves under no obligation to go to war on Texas's behalf, and I think it's safe to say that even if one or more of them offered to send militia to help the Rangers, Texas wouldn't want them. Still, full-blown war between one secesh state and the Federal government will certainly have implications for the situations of the other states.
Having this Alamo conflict as the first battle of the war, instead of Sumter, will have interesting political consequences. For one thing, only one secessionist state government is involved. For another, "Give us your fort" sounds more reasonable on the face of it than "Give us everything you own, equipment and forts both." (And yet in one sense it's not: Sumter was in US territorial waters, which would not be affected by SC's secession even if that secession were valid: State lines end at the highwater mark. The Alamo is at least within Texan territory.) My scenario calls for the Texans to be much more aggressive than Beauregard's outfit was in Charleston, so their actions won't play too well in the Upper South, especially if the Regular Army's hero is a Virginia man. That might just be enough to keep some combination of VA, NC, TN and AR from seceding, and to quell Confederate support in the border states.
Alas, that might not help Lee much. If the Rebs cut off San Antonio, it would take the US Army weeks to get a relief column in place, so Lee would have to break their siege of the Alamo and make a fighting retreat, unless he somehow manages to take the Rangers and mutinous Regulars off the board altogether in the process of breaking out--and I don't see how he could. The numbers wouldn't be as badly against him as they were against Bowie, but there'd be less for him to hold out for. He would probably eventually have to raise that white flag. Or, better yet, fight to the last man and end up just like his massacred predecessors.
Imagine how that would sully the reputation of the Texas Rangers, as they commit the very same atrocities that were visited upon their predecessors a generation and a half earlier at the sight of their most storied battle for independence. The memory of Robert E. Lee, heroic martyr of the Union cause, would be one to conjure with, and instead of John Brown's and Ellsworth's bodies a-mouldering in the grave, Federal troops could sing about Bob Lee as they march into battle. That's the kind of deliciously ironic reversal that makes AH so much fun. Turtle Fan 00:58, August 1, 2011 (UTC)
Also, I'm saddened to see that we won't have articles on Bowie, Travis, Crockett and Santa Anna. We might get posthumous references? I'd bet on it for at least one or two, though probably not for all. And an article on David Twiggs, while not the most exciting thing in the world, would be worth having. And if I'm right we'll have a pretty good chance of creating a James Buchanan article, which we used to have but deleted for dubious relevance. Every step that moves us closer to a complete set of Presidents is a win in my book. Turtle Fan 04:04, July 31, 2011 (UTC)
I imagine there would a couple of "we'll do better than Crockett, Bowie, and all them other fellows did against Santa Anna, right Marse Robert?" (well, Union men wouldn't call him Marse, would they) in the scenario you've posited. TR 21:59, July 31, 2011 (UTC)
Hmm, yes, probably. Especially if things start looking desperate.
By the way, reviewing Lee's service recod shows some minor problems with my idea, though not insurmountable ones. It was indeed pure serendipity that Lee happened to be available to go up against Brown, and the consequence was that Scott kept him in the capital for a while, but eventually he returned to Texas. He was still there when Twiggs committed his dereliction of duty and followed the orders he had to leave Texas. There'd have to be some other impetus for him to disobey Twiggs. Also he was a Lieutenant Colonel, so he wouldn't necessarily be next in line to take command of the Department as soon as Twiggs was arrested. Unless however many full colonels there were in Texas either left the state or threw in with the Rebs? That would be suspiciously convenient, but not unforgivably so. Turtle Fan 00:58, August 1, 2011 (UTC)

Here's a line from Wikipedia: "Twiggs then used their presence as an excuse to surrender the Alamo, the San Antonio arsenal...". (Emphasis mine) So your idea looks like it has strong perfectly ambulatory legs, TF.

