Stars and Stripes Forever
Stars and Stripes Forever is a
piece of alternative history fantasy that tells the story of a British Invasion
of the US in
1862. It was written by Harry Harrison and is generally poorly regarded, but
this will not focus on the quality of the writing, the naval or political
The “Border Incident” that sparks the war occurs on the
night of 1st – 2nd May 1862. The story jumps to Whitehall
and an Ultimatum being sent to a telegram arriving on Lincoln
desk stating that the Plattsburg Militia Volunteers are under attack.
The story seems to state that the first transatlantic cable
didn’t work, like IRL, since Lincoln
sends a message on a steamer, therefore it would seem
likely that several months elapsed between the border dispute, and any
conversation in Whitehall. However,
arriving on his desk at the same time is a telegram stating that Farragut has taken New Orleans,
which happened on 28th
April 1862, several days before the border incident that sparked the
Note that at this time (1st May 1862) IRL the Army of the Potomac
are engaged in the Peninsula Campaign.
By Plattsburg, we assume the author means Plattsburgh,
NY (note the different spelling,
otherwise the British are invading Mississippi!).
This was the site of a War of 1812 battle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Plattsburgh.
The reference to the nearby town of Keeseville
confirms this was the authors intention.
(sic) Militia Volunteers are under the command of a Colonel, but are of
company strength apparently. This is strange because IRL the Volunteer Militia
of Plattsburgh became M company of the 2nd New York Cavalry, part of
Buford’s Division of Cavalry. The 96th New York Regiment
“Plattsburgh Regiment” (3rd Division, IV Corps, Army
of the Potomac) was raised there too, but is away with
There is a recruiting depot in Plattsburgh
(which may explain the Colonel’s presence).
The approaching regiment identifies itself as the “Seaforth Highlanders”, which we can assume means the 72nd
(Duke of Albany’s Own) Highlanders, which overruns the militia, although they
fight using tactics that were considered antiquated in the 1840’s, using the
typical Napoleonic War “Volley and Charge”, certainly not the tactics used in
the Crimean or Mutiny.
The 72nd is in India
in 1861/2 BTW…
Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Mexico….
Admiral Milne is leading a fleet to assist the CSA. Onboard
his flagship is the Duke of Cambridge and Major General Bullers,
the Army and “Infantry” commanders. Some cryptic comments are made about them
both serving in Ireland
and the Crimea. This confirms the Crimean War did take
place in the timeline. The Ireland
comment is strange as Ireland
hasn’t seen any trouble since the French invasion of 1798, and the Duke of
Cambridge served as a junior officer in the 12th Lancers in Ireland
in the 1840’s. Their invasion force includes the 45th, 58th,
67th, the “3rd Middlesex” and some cavalry. Suffice to
say they attack the wrong target, and go on a rampage turning the CSA against
The “3rd Middlesex” is quite strange. The 3rd
Regiment was the “Buffs” and was assigned East Kent as a
recruiting area. It was the 57th, the “Die Hards”
who were assigned Middlesex. Either the author has made a serious error (the
probable explanation), or the 57th has tripled in size (at least) to
create a 2nd and 3rd battalion.
(As an aside, all the Regiments mentioned, including both
the 3rd and 57th are part of the modern Princess of
Wales’s Royal Regiment).
The counterattack is by the 53rd Ohio,
(3rd Bde, 5th Div, Army of the
Tennessee IRL), 23rd Indiana (2nd Bde,
3rd Div, AoT) commanded by General Lew Wallace and the 1st Minnesota Battery (2nd
Bde, 6th Div, AoT).
We can assume that the Army of the Tennessee
is moving against the British beachhead. The South is so outraged the Civil War
is immediately called off and the US and CS unite against the Brits. General
Beauregard attacks the British immediately, having parlayed with the US
General (IRL he commands the CS Army of the Tennessee,
44,000 strong in 2 Corps).
The fact that General Lew Wallace
is commanding the 23rd Indiana
is interesting. In reality he’d been removed from the Army of the Mississippi
(5 Divisions, became XIII Corps IRL during the story timeline) for poor
handling of his Division (7,000 strong) at Shiloh. He
remained a General Officer and continued to command Division and Corps sized
formations. The 23rd Indiana
was part of XIII Corps.
