Victoria: Chapter 23

As usual, we gathered around the coffee-stained, ring-marked back table at Mel’s. The General Staff had grown somewhat with the addition of men from Vermont and New Hampshire, but the Operations Section was just twelve officers, which was the most who could fit at the table. I made sure Mel didn’t get a bigger table.

We had Washington’s invasion plan. The question was, how could we take advantage of it? Once everybody had downed their buckwheat cakes and venison sausage, I asked for ideas.

“I know the 42nd Division,” said one of the new guys from Vermont, Fred Farmsworth. “Our Marine Reserve unit played against them in an exercise a few years ago. It was a joke. When we attacked, they broke and ran – and everybody knew we were just shooting blanks. I could keep the 42nd Division out of Vermont with a couple of Boy Scout troops armed with slingshots.”

“Do we want to keep them out?” I asked.

The old hands smiled; they knew we had an opportunity to use the “let ‘em walk right in” defense, and on the operational level too. Seth Browning, who had traded his Army National Guard rank of Lieutenant Colonel for Hauptmann im Generalstab and a pay cut, laid out the obvious. “The 42nd Division can only come on two routes,” he said. “They can come up I-91, or they come up via Whitehall and the east shore of Lake Champlain. I’d bet on the Champlain approach, because I-91 is hemmed in by mountains and they’ll be scared of our infantry in the mountains. They’re flatlanders, and the land east of Champlain is fairly flat. Plus, they can get into Vermont directly from New York state, and they’ll be more comfortable with that. If we guess wrong and they do come up I-91, our militia can keep ʻem on the road and our mobile forces can shift quickly and cut them up with motti tactics.”

“A good analysis,” I replied. “What should our intent be if you’re right and they attack via Whitehall?”

“That’s easy,” said John Ross, who I had dual-hatted as commander of our motorized forces and member of the Grossgeneralstab. “We let them come well in, then pocket them with their backs to Lake Champlain. Being Army, they’ll see water as an impassable obstacle rather than a highway. Once we have them trapped with their backs to the lake, they’ll cave.”

“What about the folks in Vermont between West Haven and Burlington?” said Sam Shephard. “They’ll take this kind of hard.”

“Sadly, that is war,” said Father Dimitri, now the informal Imperial Russian advisor to the Northern Confederation General Staff. “We Russians know well the cost of letting an invader come. But we also know it can bring decisive victory to the defender. Their sacrifices will be well-rewarded. The Tsar has authorized me to tell you that he will follow your first major victory with diplomatic recognition of your country. I think the destruction of the 42nd division will count as such a victory.”

“OK, then, we know our intent: pocket the whole 42nd Division against Lake Champlain and wipe it out. The Plans section can lay out our deployment accordingly. What else do we need to decide here?” I added.

“What if they try a naval blockade? Our report from the White House meeting leaves that unclear,” asked Don Vanderburg, also a recruit to the General Staff; he’d shown earlier that he could make decisions. “And what if they go through with the JCS proposal for an air campaign?”

“Our satellites indicate they may attempt to intercept the next Russian ship bringing arms into Portland,” answered Father Dimitri. “They have stationed two American destroyers and an Aegis cruiser off the Maine coast. If they try to stop our ship, the Imperial Russian Navy will uphold the principle of freedom of the seas. You do not have to worry about that.”

“An air campaign does face us with some problems,” I added. “They can unquestionably do serious damage to civilian targets. History tells us that will just make our folks fight harder, but of course we want to prevent it if we can. Militarily, an air threat is only significant if we have to move operational reserves fast, by road or rail. I don’t anticipate that here. Plus, our anti-aircraft guns and shoulder-fired SAMS will make most of their pilots fly too high to see or hit much.”

“I think we may have some operational, not just tactical answers to their air,” said Captain Ron Danielov, a former Marine Corps Scout/Sniper sergeant who was in charge of special operations. “As you know, a special operation is an action by a small number of men that directly affects the operational or strategic level. I think we may be able to do one targeting their air power. I’m playing around with some ideas, talking with Ross’s guys and a couple of the trash haulers from the Air Guard.

