Thursday, February 8, 2024

Guest Post: Sam Houston Saves the Nationality of Texas

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History with input from Charles K. Alexander II, Robbie Taylor, Brian Hartman, Allen W. McDonnell and Jeff Provine.

Feb 1, 1861 -

Delegates at a feisty state convention in Austin, Texas, voted overwhelmingly to secede from the Union. This choice was largely driven by the imperative to protect the institution of slavery as well as a general feeling that Washington had failed to live up to promises of inclusion into the country as part of annexation.

Sovereignty votes were always prone to other political considerations; notably, the US Senate had voted down the original Texas Annexation Treaty not wanting to add a slave-owning state to the Union. This was despite the sponsorship of President John Tyler, who at that stage was not aligned to any political party, having broken with the Whigs. Conversely, this particular vote in 1861 was taken against the fervent wishes of Southern Unionist Governor Sam Houston. He had only allowed the special session of the Texas Legislature to sit after it had become clear that the citizens would likely take matters into their own hands. Ultimately his voice would not be without influence. At least his powerful arguments partially succeeded because Texas would not join the Confederacy or send troops (or even sell horses) to aid its cause. If Houston had saved the nationality of Texas then perhaps it was at the cost of dooming the Cotton South to the inevitable defeat that he had predicted.

Instead, the reconstituted Republic of Texas fortified its borders and waited out the civil war between the States. Tragic events would subsequently validate this prudent choice. With Union gunboats starting to control the Mississippi River, it would have been logistically impossible for Texas to supply the Cotton South. Similarly, the Union naval blockade would prevent exports of Southern cotton via the port at Galveston. The arguments for annexation had been based on these self-evident facts, a weak economy and a tiny, divided standing army that made Texas defenseless. Indeed, from the very beginning, Houston had felt that the newly independent country, lacking hard currency and still facing threats from Mexico, could not survive on its own. He would die two years later still convinced that he was right because the Cotton South was facing early collapse as he had predicted. He, like Union President Abraham Lincoln, would be proven to be quite wrong in their prediction of the eventual outcome of the secession crisis.

The chief reason was that Virginia had led many border states and joined with Texas in a state of neutrality as the Federal government worked to resolve a compromise. Meanwhile, the Cotton South descended into the long and grinding Civil War from Tennessee to Florida and Louisiana. Paramilitary forces conducted bloody guerrilla combat in neutral states such as Missouri, North Carolina, Arkansas, and, especially, Texas turning most of the white populations in those states against the Confederacy. These factors certainly contributed to the early Southern defeat. Meanwhile, Francis Lubbock, the new President of the Republic of Texas, worked feverishly to keep the calm after massacres of German immigrants and rebelling slaves. On a positive end, the "galvanized Yanks" (Confederate POWs who volunteered to serve in forts in the West) solved the issues of Indian raids with a seeming surplus of willing soldiers.

Despite being a root cause of the conflict, the thorny issue of slavery remained unresolved, although perhaps Lincoln was waiting for the right time to issue the Emancipation Declaration. The winner of the 1864 presidential election would certainly have to deal with this matter and also to decide whether to launch a continuation war in order to force readmittance to the union. An invasion of Texas was eminently doable from a military perspective, but the decision boiled down to two overriding political factors: the Union's appetite for a second conflict and the principle of secession, which relied upon legal interpretation of the annexation treaty from 1840. The former Commanding General of the U.S. Army, George McClellan, who had served with distinction during the Mexican-American War, was nominated by the Democrats. He focused his election campaign on plans for the Reconstruction of the Cotton South after the surrender of P.G.T. Beauregard. Ironically, a military man would make a non-military choice.

There was a palpable sense that a change of presidential leadership was necessary to reconstruct the Union because it was Lincoln's election that had triggered the secession crisis, and he had extended the reach of Federal Government (e.g. by illegally suspending habeas corpus). Lincoln looked to the lame-duck precedent of Tyler who dispatched the annexation treaty by courier on his very last day in office to avoid his successor James K. Polk having to face resistance when both of them agreed with the decision. Polk could have recalled the couriers but chose not to. Lincoln therefore decided to issue the Emancipation Declaration on his very last day in office. Other weighty calculations were also in process. Understanding the national sentiment of "He got us into a war but couldn't get us out of it," Texas sued for peace and recognition as an independent nation on the very same day. President McClellan, unwilling to spill more American blood capturing another rebel state, formally recognized the Republic and granted their request for independence. Perhaps the greatest significance of these tumultuous events would be the population movement, with many German descendants leaving for the Union, and other anti-Federals arriving in search of a future outside of Washington's control.

Author's Note:

In reality, Houston was largely neutral, claiming that if Texas were to secede, it should at most revert to its independent status as a republic.

Provine's Addendum:

Perhaps the most famous "Galvanized Yank" of all would be General Robert E. Lee. While Virginia, like other Border States, never formally seceded from the Union, many Virginians sympathized with the Southern cause. Lee's oaths to the United States, however, kept him from accepting Winfield Scott's offer of being the commander of what some felt was a "conquest of the South." Instead, Lee was sent westward, where he recognized the outrageous misconduct of soldiers and failures to meet the conditions of treaties with Native American nations. Rather than appealing to Lincoln, and then McClellan, for resources that were badly needed on the fronts in the East, Lee set about bolstering trading posts, establishing new ones, and encouraging settlers and tribal representatives toward self-sufficiency in crops and locally manufactured goods. His boldest move was protecting bison herds by labeling them an economic good in the territories and thus under federal governance with the Constitution's supremacy in trade. Proper fencing and years of domestic feeding drops contained the herds against their natural instinct to migrate, leaving many of the estimated two million bison still roaming in the Great Sioux Nation reserve.


A popular story states that Confederate General Robert E. Lee, noticing that Ely S. Parker was an American Indian (specifically, Seneca), remarked, “I am glad to see one real American here.” Parker later recalled, “I shook his hand and said, 'We are all Americans.'”

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Guest Post: President Garner and the Japanese American War 1937-1942

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History by Allen W. McDonnell.

The side on impact of a drunk driver with the staff car of General Douglas MacArthur on December 7, 1931, put his chauffeur in the hospital and killed the general outright from a broken neck.

The ripple effects of this death were subtle but significant nonetheless.

When the Armaments Board recommended that the US Army adopt the 0.276 caliber Garand rifle as the semi-automatic infantry rifle and the competing 0.276 caliber Pedersen carbine for cavalry and parachute troops, there was now no prohibition from Douglas MacArthur to stifle the innovation. The Armaments board had made their recommendation after several years of testing and a cost analysis that proved the infantry and cavalry armed with the new semi-automatic weapons would be able to carry more ammunition and kill more of the enemy because, not only was the ammunition itself lighter, the weapon chambered to use that ammunition was also lighter and less fatiguing for the soldiers carrying it. In fact, the 0.276 Garand was fitted to carry 10 rounds of ammunition internally while a heavier duty version chambered for the .30-06 ammunition then-used by the Springfield bolt action rifle would not only weigh nearly a pound more, it would also only hold 8 cartridges in its internal magazine. Arguments that the bolt action rifles had a greater range were dismissed by the board as the larger range was only useful for sniper tactics. Infantry battle ranges rarely exceeded 300 yards effective range, and, on those rare occasions when it extended out to 600 yards, the 0.276 caliber had ballistics almost identical to the heavier .30-06. The kind of tactics that employed blocks of infantry standing shoulder-to-shoulder attacking an opposing infantry with plunging fire at 1,000 yards had gone out of style in the 1880's with the universal adoption of breech loading weapons. World War I had proven the futility of such arrangements of men who would be slaughtered en masse by enemy artillery and machine gun fire if such formations were attempted.

