Harry Harrison: Stars and Stripes In Peril

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Harry Harrison Stars and Stripes In Peril
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    Stars and Stripes In Peril
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Stars and Stripes In Peril: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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This title follows a what if path of the British Empire pitted against her American colonies. The second title in the trilogy, only a brilliant plan by General Robert E. Lee enables the USA to attack the British forces where they least expect it and broaden the war for independence.

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Stars and Stripes In Peril

by Harry Harrison


War has been my life. When I was growing up I was not aware of this especial fact, nor was there any sudden decision or discovery. I was not aware of my particular bent before I went to West Point, nor did I recognize my singular abilities even then. You might say that my talents still lay hidden even after I left the Point and served in the Indian War, then in the Mexican War. Neither of these presented challenges: both of them were more waiting than fighting. I never felt tested by them, never felt that combat was where I belonged. Perhaps if I had experienced the peculiar awareness of battle earlier in my career I would never have left the army, would never have tried my hand at banking — which proved to be the biggest mistake that I had ever made. Early success did not prepare me for the collapse and failure of the bank. I could not help but feel that my life was as big a failure as the bank’s had been. I have little memory of the dark years that followed.

Only with the onset of the Civil War did I discover my true calling. It was in the cauldron of death that was the battle of Shiloh that I found myself. I had horses shot out from under me, I was wounded. Yet I felt a great calm and was very much in charge of myself. I had the strength to win that battle. The ability as well to will that strength to my outnumbered troops — who held their ground and repulsed everything that was thrown against us. We held the line that first day of the battle, beat the enemy back and went on to defeat them on the second day.

Over twenty-two thousand brave men died during those two terrible days of hand-to-hand conflict; a fearful price for victory. My long-time friend, General Ulysses S. Grant, was my commanding officer then — and I will never forget what he said to me after our victory in the field. “Some people’s facilities slow down and go numb when faced with battle. Others sharpen and quicken. You are one of those. They are rare.”

In that brief, but horribly deadly war, my only concern was the well-being of my men and the destruction of the enemy. I had little time for newspapers, and thought little of other events that were transpiring at the time. I learned of the Trent Affair only when it was reaching its murderous conclusion.

It appears that the British people are very touchy about their ships at sea. However they do not extend that consideration to other countries, and were not bothered at all when British warcraft boarded American ships and impressed American seamen, thus precipitating the War of 1812. Apparently with the Trent Affair the shoe was now on the other foot and they were most unhappy about it. Their government was greatly incensed because one of their mail ships had been stopped at sea and two Confederate officials had been taken from it. Filled with contempt for those they felt beneath them, proud of the strength of the British Empire, they managed to swell this minor incident all out of proportion. Pride — or stupidity — enabled them to doggedly pursue their course of folly, when President Abraham Lincoln refused to turn over the two Confederate traitors.

The affair was blown up all out of proportion until, in the end, the British actually declared war on these United States. While my country was locked in battle with the Confederate rebellion in the south, they treacherously attacked from Canada in the north and landed on the Gulf coast in the south.

By the laws of warfare they should have been successful. By the laws of stupidity their blundered attack on Mississippi quickly changed the course of the war. Instead of attacking a Union base they seized, and violated, the Southern seaport of Biloxi. The murder — and rape — of civilians in that city incensed the South. The first I heard of the situation was when General P.G.T. Beauregard of the Confederate Army approached me where I was commanding the defensive positions at Pittsburg Landing in the state of Mississippi. He came under a flag of truce. He told me what had happened on the Gulf coast of Mississippi and asked for a cessation of the conflict between North and South. He asked me for a temporary truce to enable him to withdraw his troops to attack the British invaders.

It is rare indeed for a man to be offered the opportunity to change the course of a war. But I knew this was such a moment. It was Beauregard’s words that convinced me to at least try. He had referred to the British as “our common enemy,” as indeed they were. A decision had to be made — and I had to make it on my own. If I were wrong only history would decide. My career could be at an end. I could be cashiered from the army, perhaps even shot as a traitor. Yet I felt that I had no choice. Not only would I grant the truce, but I would go one better. I would join his Confederate troops with my Northern ones. To attack our common enemy.

My decision was correct. Combined, we defeated the British in the south. This victory led to the uniting of North and South to battle against the invaders in the north as well. Our civil war was over, North and South united in common cause.

It was my privilege, and honor, to lead the reunited United States Army in the destruction of the British invaders. Many good soldiers died before we had pushed the British from our land. Pushed them north through a free Canada — that had cast them out as well.

It was with great pleasure that I accepted the surrender of their Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of Cambridge.

That should have been the end of it. But one can never be sure. The English are a proud and very stubborn race. They have lost many a bloody battle, but are very good at winning wars. They must be watched because they will never concede defeat. So I say to you, my countrymen: be alert. And armed. Do not let your peacetime army wither away. We live in a world of enemies.

Only eternal vigilance will keep this country free.




The two British officers sat at the table on the veranda, sawing industriously at the tough steaks before them. Their faces, running with sweat, were almost as red as their uniform jackets. This was no meal to have in this moist, tropical climate — but they would have no other. No matter that the temperature was already in the nineties and that far lighter, and cooler, food was available. Red meat, well-boiled potatoes and overcooked vegetables, that was the only fit food for an Englishman. They chewed on the gristly freshly-killed beef, stopped only to pat at the perspiration on their foreheads with their kerchiefs when it ran into their eyes.

“And this is only April,” the officer with the pips of a captain said, then coughed as he washed down a mouthful of resisting meat with the thin red wine. He took a bite of the maize pancake with little relish; no proper bread either. “The food is impossible and the weather incredible. Worse than India I do believe. What will it be like in the summer?”

“Hot, old boy, damned hot. We’re in the tropics you know,” the major said. He looked out at the crowded life that was now surging through the tiny fishing village of Salina Cruz on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The arrival of the transport ships, now anchored close offshore, had changed everything. Fields had been trampled down so tents could be erected. The locals, in their white clothes and wide-brimmed hats, were well outnumbered by the variously uniformed soldiers of the British army. Many had been turned out of their homes so that the officers could live in comfort. The displaced Indians had built reed-shelters on the beach, where they waited with stolid patience for the tall strangers to leave. Meanwhile they earned some much-needed money by selling the invaders freshly caught fish. The major pointed with his fork.

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