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Decades of Darkness #28: Ravens

22 May 1833

Fort Clinton,

New York State,

Republic of New England

Bodies covered the ground between Fort Clinton and the Susquehanna. They were still too recent to smell, but already the carrion birds were gathering overhead. A solitary man wearing the army of a captain in the Continental Army walked through the bodies. He looked over the corpses, a vacant expression on his face. New England might have held off the U.S. invaders, but as with all true battlefields, the true winners were the ravens.

The captain wandered aimlessly amongst the corpses, his thoughts meandering as well. He murmured to himself as he walked.

“Once upon a war-field dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a fallen and curious corpse by the river shore,

While I nodded, nearly dying, suddenly there came a crying,

As of some one gently trying, trying at the army corps,

As the ravens were crying, crying at the army corps,

Thus quoth the ravens, “Never war, never war.”


26 May 1833,

Near the Mississippi,

Indian Confederation

U.S. Occupied

The pleasant warmth of what the Americans called May was a season which Black Sparrow Hawk enjoyed. He had seen too many long winters, and the cold seemed to cling closer to his bones with every passing year. But the heat of approaching summer made him relish the season.

Especially today, of all days. The too-proud Americans had invaded the lands of the Indian Confederation, after the death of the great Tecumseh. They had burned Prophet’s Town, and thought that this meant that the Confederation was broken.

They had much to learn.

Black Sparrow Hawk led more than a thousand warriors of the Sauk and Mesquakie, and they were ready to strike. A regiment of American soldiers were encamped near the Mississippi. In their arrogance, they had not kept proper watch, and Black Sparrow Hawk had positioned his warriors to strike with the dawn. They could wreak immense damage on the Americans in a quick raid, and then be gone before the invaders could react. If they succeeded, Black Sparrow Hawk hoped that he could draw warriors from the Winnebago and other tribes who were cowering from the initial American invasion.

Tecumseh should have let Black Sparrow Hawk continue his raids of the summers before, since that would have weakened the Americans even then. But there was yet time.

The first rays of the dawn broke over the eastern horizon. Black Sparrow Hawk signalled to his neighbouring warriors, and urged his horse forward as they began the raid.

As his warriors rode down into the camp, on horses which were mostly gifts from the British, and muskets bought off the Yankees, Black Sparrow Hawk glimpsed a raven watching him from a tree.

It was a good omen. “We will give you a great feast of American flesh today,” he told the raven, and sent his horse galloping ahead.


17 July 1833,

Baltimore, Maryland

United States of America

A lone raven sat near the dock as Captain Elie Frederio Forey stepped onto the soil of the New World for the first time in eight years. When he had left Veracruz eight years before, he had been a lieutenant leaving with his regiment after the English had required the intervention in the Americas to end. Now, he returned as a volunteer, with his own command of volunteers, to repay the English by aiding their allies. And, if he was fortunate, liberating his countrymen in Quebec who were ruled over by the Englishmen.

“We have a debt to settle with the Englishmen,” Forey murmured. The French armies had been winning in Mexico before the English forced their recall.

A few of his countrymen were disembarking from the ship behind him. Forey started to turn to speak to them, but his eyes were drawn back to the raven. He would have expected seabirds, even on this side of the Atlantic, but instead this solitary black bird waited, watching him. What it was doing here on the docks, Forey could only wonder.

“Messr Forey?” someone asked, in hideously-accented French.

“Oui,” Forey said, turning to see a formidably-nosed man in the uniform of an American colonel.

“Bon jour. Je suis Colonel Zachary Taylor,” the officer said.

“Bon jour,” Forey said, then switched to English. He preferred his command of that language to Taylor’s butchering of the divine French tongue. “I am honoured to meet you, Colonel Taylor. I did not expect such a welcome for a mere volunteer.”

Taylor’s face crinkled into a smile. “For most volunteers, I wouldn’t have come. But for one of the most distinguished captains in the French Army, how could I fail to attend?”

Forey said, “You know of me?”

Taylor nodded. “We’ve heard of your great courage in the business of Mexico. I would like to express the gratitude of the United States that you and your compatriots have decided to help us in shaving the mane off the British lion.”

Forey chuckled. “Gladly will I do so. And I hope more of my countrymen will join us here.”

“We can hope,” Taylor said.

“You think they will be stopped?” Forey said.

The American colonel shrugged. “So far, the British have not stopped French volunteers coming here. They fear more what will happen if they provoke Charles X into declaring war on them. But if they become aggravated enough, the Royal Navy will make travel difficult.”

“Perhaps,” Forey said. The Royal Navy had been the only thing which saved the British from Napoleon, and which allowed them to prevent the conquest of Mexico. Since then, Charles X had been quietly strengthening the French Navy. It was reported that the Americans had been doing the same. Between them, they might be able to defeat the Royal Navy, if it came to open war between France and England.