The Armaments Board was made up of younger officers who fully grasped that the role of infantry in 1931 was as part of a combined arms force. In the face of enemy artillery and machine guns, the mode of attack was a very loose formation supported by friendly artillery, machine guns, and, in a fully modern arrangement, tanks and aircraft as well. When they made their formal recommendation to the US Army in 1932, it was accepted, but action was slow due to the financial situation of the Army in the midst of the Great Depression. Even with the financial constraints, however, once the decision was made the Army placed a long-term contract with the two manufacturers to purchase 60 Garand and 40 Pedersen 0.276 weapons a month. They also instituted a program to rebuild the vast number of Springfield bolt action .30-06 weapons stored in the Massachusetts arsenal with new chambers and barrels to use the same 0.276 ammunition. For simplicity, the Pedersen version of the ammunition was selected with its thin paraffin coating that sealed the cartridges against moisture while also providing a lubrication effect on both the bullet and brass casing when the cordite ignited, melting it instantly. This not only allowed the shell casing to be ejected easily, it had the side effect of reducing wear on the rifling in the barrel, making it last longer before the barrel had to be replaced.

In mid-1932 when the World War I veterans protested in Washington D.C. as the newspaper labeled 'Bonus Army,' cooler heads prevailed, and a peaceful settlement over pension payments was reached with the government. [OTL the 'Bonus Army' was routed by General MacArthur with six tanks, horse-mounted cavalry and thousands of infantry forcibly removing them from the parks of Washington D.C. With the use of military grade Adamsite vomiting gas and fixed bayonets by the infantry supported by cavalry troops acting to corral the sickened civilians, two WW I veterans died of wounds. A pregnant woman overcome by the vomit gas miscarried with her baby stillborn and a 12-week-old infant also died of chemical poisoning.]

As a negotiated compromise, Congress relented in August and agreed to pay the soldiers of the 'Bonus Army' half of the face value of the bonds immediately and to issue new one-year bonds for the remainder of the face value to be paid in 1933. This peaceful resolution cost the government far less than political costs to Republican President Hoover and Democratically controlled House of Representatives from the OTL action by General MacArthur would have cost them. While the settling of the Bonus Army issues put a positive light on the president, it wasn't enough to win him re-election; the nine states he carried still left FDR with a solid electoral majority and a popular vote win of 52 percent to 47.5 percent with minor candidates soaking up the remainder.

FDR's triumph was short-lived, however, when on February 15, 1933 the president-elect was assassinated by Giuseppe Zangara in Miami, Florida, where he was recuperating from his hard-fought campaign. The unemployed bricklayer was a short man of only 5'1" height and had elbowed his way through the crowd during FDR's speech. When the speech ended around 9:30, the crowd eased back, allowing the determined Zangara to eel his way up to the convertible where FDR sat and fire five shots from his revolver at point-blank range, striking him three times before bystanders wrestled his aim away for the last two shots.

Never before had a president-elect died between the election and taking the oath of office, and, while some attempted to create a constitutional crisis, vice-president-elect James Nance Garner quickly proclaimed that he would take the oath of office as Vice President and then immediately take the oath of office as President on Inauguration Day to satisfy all the technicalities of becoming president on March 4, 1933, just two weeks after the Assassination. In the meantime, President Hoover and Vice President Curtis would serve out their terms until that same date. This satisfied even the most extreme theoretical issues with Garner becoming president; he had been duly elected vice president, and, by accepting that status on inauguration day, he would automatically become president as the office would be vacant when it came time for Herbert Hoover to step down. Some scholars even proposed that the way the offices changed hands was designed for exactly this scenario by the Founding Fathers because the office of Vice President changes hands first, and then the office of President changed hands.

On March 4, 1933, Garner formally accepted the office of Vice President from Curtis; then a minute later, he accepted the office of President from Herbert Hoover, leaving the office of Vice President vacant.

While Garner was not in favor of deficit spending on the large scale by the Federal Government, he was a believer in federal 'investments' in big ticket infrastructure projects. Three of these were of major effect.

The Hoover Dam in Black Canyon was already far along by the time he took office as President, with construction beginning in mid 1931. The dam was completed and put into service by President Garner on September 30, 1935, just four and a quarter years after ground was broken.

The second was the Lockport Hydroelectricity Project. This consisted of deepening and widening the Erie Canal from Lockport, New York, all the way to Lake Erie proper. While that was being done, a large artificial reservoir was dug on the upland side of the Niagara Escarpment north of Lockport, installing pen-stocks to generate power from the fifty-foot difference in water level from the upper and lower canal. The lower canal passed through or over many creeks and several rivers east of Lockport, allowing the additional water to easily drain down slope to Lake Ontario without causing local issues in the process. Most of the added flow proceeded through buried drainage pipes directly to 18 Mile Creek, which flows from Lockport to Olcott, New York, on the coast of Lake Ontario eighteen miles east of the mouth of the Niagara River. Up until this point, 18 Mile Creek had served mostly as the winter diversion flow-way for the Erie Canal water to be drained so that maintenance of the locks and removal of submerged debris could take place with minimal water in the canal bed. Each of the three pen-stocks at Lockport produced 15 MW of electricity and because they passed directly into the diversion channel they could operate all winter even when the sluice gates around the Lockport portion of the canal were closed. The reason the Lockport power project was limited to 45 MW when the Niagara power Queenston-Chippewa set of 10 generators produced 450 MW was directly related to height. While the Lockport plant exploited a 50-foot altitude change, the Queenston-Chippewa generators exploited a 300 -foot altitude change by carrying water 20km down the rim of the Niagara Gorge instead of exploiting just the 160-foot altitude change next to the famous falls themselves.

With the Grand Opening of the new Canadian Fourth Welland Canal in 1932, relatively large ocean-going freighters could now transit up the Saint Lawrence River and visit ports like Chicago, Illinois; Duluth, Minnesota; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Detroit, Michigan; as well as Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio, on Lake Erie. This opportunity to increase trade between the heartland of the USA and the world at large reinforced President Garner's stance that tariffs were bad for business and led him to keep the rates as low as possible in the face of pressure from Congress. In 1935 as an addition to the Lockport Hydroelectricity project President Garner asks Congress to fund the Olcott and Lockport Canal and a new massive ship lock at Lockport in place of the north 'flight of five' to accommodate the largest ocean going freighters which will allow America an independent route from the Canadian Welland Canal. The new 'Laker Locks' will lift ships the same 50 feet as the Erie Canal locks 34-35 but they will be 1,050 feet long, 110 feet wide identical to the Miraflores Locks on the Panama Canal. This will give access to the four lower lakes to any cargo or other ship that can pass through the Panama canal. The new canal segment from Lockport to Olcott is less than 13 miles as the crow flies, meaning that the construction of the new 'Laker Locks' would be the most time consuming part of the whole process.

Congress approved the new canal-and-lock project the second week of November, 1935, and construction began in May, 1936, completing in July, 1938, with the grand opening on the Fourth of July. While the Erie Canal was a New York State project, the new canal was under the US Army Corps of Engineers all the way from the Lake Erie terminus at Buffalo on one end to Lake Ontario terminus at Olcott on the other. Erie barge traffic was still permitted full access to the system, but the federal government was in charge of maintenance over their portion of the system. The federal government even forced the sale of the Erie locks 34-35 at Lockport so that both sets of locks would be under the care of the Corps of Engineers rather than two competing authorities operating the parallel, but differently sized, lock sets.

With the rise of standing armies in Europe and Asia from 1933 onward, President Garner asked Congress to fund a major expansion of the US Army and Navy in September 1935 so that, in the event of a war, the nation would not need months or years to train and equip the necessary manpower. The near debacle of trying to create a professional army from a standing start in 1917 had effectively delayed useful action in the war for nine months. As part of this expansion and realignment in 1936, George C. Marshall was promoted to Brigadier General and assigned to command of all land forces in the Philippine Islands.