Back to the North, Ticonderoga
Apparently, General Halleck (who
IRL is commanding the Armies of the West) formed a line of defence centred on
Fort Ticonderoga, which included the 14th New York, which was with 2nd
Bde, 1st Div, III Corps, Army of the
Potomac. This defence was swiftly overrun by the advancing British.
Cut to Grant leading “his Divisions” north to Ticonderoga
and is entrenched on top of a hill with a stonewall
while Greenjacketed Britons (actually Canadian
Militia who did wear Green Jackets) assault his position. This seems to be a
deliberate attempt at a Fredericksburg/
Gettysburg situation. We later
learn this is the Battle of Saratoga (or the Hudson
His position is near a railhead, and the 1st US
Sharpshooters (3rd Bde, 1st
Div, V Corps, AoP), 3rd New
York (1st Div, VII Corps, Army of Virginia,
but this may in fact be 3rd USCT), 1st, 2nd
and 3rd US Colored Troops arrive as
reinforcements. The presence of these latter three is a surprise as they aren’t
raised until May-August 1863 and are not combat ready until the 1864
campaigning season. The Sharpshooters silence a battery 230 yards away by
shooting the crew. They then silence an emplaced gun by shooting the sandbags
around it until it clogs the barrel.
Now 230 yards is not very far away, it’s within the extreme
range of a smoothbore, and this is not particularly impressive. The sandbag
trick wouldn’t have worked though as the gunners swab out the barrel between
every shot and would have cleared it.
Meanwhile, a couple of RN Battleships sail straight through
all the defences and raid Washington,
and Kentucky troops are fighting
them inside the White House. Apparently there are an “awful lot” of British
troops, enough to take Washington
(which IRL is defended by the entire XXII Corps and 9 Separate Brigades), but
an American Ironclad, the Avenger appears and the Brits retreat.
The Battle is in
its 3rd day, the British have just mounted another frontal attack
and Cavalry is moving towards the US
left flank. Grant estimates 16,000 US
casualties so far. Meanwhile JEB Stuart
arrives with his cavalry, who’ve just been issued Spencer Repeaters which can
hold “20 rounds” (7 in reality).
We learn the 16th is amongst the British forces (but
not which battalion), and that some of the British have smoothbores rather than
rifles. JEB Stuarts Spencer armed cavalry massacre the 16th.
Meanwhile Sherman and Lee have marched up the Hudson
valley with their armies and have arrived at the battle. They hold a council of
war with Grant and decide to mount a left flanking attack on the British
The attack goes in, lead by the 60th New York
(Railroad Brigade of the AoP), and the 69th
New York arrive and are slaughter in a cavalry attack (by the Canadian
Irregular Cavalry) by forces three times their number despite to their new
Spencer rifles. CS cavalry counterattack and drive the British Cavalry back.
The final actions of the “Battle
of the Hudson Valley”
(same battle) show the British retreating north covered by the 62nd
(which had “recently come from India”
despite since 1857 in reality, as the garrison battalion for Halifax)
with Grant’s and Lee’s Armies pushing them while the American cavalry have cut
Across the Atlantic there is a
government debate about whether to replace old smoothbores with rifles, they
decide on the Snider (which wasn’t yet invented). The British have moved Indian
troops to the UK
and are preparing a 2nd wave.
On the American side the US
President meets with Louis-Joseph Papineau
(misspelled Papinoeau in the book), the leader of a
small rebellion in Quebec in 1837,
who promises Quebec will rise and
statehood. Elsewhere, President Davies is shot by a CS Congressman on the floor
Meanwhile the British are raiding the US
coast at will, burning their towns and behaving generally as Vikings. The US
in turn invade Jamaica.
The British land 30,000 troops in Vera Cruz in Mexico.
Meanwhile, General Johnston has taken the 2nd and
13th Louisiana to Quebec,
armed some Quebecois rebels with Spencers and they
sabotage all the defences of Montreal,
which falls with little fighting.
surrounded, bombarded and stormed by CS troops while the British refuse battle.
Finally, Halifax is taken in an
amphibious hook. All this occurs in December of 1862.
Analysis of Unit Size
The size of units is very problematic. The 69th New
York is at one point a company sized unit under
Captain Meager, where IRL Brigadier General Meager by this time is commanding a whole Irish Brigade.
