Great War (series)
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|Part of Southern Victory|
The Entente Powers depicted in green, the Central Powers are in orange, and neutral countries are in grey.
Co-belligerentsCongaree and Black Belt Socialist Republics (1915–1917)
Other African American resistance groups
Irish Rebels (1916–1917)
Co-belligerentsMormon rebels (1914–1915)
|Commanders and leaders|
Franz Joseph I #
Dom Pedro IV
Jeb Stuart Jr.
Jerome Hotchkiss †
Prince Arthur Albert
Pierre Lapin †
Francisco Jose I
Herber Louis Jackson (POW)
Wendell Schmitt (POW)
Great War is an alternate history trilogy novel by Harry Turtledove, which follows How Few Remain. It is part of Turtledove's Southern Victory series of novels. This trilogy is an alternative imaginary scenario of World War I, between 1914 and 1917, as a result of the Confederate States' victory over the United States in 1862.
The Great War saga
Smarting from two defeats at the hands of the Confederate States of America, which was allied with the United Kingdom and France, the United States of America has turned to an alliance with the strengthening German Empire as well as Austria Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. The US military has been reformed along German lines, and gets a great deal of technical assistance from Germany, especially with regard to fighter aircraft. The antebellum Republican Party has mostly collapsed, discredited by the defeats, leaving the right-winged Democratic Party and the left-winged Socialist Party (whose rise was aided by the defection of former President Abraham Lincoln and his supporters from the Republicans to the Socialists) as the main political parties in the United States.
When in 1914 the Great War breaks out in Europe following the Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie by car bombing, both the USA and CSA join almost immediately on the side of their respective allies, and the USA is fighting a two-front war against Britain's primary representative on North America, Canada and Newfoundland to the north, and the Confederate States to the south. In eastern North America, the conflict soon bogs down into trench warfare, while in the West the battle lines are more fluid. Various characters are traced through the war, with several male characters changed forever by their military service. In South America, Chile went to war with Argentina.
In this series, the war remains known as "The Great War" and the term "World War" never comes into use. When a second war of comparable proportions breaks out twenty years later, it get named "The Second Great War" and the earlier one becomes retroactively "The First Great War".
1914: Declaration and invasion
The Austro-Hungarian Imperial Crown Prince and Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia are both assassinated by a bomb while touring the city of Sarajevo in the newly annexed Austrian province of Bosnia-Herzegovina in June 1914. The Austrian government quickly learns that a Serb group was responsible, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire quickly accuses the government of nearby Serbia of colluding with the terrorists. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia backs Serbia, while Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany backs Austria-Hungary. The major powers of each system mobilize their militaries, effectively signifying their intent to go to war. In August 1914, the "Great War" begins, initially putting Great Britain, France, and Russia against the Empires of Germany and Austria-Hungary.
Across the Atlantic, Democratic President Theodore Roosevelt orders the U.S. military to mobilize in late July, following Germany's lead. In response, Confederate President Woodrow Wilson orders the C.S. military to do the same. Fighting soon breaks out on their common border and the high seas.
The United States officially brings the war to North America when Roosevelt declares war on the Confederate States in early August 1914. Confederate President Wilson responds in kind, although he had hoped to avoid a war. Wilson's speech, given in a tightly-packed public square of Richmond, Virginia decorated with statues of southern war heroes George Washington and Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston from the War of Secession, becomes particularly famous.
Hoping to emulate General Lee, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) launches a massive invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania in August, targeting the northern de facto capital of Philadelphia. The ANV quickly overruns the de jure capital of Washington, D.C. and pushes on through Maryland.
The U.S. Army takes a different approach and orders the U.S. First Army under Lieutenant General George Custer and the U.S. Second Army under Major General John Pershing to cross the Ohio River and invade Kentucky. Although Confederate resistance is high, especially from river gunboats modeled after the original iron-clad U.S.S. Monitor of the 1860s, the U.S. succeeds in establishing a bridgehead on the southern bank. U.S. forces also invade western Virginia, aiming for the rail junction at Roanoke, Virginia, which comes to be known as "Big Lick".