The Spanish Civil War and the displays of air power by Germany and Italy in that conflict reinforced the idea that the USA was woefully unprepared in the event of an attack. When the Japanese sank the Panay in China in December, 1937, the US Army had grown from 132,000 officers and enlisted in January, 1935, to 650,000 in December, 1937. This not only went a great distance to reducing unemployment; it created a core of manpower to build upon in the event of an active war breaking out.

When the Japanese sank the river patrol boat Panay on December 12, 1937, the American public were outraged that 'Nipponese' would dare attack an American ship. The fact that the patrol boat had been armed in 1936 with a 1.1" (28mm) air defense gun did provide the small solace that one of the attacking aircraft was shot down in the incident. The Japanese commander who ordered the attack was enraged by the fact that one of his planes was shot down and ordered the attack to continue against the Panay and the three small oil tankers it was escorting, resulting in over a score of deaths and wounding of nearly all survivors. Those who did survive, including two newsreel photographers with their films, were evacuated by a British patrol boat under cover of darkness that night. The newsreel footage was flown by a relay of aircraft back to the continental USA all the way to Washington D.C. within 18 hours of the British rescue.

American cryptographers had broken the Japanese radio code in use at the time and provided proof to the president that the attack had been ordered deliberately from the very beginning. President Garner in turn had a meeting with the Congressional leadership where the newsreel footage was reviewed. The next day, President Garner followed it up with an emergency address to a joint session of Congress where he publicly released the transcripts of the radio orders to attack the Panay and called for a declaration of war with the Empire of Japan.

The joint session of Congress passed the declaration unanimously with several of the members abstaining rather than vote in opposition during the emotionally charged situation. President Garner's speech citing that "December 12th, a date which will live in infamy, the US Asiatic forces were suddenly and deliberately attack by naval air forces of the Empire of Japan" has gone down in history as one of the most powerful speeches by any president. This was of course greatly amplified by the fact that the entire session and speech were broadcast live on radio nationwide and that many news organization recorded the session in its entirety capturing those words for posterity.

With all military arms limitation treaties being placed on hold due to the active war declaration, Congress passed the Two Ocean Navy Act of 1937 the next day, pouring financial resources into the US Navy, which had been modernizing at a slow pace since the close of the Great War in 1918. The newest major ship in the fleet was the carrier Yorktown (CV-5), which only went into full commission two months earlier. As part of the expansion, the Navy was authorized to build eight more copies of the design, bringing the total up to 10 Yorktown class carriers, up from the two initially ordered. The second ship, Enterprise (CV-6), was already under construction and nearly finished. For the battleship fleet, the USS North Carolina was already ordered, as is a second unit, Washington, but battleships of such size and complexity will take two or three years to build. The Navy was authorized to build four additional North Carolina class ships and to work up a design for a larger ship as the follow on project. Given that none of the new battleships would be available for a long time, the Navy was also ordered to take the target ship Utah and training ship Wyoming into drydock for a full rearmament. Under the 1922 Naval Arms Limitation Treaty, the Utah had all of her weapons removed and the Wyoming had half of her main guns removed. Both were back up to their former capabilities in six to nine months, a great deal faster than the new ships readied for service.

In terms of air power, the US Navy and Army each had an air component. Unfortunately for the Navy, funding had been sorely lacking and almost all of their aircraft were biplanes, though the newest ones were very advanced compared to the types used in the Great War. The Army was not overwhelmingly better, though they started switching to monoplane bombers a decade earlier and monoplane fighters four years earlier. They still had large numbers of biplanes used for training aircrews. The most advanced Army aircraft were the P-35 and P-36 monoplane fighters and the B-18 bomber developed from the successful DC-3 civilian aircraft. The B-17 hoped to become the strategic bomber was still in development because of problems that had arisen during testing, but it would likely go into production within a year. In the near term, however, large orders for the proven B-18, P-35 and P-36 are placed to greatly expand the Army Air Corp. The surviving old B-10 and P-6 fighters still made up over half of the Army Air Forces.

For the ground forces of the Army and Marine Corp, things were nearly as grim. The expansion of the prior two years had taught the new recruits the intricacies of the Garand or Pedersen semi-automatic infantry rifles/carbine respectively, but the Garand was not available in large enough numbers to supply the entire expanded Army infantry so half of those new soldiers and nearly all of the National Guard, now federalized, were armed with the older Springfield bolt action rifles the Massachusetts arsenal had rebuilt to fire the new universal 0.276 caliber infantry rounds. Garand and Pedersen weapons would be produced in large numbers now that war had broken out but the Infantry and Marine forces would also be expanding rapidly at the same time necessitating the continued use of the rebuilt bolt action rifles for at least a year, possibly longer.

For their armored elements, they were even worse off. The Army had three partially developed "combat cars," all essentially light tanks fitted with various numbers of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns. Sometimes the guns were in turrets that could swivel, while others are in casemate mountings in the hull that allowed them to pivot from 90 to 180 degrees depending on the location. Congress had required in 1920 that all military "tanks" be designed for infantry support and no other purpose, so all American tanks were armed with machine guns, nothing heavier than 0.50 caliber, and the carbines issued to the crew. As an intermediate step, President Garner declared to the Army that 1.1" (28 mm) antiaircraft guns count as infantry support weapons, and the newly ordered tanks were fitted with those units in their turrets. The heavier 28 mm gun gave the tank and effective killing range against unarmored enemy vehicles of 7,000 yards, nearly 7 km. At closer ranges, it could easily penetrate the armor of infantry support tanks, which is designed to stop rifle or machine gun bullets, not heavier shells.

The initial contacts of the Japanese American War of 1937-1940 were naval in nature, mostly by the old S-class submarines with their old Mark-10 torpedoes designed in 1918 based on the experiences of the Great War. Though not long range patrol boats, they were able to refuel at forward bases in the Philippine Islands, Guam, or the Aleutian Islands and conduct attacks on Japanese shipping. The new Fleet class submarines designated Sargo Class were still under construction, but, with war priority, they started being delivered within a few months and with many additional copies beyond the 10 already ordered are part of the Two Ocean Navy Act.

By the end of 1938, the US Navy was at a post-Great War peak with 17 active battleships and another six under construction with a further six undergoing final designs before construction. The Japanese Navy had 10 Battleships operational and four massive new Yamato class just starting construction. They also have half a dozen aircraft carriers to put up against the same number of American ships, but, while their shipyards are building new units, the American shipyards are also doing so at five times the rate. With the opening of the Olcott-Buffalo Canal and its "Laker Locks" at Lockport in the middle, shipyards all around the Great Lakes could join in on the military construction. Canada politely granted a waiver of the "no warships on the Great Lakes" treaty being more interested in maintaining friendly relations with the USA than Japan. This effectively added 35 percent to the shipyard availability for the war effort. When those shipyards in Chicago were focused on merchant vessels in the Panamax class that could just squeeze through the locks, it freed up shipyards on the ocean coasts to work on more warships. Manitowac, Wisconsin, shipyards start turning out large numbers of small naval ships like Destroyers and Frigates while the shipyards in Detroit and Toledo are dedicated to producing Submarines.

President Garner happily took credit for his foresight in pushing for the large ship canal route through New York to the upper lakes, which now redounded as a massive benefit for the war effort.

The Japanese military commander who ordered the attacks on the Panay had believed that the USA would meekly withdraw from its Asian outposts in China. From the point of view of the Japanese military officers corps, the USA was a weak decadent power that lacked the strength of will to fight a war against Japan. They had fallen into the trap of believing their own propagandist rhetoric and discovered that, without being distracted by other factors, the USA was fully capable of producing war material at a rate five to six times as great as all of Japan, including their territories in the Korean Peninsula, Formosa Island, and the vast Manchurian province. Even worse, it turned out that three months of boot camp could turn even the dullest witted farm laborer into a proficient rifleman.

