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Victory of the Gray, 1862

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January, 1862 - Confederate General Leonidas Polk contracts typhoid fever, and dies within a week. Without Polk’s interference, the workmen required for the construction of the ironclads CSS Arkansas and CSS Tennessee are temporarily released from military service or receive an exemption long enough to complete them.

March, 1862 - The Arkansas and Tennessee are completed, with the workmen being transferred down to New Orleans to assist in getting the Mississippi and Louisiana built. Confederate General P.G.T Beauregard is injured after falling off his horse, which forces him from active duty for several months.

Meanwhile, the Arkansas and Tennessee are moved north to assist the beleaguered Confederate forces under siege on Island Number 10 by the Union Army of the Mississippi. The arrival of the twin Confederate ironclads sparks a battle in which the Confederates emerge victorious, saving the 7,000 man garrison.

The USS Monitor is sunk while in transit to Hampton Roads after encountering a storm. Without Monitor to oppose them, CSS Virginia and other local Confederate naval units are able to break the local blockade in the area, allowing the trade of Cotton for European war materials to occur. Confederate forces also lay siege to Ft. Stevens on the Delmarva Peninsula in the hopes of closing off the Chesapeake to the Union entirely, but prove unable to gain quick success.

April, 1862 - The Confederate Army of the Mississippi under General A.S. Johnston launches a surprise attack against the Union Army of the Tennessee under Ulysses S. Grant in what will become known as the Battle of Shiloh. The Confederate force advances rapidly against their Union opponents, whose attempt to rally around the Sunken Road is defeated by the deployment of fresh Confederates. CS troops soon follow up on that success by taking Pittsburgh Landing, forcing the Union troops away from their gunboat support and into the swamps around the Owl and Snake Creeks before heavy rainfall however brings the first day of fighting to a close late in the afternoon. The rainfall quickly turns the terrain into mud, thereby preventing any fortifications from being built and the flooding of the nearby creeks prevent form of escape.

When the second day arrives, the Confederates launch their final assault with their remaining fresh reserves in the lead. Although they initially put up a strong fight, the exhausted and demoralized Union forces are simply overwhelmed with the last holdouts surrendering late in the afternoon. In the aftermath of the battle, Confederate losses are totalled at around 14,000 dead, wounded, or missing. The Union losses are 17,000 dead or missing, with another 20,000 captured. Only a few thousand manage to escape from Confederate clutches. The news of the great victory is electrifying to the South, while immensely frustrating to an increasingly demoralized North in return.

Further South, the CSS Mississippi is completed just in time to join with the CSS Manassas in protecting the Forts Jackson and St. Philip, while the yet to be completed CSS Louisiana is beached and used as an immobile battery. An assault by the Union West Gulf Blockading Squadron under David Farragut upon the fortifications late in the month is resoundingly repulsed with heavy losses. Unwilling to accept defeat so easily, the Federal forces attempt an overland offensive towards the critical port with the troops of Benjamin Butler’s command.

Butler’s Campaign quickly descends into a quagmire, with the swamps ruining the cohesion of his force. Confederate forces, with their more intimate knowledge of the local terrain, initiate partisan warfare upon the Federal troops and are soon draining their manpower via attrition. Of particular note, the nearly all black 1st Louisiana quickly distinguishes itself as a tenacious Confederate unit, proving reliable and effective in facing their Northern foes. Electing to end the costly campaign and conserve the Federal resources for a more opportune time, the Union troops soon withdraw.

May, 1862 - The recent string of Confederate victories has dramatically raised the likelihood of the European powers intervening to enforce a peace between the Federal Government and the Confederacy. Desperate for a victory, President Lincoln forces General McClellan to attack towards Richmond with his Army of the Potomac overland (The inability of the USN to defeat the CSS Virginia leads to discarding of the “Peninsula” plans drawn up by McClellan). In early may, the Union force sets up after much grumbling by its commander.

Initially, the Federal Army makes good progress and is able to win a series of skirmishes against the opposing Army of Northern Virginia of the Confederacy. Their high water mark comes at the Battle of Fredericksburg, where they are able to inflict a defeat upon the Confederates and force them back to the North Anna River with their commander Joseph E. Johnston wounded. However, the Union success would dramatically come to an end here.

After withdrawing to behind the river, Virginia Robert E. Lee would take command of the force and rally it before setting in motion a trap for the approaching Federal Army. Lee establishes his army at the Ox Ford along the North Anna, where the terrain is slightly elevated on the Southern side (As to give Lee’s artillery an advantage), while the nearby Little River, and swamp protect both flanks of his army from attack. Further adding to the Confederate advantage, the wooded and rolling nature of the terrain makes viewing the entirety of the Confederate positions impossible to see in full from the Northern riverbank.

To attack Lee’s position, the Federal forces are forced to cross the river at several miles to the east and west of Ox Ford at Quarle’s Ford and Chesterfield Bridge, thus dividing themselves into two parts, each being separated by a river. Once Lee receives confirmation of this, the Confederates launch a thrust across the North Anna, thus cutting the Union Army in two before turning on the lodgement at Quarle’s Ford while sending blocking forces to Chesterfield Bridge. The Battle of the North Anna is on.

The Federal troops at Quarle’s Ford are caught by surprise, and forced into a disorganized rout after taking grievous losses. Pivoting around, Lee rallies his forces and deploys his remaining reserves against the Union forces cut off near the Chesterfield Bridge. Although they fight fiercely due to their backs being against the wall, their resistance proves useless and they are forced to surrender by nightfall.

The Army of the Potomac has lost close to 27,000 men killed, wounded, and missing, while another roughly 40,000 men have been compelled to surrender. On the Confederate side, the Northern forces was able to inflict roughly 23,000 losses of all kind upon their foe. When news of this great calamity reaches Washington D.C., President Abraham Lincoln is purported to have broken down and cried for hours, while Northern morale reaches its nadir in the following days.

The serious reversal of fortunes for the North is only compounded further when news arrives that Fort Stevens has been forced to surrender to Confederate forces, meaning that the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay has now been decisively closed to the Union. A USN relief attempt is failed, with the flagship ironclad vessel USS New Ironsides sunk by the CSS Virginia.

June, 1862 - When news of the latest Federal disaster is disseminated in Europe, the Anglo-French finally decide to intervene and enforce a peace between the two warring sides. Although initially fiercely opposed to giving up the struggle, Anglo-French threats to militarily aid the Confederacy and a growing resistance to continue the war among the Northern public forces President Lincoln to come to terms.

In the resulting Treaty of London, the CSA is compelled to accept the loss of West Virginia but is able to keep its slice of Arizona as well as the Indian territory. The CSA also accepts the demilitarization of Virginia north of the Rappahannock River, while both sides agree to not seek financial reparations. The treaty is signed on June 11, but its announcement is not released to the wider Confederate public until June 20, which becomes the Confederate Day of Independence. With the announcement of the end of hostilities a new era is ushered within North America, with an independent Dixie able to chart its own course in the world. Only time will tell what happens next…..

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