Deadlands Reloaded: The Righteous, The Rough, and The Clever
The American Civil War began as it did in our own history. After more than a decade of conflict over the States’ right of self-government, Abraham Lincoln’s election to the American Presidency was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Seven Southern states seceded to form the Confederate States of America and laid claim to federal property within the borders of the young nation.
Not even sworn in, President-elect Lincoln was faced with an immediate dilemma. Though many of the claims of the Confederate government did not present immediate crises, the question of federal forts garrisoned by Union troops would not stand unanswered for long. Lincoln ultimately decided to resupply two forts in immediate danger of capture by Confederate forces: Fort Sumter near Charleston and Fort Pickens in Pensacola Harbor. Infamously, the former would be the match that lit the powder keg.
Upon receiving news of the resupply, the Union garrison refused to surrender in a timely fashion, hoping to hold out until help arrived. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces attacked, and a new nation—the Confederate States of America—was baptized in blood.
The Battle of Fort Sumter prompted four more states to secede from the Union, or more accurately, three and a half. Virginia, like the Union itself, was divided. The residents of the western counties of the state refused to secede, instead forming the new state of West Virginia. The rest of Virginia followed the footsteps of its Southern neighbors. The Confederacy now included Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. With Virginia’s secession, Richmond was named the Confederate capital. The battle lines had been drawn, and the war was on.
For the next two years, generals and soldiers of the North and the South battled to decide the fate of two nations. The stakes were high, and the costs higher. During the Antietam campaign, a single day’s fighting inflicted over 20,000 casualties, both blue and gray.
Then something changed…for the worse. Union forces, led by Major General Gordon Meade, met and defeated General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Though Meade scored a victory, he was unable to pursue the retreating rebels. A lot of folks make a lot of claims about that day. Some say Meade’s uniform changed from blue to yellow, while less stable folk claim dead soldiers rose up and shot at their living comrades.
Whatever the case, Lee’s forces escaped to fight another day, and fight they did. Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Appomatox, on and on, over and over. While the North held the advantage in men and materiel (that’s guns to you and me, amigo), the Confederacy relied on the tenacity of its troops and brilliance of its generals. Ground was bloodied, gained, and lost all across the front, but just as at Gettysburg, a decisive victory for either side seemed out of reach.
The war ground on with no end in sight. Though battles in the West were few and far between thanks to the low concentration of forts and troops on both sides, battlefields in the East were bloodied again and again as both sides gave and gained the same ground over and over. It was so common to fight on ground once thought secured that generals and historians on both sides began to refer to battles not only by the name of the nearest town, but by how many times the blue and the gray had met on that spot. Antietam was followed by Antietam II, Antietam III, and so on. Even when new battlefields were christened, it was assumed more fighting would follow on the same ground.
Then came ghost rock and the technological break throughs that came with it.
Confederate President Jeff Davis was the first to realize their potential, and quickly instituted a program to turn this “New Science” toward the war effort. Confederate scientists in a secret base near Roswell, New Mexico developed a whole passel of these infernal devices and shipped them Back East.
In February of 1871, General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia attacked Union lines near Washington D.C. Lee’s forces included dozens of Davis’ secret weapons. Flamethrowers, steam tanks, and other, stranger weapons rained death on Union troops. The attack was devastating, so much so that Lee’s forces temporarily seized the Union capital itself!
Though it didn’t take long for the Rebels’ experimental devices to malfunction and their supply of ghost rock to run low, the message was clear. The war would turn on a wheel powered by ghost rock.
Since the Quake of ’68, ghost rock had been found all over the country, but the greatest concentration was still in the Maze. Once back in the White House, President Grant offered the exclusive government contract for ghost rock to the first company that managed to build a transcontinental railroad. President Davis followed suit the next day.
The Civil War, bloodier than ever, continued, and the Great Rail Wars had begun.
Most everyone, even tenderfoots from Back East, knows America is divided in two. Even that’s shy of the truth by a country mile. In fact, what used to be the United States of America and its territories is now six separate nations. Had it not been for the war, there is little doubt there would be no Sioux Nation, no Coyote Confederation, no Republic of Deseret, and certainly no Commonwealth of California.
Though Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ dying words urged peace between the Americas, and his successor Eric Michele made good by ordering Southern forces to stand down—a gesture later returned in kind by US President Grant—the genie is out of the bottle. It is unlikely America will ever be united under a single fl ag again.