Though the Japanese ran rampant for the first few months of the war advancing rapidly in China and evicting the Americans there only in small numbers, the 8,000 Marines deployed to Guam held out for the entire war, receiving small numbers of reinforcements and vital supplies from the Navy. Though not flashy, they snuck into port under cover of darkness every few weeks to drop off more Marines and supplies. The Japanese submarine force was simply not up to the task of stopping these convoys though they did pick off an occasional ship. The Guam Campaign as it came to be known lasted 23 months before the USA had enough reinforcements on the island to drive out the last of the Japanese invaders.

During those 23 months of grueling combat on Guam, the American and Japanese fleets danced around each other, staying within the air cover provided by its own island airbases. Though the Army had poked fun at the Navy for still using biplane fighters, the F3F-4 by Grumman turned out to be a close match to the three Japanese fighters then in production, one of which was also a biplane. The sturdy Grumman was tough, durable, and highly maneuverable, allowing it to overcome the slight speed advantage of the Japanese A5M 'Claude' monoplane fighters just entering service with the Japanese Navy. For cultural reasons, none of the Japanese planes were heavily armored nor were they equipped with rubber lined "self sealing" fuel tanks. If an American fighter managed to hit the Japanese plane, the aircraft was always damaged, and, if the pilot, engine, or fuel tanks were hit, the plane was almost certainly lost, even if the pilot successfully parachuted away. American culture on the other hand emphasized the value of saving the pilot and his aircraft to fight another day. Fitting new aircraft with rubber lining on their fuel tanks to prevent bullet holes from rapidly emptying them and placing an armor backing in the pilot seat to stop enemy bullets from penetrating easily were seen as simple, common sense improvements.

Even with these disadvantages, however, the Japanese turned out to be tenacious fighters. Their soldiers might be small of stature and poorly fed by American standards, but they were culturally more inclined to fight to the death than to surrender, which was considered to be disgraceful and a shame on the entire family.

In the wider world, the UK and France continued their program of appeasement to Germany ,allowing Hitler to absorb Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Western Poland without putting up a fight. With peace in the west, Hitler turned to fighting the USSR with his invasion in May 1940. The British and French people heaved a sigh of relief, hoping that the two unpleasant regimes would succeed in destroying each other and saving them the trouble. In the interim, however, both France and the UK put forth the effort to modernize and rearm themselves based on their observations of how the German war machine had rolled over Poland in just weeks in 1939 and was in turn rapidly advancing in the USSR in the summer of 1940. Clearly defense against modern aircraft and Panzers would be mandatory for defense of their nations if Germany should defeat the USSR and turn west. As the American military had abundant semi-automatic Garand rifles and Pedersen carbines by 1940, the president is happy to sell the now-surplus bolt action 0.276 caliber Springfield stockpile to the UK and France to aid their rearmament programs. With the Japanese refusing to retreat and necessitating a grueling war of attrition in the Pacific, the USA has no interest in participating directly in European affairs, but selling surplus arms to Great War allies is considered just good business.

With the war still going on, President Garner ran for re-election a second time in 1940 and won in a landslide even larger than that of 1932 setting the three term precedent for presidents from then on in American history. Though at their "high water mark" the Japanese did successful capture half of Guam and several of the Philippine Islands, the well prepared American forces under general Marshall were able to hold out until enough reinforcements arrived to expel them in early 1940. At the same time, the "Clean Sweep" campaign had conducted hundreds of amphibious invasions following an "anaconda" plan of squeezing the Japanese out of their small island garrisons in the central Pacific. The big naval fleet battle off Minami-Tori-shima, called Marcus Island by the Americans, in December 1939 cost the Japanese half of their battleships for the loss of just the USS Pennsylvania and seven destroyers on the American side of the fight. The survivors on both sides needed battle damage repair in the following months.

The last stand of the Japanese Navy came six months later when every available ship sailed to meet the American fleet off Saipan. June 17, 1940, effectively ended the existence of the Japanese surface fleet, sinking the last of their battleships and aircraft carriers. This left them with just a few small destroyers and patrol boats and their remaining submarines to defend themselves from the continuing advance of the American military gobbling up one small island and defeating the garrisons with overwhelming force. In July, the American forces captured the Kurile Islands, leaving the Japanese with just the five home islands and Formosa, plus their forces in Korea, Manchuria, and China. The USA had lost four battleships in the war. Pennsylvania to surface combat that included long range torpedo attacks by the Japanese destroyers at the battle of Marcus Island. New York, Arizona, and Utah fell to attacks by submarines, which sank them on separate occasions over the many months of the war. Early in 1941, the USA conducted a two-pronged invasion taking Formosa in the south and Sakhalin in the north, leaving the four core islands and the mainland yet to fight. The Japanese forces continued to fight nearly to the last man, and the USA was faced with the prospect of massive casualties eradicating the rest of the resistance.

Then, in May 1941, everything shifted. Chiang Kai-shek, head of the Chinese Nationalists, made an offer President Garner was happy to accept. The USA would arm the Chinese army and train it in the use of the semi-automatic weapons on Formosa, which the Chinese called Taiwan. Once they were ready, US Navy would transport the Chinese to the southernmost Japanese home islands of Kyushu and Shikoku in a massive amphibious invasion. Keeping them supplied with military goods while they defeated the Japanese on those two islands would be one priority. This was expected to attrit the Japanese army faster than they could recall troops from the fighting in China. That in turn would cause the Japanese to draw down garrisons on Hokkaido and Honshu to make up for their losses. The USA could then invade Hokkaido in the north, further depleting the Japanese military starting a month after the Chinese forces were deployed. This one-two punch was expected to collapse the Japanese resistance as they would not willingly allow foreign invaders to occupy any of their four core islands and would waste their last strength attempting to evict them.

This seemed to be going well the first day of the invasion of Shikoku on July 5, 1941, right up until the Japanese began shelling the Chinese forces with chemical artillery. The weapons used were mixed barrages of whatever the artillery units had in their local stockpile or could get transported to the lines for use containing vomit gas, tear gas, Chlorine gas, Lewisite gas, or aerosolized Mustard Gas. The first two agents acted to disorient affected personnel, making them easy targets for the Japanese defenders to eliminate, while the latter three agents were deadly to different degrees. Chlorine was strongly attracted to moisture and would attack the eyes, mouth, and nasal passages and any exposed wounds, quickly blinding and then quickly killing the victims if they did not have protective gear. The Lewisite and Mustard were even worse as they would react on contact with skin, breathing passages, and eyes and, if inhaled, would cause serious lung damage usually resulting in a slower more painful death.

The new B-17C bomber was finally in production, and hundreds were already in final flight training for their crews when the Japanese resorted to the gas defenses. It took a week to move the first 300 of these aircraft to forward bases in Okinawa, but, once they were in position, they rained chemical death on the cities of the Japanese homeland without remorse. The Japanese had used chemical weapons throughout the war in China, which had no way to retaliate in kind and only rarely had even simple gas masks to protect themselves. They had resisted using gas against the Americans for three and a half years out of fear of the retaliation they would experience, but when the home islands were invaded they decided to use every option in their defense. The bombers each carried three tons of phosgene bombs in that first attack on Hiroshima Arsenal at midnight. The gas bombs were all set to detonate with their small bursting charge at 200 feet above ground dispersing the clear colorless gas in invisible clouds that sank to the lowest area nearby because they were heavier than air. Unlike many chemical agents, Phosgene in threshold lethal concentrations does not cause immediate death. Its mechanism of action is to bind the proteins in the lung tissue that exchange oxygen from the air into the blood. At minimal doses, it could take nearly a full day for enough lung damage to be done for the victim to perish. The higher the dose, the more rapidly the victim suffocated and, because of the bombing raid, most people were in underground bomb shelters: perfectly placed for the phosgene to sink into place displacing the lighter air molecules. The only telltale odor of the gas is a musty smell that is indistinguishable from the smells in most underground shelters.