Forey’s gaze returned to the raven. The bird seemed to be watching him. He could never remember seeing such an intelligent expression on an animal, except on the one occasion he had glimpsed the King of England.

“That bird’s been here for a while,” Taylor said. “Maybe it wants to greet all the French volunteers.”

Forey said, “I hope it follows us. We will give it plenty of British corpses to feast on.”

Taylor clapped him on the back. “Well said!” He waved a hand, and an American came over with a bottle of wine. “I had been planning on offering you a welcoming toast, but that sentiment is even better.” After the wine was poured, Taylor held up his glass and said, “To ravens.”

The wine was poor, Forey thought, but he gladly repeated the toast all the same.


18 July 1833,


Republic of Texas (proclaimed)

Empire of Mexico (recognised)

James Bowie turned to his second-in-command as they marched down the hot, dry road into Concepcion Town. “You know, Mexico would be a wonderful country if it weren’t full of Mexicans.”

Andrew Briscoe [1] duly chuckled. “Mexican customs authorities, especially.”

Bowie nodded. His own natural instinct was to lash out at the Mexicans who still lived under an emperor, of all the antiquated customs, and who wanted to keep Texas under his thumb. He knew that Briscoe had other reasons for hating the Mexican authorities. Mostly because he thought they were bad for business.

A shot rang out from above them. Bowie barked orders, but the hundred men behind him were already returning fire. A few moments later, they had three dead Mexican scouts for the price of a couple of bullet holes in hats.

They left the bodies to rest where they fell. Bowie said, “Let them stay there as proof that the Mexicans can’t stop a stronger race.”

Ravens were starting to gather around the bodies before Bowie led his men out of sight and on toward Concepcion Town.


[1] Born in November 1810 in OTL, Briscoe has just managed to be born in TTL.


Decades of Darkness #29: Wars and Rumours of Wars

Selected Important Dates in North American History: 1826-1833

Taken from “The Compleat Textbook Series: Early American History”

By J. Edward Fowler (Principal Author)

Sydney, Kingdom of Australia.

(c) 1948 Eagle Publishing Company: Sydney. Used with permission


Formation of the Democratic Party in the United States, led by Andrew Jackson. Many prominent Democratic-Republicans desert to join it, particularly in the western states.

Hudson’s Bay Company establishes Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River, strengthening British control of the Oregon Country.

Last of the Creek Indians evicted from Georgia. Pressure begins to be placed on the Cherokee.

Religious revivals start in New England, and continue over a number of years. Prominent figures include Theodore Weld, and Arthur and Lewis Tappan. The religious revival has limited effect south of the border, except for some areas of Pennsylvania and Delaware.


U.S. President Calhoun issues a protest over British occupation of the Oregon Country, in a bid to strengthen his domestic standing in the face of increasing publicity for Andrew Jackson. The British ignore the complaint, and the long-standing dispute over the northern and western boundaries of the United States remains unresolved.

Nathan Sanford (New York) inaugurated as 5th President of New England, the first Republican to hold that office. Charles Cutts (New Hampshire) inaugurated as Vice-President.

Washington [northern Arkansas + southern Missouri] admitted as the 18th state of the Union. Washington is a slave state.


The presidential election campaign in the United States begins early, with the Democrats holding a national convention and recognising Andrew Jackson as their leader.

Prominent anti-slavery newspaper writer Benjamin Lundy killed by a slave trader in Baltimore, Maryland. Despite vocal condemnation from sections of the United States and from New England, Lundy’s killer is found not guilty on grounds of self-defence.

Joseph Smith, Jr., founds the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Pennsylvania.


Andrew Jackson (Tennessee) inaugurated as 8th President of the United States. Richard Rush (Pennsylvania) inaugurated as Vice-President.

One of Jackson’s first acts is to recognise the independence of Greece; one of the few times in recorded history where the British and Americans found themselves in accord. Jackson also offers to purchase Texas-Coahuila from Mexico; Emperor De Iturbide refuses the offer.

Mexico forbids further settlement of U.S. citizens into Texas. The prohibition is largely ignored.

Proposed act to partition New York State into three states is defeated in the New England House of Representatives.

Railroad construction expands rapidly in New England, particularly around Boston, and in New York and New Jersey.

Major Indian raids into Ohio and Indiana cause considerable damage. President Jackson deploys regular army units into the frontier, and sends two punitive expeditions.

Joseph Smith publishes “The Book of Nephi”.


Indian raids into the United States are curtailed under pressure from the British-Canadian government. President Sanford was notable in reducing the tensions.

Nat Turner leads a violent slave revolt in Virginia. The revolt requires 3000 members of the state militia to suppress. Nat Turner is executed, along with several of his followers. Secretary of State Henry Clay arranges for the free-born followers of the revolt (except for those guilty of murder) to be forcibly removed to Liberia rather than executed, setting the precedent for exiling free blacks to that colony for minor and even contrived precedents. Attitudes toward slavery in Virginia harden considerably as a result of the revolt.

