Ceasefire Declared at
by Jeff Provine
says: we're very pleased to present a new story from Jeff Provine's
excellent blog This
Day in Alternate History Please note that the opinions expressed in this
post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
By August 24th 1814,
the War of 1812 had turned to a fiasco. America's invasion of Canada had
been rebuffed despite taking the city of York twice (and burning public
buildings there the second time). Naval victories in the Great Lakes had
stalled Canadian counter-invasions.
A flotilla of ships in a British expedition blockaded the Atlantic, but,
even with the defeat of Napoleon, there were too few troops to do much
more than raid coastal shipping. For the most part, the war was over, and
commissioners had begun to meet in Ghent to discuss a treaty.
"Nice try at finding a peaceful way of the CSA
coming into existence, but somehow I just find it hard to believe as the
majority of Congress would vote against it" - reader's commentIn
the meantime, the raiding continued. Alexandria, Virginia, had been looted
by the British, and American forces worked to defend the militarily
significant Baltimore from full invasion. British General Robert Ross,
however, had a different aim: the center of politics and morale for the
young nation, Washington, D.C. As British landed on August 21, Americans
scurried to put together militia to oppose them. On August 24, a haphazard
collection of 7,000 men, including President James Madison himself armed
with a collection of pistols, met with the British at Bladensburg.
The battle was yet another fiasco for the Americans. Brigadier General
Tobias Stansbury had moved his exhausted men away from well defended
positions to prevent a possible, but unlikely, flanking maneuver. As
officials from Washington arrived, Secretary of State James Monroe ordered
troops to different positions, creating confusion and weak gaps in the
line. American regulars fought valiantly, but the rest were quickly routed
without clear evacuation plans, and the British marched on Washington
"Part of the problem with CSA starts earlier
scenarios was/is that the US is not just a _country,_ but an
_idea_..." -reader's commentReturning to Washington, James Madison
had planned to grab papers and escape into the countryside like most of
his cabinet and Congress were doing. As he saw the evacuation of the city,
he decided that the war had gone long enough. When an advance guard of
British arrived under the white flag, Madison rode out to meet them.
Patriots looked as if they were ready to ambush the Redcoats, but
Madison's presence stopped them. After a brief discussion, the British
returned to Ross with Madison and his entourage of diplomats and soldiers.
Madison met with Ross, and the two began to discuss ceasefire. On the
25th, Admiral Cockburn arrived, giving more clout to the discussion.
Vice-Admiral Alexander Cochrane, the Commander-in-Chief of the North
American Station was preparing for the bombardment of Baltimore, but
messages from Ross and Cockburn about the Americans' request for peace
stopped the altercation. By the end of the month, word of armistice began
to spread throughout the war-weary country. Diplomacy would take many more
months to sort out, but the Treaty of Ghent would officially end the war
December 24, 1814.
Feeling officially independent of Britain, the Americans settled about
their affairs. Madison would pass his presidency to James Monroe, who
would in turn pass it to John Quincy Adams, and then to the firebrand John
C. Calhoun of South Carolina (who narrowly defeated Andrew Jackson of
Indian-fighting fame in party conventions). Calhoun vetoed often, such as
the Tariff of 1828 and the Tariff of 1832, keeping Southern ideals of
states rights in place over the more Federal-thinking Whigs.
After Calhoun's presidency, the workable federation of the United States
went to war with Mexico while he still served as senator. Polk's War ended
favorably with large gains in the Southwest, but this sudden gain of
territory stressed the question of slavery for the nation. After countless
arguments and debates in Congress, the idea of secession finally came up.
The North and the South would never agree, so perhaps they would best seek
their fortunes as neighbors rather than housemates. The Constitution never
addressed secession completely, so legal precedent allowed the peaceful
separation of the United States with the consent of Congress, which had
never happened before in the minor uprisings of territories decades
before. Henry Clay and Stephen Douglas, under the guidance of an ancient
Calhoun too weak to speak but able to write powerful pages, crafted the
Act of Disunion of 1850, separating the United States of America in the
North and the Confederated States of America in the South with a westward
border compromised at 36 degrees, 30 minutes north.
With a stronger industrial base, the USA quickly outpaced its southern
neighbor, who spent much of its political time and energy with
expansionism toward Latin America, adding Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other
Caribbean islands to its domain in the Spanish-American War in the 1880s.
World War I would see the South enter on the side of the Allies early in
1916 while the USA sat out. In 1941, when the Confederate base at Pearl
Harbor was bombed by Japan, CSA President "Cactus Jack" Garner asked USA
President Franklin Roosevelt to acknowledge various treaties between the
two brotherly countries and join them in battle. FDR agreed, and the two
nations fought alongside one another for the first time since the Mexican
War that had ended up driving them apart.
After WWII, many asked if the two nations would rejoin, but, despite its
troubled economy, the South sought to maintain its independence. Racial
subjugation rejected in the North under two-term president JFK was still
accepted as legal in the South with gradual concessions such as the Civil
Rights Act of 1968 signed by President George Wallace guaranteeing
separate but equal segregation.
Despite their differences, the two American nations remain, for the most
part, friendly. Their fiercest competition come in the Olympics, when the
anthems of "My Country, "Tis of Thee" and "God Save the South" are often
says in reality, Madison was not in Washington as the British arrived.
Despite their flag of truce, the British were attacked by militia from a
house (which was quickly destroyed by the Redcoats). Taking this as a sign
of war, the British seized the town, raising the Union Jack above
Washington. The rest of Ross's soldiers arrived and Admiral Cockburn
followed, and much of the public buildings were burned in retaliation for
the torching of York in Canada years before. Shortly thereafter, the Battle
of Baltimore would serve as a display of American fastidiousness as well as
the inspiration for Francis Scott Key's poem "The Star-Spangled Banner".
Having not heard word of the end of the war when it came in December,
General Andrew Jackson performed his victory at New Orleans, catapulting him
to national fame. Jackson would crack down on South Carolina during the
Nullification Crisis of 1832 in which the state attempted to supersede the
powers of the Federal government. With precedent established for obedience
of national law to the point of military intervention, the secession of the
South in 1861 would prove worthy of civil war.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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