Throughout the rest of the war, gas weapons killed an estimated 123,000 civilians, which sounds terrible until compared with the 373,000 killed by conventional bombs and the untold numbers who died of starvation before the Japanese finally surrendered on March 12, 1942.

In Europe, the USSR had shrunk substantially with Germany holding a vast new territory on a meandering line from 40 degrees east in the north to 55 degrees east in the south. Stalin had managed to pull back much of his industry and even a large percentage of industrial workers east of the Ural mountains, but Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad, and the Azerbaijan oil fields were all inside the German Occupation zone. Germany was stretched providing garrison troops for its region of control, but the USSR had lost so much manpower that it had no reserves to start any offensives. While there was no formal cease fire agreement, both sides had dug in and stretched a no man's land of landmines, pit traps, barbed wire and actual fencing with guard towers along the static zone. Commandos snuck through on occasion to do damage behind enemy lines, but for the most part both sides were exhausted. Starting in 1940, the Germans had begun laying railroad tracks in their standard gauge, first over the old Russian right of ways by adjusting the existing tracks for German standards and then adding additional trackage to connect nearly every village in eastern Poland and Belarus at a density similar to that in Germany. As time went on, first the Jewish and then the Polish and Belarus civilian populations were forced to relocate eastward, emptying the land for German settlers to move in.

German, British, and French forces had all fully modernized their equipment by mid 1942 with new designs of aircraft, stronger panzers, and bigger navies, but neither the French nor the British were eager to start a war with Germany despite the pleas of Stalin. A tripartite meeting tacitly agreed that the western Europeans would not interfere so long as Germany remained focused to the east. The UK and France having passed through the danger period went back to focusing on their colonial empires.

America having faced Japan with just the assistance of the Chinese had no desire to occupy Japan themselves and gave the four southern main islands along with Formosa/Taiwan and the mainland territories to Chiang Kai-shek, retaining only Sakhalin island with its oil fields for themselves. A quick deal with Stalin for the purchase of the Soviet half of the island in exchange for a few thousand war-surplus aircraft and trucks delivered to Vladivostok made the transfer formally a sale. The USA also retained the Kurile Islands and the hundreds of smaller islands in the Pacific they had taken from Japan by force. Most of these islands have very small native Polynesian populations related to the Hawaiians by culture and language. Tinian and Saipan, next to Guam, were placed under the administration of the American governor of that territory.

Allied strongly with America, Chiang quickly eliminated the remaining Communist Chinese holdouts, executing everyone known or suspected of having a leadership role like Mao. All of the surviving Japanese industrial equipment was shipped to mainland China proper and put to good use rebuilding the country as a modern 1940 industrial powerhouse. The surviving Japanese become a minority population as Chinese are encouraged to move to the islands by Chiang to recreate them as Chinese cultural lands. The Japanese had been attempting to do the same thing in the other direction in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria and had planned to do it in China as well. Now Chiang reversed the process and made all the islands Chinese, much as the Mongols had attempted centuries earlier. With so many Japanese men of reproductive age having been killed in the war, half of the surviving Japanese women ended up married to Chinese colonists.

Author's Note:

Links that inspired this complex scenario include:

No Retaliation in Kind: Japanese Chemical Warfare Policy in World War II
American Leaders Planned Poison Gas Attack Against Japan
Trials 276 Caliber Garand

Provine's Addendum:

"Cactus Jack" Garner stepped down from the presidency in 1945, handing the office to Charles Lindbergh. Garner would go down in history as one of the nation's greatest presidents, ranking with Washington and Lincoln. His would be the fifth face carved into Mount Rushmore, the first of numerous additions as the American propaganda corps saw fit.

Lindbergh had come back into national attention after stepping out of the limelight to find privacy following the tragic kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh, Jr, in 1932. During the military buildup, the Lindberghs returned from Europe, and Lindbergh himself was commissioned into the Army Air Force by the Secretary of War. Lindbergh was treated as a celebrity, yet he still fought combat missions and gained even more fame. By the end of the war, General Lindbergh was a shoo-in for any office he sought. Garner legendarily selected Lindbergh personally and would have endorsed him in 1940 "if he didn't have a war to win" (suggestions differ on whether the "he" winning the war was Lindbergh or Garner himself).

Many saw Lindbergh's presidency as a new gilded age. Eugenics became mandated curriculum for public schools and even medical schools. Civil rights movements were met with harsh crackdowns and resettlement with many African Americans fleeing to Canada. Although Lindbergh built strong international relations with China and through Latin America, immigration quotas were mandated to very low numbers. Propaganda remained strong with anti-sedition legislation created during the war becoming normalized under the FCC, which, along with the expansive other departments of the increasingly complex federal government, kept the nation in a tight line.

Lindbergh remained in office until 1957, handing the position to the eager young go-getter Richard Nixon.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Guest Post: Wilson's Third Term

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History from Allen W. McDonnell.

2 October, 1919 -

On this fateful day, the 28th President of the United States Woodrow Wilson suffered a second minor stroke. It was a repeat of a medical event thirteen years earlier when he awoke to find himself blind in the left eye, the result of a blood clot and hypertension. Once again this great American was able to make a complete recovery and return to work. In time, he would resume his international leadership as one of the Progressive Era's largest-looming intellectuals.

The previous year had been brutal for him. Mid-term elections in 1918 had suggested widespread voter apathy towards the Democrats as war patriotism ebbed. Apart from the complications of his life-threatening health scare, the political fortunes of the Party were down because of the troubled economy and Senate's rejection of the Treaty of Versailles. At that sour moment, it seemed extremely unlikely that he would set the direction for America's transition to peace.

1920 would certainly be a Republican year, but surely Warren Harding made a bad mistake in choosing a running mate, selecting Irvine L. Lenroot over Calvin Coolidge. By the time that Harding suffered a fatal heart attack, Wilson was already considering his options: a return to legal practice with former Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby or perhaps a campaign for a historic third term in the White House. In a radio address on Armistice Day, he sharply criticized the victor powers for having made "waste paper of the Treaty of Versailles," a sure sign that he intended to restore his political legacy. Ultimately, it would be a combination of Harding's untimely death, the unpopularity of his lackluster successor, and the Teapot Dome Scandal that sealed his victory.

Re-election was an unexpected bonus, but, to those of his political enemies that knew the full story, he had not failed because he had a stroke. Rather, he had a stroke because he had failed. Yet the struggles of his final year in the Oval Office marked progress during his previous eight in which he had adopted a large number of anti-libertarian stances. Wilson was the only president to be born in the Confederacy, and his political philosophy clashed sharply with the Constitution and even American traditions. Fathering the notion of a "living Constitution," his initiatives included the War Industries Board, Committee on Public Information, Palmer Raids, Espionage Act of 1917, and American Protective League.

It was certainly true that during the Progressive Era many politicians favored social programs that shared Wilson's own goals. However, the third decade of the twentieth century would see a sharp turn from "enlightened" government. Wilson's triumphant return to office would occur at a decisive moment for the Western World when Fascism was on the rise. The historic state visit to Rome would only be the first step in a new relationship with the emerging totalitarian figures of the 1920s. The long shadows of the Confederacy loomed over Europe in that dark decade.

Author's Note:

In reality, Wilson's health did not markedly improve after leaving office, declining rapidly in January 1924. He did open a law practice and showed up the first day but never returned, and the practice was closed by the end of 1922. He died on February 3, 1924, at the age of 67. Many of Wilson's accomplishments, including the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, the graduated income tax, and labor laws, continued to influence the United States long after Wilson's death.