Republican Party of the United States breaks apart. Many of its prominent members join the Patriot Party, including former President Calhoun.

First Constitutional Convention held in Texas.

Thomas Lincoln and his family, including Abraham Lincoln, migrate to New England, settling in New York State.


Horatio Seymour (Vermont), Federalist, inaugurated as the 6th President of New England. Thomas Jackson Oakley (New York), Federalist, inaugurated as Vice-President.

Second Constitutional Convention held in Texas. Texas issues call for establishment of an independent republic.


Massive slave revolt in Jamaica, with over 25,000 slaves involved.

Publication of Patrick Matthew’s “Design and Evolution: The Natural Selection of Species.” [1] Copies reach North America in the same year, and cause considerable consternation and discussion.


Texas issues Declaration of Independence (January 12).

United States of America declares war on the United Kingdom, New England, and the Indian Confederation (8 May).


Excerpts from “Among The Ravens: The War of 1833 and its Historical Context”

(c) 1946 by Martin van Buren VI

Boston University Press

Boston: New England


The 1830s were a decade with far too many wars. After the relative peace of the 1820s throughout most of the civilised world, except for South America, the new decade saw a return to the seemingly endless cycle of wars which had characterised the Napoleonic era. It is fitting that this decade is best remembered for the haunting poem “The Ravens”, by the acclaimed poet and novelist E. Allan Poe, which described the horrors of war. Reportedly written while Poe was still a captain in the Continental Army, the poem came to symbolise the war and indeed the entire sorry decade.

For, without doubt, the 1830s were a time when war seemed to range everywhere. Most of the countries in the civilised world were touched by war, in one way or another. The War of 1833 is naturally remembered most in New England, but most other countries were touched by war.

The Texan War of Independence from Mexico, and the subsequent Mexican Civil War, were two other wars which touched North America. So, too, were the “Pirate Wars” in the Caribbean. The rest of the Americas escaped no better, with civil war in Colombia breaking out in 1830 and continuing for most of the decade. The revolt of Upper Peru provided another brief but fiery war around the same time. To this can be added the break-up of the Central American Union late in the 1830s.

Europe itself had its share of wars during the decade. As well as being involved in the War of 1833, Britain faced a substantial Irish uprising during this period, marking the start of the long-lasting troubles with the Emerald Isle. Even as the decade drew to a close, with the War of 1833 finally settled, the British were dragged into another war in China. While 1833 is noted for the war named for it, the same year also saw the start of the First Carlist Wars in Spain. The 1830s also saw the two failed Belgian Revolutions, which dragged in Prussia, Austria, and the rest of the German Confederation, and which started the long road to German unification. And on the fringes of Europe, the Russian-Ottoman War of 1834-1836 saw the clash between a dying nation and one in its ascendancy. The war was well-timed by the Russians, begun when the other European powers were distracted by the War of 1833 and the Belgian Rebellion, and delivered a crushing victory to the Russian Empire and marked another step along the road to Great Power status which Russia had begun with the defeat of Napoleon in 1812. [2]

Of all these wars, however, the War of 1833 was the most wide-ranging, and the one which had the greatest geo-political implications...

Chapter 3: The First Phase

...The United States held most of the advantages throughout 1833 itself. Their army and navy were both well-prepared for war. With the help of complete strategic surprise, they achieved considerable initial success. The Indian Confederation effectively ceased to exist before the end of the year; the few Indian warriors who remained operated as auxiliaries to British and New England units who operated in the Indians’ former lands. The U.S.A also made considerable encroachments onto British and New England lands, occupying Detroit, and breaching the Lowell-Gallatin Line to capture Buffalo, as well as incursions into New Jersey. They also received support from volunteer French soldiers fighting with the tacit blessing of Charles X, and sympathy from Irish settlers in New England.

There were some signs of fortune for the allied forces. The Americans were checked along most of the New York-Pennsylvania border. The Indians such as Black Hawk had some success, but they could not press on forever. The naval struggle remained unclear, with the bulk of the Royal Navy not arriving in Halifax until nearly the year’s end. By then, the British, while not reeling, were placed under considerable pressure due to a lack of forces in the Canadas. The British Government regarded the Irish uprising as the greater threat, diverting most of their troops there earlier in the war, leaving the main burden of the land war to fall on New England. The apparent success of the Americans led to rumours that Charles X, already firmly anti-British, was planning to officially join the war...

Chapter 4: The Texas Gambit

The Texan Declaration of Independence should have come as no surprise to the Mexican authorities, given that the first convention was held in 1830. However, Emperor De Iturbide appears to have underestimated the Texan desire for independence, assuming that their demands would run to no more than legal reform. Certainly, the imperial government should have realised the seriousness of the situation earlier. The United States had tried to purchase Texas-Coahuila in 1829, and been firmly rebuffed. U.S. citizens had continued to flood into Texas despite the prohibition on migration...