“Fine,” I replied, “but we need to move fast. How soon will you be ready to pull something off, or tell me that you can’t?”

“One week,” Ron answered.

“In war, one week is a long time,” I said. I allowed my subordinates to come up with their own solutions to problems, but I insisted they be quick about it.

“Sorry, but that’s what it takes,” Ron responded. “We’re not just doodling and day-dreaming, we’re rehearsing some stuff to see if it works. You can’t make a special operation up as you go along; it’s too fragile for that. You’ve read McRaven’s book too. You know that.”

I had and I did. His reference was to a book by a U.S. Navy SEAL officer, Bill McRaven, The Theory of Special Operations, published way back in 1993 by the old Naval Postgraduate School. That and the U.S. Special Operations Command’s Pub 1, Special Operations in Peace and War, were good guides to a kind of war where smarts could make up for numbers and equipment. I knew Ron was right.

“OK, you’ve got your week,” I replied. “If they start bombing before then, we’ll just suck it up and take it.”

The first bombs fell three days later, on June 19, 2028. Cruise missiles came in just before dawn, targeting the State Houses in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, National Guard armories, and power plants. The damage was extensive but largely symbolic. The State Houses and armories were empty, and the power plants were down for lack of fuel. Three waves of bombers hit us after the cruise missiles, going for bridges, rail lines and railway shops, fuel depots (also empty), and the Portland docks. In Washington, President Warner announced “the beginning of precise, surgical air action to compel the northern rebels to surrender to lawful authority.”

In Augusta, a precise, surgical cluster munition dropped by a U.S. Navy F-35 hit the schoolyard of St. Francis Elementary during noon recess. Thirty-three children died, along with seven teachers and the parish priest.

We had expected the hits we got, other than the schoolyard. Railroads are easy to blow up but also easy to repair, and we had the trains moving again by midnight. Engineer bridges were ready to go in strategic places, and those were up quickly too. Railroad rolling stock was hard to replace, but we had scattered it around the country and didn’t lose much.

Video of the St. Francis schoolyard was on the Internet within forty-five minutes of the attack, and the images broadcast around the world brought further air attacks to a screeching halt. Japan said in no uncertain terms that if there were further civilian casualties, there would be no more yen.

We also had an amazing stroke of luck – or perhaps something more than luck, since St. Francis was involved. The F-35 that dropped the cluster bomb was shot down. Our few anti-aircraft weapons were deployed to protect our mobile ground forces, not our cities. But a Russian instructor happened to be showing some of our troops how to use the SA-18 shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile at a small base just south of town. They heard the bombs hit Augusta, and when one of the American jets screamed overhead on its way home, the instructor took a shot and got it. The pilot came down alive.

I immediately sent one of our few helicopters to pick up the U.S. Navy pilot and bring him to St. Francis. Pilots seldom see their handiwork up close. They pickle their bombs, run for home, and its beer:thirty at the club. It’s all a video game for them. Unlike infantrymen, they’re not prepared to see the other guy’s eyes bug out when you twist a bayonet into his guts.

I called the school and stopped the removal of the bodies. Then I went over there myself and met the helo as it came in. The helo crew had told the pilot what he’d hit, and he was already shaking when I met him at the bird. With a video camera stuck in his face, I forced him to walk through the blood, guts, and tiny severed limbs, lifting each sheet and staring at his handiwork. He managed to maintain his composure until the third kid, a little blond girl whose torso was ripped half away. He had a little blond daughter about the same age, and he came unglued. The camera caught his face in an unforgettable image of horror and agony, just before he puked himself dry. By the tenth kid, he was begging me to shoot him rather than look at any more. I made him keep looking. When he’d stared into the eyes of every tiny corpse, I ordered him locked up in the town jail under close watch, not so he couldn’t escape but so he couldn’t kill himself.

I got back to headquarters to find a message from Governor Adams, asking me to meet him down at Mel’s as soon as possible. When I got there, I found the mayor, a couple of the Governor’s advisors, and Bill Kraft already with him. The subject of discussion was what to do with the Navy pilot. The two most popular alternatives were putting him on trial as a war criminal or hanging him that afternoon in the St. Francis schoolyard.