Yes, I saw that when I was codifying my theory. Between a less-than-perfectly-secure Mexican border and Amerind tribes, Texas was a pretty rough place, which accounts for the size of the Department of Texas: one out of five US Regulars was attached to that command right before the Civil War started. It behooved the Department to have a strong fortress within its HQ in case San Antonio were threatened, and I believe the Alamo was that fortress. As we discussed above, it was a pretty good place to make a stand; it fell to Santa Anna in the end, but only after one of the most numerically lobsided battles in American history. Turtle Fan 18:20, August 1, 2011 (UTC)

As for Lee's decision to fight: He was in San Antonio at the time, and seemed rather upset by the secession. So perhaps he just decides he'll stay and fight for the Alamo. I also notice that in the illustration, Lee is wearing a star, suggesting he's a brigadier general. Maybe Buchanan asks Lee to stay, and sweetens his offer with a promotion to general (or brevet general anyway), which Lee accepts. TR 15:36, August 1, 2011 (UTC)

Knowing Lee, he wouldn't feel very comfortable with the idea of just throwing his superior in the stockade and taking command himself. He would be very eager to have his command confirmed by an authority high enough to make it stick. I'm sure he would immediately telegraph Scott appraising him of the situation (and offering to step down as soon as Scott appointed a new commander). I'm also sure Scott, who was painfully aware of just how little there was that he could do from Washington to rein in Twiggs, would be thrilled that his prized pupil had seized the initiative on the ground, and would happily run off orders making Lee permanent commander of the Department of Texas. And he could likewise prevail upon Buchanan, who seemed to be uncharacteristically concerned with the Texan situation (as compared with his malaise in the face of the rest of the secession crisis) to give Lee a quickie promotion so that he could shout down any pro-Twiggs or fence-sitting full birds who might say "No, I'm next in line!"
The thing is, though, the uniform that Lee is wearing in that picture is not a circa-1860 US Army uniform. It looks like a hodge-podge of the Confederate uniform we're used to seeing him in, the Texas Ranger uniform, and a circa-1846 US Army uniform. (So it appears to me, anyway; of the three, the CS uniform is the only one I could reconstruct from memory with any degree of accuracy.) We do know he remains in the US Army, though; it would be completely illogical to say "Well maybe he joins some unionist militia," as such a militia would be on the same side as the army Lee was already in, and that army would be better positioned to fight for the cause than this hypothetical militia. So I'm hesitant to look for clues there. These Tor.com illustrations are usually pretty helpful but they're not entirely accurate (tiny men on stilts didn't climb out of Shakespeare's brain in WHGTY, and the yellow Stars of David that Hitler made Jews wear were not appropriate to the period that the SD actors were recreating), so I'm thinking the illustrator may have taken a few liberties and created a fanciful uniform that invokes imagery of Lee and the Alamo, rather than the uniform of an army that is not ordinarily associated with either. (I'd put the Texas-shaped hole down to similar fancy, though I couldn't begin to guess what it's supposed to invoke.) Turtle Fan 18:20, August 1, 2011 (UTC)

Preview pages Edit

Here Not even close to the whole story, just page 16, then 25-27. So there's enough for the broad outline, and congrats TF, you seem to have been spot on.

Awesome. The hints that the blurb left really did seem to point pretty clearly in one direction to those of us who know a lot of background. Turtle Fan 22:28, August 21, 2011 (UTC)

I don't think we should try adding any articles yet. The story will be officially released in twoish weeks, anyway. TR 19:59, August 21, 2011 (UTC)

I'm amused that they're releasing preview pages of a short story at all. True, his short stories aren't so short anymore; back in the day they'd be no longer than the two-scene previews you get of the next installment when last year's summer novel is released in paperback. Turtle Fan 22:28, August 21, 2011 (UTC)
Now that I've read the preview pages, as opposed to responding to your comments, I'm thrilled that it's confirmed we'll get to create two new historicals in such a short section. I know nothing about Thomas's prewar service so I wasn't expecting him to show up. A second Virginian coming under fire should make the Rebs' cause even less popular in the Upper South.
Oh, and I didn't see page 16. I had a solid four-page block of 25-28, not 27, then got skipped ahead to page 51, which is, much to my disappointment, the copyright page. I wonder if they send something a little different each time that page is accessed? Might be worth our while to check back early and often if so. Turtle Fan 22:50, August 21, 2011 (UTC)
Weird, now I'm finding page 3, but then it jumps to 25.
I've tried it three times now and I've gotten 25-28 and 51 each time. Turtle Fan 22:41, August 22, 2011 (UTC)
Anyway, page 3 does give us the posthumous references to the original Alamo defenders. Based on the context, we can readily justify articles on Crockett, Travis, and Bowie when the time comes. The search feature also confirms Santa Anna and Buchanan will get articles. TR 15:31, August 22, 2011 (UTC)

