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The American Civil War was one of the major turning points in history, defining what the United States was and would become, and what role it would play in world events in years to come. Although historians still argue, often quite heatedly, as to exactly what degree slavery was a cause of the war, and to what degree other regional tensions determined the fracture lines, it is an undisputable fact that the Union victory abolished the legal sanction of slavery in American culture.
But what would have happened if things had gone differently? Several battles were close-run things, and could easily have gone differently. In particular, there was one lucky break for the Union when a careless Confederate officer lost a complete set of General Robert E. Lee's battle plans which had been wrapped around a set of cigars. A Union scout found them and recognized their worth, and the Union had a critical information advantage on the enemy.
Suppose the lost plans had instead been overlooked or recovered in time by the Confederates? Alternate history master Harry Turtledove uses this as a jumping-off point for a look at a world that might have been, had the South been able to use the resulting victory to leverage recognition by the European powers.
How Few Remain
Turtledove starts the action not with the critical battle, but some twenty years later, as tensions are mounting for a grudge match between North and South. When the CSA decides to buy some Mexican desert in order to secure access to the Pacific Ocean, the USA objects. Matters quickly escalate into a shooting war.
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The Great War: American Front
The next volume of Harry Turtledove's Civil War saga takes up in 1914. In our world, America was sheltered from the direct effects of the World Wars by two wide oceans. But in this world where the South maintained its independence, the ugliness and desperation of battle will cut through the American heartland.
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The Great War: Walk in Hell
The terrors of a Great War fought on American soil continue in the second volume of the Great War trilogy. Turtledove continues to follow numerous ordinary people's stories, showing how the war affects them on a personal basis. Unlike many war novels, in which the major characters keep coming through incredible danger and only spear-carriers ever die, none of the characters in this novel is guaranteed to survive.
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Great War: Breakthroughs
In the third and final volume of Harry Turtledove's Great War trilogy, the Union makes a final push against its enemies in an attempt to avenge the loss of the War Between the States and the Second Mexican War. However, victory for the leaders means untold suffering for the ordinary people.
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American Empire: Blood and Iron
It was clear at the end of Breakthroughs that the story wasn't over. The Union victory had only created more bitternesses, and set the stage for more conflict. Now Harry Turtledove opens a new trilogy, dealing with the aftermath of the Great War and the ugly tensions that it created. Resentment and madmen are afoot in this bitter alternate world where the US is no longer the City on the Hill.
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American Empire: The Center Cannot Hold
In the end of American Empire: Blood and Iron, Jake Featherstone's racist Freedom Party seemed about ready to self-destruct after one of its members assassinated the President of the Confederacy. But things aren't ready to get better yet, and if anything, the worst is yet to come, as both left and right grow increasingly radicalized.
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Updated March 18, 2002.
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