The initial success of the Texan revolutionaries should have been enough to secure its independence. The defeats inflicted on the Mexican forces showed that subduing them would be difficult. But with the settlers also demanding the cession of at least part of Coahuila, which had received considerable American settlement, the war threatened to drag on – until the United States intervened.

At the time, many influential figures in the U.S. government called President Jackson a fool for his decision to provide support to the Texan revolutionaries. South Carolinian Governor Hayne’s famous injunction “one war at a time” was oft-repeated, and Jackson was criticised for making the same mistake as Madison.

However, events proved that Jackson had been correct. The United States needed only to deploy two regiments which would not have been used during that part of the war in any case, since they were deployed on the south-western frontier. In exchange, he gained a huge swathe of territory in Texas-Coahuila, which would form four future states, and substantial numbers of volunteer units who would then contribute to war on the U.S. side...


[1] In OTL, Patrick Matthew published an obscure and largely unnoticed precursor to Darwin and Wallace’s theory of natural selection. Matthew’s theory of natural selection had much in common with Darwin’s and Wallace’s, including the idea of a struggle for existence, but it also had some important differences. In particular, he emphasised the action of natural selection as an agent of stasis, and thus keeping populations where they are now. He also remained convinced for the importance of keeping a divine being in the process. His theory of natural selection is thus more acceptable to the religious sections of the United States, and can be readily converted to an ideology of being a God-favoured race which deserves to dominate the other, fixed inferior races of humanity.

[2] In OTL, the Russians fought an earlier war (in 1828-1829) against the Ottomans after the Greek War of Independence and were stopped from going further, partly, by a Polish revolt. This war happens later than in OTL, and the Russians extract much more substantial gains from the Ottomans, although as in OTL, they still prefer to leave a weakened Ottoman Empire than a power vacuum which would invite other nations to step in.


Decades of Darkness #30: Crows and Jackals

12 January 1834

Capitol Building

Washington, District of Columbia

United States of America

“Do you understand these instructions?” Secretary of State Henry Clay asked.

“I have heard them, yes, but I do not understand them,” said George Mifflin Dallas, until recently a U.S. Senator, and now the newly-appointed minister to Russia. If the British honoured the diplomatic safe-conduct – as they had been doing scrupulously so far during the war – then Dallas would soon be in St Petersburg, ready to deliver President Jackson’s proposal.

Clay said, “It is quite simple. You are to deliver a request to Tsar Nicholas to mediate between the United States and the Halifax Pact.”

“I don’t understand,” Dallas repeated. “We are winning the war. Why would we want to stop?”

Clay had to stop himself shaking his head. Like too many of his countrymen, Dallas saw only what was before his eyes, and not over the horizon. “President Jackson has been persuaded that this is an ideal time to seek an end to the war.”

“We are giving up while we are winning?” Dallas said. “Are we going to lose another war, just as we lost the War of 1811?”

“The United States are not giving up. We have gained what we wanted,” Clay said. “The lands stolen from us and turned into the so-called Indian Confederation have been restored. Detroit once again flies the American flag. We have captured Buffalo and much of New York State. Not to mention part of New Jersey. We cannot, realistically, hope for more.” Privately, Clay had always thought this war a perilous adventure. “Best to end the war while we have many gains and not much blood shed to achieve it.”

“The British will refuse it, most likely,” Dallas said. “The Yankees certainly will. You think they will abandon part of their land so easily?”

“They may reject it,” Clay said. In fact, he reckoned that likely. “But we will put the proposal to them, all the same.”

Clay feared that the Halifax Pact would do exactly as Dallas predicted. He had opposed this war from the start, with what he still believed were valid reasons. The early gains in the north, and the unexpected gain of Texas and Coahuila, did nothing to change his belief. The British Empire alone was a formidable opponent. When allied with the New Englanders, it became a very dangerous opponent. Once the British put down the Irish uprising – perhaps even beforehand – they would be here in strength.

Clay still felt uneasy when he considered the naval strength of the British. On land, the redcoats were still weak. But he had never forgotten the burning of Washington. The British could do that again, or worse. Raids on American ports could cripple commerce for years to come.

Dallas said, “And what terms will we be putting to the Halifax Pact?”

“About what you would expect,” Clay said. All the lands of the Indian Confederation restored to the United States. Detroit and the parts of New England we hold to be purchased by the United States, subject to negotiation of the boundaries. And demiltarisation of the frontier on both sides, to allow trade to flourish. Recognition of our Mexican acquisitions.” Even if the British agreed to negotiate, Clay doubted they would gain such favourable terms. But the vital points would probably be conceded.

Dallas looked dubious. “I will convey the proposals, of course.” By his tone, he expected a negative response. As did Clay himself, come to that. But President Jackson had authorised the proposal, and thus it would go ahead.


From The Hartford Sentinel [1]

24 February 1834


The combined New England and Royal Navies have inflicted a major defeat on the U.S. Navy in the city of Norfolk, just inside Chesapeake Bay. A brilliant raid planned by Commodore Matthew Perry [2] has delivered a heart-warming victory to our gallant armed forces struggling against the depredations of the Americans who dare to invade our sacred soil and raid our blessed waters.

