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1997 edition cover
|Cover artist||Tom Stimpson|
|Genre||Alternate history novel|
|Published||September 22, 1992 (Ballantine)|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3570.U76 G86 1992|
The story deals with a group of time-travelling white supremacist members of the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) from an imagined 21st-century South Africa, who attempt to supply Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia with AK-47s and small amounts of other supplies (including nitroglycerine tablets for treating Lee's heart condition). Their intervention and technologies results in a Confederate victory in the war. Afterwards, however, the AWB members discover that their ideas for the Confederate States and Lee's are not one and the same as they believed and the general and the men of the South have a violent falling out with the white supremacists from the future.
In January 1864, the Confederate States is on the verge of losing the Civil War against the United States. Men with strange accents and oddly-mottled clothing approach Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the headquarters of the Army of Northern Virginia. They demonstrate a rifle far superior to all other firearms of the time. The men call their organization "America Will Break" (or "AWB"). They offer to supply the Confederate Army with the rifles, which they refer to as AK-47s. The weapons operate on chemical and engineering principles that are unknown to Confederate military engineers. The AWB establish a base in the little town of Rivington in Nash County, North Carolina, making it into a combined fortress and arsenal. They also set up offices near the War Department in the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia.
The AWB continues to offer inexplicable intelligence and technology to the Confederacy, providing Lee with what they call nitroglycerin pills, which ease his frequent chest pains. Finally, Lee questions their leader, Andries Rhoodie, who provides Lee a partially true explanation. The men of AWB are Afrikaner Neo-Nazi ultra-nationalists from post-apartheid South Africa, having traveled back 150 years from the year 2014 to change the outcome of the Civil War. The newcomers claim that white supremacy has not endured to the modern era and that blacks have marginalized whites. Lee is told that President Abraham Lincoln will act as a vicious tyrant during his second term and that his successor, Thaddeus Stevens, will continue his work to ensure that blacks will become the dominant political faction in the former Confederacy, as they outnumber whites in many areas. The AWB says that blacks will take over other countries, including the United Kingdom.
The AWB men train soldiers to use their new weapons and issue ammunition. As the men see the power of the new weapons, the Confederate morale improves considerably during preparations for the 1864 campaign against Union forces. With the AWB's guns and some direct military aid from the time-traveling Afrikaners, the Army of Northern Virginia drives Union General Ulysses S. Grant's forces out of Virginia. In a surprise night attack they capture Washington City, thus ending the Civil War. To the amazement of most of the Confederate troops, Lincoln refused to flee the capital during their advance and appears on the White House lawn, where he addresses them before personally surrendering to Lee. The United Kingdom and France recognize the Confederacy, and Lincoln is forced to accept the Confederate victory.
As Confederate forces begin to end their occupation of Washington, and Union troops withdraw from the portions of the Confederacy that they had captured earlier in the war, the new country starts to determine its future social and political direction. During peace negotiations in September 1864, in which Lee is one of three Confederate commissioners, the Confederacy demands millions of dollars in war reparations and the cession of the disputed states of Missouri and Kentucky; in return, they will give up any claims to Maryland and West Virginia. After reaching an impasse, the Confederates decide to postpone negotiations until the Union's presidential election in November. Both the Democratic and Republican parties split; the mainstream Democrats choose New York Governor Horatio Seymour as their candidate with former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandigham as his running mate, while the Republicans renominate Lincoln and Vice President Hannibal Hamlin. General George McClellan, after failing to gain the Democratic nomination, runs as an independent candidate with former Massachusetts Senator Edward Everett as his running mate, while the Radical Republicans split from their party when Lincoln is renominated, advancing the ticket of former General John C. Frémont and Senator Andrew Johnson of Tennessee. The election is not decided until November 19, with Seymour winning 138 electoral votes to Lincoln's 83, McClellan's 10, and Frémont's 3. Out of more than 4,000,000 votes cast, Seymour beats Lincoln by just 33,000 votes.
After Lincoln loses the election, the Union reluctantly agrees to pay $90 million in gold (more than $1.4 billion in 2019) as reparations; the Confederacy, in turn, gives up any claim to Maryland and West Virginia. After much debate, both sides agree to Lee's proposal for Kentucky and Missouri to hold elections in June 1865, after Lincoln has left office, to determine whether they will remain in the Union or secede and join the Confederacy. The two countries appoint Lee and his former opponent Grant to supervise the elections to ensure fairness. At one point, AWB men are caught smuggling weapons into Tompkinsville, Kentucky. When questioned, they disclaim any effort to affect the outcome of the elections and claim to be selling weapons, which is highly unlikely because of the group's overwhelming wealth. Other supporters, both official and unofficial (including Lincoln, a Kentucky native), pour into both states to try to sway voters. Despite an assassination attempt on Lee by a former slave in Louisville and the machinations of the Rivington men, the election goes as planned, with Kentucky voting to join the Confederacy and Missouri voting to remain in the Union.
