Return to That Godforsaken Country
A Brief Overview of History
A Brief Outline of (Alternate) History
In 1860, in one of the most complex and contentious presidential elections since the founding of the United States, Abraham Lincoln won the majority of the Electoral College votes, which triggered the secession of seven southern states. Four others chose to depart when the newly inaugurated Lincoln called for volunteers to bring the wayward states back by force.
Lincoln failed. At such places as Chancellorsville, Antietam, Shiloh, and Big Stone Gap, the armies of the newly created Confederate States of America held off the Federal armies. By 1864, Lincoln was unable to secure re-election in the face of a challenge from the popular former general George B. McClellan. While the McClellan administration did not sign a formal peace treaty with the CSA, it did agree to a cease fire in place, and in effect the Confederate States were acknowledged to be independent.
Their independence was also acknowledged by the Great Powers of Europe, because the “peculiar institution” was ended as a consequence of the war. Due to the immense casualties taken by the Confederate army, the government implemented a program of compensated emancipation for slaves who volunteered to serve in the army and their families. Improving technology in addition made emancipation an economic imperative. On the US side, during Lincoln’s lame duck period he managed to push through an amendment to the US Constitution abolishing the institution as well; by 1865 there were no slaves remaining in North America.
Another consequence of the successful southern bid for independence — and of the continued tension along the extremely long border in the absence of a peace treaty — was the efforts on the part of a number of Native American nations to completely free themselves from both Washington and Richmond. In the former Dakota territory the Sioux nation, led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, proclaimed their independence and were effectively able to enforce it against all who would encroach upon it. Further to the south, the former Oklahoma Territory has become a confederation of tribes led by a mysterious figure known as “Coyote;” the Coyote Confederation is acknowledged by Richmond but not by Washington. Further to the west, the settlers around Salt Lake City have for the second time declared their own independent nation called Deseret; they claim all of the former Utah Territory, along with parts of Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, and Wyoming. Their claims go unacknowledged by either eastern government.
In 1866, just after the war ended, a tremendous earthquake (sometimes called “The Big One”) devastated what had at one time been the state of California. Much of the entire west coast was destroyed, and the bulk of the population — upwards of 90% — were slain. The region has become a complex zone of fjords and islands, commonly called “The Maze.” However, the earthquake also revealed the existence of a new fossil fuel, one carrying incredible amounts of energy. This fuel, which resembles coal with white veins and flecks in it, is called “ghost rock.” Naturally ghost rock is now eagerly sought after, but while it has been discovered in a number of other places since being identified, the largest sources remain in the Maze. As a consequence there is now a race to get railroads built out to the Maze, since whoever can bring ghost rock to the east most efficiently stands to become wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice.
In addition, during the war there began to be rumors of strange supernatural events, in addition to the development of a number of startling inventions. The pace of invention accelerated tremendously following the discovery of ghost rock. Many former US territories in the west remain disputed at best: The Confederacy holds Texas (a state) as well as the former New Mexico territory, which it has divided into two parts, the New Mexico and Arizona territories. The United States continues to hold Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon territory outright, but Deseret and the Sioux Nation have encroached on their boundaries. The former California is in the hands of those organizations who ensured survival for those who remain, organizations which have no fealty to any organizations farther to the east. Colorado, Missouri, and Kansas remain disputed, although violence is at least not organized on a large scale; in those territories (although Missouri remains de jure a state in the US) local government is by far more important than national.