Sources report that the combined navies launched a dawn raid on Norfolk, catching the defenders unprepared. Our ships engaged the enemy vessels, destroying more than thirty American naval vessels, and a large number of merchant ships. The naval fortifications were badly damaged. Landings by marines allowed the destruction of the docks and other buildings. [3]

The damage to Norfolk is reported to be considerable, and the smoke from the raid was still rising high when our ships departed. We can also hope that American commerce will duly suffer from the effects of this raid.


Editorial from The Hartford Sentinel

24 February 1834

It is reported from our friends in Federal House [4] that President Seymour has rejected the so-called “peace” proposals of the United States. It is our firm editorial opinion that he could have taken no other course. If President Seymour had accepted “King Jackson’s” proposal, he would have been impeached within the day, and, one suspects, he would have voted for his own impeachment.

For there can never be a smidgen of doubt that the New Republic is right to continue to fight this war. The United States have only ever grudgingly accepted our existence, believing us to be a rogue child in the brotherhood of nations. And well may they hate us, for we hold true to everything that they have abandoned. The United States have, in the immortal words of Timothy Pickering, “kept the name of a republic but abandoned the form”. How can we then be surprised that they hate our own beloved New England, which keeps both the name and the form of good government?

For the delivery of such an importunate peace treaty shows how morally bereft the United States have become. George Washington was a great man, and if it were possible to shed tears in heaven, then even in the glorious New Jerusalem of his eternal reward, he would be creating a new river in that divine city as he wept for the stench which has become attached to the earthly city that bears his name. Washington D.C. has become the latter day Babylon, and the only emanations which come from it are the smoke which rises above hellfire. King Jackson has belched forth his smoke against it, and gallant New Englanders are choking on the fumes in Buffalo and New Jersey. But just as the Israelites were delivered from Babylon, so shall New England, by the grace of our Lord, be delivered from Washington D.C.


Editorial from The Hartford Sentinel

25 February 1834

So, not content to attack New England alone, King Jackson has found himself a fellow-king to assist him. The French volunteer regiments which had been fighting beside the Americans now have become official French forces. King Charles X has shown the true desire of most European monarchs to put an end to republicanism, knowing that it spells the end of their desire to rule by right of “blood”. We can only thank our glorious Lord God that King William IV of Britain, and his predecessors, understand allowing Parliament to rule, even if they still do not have a true republic.

For this, as always, shows how the United States have fallen. They are cowards and brutes, who struck only because they thought we were weak. The United States attacked out of a supposed claim to the lands of the Indian Confederation, citing the Indian raids of years before as cause for dissolving the Treaty of St. Petersburg. As with an unscrupulous barman who adds nine-tenths water to one part wine, so do the United States mix one part of truth to ten parts of lies. For it is true that Chief Black Hawk – who still continues his brave resistance to this day – should not have made raids into American territory. Yet how much truer is it than the Americans have shed ten drops of Indian blood for every drop of their own that was spilt? And even if that were not so, what cause but the arrogance of the sinful could have brought the United States to declare war on New England and the United Kingdom and to stage such infamous attacks?

And now, the King of France has decided to join the uncrowned King of the United States in attempting to bring to ruin the New Republic. Charles X did not declare war at first, like the coward that he is, but waited until it appeared that the United States were standing strong. Only by sending “volunteers” to fight for the United States could he show what he had planned. And even then, he did not declare war until the United States reached New Jersey and annexed part of Mexico’s territory. One suspects that had word of our glorious raid at Norfolk reached Versailles, then King Charles would not yet have joined this war. But he has. For the French are vultures, feeding on the corpses of the dead, and the Americans are the jackals who provide their bodies. [5] But while the United States still hold our sacred soil, we will drive them from it. The raid at Norfolk was only the beginning of what New England can do. The United States peace proposals are naught; only when they have withdrawn from our lands can there be peace.


26 February 1834

NES Nantucket

North Atlantic Ocean

The wind was blowing from the southwest; the perfect breeze to take the combined armada of British and New England ships of the line, frigates, and assorted smaller vessels back to port in New York. At least, it would have been, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry thought, if all of this armada were returning to New York. Already, he could see the first squadron of British ships tacking to starboard to begin the voyage back to the British Isles. More would follow; it would be a much-reduced fleet that returned to New York.

“Is it necessary to remove so many ships?” Perry asked his old friend, Captain Albright, who remained on board the Nantucket as liaison. “It seems an over-reaction to the French joining the war. We knew it was coming, after all.”

“Of course we did. Why do you think half the Royal Navy is back in Scapa Flow even now?” Albright answered. [6]

“So now you send most of the other half? Even a quarter of the Royal Navy could keep the French on their side of the Channel.”