TwiggsEdit

Twiggs gets one hit in the Search Inside: only one, so I'm assuming he doesn't appear, which has me a bit disappointed; I was hoping for a dramatic scene where Lee confronts Twiggs with armed men at his back and takes over his command in a really badass way. Instead it looks like his health fails him some months before the secession crisis begins and Lee assumes command of the Department (and unhappily at that), though with the second half of that "looks like" I'm extrapolating quite a bit from a hit that's less than one full sentence.
It's worth remembering that the Google search isn't foolproof. I remember before TBS actually dropped, the Google search would find a few things, but not everything. After it was published, the search found more things. So maybe Twiggs does more, but since the story is unpublished, we don't get to "see" that yet. TR 00:39, August 23, 2011 (UTC)
The phrase in question, which is on page 1, says "He wished illness hadn't kept Brigadier General Twiggs from assuming command of the department a couple of months before . . . " My assumption is that "he" is Lee, because knowing HT's style as I do (and I'd better, by now) that reads like part of an internal monologue, and it's unlikely that the first page of the story would be narrated by anyone other than Lee, even if this does end up being a multi-POV short (which itself has not happened yet at Tor.com and is quite rare elsewhere). I guess the story could open right away with McCullough in Lee's office delivering the revived RoT's demands, and Lee could be thinking that McCullough wished he were dealing with Twiggs, but I digress.
More to the point, I take that to mean that the PoD is that Twiggs is long gone before the secession crisis begins. Which is mildly disappointing; I thought the PoD was going to be something that affected Lee more directly and originated within his biography.
In reviewing the history, it seems Twiggs was sick throughout 1860, but was able to return on December 13, 1860. Lee was his replacement. So it sounds like in this case, Twiggs isn't so much "long gone" as "not coming back" as he did in OTL. Thus, it does affect Lee directly, and does originate in part from his biography, although it does get back more to Twiggs' health. [1] TR 18:20, August 23, 2011 (UTC)
Huh, look at that. So either Twiggs stays on sick leave and Lee continues pinch-hitting, or Lee gets the job full time when Twiggs realizes he's not going to get back to fighting shape and retires. I guess the former would offer dramatic tension as Lee has to assert his authority under the most trying circumstances while having that accursed title of "Acting Commander" around his neck, and must work that much harder to win his men's trust. At the same time, I hope it's the latter because Lee's the man and Twiggs was an asshole. Turtle Fan 22:08, August 23, 2011 (UTC)
By the way, in the meat of the preview Thomas addresses Lee as "Colonel." You usually address a lieutenant colonel as "Colonel" anyway, especially if he outranks you. However, keep in mind that the Department of Texas was 3200 officers and men strong--which sounds almost laughable if you hold it beside even the smallest ACW field armies of either side, but remember that the US Regulars had 16,000 men under arms in 1860, so one man in five was under the commander of DepTex (which is no doubt what the armed forces and the Defense Department would call it today, given their fondness for stupid-sounding abbreviations and portmanteaus). A man with that large a chunk of the army under him should really be a general: a brigadier general (which is what Twiggs was), given the smallness of the army and the fact that in the Antebellum even major generals were rare as hen's teeth. Two of the thirteen Commanding Generals to serve between 1783 and 1861 were BGs (and another was a major--really!)
A colonel could do in a pinch, given how slowly promotions came in that army, but surely a lieutenant colonel would not be up to the job. We'd discussed Lee's rank above,based on the star he wears on the collar of his very very un-US Regular jacket. He was a lieutenant colonel in OTL, but maybe he's promoted to colonel if he's assigned as the permanent commander of DepTex before the fighting begins? (Carlos Waite, whom Buchanan appointed as the new commander of DepTex after issuing orders relieving Twiggs, and whom he dispatched from Washington to San Antonio without any real hope he'd get there in time to make a difference, was a colonel, appropos of nothing.) He's certainly not a general, or Thomas wouldn't have addressed him as colonel. Unless Lee in any timeline affects the style of wearing a colonel's rank insignia despite being entitled to a general's? I jest, of course.
Now that I think of it, if Lee wears an eagle on his shoulders while serving as commander of DepTex (not ACTING commander, which he would have in the originally proposed scenario) we'd arguably have a new IFiMT item: colonels as army commanders. Terry DeFrancis in IatD (Colonels command US armies in Texas?) though we can really only half-count him because Abell did say they were going to give him a star before ordering him to take over te Fightin' Eleventh; and Colonel Mustard in LA, though again, half credit because he was part of a troika and was very much the third wheel, even if he was the most important and qualified. Of course, even if you're cool saying .5+.5+1=2, we probably shouldn't add new content there till we've figured out just what we want to do with it. Turtle Fan 04:10, August 23, 2011 (UTC)
I think the Lt. Colonel Lee does in a pinch argument will have to do since Lee often did just that in OTL. TR 18:20, August 23, 2011 (UTC)
It could. Though if Twiggs has retired, as opposed to being out indefinitely, Lee may have been promoted to colonel along with the orders to assume command of the department permanently. Doing a brigadier general's job while receiving a colonel's pay (or a colonel's job while drawing a lieutenant colonel's pay, or a lieutenant colonel's job while drawing a major's pay, etc) was pretty common in the Civil War and earlier (and the War on Terror, based on my brother's stories) but being two ranks below what his assignment calls for would be a bit of a slap in Lee' face. He wouldn't complain, of course, but everyone above and below him would know it was bad form/an insult. Turtle Fan 22:08, August 23, 2011 (UTC)
But an offstage reference is still good for an article, so this peek--just a peek, mind you--at a short story has already confirmed we'll be writing eight new historical figure articles on Thomas, McCullough, Crockett, Bowie, Travis, Santa Anna, Buchanan, and Twiggs: already tying HT's most recent full-length novel. It pays to go off the beaten track of AH, if you measure success by the number of smiles on the faces of the editors of an independent wiki based on your work. And this isn't even that far off the beaten track: It's still the ACW, just before most of the big name figures force their ways into the limelight.
No hits for Winfield Scott, though, and not for "Winfield" nor "Scott," either. I find it hard to imagine a story about Lee at this point in his life and with this subject matter that could avoid making reference to Scott altogether, but the apparent omission has not diminished my excitement. I can't think of anyone else to search for by name, other than Sam Houston, whom we already have. It looks like we will be adding a rather meaty section for him, though, which is good, because our 191 section is really pretty tenuous: "The US named the new state of Houston after good old Sam because he had been a unionist in his time." Turtle Fan 22:41, August 22, 2011 (UTC)
See my above comment on Google search's fallibility on unpublished works, re: Scott. Houston--yes how awesome is that? TR 00:39, August 23, 2011 (UTC)
Google Search/Scott: This is my first time using it so I'll defer to your expertise.
"Experience" is more accurate than "expertise". Scott could go unreferenced in the end. TR 14:44, August 23, 2011 (UTC)
Which would be odd. Turtle Fan 22:08, August 23, 2011 (UTC)
Houston: Very. Turtle Fan 04:10, August 23, 2011 (UTC)