A separate U.S. invasion of Sonora, intended to capture the Confederacy's sole Pacific Ocean port of Guaymas, soon becomes bogged down. A young army captain named Irving Morrell is wounded in this venture, and spends much of the next six months recuperating in Tucson, New Mexico. (Arizona is part of New Mexico in this timeline.).
The U.S. also launches attacks on Canada, specifically in Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec. Perhaps the most successful manoeuvre during these early stages of war is the U.S. Navy's capture of the British base at Pearl Harbor in the Sandwich Islands in a surprise attack.
1915: Stalemate and rebellion
Both American offensives soon stall, however; the U.S. armies find it difficult to push south, and the Army of Northern Virginia is slowed by the winter of 1914–15. The Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania soon grinds to a halt at the Susquehanna River, only 50 miles from Philadelphia. From that high-water–mark, U.S. forces slowly start to push the Confederates back into Maryland.
Although the U.S. forces easily conquer the southern bank of the St. Lawrence River, crossing it proves another matter. The geography of the Niagara Peninsula soon bottlenecks the invading army. Though Winnipeg, Manitoba, as a major rail junction, lies relatively close to the U.S. border, the War Department allocates too few troops to capture it.
Trench warfare becomes ubiquitous as each side digs in for protection from machine guns. Troops huddle in these trenches as heavy artillery in their rear pounds the enemy lines night and day. They dread the order "Over the top!" which means they have to leave the safety of their lines to charge into No man's land, in the hope of capturing the enemy trenches on the other side. The US, drawing on German chemical expertise, seeks to push forward using chemical warfare. The use of chlorine gas, however, makes only minor gains. Far from the quick, glorious conquest each side had imagined, the "Great War" becomes a long, bloody stalemate.
Early in 1915, another front opens when the Utah Mormons attempt to secede from the United States and declare themselves the independent nation of Deseret. Mormon relations with the rest of the country had been hostile since the Utah War of the 1850s and the brief uprising during the Second Mexican War. They wrongly believe that the distracted U.S. government will be unable to subdue them. However, as Utah sits on one of the major transcontinental rail lines, President Roosevelt states the U.S. will not tolerate unlawful rebellion. The Mormon rebellion rages until mid-1916, when it is finally crushed and Salt Lake City is captured. Utah is then placed under military rule by Roosevelt, a situation that will continue until the 1930s.
In the autumn of 1915, as the armies of the Confederacy are fighting those of the United States along the border regions, the C.S.A.'s blacks rise up in revolt. Bitter over their treatment by the whites, and fueled by a rhetoric of Marxism and the teachings of Abraham Lincoln, the blacks declare "Red Revolution" in several areas across the C.S.A. and establish "socialist republics," while massacring whites and seeking justice against their former white masters; most trials are shams, however, and the executions brutal. These rebellions are gradually crushed by 1916, although white justice mellows somewhat as thoughts are preoccupied with winning the war. Ironically, the lasting effect of the "Red Revolt" is to make white people start to believe in the military potential of blacks.
Taking advantage of the Confederacy's plight, the U.S. First Army marches into western Tennessee after slogging through western Kentucky, while the C.S. Army of Northern Virginia is pushed south toward Washington. In mid-spring of 1916, a new armored technical advance called the "barrel" (referred to as a tank by the British, in the story's timeline the latter term never catches on) is introduced to combat for the first time by U.S. forces operating in the Roanoke River Valley of southwestern Virginia.
In this case, as in our time line, the name of the vehicle comes from the cover name used. In Britain, those assembling the vehicle were told they were mobile water tanks; in this time line, they are coded 'barrel,' though there is some indication something called a 'barrel' was coming. Private Reginald Bartlett, escaping with a Confederate naval officer, heard U.S. soldiers singing a song, "Roll Out the Barrels" (not related to our timeline's Czech/Bohemian polka music "Rosalinda", which became popular in 1938 and was given the English-language lyrics "Roll Out the Barrel").