Provine's Addendum:

As the end of Wilson's third term approached, it was obvious he would be considered "too old" for the excited voters of the Roaring Twenties. Many Republicans were already abuzz about Herbert Hoover, who had continued as the shining star of the ill-fated Harding administration under Wilson as Secretary of Commerce. Wilson had tapped Hoover to keep the nation on the economic upswing after already having worked with him to work in the Food Administration when the U.S. joined the Great War. The progressive Republican under a Democratic president was lauded by the press as a "New Era of Good Feelings." When Wilson endorsed Hoover for the '28 election, Hoover defeated Democrat candidate Al Smith so handily that it rivaled James Monroe's victory in 1820.

Unfortunately, the Era of Good Feelings came crashing down with the stock market in 1929. Hoover's administration took much of the blame of slow relief and the violent repression of the Bonus Army veterans camped in Washington. Wilson again came out of retirement, this time to play kingmaker and assure the victory of John Nance Garner at the 1932 Democratic National Convention. Garner readily defeated Hoover and laid down a firm hand nearing totalitarianism, mirroring many of the major construction programs seen by fascist regimes in Europe and using emergency executive powers to restructure American immigration and minority policies. By the time of the Lindbergh presidency and the Pacific War, many began to question whether America was still the "Land of the Free," but of course their opinions were quashed as radicalism.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Guest Post: Great War stretches into 1919

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History conceived by Allen W. McDonnell.

10 Jan, 1919-

The earliest new-year batch of US-supplied wooden steamships, led by the S.S. Accomac, arrived in British ports. These January deliveries served as a show of strength and resolve, as Anglo-American forces continued to fight the Great War without France.

It was a long and winding road from the German Spring Offensive of 1918, which had captured Paris and convinced France to stand down her exhausted forces and accept a position of strict neutrality for the remainder of the war. In truth, France had been suffering more and more mutinies by front-line troops who saw the lives of their fellow soldiers being thrown away in wasteful assaults on the front lines. German troops remained in control of Paris to convince the government to comply with its neutrality ceasefire agreement.

In this case, the German offensive had struck just to the south of the American section of the front lines, and, as they widened their breakthrough advance the American and British forces, had withdrawn north and west. Over the following three weeks, the lines had stabilized with the English-speaking forces holding the former Duchy of Normandy and the westernmost sliver of Belgium. Also, the retention of this coastal strip enabled the US-reinforced Royal Navy to maintain complete control of the North Sea.

France studiously followed the ceasefire and neutrality agreement and formally requested the Americans and British to vacate Normandy; however, the remaining allies refused to do so as it would have left just the sliver of Belgium in their hands, and that was too small a foothold to be worth keeping.

In the USA, the Emergency Fleet Corporation had placed an order shortly after the declaration of war with a score of shipyards to build an emergency cargo fleet to counteract the effects of unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic. The first step had been to nationalize the 431 cargo vessels of under 5,500 tons already under construction or on order from US building yards. The next step was to face the fact that USA steel industry simply lacked the capacity to build both the navy ships, mostly destroyers, refit the 431 already seized cargo ships, and construct the additional 1,000 ships planned for the war cargo fleet expansion program.

To get around this limitation, the maritime architect Theodore Ferris fell back on the techniques of the 1880's, designing a 3,500 ton steam powered cargo ship with a wooden hull reinforced with steel to provide the needed strength with a minimum of metal in the design. These so-called Composite-type ships had been developed in the second half of the 19th century to permit ships larger than a purely wooden frame could support in rough seas. Using steel beams and bracing also reduced the need for extremely large wooden structures that used up a lot of the internal cargo volume of a purely wooden vessel. Best of all, the USA had a surplus of lumber because the war had effectively halted house construction, and all the lumber already seasoned and stockpiled for building construction was now available for emergency ship hull material instead. While it would take a year or two for all 1,000 wooden hull ships to be delivered, there was never any doubt they were within the capacity of many boatyards on both sea coasts and around the Great Lakes.

Germany tried three times to break into the "Anglisch Enclave" in Normandy and Belgium but were repulsed by the ever growing number of fresh American troops arriving weekly through the late spring and all the way to Christmas from across the Atlantic. As Christmas arrived in Europe, three new American weapons started arriving in large numbers at Cherbourg in Normandy. The first of these are the Thompson sub-machine gun, which could fire out 75 rounds from its drum magazine in either automatic or aimed fire single shots. The second weapon was the modified 1903 Mark I Springfield Rifle with a semi-automatic pistol mechanism in place of the standard bolt action in the breech. This allowed the rifle to be fitted with a 40-bullet capacity magazine firing pistol ammunition down the long rifle barrel one bullet for every pull of the trigger. This Pedersen device option gave the rifle an immense magazine capacity compared to the 5-bullet internal magazine the rifle had been originally designed to use. The Winchester Model 1897 shotgun fired each time the action closed with the trigger depressed, allowing soldiers to empty the entire 5-shell magazine in "slam firing" with such intensity that it earned the nickname "trench sweeper" and faced international outcry from the German government, saying it violated the Geneva Convention and that any American soldier captured with one would be executed.

British tanks in the 1919 Spring Offensive and breakout, however, turned out to be a major disappointment as the German army had spent the winter months perfecting several anti-tank devices mostly in the form of 20mm anti-tank artillery pieces and special heavy armor-piercing sniper rounds for the regulation sniper rifle version of the Mauser.

Germany was in much better shape in 1919 as over the fall and winter V.I. Lenin had shipped a million tons of grain west to Germany as part of their peace agreement more than compensating for the food shortages caused by so much of the farm labor being in the service. At sea, the U-boats had considerable success sinking cargo ships causing a loss of almost 2,000 ships in 1918 alone. British, Canadian, American, and third-party countries like Brazil were barely able to replace the number of ships lost. Even as the new wood-hulled freighters were joining the convoys starting in July, 1918, fully a quarter of ships never finished a round trip from North America to the UK and back for a second load of cargo.

To combat this loss, allies ramped up the massive production of Wickes class destroyers, which had soaked up most of the ship-building steel with the first being commissioned in April, 1918, and the 125th being completed in March, 1920, a few months after the peace treaty. While they never stopped the U-boat attacks entirely, they did reduce losses to a rate which could be compensated for with new construction. Ironically, the last of the 1,000 composite wooden hull cargo ships joined the convoys just a week before peace negotiations began in earnest in 1920.

The "Anglisch Enclave" was a pocket that restored a miniature version of the stalemate on the Western Front before the French collapse. Neither the attackers could occupy, nor the defenders break out. Despite the flood of goods and men from the USA, the British public was tired of the war by 1918 and finally, in November 1919 a return to Status Quo Antebellum was agreed to in Europe and Africa. Anglo-American Forces were evacuated as German forces withdrew, but the reconstruction of French sovereignty, and repair of relations with London and Washington, would take many years to accomplish.

Germany lost its colonies in the Pacific and Papua New Guinea to Japan, New Zealand, and Australia but resumed its colonies in Africa. In compensation, and to ensure peace, the Western allies had no choice but to endorse the treaty of Brest-Litovsk. France and Brazil oversaw the vote in the areas allowed to choose their own government mainly in the Ukraine and Belorussia, Finland, Estonia, and Livonia (Latvia). Edward, Prince of Wales, gained international prestige for reaching out to his cousin the future Wilhelm III in back-channel negotiations that led to an acceptable peace.

Author's Note:

In reality, Paris did not fall, and it was the exhausted German Army that capitulated.

One of the consequences of the abrupt end of hostilities was over-supply, an excessively large amount of shipping needing to be scrapped. The U.S. Navy did not want the ships, which were stored in the James River at the cost of $50,000 a month. They were soon sold to the Western Marine & Salvage Company. The company moved the ships to the Potomac River at Widewater, Virginia, and, in 1925, they were towed to Mallows Bay. When Western Marine went bankrupt, the ships were burned and remained where they lay. Among the most prominent ships seen at Mallows Bay is the S.S. Accomac. In total, 230 United States Shipping Board Merchant Fleet Corporation ships are sunken in the river.