Tangenting a little--based on the preview pages, HT seems to be continuing his streak of solid-to-great stories at Tor.com. Clearly the format and medium agree with him.

I know, it's really revitalized his writing. Maybe the commercial pressures are less, or at least different, so he's able to write stories that are more labors of love? They do involve a lot of off-the-beaten-path POVs/odd premises, and he's certainly having fun with them. Turtle Fan 22:08, August 23, 2011 (UTC)

Also, while I don't think the world desperately needs another long form ACW AH work, this story does seem like it could lay a potentially interesting foundation for a larger work. TR 15:35, August 23, 2011 (UTC)

ItPoME seemed to be a promising setup for a long form and we wound up with a pretty blah novel. You're right, though. I'd really love to follow the fallout of some but not all of the secesh states waging war against the Union before they had (if I may) confederated. Assume that the Upper South, where the CSA's real military might always lay, stays loyal because all secessionists end up painted with the brutally aggressive brush of McCullough's men: I'd say that's a pretty reasonable assumption. Sooner rather than later, the North, Midwest and Upper South would get around to rolling over Texas ("Remember the Alamo!") and would surely not stop there. So a much more nationwide army crushes a very decentralized Deep Southern rebellion in fairly short order.
In some ways that's bad. No lengthy war of attrition to force the US onto its ultimate war footing means the US does not necessarily become North America's dominant military power (which weakens without destroying the case for the BNA of 1867 in Westminster, by the way) though I don't foresee Mexican or British conquest dcoming down the pipe, either. A relatively quick and bloodless war doesn't forge the same rockhard (well, as much so as can realistically be expected in a multicultural democracy) commitment to the cause that eventually emerged in most of the North. The fact that the Upper South is staying loyal means it's not a regional conflict, and the perception of Southern=Reb (inaccurate in OTL as Johnson and Farragut and Thomas and Pierpont and so many others showed, but firmly entrenched just the same) can't take hold. The combination of these two things could very well avert the leftward swing that occurred in the North during the war years and paved the way for the ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, all of which would have been the province of the radical fringe in 1861 in all but a few northern and western statehouses. Yes, that would make for an interesting timeline. . . . Turtle Fan 22:08, August 23, 2011 (UTC)

It's Up Edit

And HT does continue his solid run over at Tor.com. And we do get Winfield Scott, among a few others. And I think because it ends the way it does, there is plenty of Evidence! HT will turn this into a series.

In all seriousness, if HT did a series of stories about REL similar to his Super Basil stories, that would be just dynamite. TR 17:36, September 7, 2011 (UTC)

