Monday, January 31, 2022

Guest Post: April 21, 1865 - Guerilla warfare begins in Virginia

This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History in a variant scenario based on an original idea by Zach Timmons.

On this fateful date in 1865, a group of partisan raiders led by former Confederate army cavalry battalion commander John S. Mosby attacked and killed the Union officers occupying the White House of the Confederacy.

Following this shocking act of vengeance, the "Gray Ghost" and his men then took to the wilderness to act as guerilla fighters. A five-year long reign of terror would rule the South as shootings, lynching's, and bombings became the norm. Much of the blame would fall upon Union general Ulysses S. Grant for allowing his uncertain status to persist following the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and his Army of North Virginia (ANV). Bounties had been placed on the heads of Mosby, Nathan B. Forrest et. al as some posters above his signature stated that marauding bands would be destroyed.

Had these renegade Confederate officers been offered the same generous terms as Lee at Appomattox House, or had Davis authorized Lee to surrender all four armies of the Confederacy, then the rebellion would probably have ceased. The real tragedy was Grant had given Lee favourable treatment precisely to stop him heading to the wilderness as an American guerilla. The cowardly Davis also deserved a large share of the blame for escaping Richmond, disguised as a woman. Though he never ordered the Confederacy to surrender, he also never told his followers to continue a Guerrilla war. For his lack of leadership at this crucial time, President Edward Kennedy would steadfastly refuse to restore his citizenship during the bicentennial year.

As the ANV commander, Lee himself was indirectly to blame. Prior to his surrender, he had stubbornly persisted in Napoleonic-type decisive battle to win the war. If Lee fought the war and took up George Washington's tactics he would certainly have lasted much longer. Perhaps even long enough to realize a recognized Confederacy by the North. Instead, he unwisely chose to line up against the Union Generals and even tried to take the fight to the Union in Pennsylvania. After the catastrophic result of these failed tactics had destroyed Dixie, the radical surviving officers were forced to turn to the extreme measures of the insurgency to continue the rebellions.

Finally, after the assassination of President Andrew Johnson in 1868, Democrat Horatio Seymour defeated Grant for the Presidency. Seymour immediately opened talks with the rebel leaders, most notably Forrest and Mosby and a deal was struck. This climax also marked the end of a paramilitary force of Confederate veterans known as the Ku Klux Klan. Members of the KKK were rounded up and many executed. As a consequence of this house-cleaning by Federal troops, many historical revisionists would later argue that the insurgency was a good thing for killing off many of the remaining die hards. This argument was most strongly advocated in Jay Winik's book April 1865 : The Month that Saved America. According to his logic, this continuation war made Reconstruction easier on the surviving population.

Author's Note

In reality, Winik argues quite the opposite. The signature of Gen. Winfield S. Hancock was shown on the posters. By early May, Mosby confirmed the $5,000 bounty on his head but still managed to evade capture, including at a raid near Lynchburg, Virginia, which terrified his mother. When Mosby finally confirmed the arrest order had been rescinded, he surrendered on June 17, one of the last Confederate officers to do so.

Monday, January 24, 2022

March 3, 1921 - Congress Orders Osage Council for Competency and Guardianship

Word trickled back to tribal headquarters in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, that Congress was again working to rewrite the statutes that defined the rights of Osage tribe members. Once one of the main powers in the Great Plains, the Osage people had been reduced by smallpox epidemics and encroaching settlement on their hunting grounds. While other tribes had been relocated to lands chosen by the federal government, in 1881, the Osage purchased ~1.5 million acres of Indian Territory for a reservation that would maintain special privileges, including the tribe retaining surplus land after allotment and mineral rights being held communally by the tribe.

The issue of mineral rights came to the forefront in 1894 when oil was discovered in their hilly land. Kansas oilman Edwin Foster began speculating after agreeing to pay the Osage 10% of all sales of oil produced on the reservation, which entailed the whole of Osage County. While initially the oil was not much of an impact on the region, the expiration of Foster’s lease in 1916 along with surging demand due to World War I caused a rush. Under the “Million Dollar Elm,” a sprawling elm tree outside of the county courthouse, public auctions were held where oil companies paid enormous sums for leases, setting the world record of $1.99 million for one 160-acre lease.

The leases proved good investments, and exploding oil production prompted boomtowns full of roughnecks to spring up across the county. Crime was rampant, and officials were frequently corrupt. The corruption flowed upward to the federal government, where lobbyists worked to alter definitions of “competency” and require guardianship by court-appointees for Osage tribal members. This often led to white men collecting oil royalties for legally disempowered Osage and pocketing whatever they could.