Albright said, “No-one wants to take the chance. But we have other reasons, anyway. With Charles X officially joining in, there’ll be war from the West Indies to India itself. We’ll need a lot of ships – and men – to deal with that.”

“But we were just starting to put pressure on the Americans,” Perry said. “With a few more raids on Baltimore or Charleston, or maybe even Washington, we could make them really hurt.”

“Commerce raiders will be the real hurt,” Albright said. “We’ve spent enough time hunting down the American ones. The French will be even worse.”

Perry felt his face form into a frown.

“Cheer up,” Albright said. “At least now Parliament will give us the money it needs. With the United States alone, our MPs thought that New England would carry the bulk of the war. The funds they did approve – and grudgingly – were being spent on Ireland. That’ll change now.”

“I suppose so,” Perry said. But his nod was reluctant. He suspected that the British would turn all that money into extra troops to be used capturing the French colonies in the West Indies, Africa and the Indian Ocean. It looked like the entire burden for the war would fall on New England. At least until the Irish were out of the war. Maybe even after that.


[1] The Hartford Sentinel is the oldest surviving paper in New England. It was then, as now, the paper most sympathetic to the propertied classes (at that time, the Federalist Party), including both the genuinely rich and the social aspirants. In this era, it was much more conservative than in the present day, although of course it remains the paper of the social conservatives. During the War of 1833, it was the most pro-war newspaper – although few people dared voice anti-war sentiments in any event – and the most staunchly pro-British.

[2] As in OTL, Commodore is not yet a permanent commissioned rank in the New England Navy (or the U.S. Navy), but a rank assigned to a captain commanding a group of vessels. Although the New England Navy has close ties to the Royal Navy, it has retained the distinction in rank. The New England Navy has, as yet, no admirals either.

[3] Naturally, the paper made no mention of the New England and Royal Navy losses in conducting the raid.

[4] The formal name for the residence of the New England President. Informally, it was even then most commonly referred to as “Pickering’s Cottage” for its modesty, but the Hartford Sentinel would hardly deign to use such a name.

[5] This is the earliest source that can be found for the origins of the unflattering New Englander nickname for the Americans.

[6] This is a reference to the operations against privateers. In the OTL War of 1812, and in TTL’s War of 1811 and War of 1833, privateers were a major nuisance, and Scapa Flow was one of the main bases for the ships fighting them. Albright is, of course, exaggerating about the number of ships deployed there.


Decades of Darkness #31: Active Negotiations

3 March 1834,

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

United States of America

John Brown did not know quite what he had expected on meeting Aaron Burr, but certainly not what he had found. Burr was an elderly man, of course, which he had expected, but he was also urbane and charming, incredibly smooth in his conversation. Which was far from the dragon-faced ogre and grand conspirator who had been reported in the United States. The former Vice-President of the USA. The man who was known to have murdered Alexander Hamilton, and was suspected of doing the same to Rufus King. The man who had first tried to separate the Western states from the USA, then had succeeded in separating New York, and who had tried to annex the Indian Confederation to New England.

The man who might, with Brown’s assistance and that of some of his compatriots, succeed in detaching Pennsylvania from the USA.

Burr said, “I’ve been watching your progress over the last few years. I should say, I’m quite impressed with what you’ve done.”

“We haven’t done enough,” Brown said. The Velvet Circle had been loud in its calls for the abolition of slavery, but that had made no impact in the United States. Too many men made money exploiting their fellow man, and looked down on black men as subhuman, to succeed within the United States. Brown had gradually realised that, and thus started contacts with others who preferred that Pennsylvania leave the Union altogether. “The Velvet Circle has made no progress. There are too many men in the United States who want to extend slavery. Take Illinios. It was barely made a free-soil state when it was formed, and now many of the people there want to bring in slaves. Only Pennsylvania is truly opposed to slavery. We cannot expunge it from the United States. We have to take action against it. And your help has enabled us to do more.”

That was certainly true; the supply of money, occasional arms, and moral support had been valuable. But Brown was most impressed by Burr’s own vigour. The man was nearly eighty, but he had somehow travelled from New York, through the battlefields in New Jersey, across the border into the United States, and reached Pennsylvania.

“I hope that we can do more still,” Burr said. “Separation has become nearly respectable in Pennsylvania, thanks in large part to your efforts. The thought occurs that if Pennsylvania declared its secession, the United States’ position would become untenable along the entire Lowell-Gallatin Line.”

Brown said, “Much as I wish we could do that, we would gain nothing but to be hanged as traitors.”

“Who by?” Burr said. “Secession is legal in the United States – which is ironic, since it is forbidden in New England – under your Fourteenth Amendment. How can it be treason to seek the rights guaranteed you under the Constitution of the United States?”

“What the law says matters very little,” Brown said, knowing the frustration was clear in his voice. “Just ask the slave importers in West Florida or South Carolina, if you want proof of that. We would be condemned as traitors just as much as, say, Rufus King was.”