“Well, what does the General Staff advise in this case?” the Governor asked me.

“Waal, I don’t know,” I said in my best Maine accent. “Since we seem to be deciding to hang him now or hang him later, I guess I’d as soon hang him now. It’d make the people of Augusta feel a little better, anyway.”

“It sure would,” the mayor added.

Bill Kraft had been sitting to the side, smoking his pipe, looking into a book and making it clear that he didn’t much care for meetings like this. I expected he’d also favor a prompt hanging. Instead, he gave me a look of icy contempt and said, “I would have expected at least an attempt at military reasoning from someone in the uniform of a General Staff officer.”

After that face shot, I knew I was going to get a lesson in military reasoning. Bill’s lessons were usually good ones, even if they sometimes felt like a broken-glass suppository wrapped in sandpaper.

“Here as elsewhere, the correct question is, how do we use this situation to strike most powerfully at our enemy?” he went on. “Merely doing what makes us feel better betrays a lack of self-discipline. Our object is not to feel good, but to win.”

“I thought we’d already done that by putting this guy on YouTube as he cracked up,” I replied.

“That was an excellent start,” Kraft said. “But why not carry it further?”

“How?” asked Governor Adams.

“Send him home,” Kraft replied.

“You mean just let him go after he killed our kids?” the Mayor asked.

“Exactly,” Kraft answered.

“How does that help us?” the governor inquired, knowing Kraft well enough to realize he was probably on to something.

“The Chief of our General Staff should be able to answer that question,” said Kraft. “Regrettably, in his hurry to get here he seems to have left his brain in his wall locker, so I will explain.” There was the suppository.

“If we send the pilot home, we toss a hot potato into the lap of the federal government. They have three choices, all bad. They can let him out in public, in which case he will tell a story of horror that will undermine public support for the war. They can arrest him for war crimes, which will let all their military personnel know that if they make a mistake, their own government will sacrifice them. Or they can send him back to his unit, where he will undermine the will of his fellow pilots to drop bombs anywhere but in the ocean or open fields. Whatever they do helps us, while the pilot is no further help to us if we keep him here. So we should send him home.”

As usual, Bill was right. We all saw that, and we all knew he was right about self-discipline as well. As the weaker party, we had to do what would hurt the enemy, not what would make us feel good.

So that’s what we did. We announced that as a humanitarian gesture to the pilot’s family, we were releasing him, and we invited the federals to send a plane under a white flag to pick him up. That made us look like the good guys to the world, and the video of a U.S. Air Force transport coming into the Augusta airport with its insignia covered by white patches didn’t hurt either.

The pilot gave a weepy interview to the press on his departure on June 20, saying that the war was a terrible thing and he hoped nobody would drop any more bombs.
He said the same thing to a bigger clutch of newsmen when the plane landed at Andrews.

Then, to our delight, facing three unpalatable choices, the federal government did the worst possible thing. It chose all three.

First, it let the pilot appear on all the TV talk shows to cry about what he had done. Then, it arrested him. When the military screamed, it dropped the charges, so it looked like it was condoning war crimes. Finally, it sent him back to his unit, where he spread his horror story to everyone he could talk to, so those pilots dropped their bombs in the ocean from then on.

***

It was not the end of the air campaign. For several days the sky was quiet. Then, on June 23, federal aircraft began buzzing our towns at night with sonic booms, not dropping any ordinance but reminding us they still could. On the 25th they hit two bridges with laser-guided bombs, after warning us well beforehand so all traffic could be stopped. On the 26th, they began hunting our locomotives with anti-tank missiles. We didn’t have many engines; we needed every one of them and couldn’t let this continue. I called in Ron Danielov. He’d had more than his week, and it was time to see if a special operation could help us out.

“Waal, what’ve you got for us?”

“I’ve got three operations set up and ready to roll. You can use any of them or all of them,” Ron replied.

“What are they?” I asked.