With another round of laws looking to be passed in 1921 by the new Republican-dominated government, tribal leaders decided to lobby themselves by playing the “white man’s game.” In postwar Washington, that game was bribery. Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall, whose department contained the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was notorious for his legal shenanigans long before becoming a senator from New Mexico. Fall defended cattle rustlers and killers in the latter days of the Wild West, including Jesse Wayne Brazel, who gunned down Pat Garrett when the former sheriff had pursued suspects in the murder of Fall’s neighbor.

When palms were successfully greased, new laws pertaining to the Osage tribe granted recognition of the tribal council, which had been dissolved in 1889, reinstated in 1906, and dissolved again. The council received rights to maintain tribal rolls and issue their own certificates of competency with Secretary Fall endorsing the agreement as a saver of department resources better allocated to managing federal lands, such as the Naval Reserve at Teapot Dome, Wyoming. When Fall’s efforts to maneuver leasing the reserves to oil companies were discovered, along with numerous other scandals in the Harding administration, blame shifted around Washington in every direction. The Osage, meanwhile, stepped back into their degree of self-government out of Pawhuska.

Through the 1920s, even more money surged into the region. In 1926 alone, a single tribal citizen could expect more than $16,000 in royalty money ($240,000 in 2020 dollars). By 1939, more than $100 million had been dispersed to the Osage. There were numerous attempts to steal headrights by marriage and inheritance after murder, but the local courts had been cleansed of corruption by tribal votes and were swift to deal with such matters. Instead, the Osage spent their income on travel, education, and luxuries with Pawhuska hosting the first Rolls Royce dealership west of the Mississippi.

After seeing the decadence and collapse of the 1920s into the Great Depression, tribal members decided to put their wealth to more long-lasting investments. Much of the country dragged on economically, but Osage County became a center of construction and local industry. The five-mile Osage Canal project expanded the Arkansas River to make it navigable to shipping up to Hominy in the southern part of the county, which became the focus of agricultural and petroleum exchange for the entire region, ultimately outpacing Tulsa to the southeast.

Riding the wave of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Osage investment in film caused it to become a center for television and indie film production that grew substantially with the end of the Studio System in the 1960s. The need for knowhow in electronics prompted the founding of Osage Institute of Technology (Osage Tech), the MIT of the Midwest, which later became one of the centers of the Internet with Osage Hills rivaling many of Silicon Valley’s startups.



In reality, Congress passed an act enforcing guardianship and maintaining direct authority through the Secretary of the Interior’s office. In addition to guardianship schemes, dozens if not hundreds of murders were carried out in the Reign of Terror in 1921-1926. Laws were then changed to prevent headrights from going to anyone without more than half native ancestry.

Friday, January 21, 2022

August 15, 1945 - Defiance Announced from Tokyo Imperial Palace

Based on a suggestion from Phillip Jones, inspired by novels by Robert Conroy and Paul Hynes.

Following the declaration of war by the Soviet Union and two uses of the new atomic bomb superweapon by the United States, the government of Japan felt no other option than to agree to the sweeping demands of the Potsdam Declaration made July 26. The points from Potsdam were extensive, including occupation, reduced Japanese territory, a disarmed military, an economy under reparations, and unconditional surrender with “stern justice… meted out to all war criminals” and “those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest.” Yet when Minister of Foreign Affairs Shigenori Togo showed the declaration to Emperor Hirohito, they both agreed it was the best they could expect, especially with its promises to defend Japanese nationality and personal freedom.

As word spread through the Japanese military of the plan to surrender, officers became fearful. Although the declaration promised no enslavement of the Japanese, many of the points could be taken to extremes for an effective foreign control of Japan in every aspect of the nation’s politics, culture, and even raw materials. While the upper echelon of Japanese government conferred with the emperor in a bomb shelter, Major Kenji Hatanaka sought out those who balked at the idea of such surrender. Although the general consensus was that the emperor’s word would be the final decision on the matter, War Minister General Korechika Anami was at last convinced that the fate of Japan was being sealed by despondent whispers in the emperor’s ear while he and other senior officers were kept away in a room nearby.

Late on August 14, the Second Regiment of the First Imperial Guards arrived to join the first at the palace. This was interpreted as reinforcements against a coup, but Hatanaka had already convinced the guard officers of his plan. Hatanaka approached General Shizuichi Tanaka, commander of the Eastern District Army, with orders from Anami to stand down any defense in face of the coup. The palace was sealed, and all of those who did not wish to go forward with the coup were ordered home. Hirohito was kept within the bomb shelter while all non-military ministers were taken to rooms that would become their prisons. The emperor’s recorded announcement of surrender was destroyed and replaced with Hatanaka’s announcement of a new government that would fight invaders to the very end.