Similarly, the 23rd Indiana
under General Wallace would seem to be at least a Division in size. The 53rd
Ohio by this point is led by
General Sherman, who in reality is the commander of 5th Division, AoT.
It is clear that when the author talks of Regiments he means
larger formations, usually brigade or divisional sized formations. In fact at
one point he refers to the organisation of the armies as “Regiments and
Divisions” missing the Brigade entirely.
Similarly, on the British side, Major General Buller (the infantry commander) leading the 67th
from the front. As a Major General, Buller would
command either a Division or even a Corps. This would seem to indicate the 67th
is representative of a Division.
In all cases of mentioned units, this should be taken as
representing two echelons higher. So a Company becomes a Brigade (and the
artillery batteries mentioned become a Corps Artillery reserve), and a
Battalion (or Regiment) becomes a Division or even a Corps (US Corps were
generally very small).
Wargaming the Book
US/CS forces should be as history, but there is a much
greater provision of Spencer Rifles, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spencer_rifle
(although the Spencer in the book seems to be the SLR, which is used by the
Irish Defence Force’s FCA unit in the town where the author lives). Also there
are no smoothbore cannon, and the entire US/CS artillery is equipped with
rifled artillery. By book 2 (not discussed here) they are universally armed
with Spencers (aka SLR’s).
The British forces are much worse off than in history.
They’re generally armed with “Tower Muskets”, essentially the Brown Bess, with
only a very small proportion equipped with Enfield Rifles. By book 2 they’re supposed
to be armed with Sneiders (although they’re not if
you read it). Tactically the British act as the British of 1812 rather than
like the Crimean or the Mutiny. There are no revolvers (as there historically
were) and the cavalry are not equipped with Breachloading
Rifles (as historically they were).
Also, while in reality Canadian units had Canadian officers,
in the book Canadian units are treated as Indian Army units, and are British
Wargaming The Battle
The British have 4 named regiments 45th, 58th,
67th, the “3rd Middlesex” (sic) which I’ll refer
to as the 57th, and some cavalry. The
combined US/CS forces are Beauregard’s CS Army of the Tennessee
(>44,000 in 6 Divisions) and the 3rd and 5th Divisions
of the US Army of the Tennessee
(the 23rd Indiana and
I’ll assume then that the British have 4 Infantry Divisions and
1 Cavalry Brigade, and a Royal Marine Brigade, which is approximately the size
of the force landed in the first wave at the Crimea.
This is a force is approximately 30,000 infantry, 5,000 cavalry and would be
supported by significant numbers of other arms.
The attacking combined US/CS forces number about 40,000
infantry and other arms.
Wargaming The Battle
of the Hudson Valley
The 16th really was in Canada,
both Battalions. The 1/16th, while the 2/16th was at Halifax.
The other 2 Regiments mentioned, the 62nd and 72nd are in
We can perhaps assume that the British buildup
in Canada continued and the Americans are facing an Army of Canada with 42,000
British Infantry, 7,000 British Cavalry and 10,000 Artillery (plus supporting
arms) (just the forces in Canada IRL and those available for deployment in the
UK), along with 44,000 Canadians (mostly Infantry). The Army of the Maritimes or
the Army of the West Indies are not addressed at all.
Additionally major elements from India
are present, but I’ll guess the forces recalled from the colonies and those
sent south roughly match.
On the American side, we have portions of the Army of the Potomac
fed in piecemeal. We can guess that Halleck’s defence
at Ticonderoga was with III Corps and possibly other
forces. “Grant’s Divisions” would seem to be a wing of the Army of the Potomac,
with the other wing arriving later.
The march north is downright silly. While some are relocated
using rail (and a rate which is extremely unrealistic), Sherman and Lee march
several thousand miles in 3 days, with the US Army of the West, and the CS Army
of Northern Virginia.
At this point I give up trying.
There is not one redeeming feature I can find in the book,
it seems completely divorced from any military reality. It seems as though the
radio and teleporter have been invented the speed
these events unfold and the army moves.
I put it down to the author doing absolutely no research on
the subject whatsoever.
The author has the gaul
to claim that this is what would really have happened. One of his claims is
that the American armies were larger and better armed than the whole of Europe.
In fact, at six European states had more men under arms than the US
in 1862 (Russia,
(excluding the Indian Army!), Prussia,
Austria and the
Ottomans), and Russia
had more men under arms than both the US
and CS combined.