“The first, and most powerful, is aimed at Washington itself. We’ve got six moving vans sitting in southern Virginia, each with about 10,000 pounds of explosives in it. The drivers are our men. On signal, they will take those trucks on to the six bridges that connect Washington with Virginia, park ’em, set the timers, and dive into the Potomac. They’re all good swimmers who can reach the Virginia shore. When the bombs go, they’ll take several spans out of each bridge, cutting Washington off from the south.”

“What about civilian casualties?” I asked. “We can’t ignore that problem without giving the feds license to ignore it too, and it’s our best air defense.”

“The trucks have powerful loudspeakers that will play a recorded message, ‘This is a bomb. Get off the bridge immediately.’ That starts as soon as the drivers punch out, and goes for fifteen minutes before they blow. If anyone tries to enter the truck or move it, the bomb goes off automatically, so the delay won’t effect the operation.”

“How long will the bridges be down?”

“A few days, but that’s enough. As soon as the Confederate government knows they’re blown, Confederate forces will enter Virginia and the governor will proclaim the state’s secession from the Union.”

“Holy shit, you set that up?” I replied, astounded.

“Well, I pushed it over the edge, anyway,” Ron replied. “Virginia has wanted out, and the Confederates have wanted Virginia in, so the ground was already laid. When I told them we’d cut Washington off from Virginia long enough for them to move, they decided this was the time. Remember, that’s what special operations are about: hitting on the strategic level, or at least the operational level. Blowing the bridges would just be tactical, and that’s not a special op.”

“If Confederate forces are on the Potomac opposite Washington, the feds’ capital will be untenable. They’ll have to move it which will be an enormous problem for them, given the size of that government. It will effectively incapacitate them for months,” I said, thinking aloud.

“Now I hadn’t thought of that,” Ron admitted.

“If that’s your first act, and it’s a good one, I’m almost afraid to ask for the second,” I said. “But bombing them won’t keep them from bombing us. Have you got something that will?”

“The second operation helps with that, and also assists the Confederates’ entry into Virginia,” Ron answered. “We’ve done a little recon at the Oceana Naval Air Base and at Langley Air Force Base, near Norfolk. One of our guys got into both, driving a beer delivery truck. You know a beer truck will never be stopped on an air base. Anyway, they’ve got the planes lined up wing-tip to wing-tip in nice straight rows on both bases, so they look pretty. I’ve got four teams down there with an 81 mm mortar each, and they can just walk their fire up and down the rows. I figure they can take half, maybe three-quarters of those aircraft out.”

“Not bad,” I said, “but the feds will still have plenty of aircraft. That will disrupt them for a few days, maybe a week, but no more.”

“We know that, which is why we have a third operation planned,” Ron replied. “The target is the other base where most of the sorties against us are flown from, Dover, in Delaware. We’re gonna hit the single most vulnerable point on any air base: the Officers’ Club on Friday night.”

“Now that’s better,” I reflected. “Pilots are a great deal harder to replace than aircraft. How many of the fly-boys do you expect to wipe out, and how are you going to blow the place?”

“Our intel is that there are usually 100 to 150 aircrew, pilots and NFOs, at the Club on the average Friday night. But we’re not going to blow it. We’re going to take those guys and bring them home.”

“Home? What do you mean? I don’t get it,” I said.

“Here,” Ron replied. “We’re going to bring them here, to the N.C. When we take the place, we’re going to hold the federal aircrew hostage and demand a transport aircraft to bring them here. When they get here, they’ll serve as hostages. We’ll chain one to every locomotive, every factory, every strategically important target, so if the feds hit those targets, they’ll kill their own men. My guess is that the federal government will order them to do that, but their pilots’ accuracy will diminish drastically.”

“I love it! I love it! That’s brilliant! Shit, if you make that one work, you’ll get the Blue Max!” I cried. “Skorzeny himself would shake your hand if you can pull it off. Is that the kind of thinking they taught you Scout/Sniper guys?”

“We didn’t write it with the runes for nothing,” Ron said.

“OK, my answer on all three is GO! And the ideas are good enough I’ll back you up even if they don’t work,” I said.