News of the coup in Tokyo rocked the Allied world along with the remnants of the Empire of Japan. The United States dropped “Third Shot,” another “Fat Man”-type atomic bomb, on Tokyo on August 21, where it devastated the city even though most of the officials had moved to bunkers and the populace had largely already been bombed out. More A-bombs fell that autumn on Yokohama, Kokura, and Sapporo. Violence broke out in several places on the Home Islands with those who defied the coup, including a march on Tokyo to liberate the emperor. Meanwhile, several commanders abroad refused to acknowledge the coup also, either surrendering to Allies themselves or declaring a sort of neutrality with promised ceasefires against Allied troops until clearer orders came from Tokyo.

Soviet forces moved immediately that August into Manchuria and stormed Korea as quickly as possible before winter slowed them. The raw numbers of soldiers were fairly matched between the Japanese and Soviet armies, but the Japanese aircraft were outnumbered by more than 3 to 1 and tanks outnumbered nearly 20 to 1. The Japanese military fought a rolling retreat, many returning from the Korean peninsula with only a few heavily fortified ports left behind. After the loss of Manchuria, the Japanese continued southward through China while fighting Chinese freedom fighters (both nationalist and PRC) at the same time. All through the retreat, Japanese troops used scorched earth tactics with destroyed infrastructure as well as improvised booby-traps, echoing the Soviets’ own defense against the advancing Germans just a few years before on the other side of Russia. The Soviet invasion of Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands, and northern Hokkaido went much the same with strategic objectives met at great tactical cost.

The American and British Commonwealth Allies rolled out Operation Downfall’s first act, Operation Olympic, with a landing on the southern end of Kyoshu Island on X-Day, November 1, 1945. The coup government had affirmed its control of Honshu through the fall, but Kyoshu was still greatly divided. The Allies’ plan was to secure airbases for the next stage of invasion northward. As the coup’s control weakened and locals lost faith in the government’s “Glorious Death of One Hundred Million” under Operation Ketsugo, numerous Japanese officers and cities offered to surrender and even join the fight to defeat illegal captors of the emperor. Kyushu became the battleground of civil war.

Following the island-hopping strategy from earlier in the war to take key strategic points for forward moments while leaving others alone, extensive Japanese holdings in Southeast Asia and Indonesia remained untouched. Communications became increasingly disrupted, however, prompting regional Japanese commanders to establish themselves as local warlords. Several launched raids to strike at bases in Australia, the Philippines, and even India in hopes of distracting the British and Americans from their advancement northward.

Regardless, in March 1946, Y-Day began the Allied invasion of Honshu with landings at the Kanto Plain south of Tokyo. It was double the size of landings at Normandy with more than 25 divisions in the first round coming ashore. Allies’ fear of repeating the Battle of Okinawa across the whole of the island were met. The coup government concentrated its forces against the invasion, which fought a grueling battle for every inch of the war-devastated land. Veterans from the First World War compared it to No Man’s Land. Tokyo fell, and the coup government fled toward the Hida Mountains still holding the emperor.

Through months of battle, many Japanese soldiers held out in hopes of a devastating typhoon that would cut of Allied supply lines and drown the troops much as had been seen with Mongol invasions centuries before. Instead, that July and August typhoons Janie and Lilly went on a more southerly route and did little to impact the middle-island fight. By fall, when the emperor was freed by a Japanese anti-coup covert mission, there were only a few holdouts in strongholds scattered across the western Pacific. The emperor declared the war over, although it had long ended in many areas scarred by explosives, radiation, and crop-killing chemicals.

The rebuilding of Japan continued over long decades. Many Japanese emigrated from the most war-torn areas, shifting the population map away from what had once been the most densely urbanized. Millions left the islands completely, either accepting offers from Allied countries for resettlement or to neutral nations like Brazil, where some fifteen million people of Japanese background live today. Cold War fears prompted American investment in Honshu and Kyushu, hoping to stem the spread of communism from China, Korea, and North Japan, which had become “the East Germany of Asia.” Escape by boat from communist countries to Japan and the Philippines became notorious between the two sides of the Cold War, prompting an “Iron Sea” of intensive communist patrols to mirror the Iron Curtain across Europe. Oppressive Soviet rule would continue until Moscow’s collapse in the late 1970s after cultural turmoil across Central Asia and dragged-out quasi-wars in Southeast Asia.