While in Tennessee, Lieutenant General Custer transforms his tactics for cavalry into a doctrine for the new barrels (which anticipates the German "blitzkrieg" tactics of World War II in our time line), but the U.S. War Department is not interested. When Custer's summer offensive begins, tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers are lost attacking Confederate lines, and the new barrels, deployed singly in an infantry support role rather than massed as an armored fist, break down in the hilly terrain to little effect.
The lack of British troops in Canada means that the U.S., while initially held back by the Canadians, slowly advances toward their triple objectives of Quebec City, Toronto, and Winnipeg. Largely thanks to the efforts of Irving Morrell, U.S. forces push up to Banff, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies and cut off the second of three mountain passes that connect the Pacific coast to the rest of Canada.
At sea, the great Battle of the Three Navies is fought, with the U.S. on one side and the United Kingdom and Japan on the other. This prevents the "Entente" from recapturing the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). With the Central Pacific in American hands, a U.S. Navy flotilla makes its way south toward Cape Horn and around to the Atlantic, with the intent of cutting off Argentine grain and beef shipments to Great Britain.
On the Maryland front, the state is cleared of Confederate soldiers, save for those holding Washington, the de jure U.S. capital. In the autumn, the U.S. continues to attack Nashville, Tennessee to no avail, raising the spectre of a possible Democratic loss at the polls, and the possibility that a Socialist President will seek peace with the C.S.A. and renounce all the bloody gains. Except for a local attack on the Roanoke Front that pushes the U.S. out of western Virginia, the Confederates stay on the defensive through the autumn, attempting to drain the U.S. dry in the hope that the U.S. population will become sick of the war.
Nevertheless, Northern President Theodore Roosevelt easily beats Socialist Eugene V. Debs in the November election. In Richmond, however, the hopes of new President Gabriel Semmes (a descendent of naval commander Raphael Semmes), elected in 1915, and his Cabinet are dashed. The U.S. government has four years to crush the C.S.A. before needing to seek re-election, while the Confederates are running out of white soldiers to further the conflict. President Semmes successfully proposes a bill to authorize the training and arming of Negro troops to serve, with civil rights (excepting interracial marriage) to follow after the war, including citizenship in the C.S.A. Meanwhile, the U.S. begins the process of formally returning Kentucky to the Union.
In Europe, the war seems little changed from our own real timeline, with the exception of the French fortress of Verdun's capture by the Germans, and an apparently heavier use of North African infantry by the French Army. In addition, Italy remains neutral in the conflict and the "Easter Rising" by the nascent Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Dublin is not put down, spreading to the rest of Ireland, further draining British resources.
Lieutenant General Custer secretly develops a scheme for the U.S. to quickly win the war, using a massed-barrel formation, despite its prohibition by the War Department. Disguising his true intentions to all but his adjutant, Major Abner Dowling, and Lieutenant Colonel Irving Morrell, and lying to President Roosevelt, Custer launches his Barrel Roll Offensive on Remembrance Day — April 22, 1917 — and quickly breaks through the Confederate trench lines north of the Tennessee capital of Nashville.
The Confederates withdraw to a line centered on Nashville, where Custer hits them again three weeks later by outflanking the city using a plan concocted by Morrell. Nashville soon falls, despite the best efforts of the newly formed C.S. colored regiments to stave off Custer's barrels, and the state capital becomes the U.S. First Army's headquarters.
