Alternate History

Left-behinds (Napoleon's World)

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The left-behinds was a name given to a cultural subgroup of Anglo-Americans who settled in the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th and early 20th century. The name was a literal explanation of their origins; the left-behinds, referred to colloquially and sometimes deragatorily as "hinders" or "hindies," were soldiers, largely from the South, who were quite literally left behind in the Pacific Northwest after the Alaskan War, as the federal government refused to pay for their train tickets back home and thousands of veterans were stranded out west without much money or connection to the locals.

The left-behinds settled primarily in what is today western Washington and parts of Pacifica and Oregon, and harbored a deep-seated resentment of the federal government, the military, and of Alaskans. They were culturally very similar to rural and poor Southerners or Westerners, and introduced that culture to the wild Pacific Northwest. The cities of Alki, Skagit, Port Gardner and Bellingham were the havens of left-behind population, although a significant number of left-behinds settled in or around Sahalee or even further south, in Tacoma, Olympia or northern Oregon.

The left-behinds instilled a passionate animosity towards Alaskan settlers who flooded south into the United States during the 1890's and also stubbornly opposed Washington's statehood in 1889 and Pacifica's in 1899. They also got into regular fights with prospectors headed north during the Fraser, Yukon and Klondike gold rushes of the late 19th century. The "Bitter Hindie" was the name often given to left-behinds due to their "passionate dislike of everyone and everything," as Oregonian author Hubert J. Herbert once wrote. Historians have often agreed that the development of an angry, bellicose and violent subgroup such as the left-behinds was an inevitability, due to the abandonment of thousands of weary and tired soldiers in an unfamiliar, nearly lawless territory following a devastating and violent war, and the chronic unemployment that permeated the region in the late 19th century as the area was slow to rebuild in the wake of the war.

The "Little Hindies" were a successor generation to the original left-behinds, and were a much more formative influence on the region. Having been raised by disgruntled and prejudiced parents, they were locals who understood the region much better than their parents before them and were influential in Washington and Pacifica in passing anti-Alaskan laws in the late 1910's and 1920's, such as the 1915 Alaskan Exclusion Act, which banned the speaking of Russian in workplaces and made it increasingly difficult for Alaskans to find employment.

The left-behinds and the Little Hindies instigated a number of violent acts, including the 1906 Tacoma Riots in which 321 people were killed, the less-destructive 1911 Alki Riots, and 1917 Port Gardner incident, in which 17 Alaskans were publicly lynched. A group of left-behinds were tried and convicted in Olympia in 1913 of murdering Washington Governor James Duquesne and throwing his body in the Puget Sound, and left-behinds in Alki stormed a US Navy warship, the USS Stephen Douglas, and held it hostage for two weeks before blowing it up in the harbor with no casualties in the fall of 1904.

Historians have worked to understand the left-behinds in recent years, and have debunked many falsehoods about the subculture, including the notion that they advocated slavery in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, in a twist of irony, left-behinds tended to be on extremely amicable terms with blacks, despite the racial animosity that existed back in the South. Historical evidence suggests that poor blacks stood side-by-side with left-behinds during the 1906 Tacoma riot and that there was very little racially charged violence between the two groups initially, although the racial tension grew between Little Hindies and African-Americans during the 1920's thanks to a worsening economy, culminating in the 1925 draft riots in Tacoma, Alki and Sahalee.

Also, the idea that the left-behinds were stoically opposed to Northern settlers in the Pacific Northwest has also recently been debunked. Historians almost unanimously agree that the left-behinds were mostly Southern but as many as 20% were from Northern or Midwestern states. The left-behind identity was influenced mostly by the furor over abandonment by the government they had fought for against Alaska and their outcast nature among settlers already living in the region whom they had been fighting to protect only a few years prior. One of the most prominent and incendiary left-behinds, George Franklin, was from Massachusetts and was one of the strongest advocates for outright banning Alaskan immigration and restricting the arrival of prospectors during the 1890's gold rushes.

Left-behinds were a difficult group to categorize politically, as they harbored a deep enmity of the Democratic government of James Blaine that had abandoned them in the Northwest after signing what they felt was a cowardly treaty with Alaska, but they also were appalled at the apathetic response the Nationalist-backed military had made towards them when it subsidized the return journeys of its officer corps and left thousands behind without a penny of reimbursement. Historians often agree that the left-behinds were, as a result, a politically diverse group whose common anger was mostly nonpartisan - almost antipartisan, in fact - and thus difficult for either political party to attempt to channel. In fact, a prominent left-behind organization called the Sons of the Snohomish staged boycotts of elections between 1896 and 1916, refusing to participate in what they called a broken system and committing acts of violence towards people going to vote.

While a number of left-behinds were bellicose and violent in nature, the majority were simple settlers, professionals and average citizens, who eventually moved past their history of displeasure with the federal government. The last of the most violent Little Hindies and their fathers had been marginalized by the 1930's, when the region experienced a growth boom. In 1983, the United States government finally issued an apology to the descendants of the original left-behinds for their treatment in the wake of the Alaskan War.

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