In reality, the coup known as the Kyujo Incident failed. Anami was said to have asked others about the possibility of a coup’s success, but everyone agreed to abide whatever order the emperor gave. The officers even signed an agreement as proposed by General Torashiro Kawabe while they waited for the announcement in the bomb shelter. Anami, Hatanaka, and others committed suicide within hours of the attempt. The surrender notice went out as planned on August 15, and Japan surrendered formally aboard the USS Missouri on September 2.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Guest Post: Reagan Elected in 1968

This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

January 15, 1969 - Death of JFK

Even the most patriotic Americans could accept the logic of President Kennedy's explanation that "the basic problems facing the world today are not susceptible to a military solution." But the timing of the statement was to prove unfortunate for the Democrats. Inevitably, there was a political price to pay and his controversial decision to withdraw the USARV saddled his Vice President John Connally with an unfair share of the blame for "losing Vietnam."

Kennedy had run as a hawk in '60, promising to cut the non-existent "missile gap" and deal with the threat from Cuba. However, his public utterances had toned down, and, by the time he addressed the United Nations in September 1963, he was advocating test ban treaties and joint space programs with the Soviet Union. Then in National Security Action Memorandum 263, Kennedy had ordered the withdrawal of one thousand US military personnel from Vietnam by the end of the year. However, it would have been politically impossible for any Cold War President to fully withdraw from Vietnam before '67, and Kennedy was only able to do so because he did not have to face the voters again. Nevertheless, US withdrawal was a humiliating set-back, marking the end of the Domino Theory, and to a certain extent re-defining America's role in the world.

His two-term presidency occurred during a tumultuous time in American history. Narrowly elected with the help of his father and "Landslide" Johnson, Kennedy headed in a different direction from the moment that Democrat William A. Blakley replaced LBJ in the Senate. As it turned out, Kennedy didn't need Johnson's help to win Texas in '64, but, with his legislative program stalled, he surely did miss his influence on the Hill. And after 1965, the country faced multiple crises at home and abroad that proved far more difficult to resolve than Cuban missiles.

Kennedy's opponent in 1960, Richard Nixon, was a popular candidate to replace him, but there was a general feeling that America had to move on from the Truman-Eisenhower-Kennedy era. Nixon had anticipated this possibility, making a secret electoral pact with fellow Californian Ronald Reagan to ensure a conservative candidate won the Republican nomination. Because Nixon had returned to legal practice in New York, he could have chosen Reagan as running mate , but both men believed a more balanced ticket was required to win in the fall. Nixon dropped out after a poor showing in the early primaries, and Reagan stepped in to beat George Romney and Nelson Rockefeller. Nixon would be elected governor of California at his second attempt, promising to continue Reagan's campaign pledges "to clean up the mess at Berkeley" and to send "the welfare bums back to work." This latter became a Reagan mantra.

Ironically, Nixon had lost his '62 gubernatorial race because Californians saw this as only a stepping stone to the presidency; Reagan won the gubernatorial race in '66 and triumphed in the presidential election. Republican celebrations on January 20 were overshadowed, because the year 1969 began on a tragic note as Kennedy died of Addison's Disease. He had in fact been in very bad health for the previous years without the public being made aware. He died less than a week before inauguration, meaning that Connally got to be president, albeit for only five days. It was against this desperately sad backdrop that Reagan attempted to lift the public mood with a soaring inauguration address, declaring, "It's morning again in America." The incoming Administration immediately set about rolling-out the Reagan Mantra at a national level as America began to prepare for a new decade.

Author's Note

In reality, John Tower won the special election to replace Lyndon B. Johnson in the Senate. He became the first Republican to win any popular election in a former Confederate state, and the third to win any election to the Senate from the former Confederacy. After Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, the United States became involved in multiple overseas wars at the cost of trillions of dollars.

Provine's Addendum

While greatly opposed to many of Kennedy's policies, Reagan used the Moon Landing of July 20, 1969, to honor Kennedy while transitioning it to a broader patriotic platform. Many felt the US had taken a black eye in Southeast Asia, and Reagan worked to restore America's stature internationally. Rather than First World and Second World, Reagan's diplomats worked to expand the growing divisions between the USSR and China by encouraging US-Chinese relations. Despite being on different sides in both Korea and Vietnam, Chinese leaders were eager for a balance against USSR interests in western and southern Asia. Reagan even managed to guide Congress into agreeing that selling US arms to China would make for a strong ally. China, financially stunted after troubled years in the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, began to experiment with special economic zones.

