1824: The Arkansas War [Secure]
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by Eric Flint
Category: Alternate History
Description: In the newest volume of this exhilarating series, Eric Flint continues to reshape American history, imagining how a continent and its people might have taken a different path to its future. With 1824: The Arkansas War, he spins an astounding and provocative saga of heroism, battlefield action, racial conflict, and rebellion as a nation recovering from war is plunged into a dangerous era of secession. Buffered by Spanish possessions to the south and by free states and two rivers to the north, Arkansas has become a country of its own: a hybrid confederation of former slaves, Native American Cherokee and Creek clans, and white abolitionists--including one charismatic warrior who has gone from American hero to bete noire. Irish-born Patrick Driscol is building a fortune and a powerful army in the Arkansas Confederacy, inflaming pro-slavers in Washington and terrifying moderates as well. Caught in the middle is President James Monroe, the gentlemanly Virginian entering his final year in office with a demagogic House Speaker, Henry Clay, nipping at his heels and fanning the fires of war. But Driscol, whose black artillerymen smashed both the Louisiana militia in 1820 and the British in New Orleans, remains a magnet for revolution. And fault lines are erupting throughout the young republic--so that every state, every elected official, and every citizen will soon be forced to choose a side. For a country whose lifeblood is infected with the slave trade, the war of 1824 will be a bloody crisis of conscience, politics, economics, and military maneuvering that will draw in players from as far away as England. For such men as Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Commissioner of Indian Affairs Sam Houston, charismatic war hero Andrew Jackson, and the violent abolitionist John Brown, it is a time to change history itself. Filled with fascinating insights into some of America's most intriguing historical figures, 1824: The Arkansas War confirms Eric Flint as a true master of alternate history, a novelist who brings to bear exhaustive research, remarkable intuition, and a great storyteller's natural gifts to chronicle the making of our nation as it might have been.
eBook Publisher: Random House, Inc./Random House Publishing Group,
Filament eBookStore Release Date: December 2006
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"Flint’s witty, tightly written alternative history presents a subtly revised version of events in the final year of the War of 1812. . . . Fans will cheer even louder if this outstanding start turns out to be the first of a long saga." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Eric Flint drops his readers into another time and place, where cultures collide, the action is hot and heavy, and we get to experience the best of the human spirit." -- David Weber, author of the Honor Harrington adventures
"[Flint is] a helluva storyteller. . . . He’s dished up an excellent historical novel here–entertaining, informative, fast-moving." -- SF Site
"Eric Flint has a genius for taking his passion for history and turning it into powerful, action-packed stories that instantly grab the readers and plunge them into a time and place that might have been." -- David Drake, author of The Far Side of the Stars and Redliners
"A rousing tale . . . thought-provoking and gloriously action-packed." -- SFReviews.net
"A meticulously researched alternate history, a tantalizing glimpse of the free America we have lost, and a thrilling story of warfare in the Napoleonic era." -- Gene Wolfe, author of The Book of the New Sun
APRIL 25, 1824
"Houston must have known." The president turned his head away from the window, presenting his profile to the other two men. The expression on his face was not condemnatory so much as simply pensive. "Must have known for several years, in fact. Am I right, Winfield?"
The tall, handsome general in one of the chairs in Monroe's office shifted his position. Only slightly, of course. The very fancy uniform he favored didn't lend itself well to extravagant movement while he was seated.
"Oh, certainly," General Scott replied. "Driscol's been building another Line of Torres Vedras in those mountains. The original took Wellington over a year to build—and he had the population of Lisbon to draw on. Even with all the negroes who have migrated to Arkansas the past few years, Driscol doesn't begin to have that large a labor force. And the Cherokees and Creeks are useless for that sort of work, of course. For the most part, at least."
The secretary of state, the third man in the room, cleared his throat. "Perhaps…" John Quincy Adams pursed his lips. "The work stretched out over that long a period of time…"
President Monroe shook his head. "I thank you, John, but let's not be foolish. Sam Houston? "
He chuckled. "I remind you that my son-in-law is the same man who, at the age of sixteen, crossed sixty miles of Tennessee wilderness after running away from home. Then he lived among the Cherokee for several years, even being adopted into one of their clans. He could find his way through any woods or mountains in Creation."