Confederate slaves freed by the Union during the war violently resist returning to slavery; many who served in the Union Army continue to fight Confederate forces long after the Union formally surrenders. That frightens many Confederate whites and infuriates the troops charged with fighting them, particularly Nathan Bedford Forrest and his men. Lee, already dubious about slavery and respectful of the courage of the United States Colored Troops during the war, becomes convinced that continuing to enslave blacks is both morally wrong and ultimately impracticable. He believes that it is impossible to try to return to prewar conditions, and that black guerrillas will continue to raid and perhaps prompt a general slave rebellion in the near future. The parts of the Confederacy that had fallen to the Union during the war had already lost many of their slaves, who were freed as soon as the Union troops had arrived and did not return to their previous masters. In other parts of the Confederacy, many slaves had run away, mostly to Union lines, where they gained their freedom. Despite threats from Rhoodie and the AWB, Lee makes no effort to hide his views.
At the urging and with the full backing of Jefferson Davis, who may not be reelected under the Confederate Constitution after his six-year term, Lee runs for President in the 1867 Confederate States presidential election, despite Davis's initial reservations about Lee's views on slavery. The Rivington men convince Forrest to run against Lee's pro-abolition, anti-slavery Confederate Party, on a pro-slavery Patriot Party ticket with Louis Wigfall as his running mate, and they put their considerable resources into Forrest's campaign; their offices in Richmond serve as his campaign headquarters. They draw from their large supply of gold coins (in the form of Krugerrands). Lee achieves a narrow victory after he wins Tennessee's electoral votes, defeating Forrest 69-50 in the Electoral College and by 32,000 popular votes out of 963,437 cast. He carries the Confederate states of Florida, Georgia, the newly-admitted Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Forrest wins the Confederate states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. Following his loss, Forrest concedes defeat and pays a call to Lee at Arlington, promising to help rally the young nation behind its new president.
Soon after the election, Lee receives a history book that was stolen from the Rivington men from a former Confederate soldier, which covers the Civil War and the original outcome that was supposed to happen without the AWB's intervention. Enraged at the lies that Rhoodie had told him about the future, Lee confronts the AWB leader by using the modern history book as proof of Rhoodie's dishonesty, and compares his fanaticism to that of John Brown. Faced with the accusations, Rhoodie promises to show the AWB's true colors to Lee.
At Lee's inauguration on March 4, 1868, AWB men try to assassinate him by using Uzis, which results in the death of Lee's wife, Mary, his vice president, Albert Gallatin Brown, various dignitaries and generals, and many civilians. Police forces seize the AWB offices in Richmond after a fierce battle. Lee enters the stronghold to find more technological marvels (such as fluorescent light bulbs and air conditioning), books that document the increasing marginalization of racism from 1865 into the 21st century, and the efforts made to improve relations between blacks and whites. Lee shows the books to the Confederate Congress, in the hope that the future's nearly-universal condemnation of slavery and racism will convince them to vote for his plan for gradual abolition. Appalled at the AWB attempted assassination, Forrest offers his services to Lee without reservation and is put in command of the hastily-remobilized Confederate forces. They ready to do battle with the AWB men, and Lee declares martial law in the Rivington area.
Confederate forces lay siege to Rivington and engage the AWB, which uses modern weaponry such as belt-fed machine guns, sniper rifles, mortars, barbed wire, and land mines to inflict heavy casualties on the Confederate forces. During the campaign, Henry Pleasants, a Union officer who was captured by Confederate forces late in the war and decided to remain in the Confederacy, where his skilled labor would be more in demand, conceives a similar scheme as he did in the real-life Battle of the Crater. It is quickly accepted by General Forrest, who appoints Pleasants to his staff at his old Union rank, and President Lee orders for Pleasants' name be kept a secret to avoid tipping off the Rivington men aware of Pleasants' real history. Unlike in the real battle, the infantry successfully capitalize on the opportunity.
Despite suffering heavy casualties because of the vast technology gap, Confederate infantry destroy the AWB's time machine during the fighting and seize the town after they break through the AWB defenses. The few surviving AWB who were unable to escape back to their own time lose hope and surrender. Soon after being captured, Rhoodie is killed by an enraged slave. Well aware of the Rivington men's cruelty and treason, the Confederates spare the slave from any harm.
In Richmond, the Confederate Congress narrowly passes President Lee's gradual emancipation bill. Pharmacists have copied the nitroglycerin pills brought by the AWB, and Lee hopes, with their help, to live to see the effects of his plan for emancipation. Meanwhile, a few of the stranded Afrikaners agree to help the Confederacy replicate their 21st-century technology so that Lee can counter the Union in both its replica AK-47s and its greater industrial strength. Though the Confederacy has maintained strict neutrality in a war that the Union had started with the British Empire by invading Canada, Lee fears that the Union may later attempt a war of revenge against the Confederacy. He rests assured that the Confederacy will, however, remain the most technologically advanced country in the world for many decades to come.
- American Civil War alternate histories
- A Rebel in Time, another Civil War alternate history involving time travel and a racist sending advanced weapons to the Confederacy.
- "Still Valley", a The Twilight Zone episode focusing on the Civil War.
- Southern Victory, another Turtledove novel focused on a Confederate victory and its circumstances.
- "Greater Los Angeles Writers Society Special Speaker Event!". Greater Los Angeles Writers Society. February 2011. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
Turtledove won [..] the John Esten Cooke Award for Southern Fiction in 1993 for The Guns of the South, [..]