At home, America was in an experiment of its own with the Kennedy-era social reforms. Reagan went to work settling the issue of "welfare bums," making many of the programs bureaucratically impossible to take advantage of even for those they were designed to aid. His budgets cut into deeply into government departments, except for Defense. Corporate taxes were cut, too, leading to rapid growth of the largest businesses such as IBM and General Electric. Reagan encouraged massive government investment in defense, especially in potential for space-based defense. Less-expensive, largely reusable "space shuttles" were hurried into production. Soon corporations were spinning off technology to consumers so that by the late 1980s, handheld televisions with wireless headsets and homes with air and water purifiers and memory-foam furniture were common.

Many economic indicators showed that the US was in good shape with Reagan's spending combating unemployment, but the populace struggled with uncertainty. Gas prices were famously tumultuous as OPEC cut production and Reagan countered by opening up more drilling options at home. Reagan kept inflation at bay with high interest rates, which, combined with spending, prompted enormous deficits. He battled with unions to keep wages from going up, which many pointed to inflation creeping up as well. Ongoing struggles with poverty exacerbated national division, especially along racial lines. This would lead into the tumultuous era of the 1980s as new movements sought equality not just in the letter of the law but in the spirit of the nation.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Guest Post: Jan 13, 1760 - William Pitt the Elder Resigns

This article first appeared on Today in Alternate History co-written by Jeff Provine, Philip Ebbrell and Thomas Wm. Hamilton from a "Six Years' War" variant.

The final straw of the Annus Pestis was the ravaging of the Royal Navy at the Battle of Quiberon Bay as Great Britain's Wooden Wall had been unexpectedly swept away. In pursuing her ambition for global expansion, she had placed the home islands in jeopardy. On the European continent, French troops formed a siege of Minden, taking large swaths of German land west of the Weser River. Unwilling to negotiate peace, and unable to raise a militia to fight a French invasion force, Leader of the House of Commons William Pitt the Elder resigned with the country in crisis.

There would never be time to renew the Royal Navy as France hurried to repair their fleet to protect a launched invasion of Britain as soon as weather permitted. With England frantic, it was rather fortunate that Great Britain had a Hanoverian monarch. Pitt's successor Henry Fox had no alternative other than to throw-in with the Prussians and the other Baltic Powers.

The French did manage to land a small army; however after a threatening march on London, their forces were defeated at Haywards Heath. Despite this brief reprieve, only a thrust from German allies of Hannover could save the war. Fortunately for Fox's government, the Prussians inflicted a heavy military defeat upon the distracted French at Verdun. As allied Germans marched toward Paris, this would lead to catastrophe and revolution across the Bourbon realms.

Although Great Britain had dreamt of global supremacy, it was impossible to absorb the entirety of the French Colonial Empire. Strapped for funds and eager to cut expenses where possible, Fox made the crucial decision to grant a parliament to the American colonies, which would raise funds for a coordinated militia following the idea put forth by Philadelphia newspaperman Benjamin Franklin in his famed cartoon. This strategy would stand the test of time, as expansion into the Ohio Valley and west of the Appalachian continued well into the eighteenth century.

Matters were far less satisfactory on the European continent where the French threat had been replaced by the nightmare of Prussian-led German chauvinism. Pitt would famously remark that Fox had led Britain "Out Of The Frying Pan And Into The Fire."

Provine's Note

In reality, the Battle of Quiberon Bay was be the last great British victory in 1759, which came to be known as the Annus Mirabilis (Year of Miracles). They had driven the French nearly out of Canada, captured Guadeloupe, held Madras in India, and aided their German allies in victories on the Continent. Perhaps most significant were the victories at sea, particularly Quiberon Bay, where Britain would establish itself as unquestioned master of the seas for the next 150 years.

Provine's Addendum

With France broken, Prussia eagerly stepped into the western power vacuum. Wars raged north and south across the middle of the continent as they had a century before with the Austrians gradually losing ground as Prussia gained more German allies to complement their "navy" of Britain and Portugal. Spain and France lost much of their colonial holdings as Portugal came into a second golden age at sea. The "American Model" of moderate self-rule with the mother-country pulling strings from a distance proved effective, especially as a growing middle class emerged from the early days of the Industrial Revolution. For the most part, Britain tried to stay away from European land wars, instead swinging in to gobble up ports wherever left unguarded by nations maintaining their armies at home.

True to Pitt's words, however, it was only a matter of decades before Prussia became dominant among the German nations, absorbing Austria and supporting the Hungarians and Poles as frontiers against the Ottomans and Russians, respectively. German interests then turned to their own overseas empire, which would have to be carved out by naval war among the lands formerly dominated by France and Spain and now held by the British, Dutch, and Portuguese.

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