“Ah, but there is a crucial difference,” Burr said. “Rufus King, may God have mercy on his soul, had no-one to help him. Pennsylvania does. New England and Britain both stand ready to help.”

“The same Britain and New England who can’t even defend their own borders?” Brown replied. “The United States hold more than half of New Jersey, much of New York State, and at last report were advancing into Upper Canada. And who now have found support from France.”

Burr shrugged. “It is one thing to capture territory. It is another thing to hold it. The United States’ soldiers are being stretched thin holding that land. If Pennsylvania were to declare its secession, and deploy its militia into the field, they would be able to defend themselves long enough for the Continental Army to aid them. The U.S. Army would have to withdraw with its supply lines cut.”

“Withdraw into Pennsylvania,” Brown said. “I want Pennsylvania free from the United States, but this is not the way to achieve it. At this time, I do not believe that New England and Britain are capable of helping us.”

Burr said, “So let that be, for now. I will continue my meetings with other Pennsylvanians. But would you change your view if the Halifax Powers showed they were capable of taking the war to the United States?”

“If they could show that, then yes, I would be,” Brown said.

Burr smiled.


24 April 1834

Waterloo (Later Porter) [1]

Texas-Coahuila Territory

United States of America

(Disputed territory; still claimed by Mexico)

“Miserable place for a capital,” General Sam Houston said. There had been many arguments about this place already, but for now, those matters could be put aside. The army gathered here, included the supporting U.S. regiments, had come to influence the ongoing negotiations. Whether Texas-Coahuila would be independent was a question which had already been answered, but the border disputes remained an ongoing dilemma. Including how much of Coahuila would be included in Texas-Coahuila.

“Oh, it has its charms,” General Peter Buell Porter replied. “I wouldn’t mind retiring here. Retiring again, I should say.”

Houston could only nod in sympathy. After seeing his nation tear itself apart during the Great Rebellion, Porter had eventually settled in Texas as a form of pleasant retirement. Only to find himself dragged into another war where he was more figurehead then actual commander. “We’ll have to see about that, after we’ve finished with General Santa Anna.”

Santa Anna, the leading Mexican general, remained in charge of the negotiations despite his multiple defeats. Emperor De Iturbide refused to take any part in the border settlement; he apparently wished Santa Anna to have the humiliation of defeat.

“We should be able to claim as much territory as we want,” Porter said.

“That would be ideal,” Houston said. He cast a silent glance at the approaching Senator Crockett, Jackson’s emissary to these negotiations. “But it won’t happen.”

President Jackson had made it clear, through Crockett, that while he welcomed freeing Texas from the grip of the Mexican Empire and welcoming it into the United States, he did not want to make so many demands that Santa Anna returned to war. With another war raging on their northern border, the United States did not want to become bogged down in a long Mexican campaign.

Sure enough, after Santa Anna and Crockett were both seated, Santa Anna put his proposal through the interpreter. “The Emperor has advised that he thinks the border should be at the Nueces River.”

Houston said, “That would leave too many Texan citizens within Mexico. The border should be at least at the Rio Grande.”

Santa Anna started shaking his head even before that was translated. “That would leave too many Mexican citizens within Texas. And what of the western border?”

Porter said, “We were not finished stating where we think the southern border should be. Much of Coahuila has Texan citizens, even south of the Rio Grande. We think the border should be the Rio Salado, then the Rio Sabinas to its headwaters, then due west to the intersection with the 103rd line of longitude. That should be our western border.”

Santa Anna looked as pale as his swarthy skin allowed. “That leaves us with virtually nothing.”

Porter shrugged. “Since your armies have shown themselves to be so ineffective, you should take these terms before we deliver worse ones. If it were up to me, say, and not the United States, I would be demanding more of Coahuila, and Chihuahua also.”

Santa Anna said, “What of the northern border?”

Houston said, “Let it fall at the 36th parallel, along our common border. As to where that leaves our border with the rest of the United States, that is a matter between us and them, not you.” As he spoke, Houston kept waiting for Crockett to intervene. By demanding such excessive terms, Houston hoped that they might get as far as the Rio Grande. That was what he really wanted.

Santa Anna muttered to himself for a while before he spoke again. “I doubt the Emperor would accept such terms.”

Crockett said, “Now, wait here a minute, General. Let’s talk about this.” Crockett stood, and motioned for Santa Anna to follow. They walked away with the interpreter in tow.

Houston sighed. “I’ll wager that Crockett wants to give Santa Anna everything he wants.”

Ported nodded. “I fear you’re right.”

Yet when the three other men returned a few minutes later, Santa Anna still looked unhappy, while Crockett smiled. Santa Anna said, “It has been pointed out to me that... that my best choice would be to accept your terms. In the name of the Emperor.”

Crockett said, “We will need to have a formal treaty signed by the Emperor, of course. If you prepare it, would you return to us for final signature?”

Santa Anna nodded curtly.

Porter said, “No need to come all the way out here. Perhaps somewhere closer to a city. Near San Antonio, pehaps.”