From Nashville, in July, Custer attacks the C.S. lines in the direction of Murfreesboro. Near Nolensville the U.S. receives a Confederate request for a local armistice. President Roosevelt assents, and peace on the North American front comes to Tennessee a week before the rest of the U.S. – C.S. Frontline. Custer is outraged at the halt, but Roosevelt explains that it would be difficult for the U.S.A. to defend the large salient into Tennessee it has captured, and at the same time, the southeastern chunk of Kentucky that still remains in Confederate hands would prove a nuisance in postwar years as Kentuckians elected to the Confederate Congress would constantly demand a new war against the U.S. to recapture lost territory in their state. Roosevelt's plan calls for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from captured Tennessee territory in exchange for all remaining parts of Kentucky.
On the same day that the "Barrel Roll Offensive" began in Tennessee, the U.S. Army in northern Virginia attacks southward toward Manassas at the same time that U.S. troops enter occupied Washington, D.C. The de jure U.S. capital is recaptured after several days of intense street fighting, which levels the city and its famous landmarks (such as the Washington Monument and the White House).
In northern Virginia, several U.S. attacks force the C.S. Army of Northern Virginia to retreat south. In battles at Round Hill, Centreville, and Bull Run, rear-guard actions led by a few battered batteries of the "First Richmond Howitzers" prevent the complete destruction of the latest incarnation of Robert E. Lee's fabled army. However, it is obvious the war is on the verge of being lost; this does not sit well with Confederate soldiers, who reckoned the war won only a few months before.
The Confederate States of America started sending peace feelers to Philadelphia as early as the fall of Nashville, but Theodore Roosevelt refused to grant a cease-fire until certain that the C.S.A. was severely hammered elsewhere. The last hammers on the Confederate Army come in late July, when fighting reaches the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, only fifty miles from the Confederate States capital. With a cease-fire already in effect in Tennessee, Sequoyah is overrun, and fighting in Texas and Arkansas diminishing, the C.S.A. agrees to a general armistice on land and at sea. For the first time since August 1914, the guns fall silent in North America.
At sea, the submarine C.S.S. Bonefish, led by Confederate States Navy officer Roger Kimball, carries out a sneak attack on the U.S.S. Ericsson (named for Swedish-born inventor/engineer John Ericsson who developed the iron-clad ships and transformation of naval power during the War of Secession) despite being fully aware of the war's end. For a few years after the war, both the U.S. and C.S. believe that the ship's destruction was the work of the British Royal Navy, the war between the U.S. and the British Empire at sea still not over at this point.
In Europe, mutinies in the French Republic Army prove serious enough to lead to France's exit from the war. (In reality, these mutinies — caused by French soldiers' disgust at being ordered into suicidal and utterly pointless attacks across "no-man's" land — resulted in the French Army command agreeing to order no more offensives in exchange for French soldiers continuing to fight only defensively until the Hundred Days Offensive.) Without the U.S. troops, this causes France to surrender. The Russian Empire is threatened by revolution and anarchy (similarly to reality), leaving only the Confederate States and Great Britain to fight against the United States, Germany, and Austria-Hungary. Italy remains neutral and the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) lately joins the war on the side of the "Central Powers". In South America, Brazil abandons the neutrality it had held since the beginning of the War and allies with Chile and Paraguay (who support the "Central Powers") against Argentina (which supports the "Allies" (Entente)), threatening the South Atlantic supply line to Britain.
In Canada, Custer's barrel methods are used to break through the Anglo-Canadian lines, leading to the fall of Quebec City and Winnipeg. The United States establishes the Republic of Quebec out of the Canadian province, and American and French-speaking "Québécois" forces charge towards Toronto, Ontario. By this point the C.S. has been defeated, and with all the U.S. soldiers on the U.S. - C.S. Front now ready to head to Canada, the British Empire requests a cease-fire, which is granted in early June 1917. With U.S.–German-Brazilian naval operations cutting off Great Britain from its Argentine and Australian food suppliers, the United Kingdom sues for peace later that summer; the U.K. was the last opponent of the "Quadruple Entente" still in the war.
- The Great War: American Front (1997)
- The Great War: Walk in Hell (1998)
- The Great War: Breakthroughs (1999)
Southern Victory Series
- The Great War page an official website