Provine's Addendum:

With the world at peace, eyes in Europe kept furtive glances to the east as Russia continued its experiment with communism. German support for Lenin dried up as soon as the Western Front fell quiet, leading to a dragging civil war with numerous fronts between Bolsheviks, anti-communist Whites, and separatists seeking to move beyond the historical Russian Empire's grip. In fall of 1920, the Tambov Rebellion of peasants striking out against the Bolsheviks added to the chaos with a new Green Army. Allied leaders like Winston Churchill argued that Bolshevism should be "strangled in its cradle," leading to further volunteer armies coming from the West, many of them veterans of the Great War. Gradually during the severe famines of 1920 and '21, the Bolsheviks lost their momentum, and, by 1925, were driven out of the last strongholds as Kaiser Wilhelm and King George V helped the young George Mikhailovich onto the throne of a rump Russian state, frustrating the plans of Kirill Vladimirovich. The former Russian Empire was considered a new China or Africa with European powers clamoring to gain political influence over newly independent nations like Belarus and Ukraine as well as economic colonies with German railways heading eastward and British influence spreading northward into Central Asia from India. Japan seized Russian territory on the Pacific, sparking turmoil with the United States over sovereignty and laying the groundwork for the next great war.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Weird USA from Recess

A while after seeing the weird map of the USA from a Simpsons comic, I noticed another weird map in the cartoon Recess (1997-2001). It showed up in a couple of episodes in the background hanging in the school's office.

The Lower 48 states can be complicated to draw, and it's just the background, so I can understand why it might look funky as artists try to get the show together. But, this opportunity also leads to a potential alternate history on how it could look that way. I redrew the map for a bit more clarity and did some brainstorming on how it might've happened.

November 7, 1685 - James II Orders Survey of the 40th Parallel

From the original charters of Virginia and Massachusetts, the English colonies in North America had a bad habit of their borders crossing one another for overlapping claims. The Virginia Company was promised land north and west in 1609, which eventually fell into land also promised to the westward "sea-to-sea" territory of Massachusetts Bay in 1628. Other disagreements soon broke out, such as New Hampshire breaking up Massachusetts in two and the New York colony having an unclear boundary in territory captured from what was called "New Netherlands" and the well-established English colony in Connecticut. Disputes came to a head in the 1680s when William Penn sent letters to several land owners that they should be paying him taxes rather than Baltimore. Penn had been granted some 45,000 square miles in 1681 by James II in lieu of debts owed to Penn's father, which began west of the Delaware River near where Charles I had granted Cecil Calvert, 2nd Baron Baltimore, in 1632. Penn needed access to the bay, so he persuaded the king to also grant him lands southward, creating confusion and turmoil.

Penn's legal team argued that the land grant for Baltimore's Maryland had only been for uncultivated land, meaning that portions could be claimed by settlers who made their homes there, such as the earlier colonists of New Sweden and Dutch settlers. Penn now claimed these lands, even though his Quaker sensibilities weren't terribly popular with the established communities in the southern reaches. Exacerbated, the king finally announced that there must be an official survey and that Penn's stakes must be more carefully examined.

During the examination, it came to light that Penn's lawyer, Philip Ford, was a cheat. Penn had given power of attorney upon his departure to visit his holdings and encourage the Quaker colonists in 1682. Not a man for details, Penn trusted Ford and others to make his big-picture dreams into reality even to the point that he signed legal documents without reading them. Ford proved to be charging exorbitant legal fees as well as percentages of all money handled. In fact, Ford had effectively taken ownership of Pennsylvania due to mortgaging rules. Penn had realized this earlier and had tried to keep the matter quiet by agreeing that Ford could keep rent money from Penn's lands in Ireland, but now Penn was the laughingstock of London. Fearing that this might harm the Quaker cause, Penn determined to resolve his financial and territorial matters.

After wresting ownership of Pennsylvania back from Ford at terrible expense, Penn sold the land west of the Susquehanna River to speculators for cash. This land would later be organized into Allegheny, the first colony without immediate access to the Atlantic. He came to terms with Baltimore, trading the questioned Lower Counties to Maryland for good favor. Pennsylvania then joined the Dominion of New England, the reorganization established by James II and furthered by William III after the Glorious Revolution.

The dominion did not last long, and soon the colonies were again reorganized. Thanks to Penn's widely publicized establishment of clear borders, other disputes were determined to be settled. Lobbyists from the Province of New York successfully managed to have Connecticut annexed as it was a royal colony rather than a proprietary one. Massachusetts won its northwestern lands, while New Hampshire also gained a northwesterly angle separating Maine. Pennsylvania was merged into the two Jerseys (east and west) to a single Jersey.

Matters settled in New England for a time with settlers pouring into lands in the St. Lawrence watershed. With such numbers by the time of the Seven Years War (or "French and Indian War" in North America), Canada soon fell to British control. It was also during this war that Prime Minister William Pitt encouraged bold expeditions in the Caribbean that took Guadeloupe (1759), Dominica (1761), and New Orleans (1762). The last action interrupted the Treaty of Fontainebleau in which King Louis XV of France secretly promised the territory of Louisiana to Charles III of Spain. Britain was outraged during the discussions for the Treaty of Paris the next year, but all parties came to an agreement with Britain gaining lands east of the Mississippi as well as north of the 30th Parallel.

Following the American Revolution, those lands became part of the new United States of America. North Carolina fought to keep its claim all the way west to the Mississippi. Virginia, whose ownership of the Northwestern Territory had already been violated for years by settlers eager to get into the Ohio Valley, gave up its claims past the Appalachian Mountains. The territories grew up into new states like Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Cumberland.

West of the Mississippi, settlers made new states of what had been broad territories, first carving out Wisconsin and Minnesota as well as Arkansas. Encroachment into Mexico sparked a revolution in Tejas, becoming Texas and a broad stretch of Oklahoma, where Native Americans from the South were forced to resettle. Missouri served as the gateway to the prairie, which would later be broken into North Dakota, South Dakota, North Nebraska, South Nebraska, and Kansas.


In reality, Lord Baltimore was granted land south of the 40th parallel, but neither party bothered making an official survey. Penn did not review Ford's activities until after Ford's death, when he was driven into debtor's prison by lawsuits from Ford's heirs.

Friday, December 22, 2023

Caligula Christianized

In October of AD 37, Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus fell ill. He was often known by his nickname "Caligula" ("Little Booties") during his youth growing up on campaign in his own military uniform. As Tiberius sought to continue Roman stability, he determined that Gaius would be, so at age 25 he came to be emperor. Only a few months later, fever plagued him. The illness stretched into weeks, and the Roman public became frantic. After the heavy taxes of Augustus and the strict rule of Tiberius, Caligula's first months had been a godsend. Since being ratified by the Senate in March, Caligula had overturned many of Tiberius's harsh legal decisions, given 75 sesterces to each citizen (~$450 today), doubled the bonuses to the praetorian guard to 1000 sesterces, and overseen weeks of feasts and games with over 160,000 animal sacrifices. Some questioned how benevolent he truly was as Caligula had ensured Tiberius's will was destroyed and purged Gemellus, whom Tiberius had listed as co-heir, along with all of his supporters. The public, however, loved him and feared losing him.

Crowds thronged outside the gates of the imperial palace, and many held placards asking the gods to take their own lives instead of Caligula's. Sacrifices to the massive pantheon of the Roman gods did not seem to make Caligula any better. Others sacrificed to foreign gods, such as one Caligula had come to known while living in Syria: Mithras with his cult popular among the soldiers. Rumors had reached Rome of another miraculous figure in the east, a Jewish man who had not only healed and resurrected others but resurrected himself three days after being executed by crucifixion. In desperation, people became willing to try anything.