Houston nodded. “Not in the city, though. There’s a fort called the Alamo nearby. Let us meet there.”

Crockett smiled at Santa Anna. “I will see you again, General, at the Alamo.”

Santa Anna departed hurridly.

Houston shook his head. “I didn’t expect that, Senator. How did you make him give in so easily?”

Crockett said, “Easily. I pointed out to him that if he wanted to overthrow the Emperor, he would have his best chance if he blamed de Iturbide for the most humiliating defeat possible. Especially since his other alternative was having worse terms dictated at him.”

Houston chuckled. “Then we can truly celebrate the birth of the U.S. state – territory, for now, I suppose – of Texas-Coahuila.”


5 June 1834

Fort Clinton,

New York State,

Republic of New England

U.S. Occupied

The row of prisoners marched glumly along in front of Elie Frederio Forey, until recently a captain of a volunteer unit, now a major leading his own battalion of French troops. A battalion which was now advancing into New England territory. The first step in the defeat of a key British ally, and a step closer to Quebec. He did not know whether liberating that was a realistic goal, but he hoped it could be.

One of the prisoners caught his eye, a thin man wearing the uniform of a captain. Forey took the opportunity to practise his English with a man of rank. “What is your name, Captain?”

The captain bowed mockingly. “Captain E. Allan Poe, sir, at your service, Major Frenchman.”

Forey gave his own name.

“Well, Messr. Major Forey, you seem to have acquired a pet raven.”

Forey barely noticed the bird which had been following him ever since Baltimore. “It gives better conversation than most men.”

Poe raised an eyebrow. “You’ve taught it to speak?”

“No, I’ve taught it to stay silent,” Forey said. “What is conversation, after all, but an excuse for someone to listen to you?”

Poe said, “Then, sir, I am your prisoner, and I must perforce allow you to inflict conversation on me.”

Forey said, “A distinguished prisoner, however.” Forey decided he liked Poe’s sardonic outlook. “I would be honoured if you would join me and my officers for dinner tonight.”

Poe said, “An evening with civilised conversation certainly sounds better than a night wrestling for space with cockroaches and privates.”

Forey laughed. “Welcome, then.” He had made a policy of ordering his troops to treat civilians well, to spare property, and to engage in no wanton destruction. [2] What had disturbed him was that the U.S. Army operated under no such constraints.

“I’ll have to make sure we amend that before we reach Quebec,” he muttered, then bade Poe farewell until the evening.


6 June 1834

NES Nantucket

Outside Chesapeake Bay

“This is a challenging stroke, Commodore,” Commander Albright told Perry. “I hope it works.”

“It will work,” Perry insisted. It has to work, he thought. The lines of ships stretched out before him on both sides. The New England Navy and the Royal Navy had both sortied in strength; every ship that could be spared from New York, Boston and Halifax. If this failed, they would be forced to rely on fresh ships from Britain, and those might be slow to arrive.

But the flotilla was in place; ships of the line, frigates, sloops, and cutters. And transport ships behind, packed with soldiers from the Continental Army and British and New England marines.

“This means a lot of troops missing from your border,” Albright said. “Troops that could be used in holding back the Jackals.”

“It will work,” Perry repeated. It had to work. New England badly needed a convincing victory in this war. The raid on Norfolk had had little effect on Yankee morale; the French entry into the war had more than cancelled that out.

The fleet kept sailing on, toward the mouth of the Potomac.


Excerpts from “Among The Ravens: The War of 1833 and its Historical Context”

(c) 1946 by Martin van Buren VI

Boston University Press

Boston: New England

Chapter 7: The Return to Washington

The successful raid on Washington had a major impact on the war. It represented the first assertion of naval superiority by the Halifax Powers which was to be crucial in determining the outcome of the war. While the troops did not remain in Washington for more than two days – long enough to burn most of the government buildings – when they withdrew to avoid conflict with fresh troops out of Baltimore, the blow to U.S. prestige was immense. The federal government withdrew from Washington for the duration of the war. More significantly, it raised New England morale, which had been badly weakened by the series of U.S. victories on land. And in perhaps the most important outcome – and one which had been unanticipated – it led the Pennsylvanian extremists to declare secession, changing the balance of the war.

The raid on Washington also had some long-term, unanticipated effects. After the war, the United States decided to relocate the District of Columbia to a more secure location, and thus changed the national capital. And it made a national hero of Commodore Perry, and led to the New England Navy’s adoption of Admiral as an official rank, a rank which for the first five years had only one occupant...


[1] OTL Austin, Texas. ITTL, named for Peter Buell Porter, the “Father of Texas”, who moved into Texas in 1820 along with the rest of the founding families.

[2] Similar to what Forey did in Mexico in OTL. Then, he was unfortunate enough to get rebuked by Napoleon III for it. Here, at least he isn’t being similarly told off by the U.S. forces, although he’s still looked at strangely for it.


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