Huh, I guess today is the day, isn't it. Forgot all about it. I'll check it out later. Turtle Fan 21:03, September 7, 2011 (UTC)
Excellent story. While I guessed the premise correctly, I see I was a ways off with my thoughts on the ramifications. I'm glad Lee and his garrison weren't massacred. I was mildly surprised that McCulloch gave them safe conduct, and when Lee destroyed the materiel I was sure McCulloch would break that agreement.
Letting the garrison live was certainly preferable to the alternative from the story-telling perspective. TR 04:33, September 8, 2011 (UTC)
Depends on what HT wanted the story to be about. He may well have wanted a grim story (which is what the last two Tor.commers were) about how Lee became a martyr for the Union, a more substantive analog of Ellsworth. Then the story could be turned over to another POV for the final act. Turtle Fan 14:30, September 8, 2011 (UTC)
I was wrong in predicting the Upper South would remain Unionist. In retrospect, I guess seizing the Alamo was no more outrageous than seizing Fort Sumter. The only real difference is that Beauregard was more patient than McCulloch. He was also more cultured and sophisticated, but while the aristocracy running the Confederacy may have scorned uncouth white trash like McCulloch and Forrest and Quantrill, they knew they were all in it together.
I was worried Lee would go with the Rebs as in OTL. Having already fought for the Union cause, his argument that "I didn't know Virginia had seceded yet" really was exposed for the flimsy and arbitrary thing it is. The assignment to the Western Theater is reminiscent of the recruitment officer's offer to Walsh to keep him out of fronts where he'd be fighting alongside the Germans. We really need to get IFiMT back.
And on the topic of parallels, there's the Macbeth line and the possible foreshadowing I picked up on and put in the lit note on the Shakespearean Allusions article (remember that one?) Do you suppose it was intentional? It's very clever stuff, if so, and while HT is certainly capable of subtlety, I would have thought such a thing beyond even him. And the line does fit in perfectly for its own purposes on the face of it, though it stands out just a bit coming in the middle of Thomas's folksy dialogue.
I was going to ask why, if Lincoln intended to make Lee an army commander and awarded him a promotion on his return, he didn't make him a major general. (Command of all forces in the Mississippi Valley would demand no less, even in an army that was still transitioning out of its deflated rank structure.) My guess is because then the US would have needed to exchange him for a Confederate general, and they hadn't captured any. I'm not sure how that works, really. Do you exchange one prisoner for another of the rank he held at the time of his capture, or at the time of the exchange in the event it changes?
It strikes me as reasonably consistent with the rather half-assed handing out of generalships both sides engaged in during the ACW. "Even a hero like Lee just should't go from light colonel to maj. gen." TR 04:33, September 8, 2011 (UTC)
The Rebs weren't too half-assed about it. The US Army had had a three-star rank in theory since the days of the Second Continental Congress, but it was vanishingly rare; I believe Grant was only the third or fourth LG in the long lifetime since Washington held the rank. The four-star rank was invented at the very end of the war to express the nation's gratitude to Grant and has been with us ever since. The CS Army made full use of the lieutenant general rank and also immediately invented and made full use of the full general rank. If you want army commanders over corps commanders over division commanders over brigade commanders, you really do need four levels like that. The only problem with the CS generalships, aside from the fact that so many of them were given to putzes as was also true on the Union side, is that they used one rank insignia for all four grades, and even then didn't care if generals wanted to chuck that insignia altogether and wear a colonel's stars.
But happily, with Lee on our side now, Confederate rank structure is irrelevant to the question. Turtle Fan 14:30, September 8, 2011 (UTC)
Anyway, I'm glad to have Lee on our side. In the comments section I see there's already speculation about how the Western Theater will go differently with Lee in Halleck's place. I'm wondering how his absence will affect the Eastern Theater. He didn't have too great an effect on the primary front in the first year of the war in OTL, so let us assume that McClellan still makes a pathetically hesitant offensive up the Peninsula and that he is opposed by Johnston until Johnston is wounded, same as before. Who commands the Army of Northern Virginia after Johnston's wounding? Longstreet? DH Hill? Will there be just one? Lee was one of Davis's favorites, which spared the ANV political meddling that the other Rebel armies were cursed with. The only other officer who enjoyed Davis's favor to such an extent was Bragg, and if he were in command in Virginia, Richmond would fall quite quickly. McClellan, Pope, Burnside and Hooker may not have been the best generals, but any one of them would be Bragg's equal at worst, and Hooker's battle plan at Chancellorsville in particular would have sent Bragg reeling. So if not Bragg, would we see a quick succession of ANV commanders as we saw a similarly quick succession of Army of the Potomac commanders up until Gettysburg? Turtle Fan
