American Empire: Blood and Iron - By Harry Turtledove

The Great War is over. After three years of brutal conflict, the United States have defeated the Confederate States and Canada—as, in Europe, the German Empire and Austria-Hungary have defeated France, Britain, and Russia. Now, all across North America, people are trying to pick up their shattered lives.

In Boston, Sylvia Enos mourns the loss of her husband, George, who was killed when his destroyer, the USS Ericsson, was sunk by a torpedo during the last moments of the war. As the Confederate States had already asked for an armistice, she believes a British submersible sank the Ericsson. She has more urgent things to worry about, though: keeping her job when so many men are returning from the war, and bringing up her young son and daughter.

In fact, though, Commander Roger Kimball of the CSS Bonefish sank the Ericsson, a last blow against the United States even though he knew the Confederacy had asked for quarter. His executive officer, Tom Brearley, tried to talk him out of this, but he ignored Brearley and went ahead. As the USA prohibited the CSA from keeping submarines after the armistice, Kimball is on the beach in Charleston, South Carolina, looking for whatever he can find.

Roger Kimball is Anne Colleton’s sometime lover. Her plantation, Marshlands, a ruin because of the Red Negro uprising of 1915–16, Anne is now living in St. Matthews, South Carolina, not far from Columbia, the state capital. After the war ended, she and her brother Tom and a militia they recruited have finally succeeded in clearing out the last remnants of the black rebels who called themselves the Congaree Socialist Republic from the swamps along the banks of the Congaree River.

Colonel Irving Morrell is one of the U.S. heroes of the moment. The young officer spearheaded the column of armored traveling forts known as barrels that broke the Confederate defenses around Nashville, Tennessee, and allowed the United States to capture the important city. Pushing south from Nashville, he was one of the first officers to receive a Confederate request for a cease-fire.

Lieutenant Colonel Abner Dowling is adjutant to Colonel Morrell’s commanding officer in the Nashville campaign, George Armstrong Custer. As the war ended, he was summoned to Philadelphia, the de facto capital of the United States, along with Custer, whom Democratic President Theodore Roosevelt has just promoted to full general as a reward for his long, faithful, and—in the end—successful service. Custer’s headlong aggressiveness found a perfect match with the use of barrels en masse.

In Philadelphia, young Socialist Congresswoman Flora Hamburger has earned the nickname “the conscience of the Congress” for her principled stands on important issues. Her younger brother, David, is also in Philadelphia, at the Pennsylvania Hospital—he lost a leg fighting in Virginia not long before the end of the war. To her dismay, David has become a Democrat and supports a hard line against the CSA. Flora has become friendly with Hosea Blackford, the veteran Socialist congressman from the state of Dakota, who lives in the same block of flats as she does.

Nellie Semphroch, a widow, lives in Washington, D.C., with her grown daughter, Edna. They have run a coffeehouse throughout the Great War in the de jure capital of the United States, which was occupied for two and a half years by Confederate soldiers. Nellie has also gathered information from Confederates in the coffeehouse and passed it on to the cobbler across the street, Hal Jacobs, an important member of a U.S. spy ring. Nellie and Edna were both decorated by President Roosevelt for their services, and Nellie has just accepted a proposal of marriage from Jacobs.

Anne Colleton’s former butler, Scipio, has found a job waiting tables in Augusta, Georgia. The cultured, educated Negro is glad to have escaped from the ruin of the Congaree Socialist Republic, and perhaps even gladder to have escaped from his former mistress’ vengeance: the Red uprising, of which Scipio had been an unwilling part, had begun at Marshlands with the murder of her brother, Jacob, a fact that helps drive her push for revenge against the Negroes involved. Scipio hopes for nothing more than to live out the rest of his life in obscurity.

In Lexington, Kentucky, another Negro, Cincinnatus Driver, is adjusting to life in the United States. The adjustments aren’t easy; Kentucky was forcibly rejoined to the USA after its conquest in the Great War. Confederate diehards remain active in the state. So do Red factions consisting mostly of Negroes. Cincinnatus has been uncomfortably and unwillingly involved with both groups, and