The president's tone of voice grew somber. "Even drunk, as he so often is these days."
Monroe finally turned away from the window. "No, let's not be foolish. He spends as much time in the Confederacy as he does here at home, since the treaty was signed. There is no chance that Sam Houston failed to see what his friend Patrick Driscol was doing. Nor, given his military experience, that he didn't understand what he was seeing."
As he resumed his seat at his desk, Monroe nodded toward Scott. "It didn't take Winfield here more than a few days to figure it out, when he visited the area. And—meaning no offense—Winfield's not half the woodsman Houston is."
The general's notorious vanity seemed to be on vacation that day. His own chuckle was a hearty thing. "Not a tenth, say better! I've traveled with Houston a time or two. But it didn't matter on this occasion. Patrick provided me with a Cherokee escort, who served as my guides. He made no attempt to keep me from seeing what he had wrought in those mountains. Quite the contrary, I assure you. He wants us to know."
A bit warily, Scott studied the president. John Quincy Adams didn't wonder as to the reason. James Monroe was normally the most affable and courteous of men, but they were treading on very delicate ground here. That most treacherous and shifting ground of all, where political and personal affairs intersected.
Sam Houston's marriage to James Monroe's younger daughter Maria Hester in 1819, following one of the young nation's most famous whirlwind courtships, had added a great deal of flavor and spice to an administration that was otherwise principally noted for such unromantic traits as efficiency and political skill. The girl had only been seventeen at the time. The famous Hero of the Capitol—still young, too, being only twenty-six himself, and as handsome and well spoken as ever—receiving the hand in marriage of the very attractive daughter of the country's chief executive. What could better satisfy the smug assurance of a new republic that it basked in the favor of the Almighty?
It hadn't been all show, either. Very little of it, in fact. Allowing for his constant absences as the administration's special commissioner for Indian affairs, Houston had proved to be something of a model husband. He treated Maria Hester exceedingly well; she, in turn, doted on the man. And, thankfully, Houston's notorious womanizing had vanished entirely after his marriage. There'd been not a trace of scandal, thereafter.
His steadily worsening affection for whiskey, which had become a growing concern for the president, was something that Houston kept away from his wife. However much whiskey he guzzled in the nation's taverns—that, too, had become something of a legend—he did not do the same at home. He drank little, as a rule, in his wife's presence; was invariably a cheerful rather than a nasty drunk, on the few occasions when he did; and quit altogether after his son was born.
Even Houston's stubborn insistence on naming the child Andrew Jackson Houston hadn't caused much in the way of family tension. Monroe had made no formal objection of any kind, whatever he might have said in private. In any event, the president was far too shrewd a politician not to use the occasion to defuse the tensions with Jackson that had begun to build. As political tensions always did around Jackson, the man being what he was.
So, despite Houston's faults—and which man had no faults? Adams asked himself; certainly not he—the president liked his son-in-law. So did John Quincy Adams, for that matter, and he was not a man given to many personal likings.
Adams glanced at the general sitting in the chair next to him. So, for that matter, did Winfield Scott. At least, once he'd realized that Houston's resignation from the army and subsequent preoccupation with Indian affairs meant that he was no longer a rival in the military.
Yes, everybody liked Sam Houston. You could not have found a man in the United States who would tell you otherwise. Until they finally discovered that, beneath the good-looking and boyishly cheerful exterior, there lurked the brain and the heart of a Machiavellian monster.
A few months after his marriage, all of Houston's scheming and deal-making had come to fruition later that year with the Treaty of Oothcaloga.
The Confederacy of the Arkansas had been born that day. At first, the great migration of the Cherokees and the Creeks that followed had been hailed across the nation as a stroke of political genius on the part of the Monroe administration. By none more loudly than Andrew Jackson, of course, who had by then solidified his position as the champion of the western settlers. But even Calhoun had grudgingly indicated his approval.
Copyright © 2006 by Eric Flint.