Those were among some of my first thoughts. As you said, for the first year, there wouldn't be much difference. Bragg, as one of Davis's favorites sure seems like the initial choice. Upon reviewing his history, Bragg was nothing if not aggressive. He liked his frontal assaults. He might actually look like he's successful if he's fighting McClellan in the beginning (who didn't like frontal assaults). Once Lincoln finally sacks McClellan and replaces him with, well, anyone else really, I think Bragg's career begins crashing two years early.
Bragg would drive McClellan off the Peninsula quite quickly, but at high cost. If he led the Antietam Campaign or a close analog of it, he might very well get the ANV bagged; Lee, who was a helluva lot better, only got back to Virginia with his command intact by the skin of his teeth and a knowledge of how to bluff McClellan. On the other hand, since it was so easy to bluff McClellan, he may have pulled it off.
He fought against both Hooker and Burnside in OTL and both men beat him. He never fought Pope but while Pope was nothing special I'd give him at least a slight edge. i can't imagine him beating Meade. Of other potential commanders, the only real threats are Porter and Sumner: Porter would just be more of the same if he replaced McClellan, which is why he never would. Bragg and Sumner would pobably throw men at each other into mutually destructive engagements till the remainder of one or both armies mutinied. Run Bragg against any other potential AoP commander, against Reynolds or Kearny or Slocum or Couch or Franklin or even Butler, and he's finished.
However, on further review, Bragg was already with the Army of Tennessee before Shiloh, and after the other Johnston bought the whole farm instead of a piece of it, he was second-in-command. Beauregard fell out of Davis's favor after Corinth and Davis was very interested in having his own man close at hand. He didn't take command of the army until June 17, sixteen days after Johnston's wounding at Seven Pines, when Davis busted Beauregard for being AWOL--which technically he was, but it was still an asshole move. Unlikely Davis would drag him all the way to Virginia when he would have felt he needed him there. Too bad. Turtle Fan 14:30, September 8, 2011 (UTC)
From the "cool story-telling" approach (or the "twee" approach, depending on your view), Stonewall Jackson vs. Robert E. Lee is a tempting proposition.
It is, but the conditions Lee placed upon his acceptance of his assignment render that a very remote possibility. Turtle Fan 14:30, September 8, 2011 (UTC)
Longstreet also has that "cool" factor, although I think Jackson gaining Davis's favor is more plausible. TR 04:33, September 8, 2011 (UTC)
Not so sure. Jackson was goodbut Davis's favor did not attach based solely on quality of performance; notice that he liked Bragg better than Johnston. Hell, he even liked Hood better than Johnston, till Hood made it completely and totally impossible to be liked by anyone. Longstreet wasn't one to curry political favor, but I do think he would have fit in better among the people who did earn Davis's favor.
The thing is, I've got a sinking feeling that Longstreet in command of the ANV could have held us off till Doomsday. He wouldn't be tempted by the kinds of chancy counterattacks that gave the Army of the Potomac its only opportunities to win a little glory in the first half of the war, so the numerical disadvantages that made it harder and harder for the ANV to win would mount much more slowly. He knew how to grab the ground that the Union would absolutely have to advance across, and I don't think he was ever once forced to abandon a position once he'd established his lines. It wouldn't be a terribly exciting form of heroism--which does introduce the possibility of Davis losing patience with him and replacing him--but if he could maintain a stalemate for a few years and run down the clock, it would most likely be northern willpower that breaks first.
The hope is that meanwhile Lee is covering himself in glory in the West, so Northern and Western voters would have enough progress to keep up their resolve. But if the Western armies are sweeping the field before them, that's just going to make the voters and people like Wade and Stanton even more impatient with whatever poor saps can't get around Longstreet. And you can't bring Lee east to finish it off because he'd retire if ordered to invade Virginia. Hopefully Thomas or Grant or Sherman or someone is out there studying at his elbow. Turtle Fan 14:30, September 8, 2011 (UTC)