“Aye aye, sir,” Ron replied. “And they will work, subject to the old German artilleryman’s caution: all is in vain if an angel pisses in the touchhole.”

***

This time, the angels were on the side of the smaller battalions. One of the trucks broke down, and we’d overlooked the railroad bridge which was sloppy map work on our part, but the attack on the Washington bridges did what it was supposed to. It triggered the move of Confederate forces into Virginia and that state’s joining the Confederacy, which made Washington untenable for the federal government.

The feds picked Harrisburg, Pennsylvania as the new federal capital. Not only did the move prove disruptive, they lost their local support base of government employees, most of whom couldn’t move because there was no place to put them. Deprived of the federal payroll, much of northern Virginia became a ghost town. The Pentagon was turned into the world’s largest nursing home, specializing in patients with Alzheimer’s. It wasn’t much of a change. In the former District of Columbia, the Capitol and the White House were vandalized, partly burned and finally taken over by bums and crack heads as places to squat. Having ruined the nation, they became ruins themselves.

***

The mortar crews at Langley found the aircraft still parked in tidy rows and walked their fire from one end to the other. They destroyed about fifty airplanes.

At Dover, our team of special operators found almost 300 guys in the club. It seems the base CO had called a meeting of all aircrew for a mandatory lecture on sexual harassment, in response to a complaint by the bar girl that some pilots had been “looking at her.” It took two C-17s to carry them all to Portland. The feds howled when we staked them out at all the worthwhile air targets, but the tactic worked even better than we expected. When President Warner ordered the air attacks continued, the remaining American pilots simply refused to fly. The air campaign was over.

As Father Dimitri had promised, the Russians took care of the threat of a naval blockade. On July 4, 150 miles outside Portland, the American destroyer USS Gonzalez ordered the Russian freighter White Russia to stop. The ship, which was loaded with RPGs, machine guns, and ammunition intended for us, refused. The American ship put a five-inch round into the White Russia‘s bridge, killing the captain and seven crew members. Ninety seconds later the Gonzalez was blown out of the water by three torpedoes from the Russian submarine which had been escorting the White Russia.

In Washington, where the federal government was beginning the process of packing to move, the Navy demanded immediate and forceful military action against Russia. President Warner, remembering the Trent Affair in the first American Civil War, demurred. “One war at a time, gentlemen, as President Lincoln said,” were his words to the JCS. It was a wise decision, but it effectively took the U.S. Navy out of the war against us.

***

That left us to face the renowned 42nd Division (as it continued to be called by everybody except the American Secretary of Defense). That wasn’t a threat, it was an opportunity.

The deployment of our own forces was complete. The militia was mobilized in western and southern Vermont and southern New Hampshire, to provide a “web” within which the regular forces would maneuver and to guard against an attack up I-91.

We knew the first enemy objective was Burlington, where they intended to turn inland away from Lake Champlain and follow I-89 to the Vermont capital, Montpelier. After a thorough reconnaissance, the General Staff determined that we would attempt to pocket the 42nd Division around Vergennes, trapping them between Otter and Lewis Creeks with their backs to Lake Champlain.

Accordingly, we moved a regiment of light infantry, with our few artillery pieces, into the area along Lewis Creek, stretching east to Monkton Ridge. Their mission was to prevent any advance north. They did not entrench, but set up a mobile defense in depth based on small teams that could ambush enemy infantry and call in fire on enemy vehicles. Another light infantry regiment plus the local militia held the eastern flank from West Rutland, along Lake Bomoseen and Lake Hortonia, through Middlebury to Monkton Ridge. Their mission was to prevent the enemy from going east. Vergennes lay too far west to cover, so we evacuated the population and garrisoned it with light infantry who had been trained in urban combat. They expected to fight cut off from our other forces. Operationally, their mission was to draw as many enemy as possible into the area and hold them while we encircled.

I established the headquarters of the General Staff in Middlebury, about fifteen miles from where Lewis Creek empties into Lake Champlain. Here was stationed our Mobile Force, under John Ross. It consisted of his Marine battalion on dirt bikes, both of our light armor regiments, our heavy armor regiment with its T-34 tanks, and a regiment of motorized infantry. The mission of the Mobile Force was to undertake the actual encirclement of the 42nd Division. It was the focus of efforts, or Schwerpunkt, of the whole operation.