The palace doctors sent for Pontius Pilatus, the former governor of Judea who had been recalled to Rome near the end of Tiberius's rule for judgement on excessive force when executing Samaritans seeking artifacts of Moses. Tiberius had died before Pilatus arrived back in Rome, leaving his fate in legal limbo. Pilatus was eager to please the court, and he confirmed meeting the man (who was actually from Galilee and technically out of his jurisdiction), allowing the execution anyway, and witnessing the strange events afterward including an earthquake and a lengthy eclipse. He said that there was great contention among the Jewish people that the body may have been stolen while others say he had resurrected and toured the countryside for weeks until ascending into heaven itself while dozens or hundreds watched.

The palace then sent for Jewish leaders from the numerous synagogues in Rome, which had been established through diplomacy since the days of the Maccabees and Republic. Although the Jewish community in Rome had been favored by Julius Caesar, their position had struggled under Tiberius. Leaders were nervous, since they wanted to be popular with Caligula but they did not want to confirm the radical group that had followed this Jesus of Nazareth. Eventually a Christian Jew (as the Greeks used the term "Christos" rather than the Hebrew "Messiah") named Aquila was found, and he preached over Caligula's sickbed.

Approximately at that time in November of AD 37, Caligula began to recover. As he came out of his stupors, he embraced the new religion fervently, especially the rituals of baptism and communion. His practice then became more and more extreme. Caligula drank heavily and argued bitterly with anyone who suggested he stop, pointing that it was the blood of a god. Critiques from Aquila and his wife Priscilla, who had become court favorites, caused them to be banished from Rome as Caligula began to rewrite the rites for his own preferences.

Caligula sent for delegations from Jerusalem, which included Simon Peter and others of Jesus's original disciples. Their message calmed Caligula's madcap twists for a time, but ultimately he would break with the core of the church to develop his own rituals including cannibalism and partial-drowning. Numerous Romans seeking political favor joined his cult, keeping most of their actions as mysteries, while the major temples in Rome were shuttered. Caligula dispatched armed "missionaries" to close other religious centers, such as the famed Temple of Diana ("Artemis" in Greek) at Ephesus. This crackdown spurred riots and contributed to Caligula's guard assassinating him in AD 41.

The military brought Caligula's uncle Claudius to power, and Christianity fell out of favor while Claudius restored the pantheon. Pockets of Christians survived, but they were disparate in beliefs and generally considered taboo, especially after Claudius ordered the Jewish people out of Rome. Monotheism was seen as the strange philosophy of an esoteric ruler, which historians compare with the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten's founding of Atenism. Instead, Rome continued its pantheistic growth, adding gods collected as new realms became part of the empire. Many gods became syncretized with existing gods, such as principles of Isis being adapted to Venus and Mithras to Hercules. Jupiter remained supreme, eventually blending with Odin as Germanic peoples conquered Rome from the north.

Yet Christianity continued as a religion of the downcast, slaves, and women, teaching that in the next life "the first shall be last, and the last shall be first." Its modern form of humility is a far from Caligula's passions of prosperity and mysticism.


In reality, Caligula recovered. Historians debate what the illness may have been, whether epilepsy, lead poisoning, encephalitis, or something else. Some scholars even question the illness as one of many legends about the short-lived emperor along with numerous other incidents that may have been taken out of context or even completely fictitious. The story could have been used by those who embraced Caligula's early months as emperor with reforms while distancing them from other legendary acts of cruelty. One legend is that Caligula ordered the executions of those who had offered their lives in sacrifice for his own so that the gods would be appeased, just in case.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Guest Post: Inquisitors Root out Witchcraft in Germany

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

December 5, 1484 -

Pope Innocent VIII issued the Summis desiderantes affectibus ("desiring with supreme ardor"). This papal bull conferred upon inquisitors Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenge the authority to prosecute witchcraft in Germany. The bull was effectively a carte blanche, granting them immunity from "being molested or hindered in any manner whatsoever" during the course of their workings.

This Vatican order to deputize Kramer and Sprenge occurred only after the Archbishop of Salzburg had denied them episcopal jurisdiction. Such a central intervention was historically significant because the Vatican had previously taken a very strong line and was far more likely to prosecute witch-hunters than alleged witches in the belief that witchcraft was a form of superstition and therefore heretical. By 1484, however, the belief of supernatural intervention had become so widespread that it was integrated into Catholic doctrine. Having acknowledged the existence of witches, these German churchmen would be instrumental in establishing the period of trials in the early modern period.

Writing under his Latinized named "Henricus Institor," Kramer himself subsequently wrote Malleus Maleficarum, "The Hammer of Witches which destroyeth Witches and their heresy as with a two-edged sword" (1486). This witch-hunting manual fueled the trials, endorsing detailed processes for the extermination of witches. A misogynist who blamed his lust on women, the idea of witches being female-only came from the Malleus Maleficarum, a manual that promoted the idea that women are inherently evil and form pacts with the devil.

The actions of Kramer and Sprenge were met with great distaste in some quarters of the clergy, but it was far too late to stop the Burning Times. The Vatican had forcefully asserted its primacy over weak local authorities at a critical moment when heresy was threatening to undermine the supremacy of the Catholic Church across Europe. Draconian measures would save Roman authority, and the widespread use of burning at the stake was used to eliminate heretic thought. Indeed, by 1519 Sprenger was added as the co-author of Malleus Maleficarum under the preamble "Thou shalt not suffer a heretic to live." It was timely, because by this time, the manual was guiding the execution of leading reformationists such as Martin Luther.

Author's Note:

In reality, there is no evidence any actual witches were tried and executed in medieval times. A total figure for exterminations is approximated at around 40,000. Conversely, in the eighteenth century, Voltaire mentioned a speculative estimate of 100,000 executions for witchcraft.

Provine's Addendum:

As later described by scholars, Europe fell under a deep shadow of superstition from its own creation. The dramatics of the Burning Times incited many to fear anyone out of the ordinary. King Christian III of Denmark and Norway was so terrified by descriptions of those caught dealing with the devil while on his princely tour of Germany as a prince that he instituted witch-hunters into his court. The same notions spread to Sweden, where Gustav I conducted a crusade through his own land to ensure proper conduct in religious services, and England, where Henry VIII suspected witches had hexed the queen in their struggles for progeny. In a surprising move, Henry and Catherine of Aragon made a pilgrimage to Rome for blessings and protection. During Henry's absence, the Church gained oversight on Parliament, reporting back to the king and Pope Clement VII. Their resulting son, Henry IX, seemed to be proof of the royals' need to defend themselves from witchcraft. Others suggested the son may have been the result of the king and queen spending more dedicated time together with Henry having fewer opportunities to be with his mistresses instead.

With inquisitions and witch-hunts periodically rolling across Europe, even Italy faced crackdowns. In Rome itself, Polish canon and apprentice at the Papal Curia Nicolaus Copernicus gave a private critique of ancient astronomy after moon-gazing during the lunar eclipse in November of 1500. Copernicus attempted to flee to Bologna and back to Warmia, Prussia, but he was apprehended and tried for heretical rituals, resulting in his eyes being plucked out that he might no longer be tempted to sin. This sparked a fervor in hunting down "scholars" who attempted to twist man's understanding of God's creation. Through the coming generations many magicians would be burnt, such as Johan Georg Faust, Pan Twardowski, and John Dee. The study of mathematics and alchemy came under close watch of the Church, ensuring that there would not be any chance for the devil to confuse the minds of students.

Europe boasted huge wealth from its conquests in the New World, but eventually the money ran out. Colonies abroad held advantages for a time with superiority in steel and gunpowder. Without new developments in firearms and exploration viewed with suspicion by the Church who routinely stamped out attempts of religious factions to start their own independent colonies, however, Europe's influence waned. Native populations recovered from introduced-disease and adapted to European techniques for warfare and trade, leading to a balance in power across the globe.

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