Well, I've read it and enjoyed it. Not being a history buff, I'll let you two work up the articles. When I came to the part where "Texas Militia" members first approached Lee, my immediate thought was that HT was inspired by Rick Perry's comments about Texas secession to militia types in 2009. But a comment he makes in response to readers comments indicates he was inspired by Bruce Catton's The Coming Fury many years ago. ML4E 19:58, September 9, 2011 (UTC)

I was surprised that they were a red-armbanded militia (another IFiMT--Roosevelt's Unauthorized Regiment) instead of the Texas Rangers. I thought perhaps that the Rangers can't act without the governor's authorization, and the governor was a unionist . . . But that was true in OTL as well, and it didn't stop the Rangers from receiving Twiggs's surrender. Turtle Fan 04:48, September 10, 2011 (UTC)

Embarrassment of Riches!Edit

The eight mentioned on the forum, plus you've found Scott, and though I'm still on the first page I've already found EB Babbit and Juan Cortina, plus reference to "any of the other three candidates" in the 1860 election, two of whom have never been referenced in HT canon before--We're already up to thirteen! And to think that in all of TBS we only got eight, a few of whom were terrible stretches. Turtle Fan 02:07, September 8, 2011 (UTC)

Also Edward Clark. And we can beef up short articles on a number of other people, including that worm McClellan. Turtle Fan 03:17, September 8, 2011 (UTC)

New IdeaEdit

Is it possible that "Lee Goes West" is a shout-out to Gingrich's "Grant Comes East"? Just a thought that occurred to me when I read the new paragraph in the article. ML4E 21:02, December 21, 2011 (UTC)

You know, just earlier I was thinking about GCE. It really was a good book. Turtle Fan 00:27, December 23, 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia Article CreatedEdit

Well, I've finally got the Wikipedia article for Lee at the Alamo created if anyone whats to see it. --JCC the Alternate Historian (talk) 20:30, October 14, 2019 (UTC)

Going to give that another try? Good luck. Turtle Fan (talk) 02:19, October 15, 2019 (UTC)
I've been editing on Wikipedia for over six years (remember my IP days?) Turtle Fan and since 2017 I have had an account. Despite what the douchebags did to my sandboxes, the website still needs me. I've created nearly 300 articles for Wikipedia (mostly US State Presidential Election articles) and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon. --JCC the Alternate Historian (talk) 20:50, October 15, 2019 (UTC)
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