The 42nd Division had been mobilized in late June, but had done virtually no training. Its encampment, at and around Camp Smith on the Hudson River, had been a circus of drugs, drinking, and debauchery. After three white officers were murdered, most of the rest went home; blacks were promoted from the ranks to replace them. On July 10, three “Death Battalions” of gang members were added to the division, which turned mere chaos into complete pandemonium. Finally, on the 21st of July, 2028, the monster started crawling north.

For the New York towns in its path – towns on “friendly” soil – the passage of the 42nd Division was an envelopment by hell. Stores were looted. Whites were mugged, raped, or shot. Homes, barns and businesses were burned. The division’s march was a traveling riot.

Since the federal government could not control the Internet, the images of rape and pillage were broadcast into every American home. Secretary of Defense Mowukuu, when asked to explain the depredations of “her” division on its own citizenry, replied truthfully that they were no worse than what the people who made up the division had been doing for many years in the areas where they lived. Americans failed to find that reassuring.

Vermont actually got off easier than New York. We had evacuated the towns we knew the 42nd would pass through. The remaining homes and businesses were put to the torch, but none of our civilians were hurt and movable property was saved.

Our militia was sure they could hold a line against an invasion as pathetic as this one, and they were right. But I would not let them, because I didn’t want to stop the 42nd Division. I wanted to destroy it. Once they understood that, they went along.

On July 31, the lead element of the enemy force hit the forward edge of our defense in front of Lewis Creek. We let them penetrate as far as the creek itself, then started chewing them up in small ambushes. The main body of the division did exactly as we hoped when it hit resistance in Vergennes. It figured this would be the decisive battle, and halted while its reserves came up. On the morning of August 2, I told John Ross to attack.

John put the T-34s right up front, figuring they would cause “tank terror” among the drunken, untrained, undisciplined horde. They did, and the enemy fled back toward the Lake. By the evening of the 2nd, the encirclement was complete.

That same afternoon, I went out to find John. He was down by the southern end of the pocket, figuring that if a breakout was attempted that was where it would come.

When I stuck my head into Ross’s CP, which was a single command version of the LAV, I was almost impaled by a German spiked helmet coming out. Below the helmet was a vast, rotund figure that could only be Bill Kraft, clad in the dark blue uniform of a 19th century Prussian officer. Down the trouser legs ran the wine-red stripe of an officer of the Prussian General Staff. I must have done a double-take, because Kraft looked at me and said, “Don’t you remember why I turned down your kind offer to join the Christian Marine Corps?”

I had to think back a bit, but I did remember. Bill had said, “I wear a different uniform.” Now I knew which one.

“We were wiped off the map in 1947.” Bill said, “but Prussia is more than a place. As Hegel understood, it is also an ideal. Prussians still exist, and so does the Prussian Army, a bit of it anyway. Now, it’s fighting again, here, for what it always fought for: for our old culture, against barbarism. Someday, we will win.”

“Well, this is a good start,” I replied, with what I thought was suitable New England understatement.

“It’s only that,” Bill said. “What do you intend to do next?”

At that point John Ross stuck his head out of the LAV. “We’ve just gotten a radio message from someone claiming to be the commander of the 42nd Division. They want to surrender.” “I guess that answers your question, Bill. It’s over, and we can go home,” I added.

“Wrong answer,” Bill shot back. “All that means is you’ve won a tactical victory. The operational question is, what are you going to do with it?”

I saw immediately that Kraft was right. I’d gotten too wrapped up in the immediate situation and was failing to think big – a serious mistake for a General Staff officer.

“Since you are our Prussian advisor, can I start by asking your advice?” I responded.

“Strategically, just as restoring the union is the federal government’s objective, ours is fracturing it further,” he replied. “I think this battle, and the conduct of the 42nd Division on its march here, gives us an opportunity to bring New York state into the Northern Confederation.”

“Do we want New York in the Confederation?” I asked. “We want people who share our traditional values, and I’m not sure they do.”

“Most of the people in upstate New York do,” Kraft responded. “We don’t want New York City. But most of upstate is conservative, and it is also rich in land and industry. It would be an asset.”

“OK, then, how do we go about it?” I inquired.

“You are Chief of the General Staff. You should be able to answer that question. I gave you a hint of where to start,” Kraft replied in good Prussian style.

I took some time to ponder the matter, while Herr Oberst i.G. Kraft filled a fresh pipe and Ross prepared to move up to meet with the 42nd’s commander. I knew what Bill Kraft meant by his hint: the reference to the 42nd’s conduct on its march. The people who lived in the area it passed through hated its guts. Now, the 42nd was ours. Bingo!

“I guess the first thing we do is turn what’s left of the 42nd over to the people of New York,” I said to Bill.

“Right,” he replied. “That takes the moral high ground. We become the agents of justice.”

“I suspect they’ll hang every one of them from the nearest tree,” I said.

“Right again, and that will split them from the federal government,” Kraft said. “The feds will scream that they’re all guilty of murder, which means their own government will be a threat to them. What do we do then?”

“We move in to protect them from their own government.”

“I think you’ve got it,” Kraft concluded.

It worked out pretty much the way we had outlined it. It took us a couple days to round up the POWs. Then, with one light armored regiment and two motorized infantry battalions, we escorted them back into New York. We followed the 42nd’s own route of advance in reverse, and along the way we dropped off batches of POWs for the locals to deal with as they saw fit. Mostly, they saw fit to slaughter them on the spot. CNN covered the whole thing, and after what people had seen of the division during its advance, most Americans cheered.

By the 5th of August, we were in Rensselaer, just a few miles up the Hudson from the state capital at Albany. We had about 1000 POWs left.

That evening, President Warner delivered a televised speech to his nation. After denouncing the vigilante justice taken by the New Yorkers as the usual “hateful, racist, etc.” stuff, he promised that “this government will not rest until every American citizen who participated in this lynching is brought to justice. I have directed the FBI to move in force into New York state as soon as the military situation permits.” Every New Yorker knew that the forces of the Northern Confederation were now their best protection.

Just after midnight, Governor Adams rang me up on the satellite phone. “John, Governor Fratacelli of New York just called. He and his cabinet are prepared to secede from the union if we can protect them. What should I tell him?”

“The federals don’t have any significant forces in position to invade New York,” I replied. “If they are prepared to mobilize their state to fight, we can protect them in the interim. But what about New York City? We sure don’t want that.”

“Neither do they,” he replied. “I’ve already discussed that with him. We cannot decide on admitting them into the Confederation. New Hampshire and Vermont would have to vote on that, as would the people of Maine. But New York does want in, and it also knows it can’t get in unless it dumps Babylon on the Hudson. They are ready to do that.”

“Then tell him I can have a battalion in Albany by daylight.”

“Do it,” Governor Adams ordered. So we did.

By the time the legislature met to hear the governor at ten in the morning on the 6th of August, our troops were patrolling the city. The legislature, with the images of the 42nd Division’s march fresh in its mind, voted overwhelmingly to secede. In an ingenious move, they gave the city of New York to Puerto Rico, on the grounds that it had far more in common with that place than with the rest of the people of the state of New York. Puerto Rico was too smart to take it, but at least New York state was free of it.

I brought up two more motorized infantry battalions to secure the new border, which was set at the George Washington bridge. Following the vote for secession, the governor mobilized the Guard, called upon the local militias to help defend the state and began setting up a state military. Unlike the Northern Confederation, the New York Guard included a potent air force: a whole wing of F-16s, trained in ground support.

In the east, the federals were now reduced to a narrow belt made up of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware, connected by a thread through New York City with Connecticut and Massachusetts. That connection was lost on July 15, when Connecticut seceded.

On July 18, I received a discreet inquiry from the Confederate military staff in Richmond. Would we be interested in a joint offensive on Harrisburg? Quietly, they had been moving strong mobile forces into the Shenandoah Valley, preparing to roll north.