Stars and Stripes Forever (Stars and Stripes Series #1)

Stars and Stripes Forever (Stars and Stripes Series #1)

by Harry Harrison

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On November 8, 1861, a U.S. navy warship stopped a British packet and seized two Confederate emissaries on their way to England to seek backing for their cause. England responded with rage, calling for a war of vengeance. The looming crisis was defused by the peace-minded Prince Albert. But imagine how Albert's absence during this critical moment might have changed everything. For lacking Albert's calm voice of reason, Britain now seizes the opportunity to attack and conquer a crippled, war-torn America.

Ulysses S. Grant is poised for an attack that could smash open the South's defenses. In Washington, Abraham Lincoln sees a first glimmer of hope that this bloody war might soon end. But then disaster strikes: English troops have invaded from Canada. With most of the Northern troops withdrawn to fight the new enemy, General William Tecumseh Sherman and his weakened army stand alone against the Confederates. Can a divided, bloodied America defeat England, or will the United States cease to exist for all time?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307416735
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/18/2007
Series: Stars and Stripes Series , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 273,141
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Harry Harrison is famous for many major works of speculative literature, including The Stainless Steel Rat series, Make Room! Make Room! (the basis for the movie Soylent Green), and the West of Eden trilogy. He has won the Nebula Award, the Prix Jules Verne, and the Premio Italia. He lives in Ireland.

Read an Excerpt

There, in the center of London, his statue sits in Imperial Roman splendor, toga-garbed and carved in finest marble. Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, his memory enshrined in what is probably the ugliest monument in the world; the Albert Memorial.

He was a kind man and much loved by the Queen; he brought her true happiness. But did this Saxon prince, who never lost his thick German accent, ever do anything of any importance? Other than father the future king.

He certainly did. He averted war with the United States.

In 1861 the American Civil War was still in its first murderous year. Britain and France, to the dismay of the North, were planning to recognize the South as a separate nation. Now the British steam packet Trent was taking the two newly appointed Confederate commissioners, James M. Mason and John Slidell, to England to represent President Jefferson Davis.

On the eighth of November 1861 the Trent was stopped at sea by the USS San Jacinto. When her commanding officer, Captain Wilkes, found that there were two rebels aboard the Trent he had them arrested on the spot and removed from the British ship.

England was aroused, furious. The War of 1812, when Britain had been at war with the newly established United States of America, was still fresh in memory. With the Northern blockade of the Confederate ports biting deep, there was little cotton from the South and the weaving mills of the North were facing bankruptcy. The Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, saw the boarding of a British ship and the seizing of the passengers as a deliberate insult to Britain's sovereignty. The Foreign Minister, Lord John Russell, echoed the public sentiment when he sent a dispatch to President Lincoln ordering him to release the men immediately--or suffer the consequences. British troops and thousands of rifles were dispatched to Canada and troops massed on the United States border.

Enter the peaceful Prince Albert. Already terminally ill with lung congestion--which was in reality typhoid fever caught from the foul water supply and drains of Windsor Castle--he did a rewrite of the dispatch, ameliorating the language and giving Lincoln a face-saving way out. Queen Victoria approved of the changes and it was sent to Washington.

On December 26 President Lincoln ordered that the two Confederate commissioners be released.

Sadly, Prince Albert would never know that he had averted what very well could have been a tragic confrontation. He had died on the fourteenth of the same month.

But consider for a moment what would have happened if he had not changed the fatal dispatch.

What if Lincoln had been forced by the strong language to ignore the ultimatum?

What if the British invasion of the United States had gone forward?

What if there had been war?

NOVEMBER 8, 1861

The USS San Jacintorocked gently in the calm seas of the South Atlantic; blue water below, blue sky above. The fire in her boiler was banked and only a trickle of smoke rose up from her high funnel. The Bahama Channel was only fifteen miles wide at this point, near the Parador del Grande lighthouse, a bottleneck through which all the island traffic funneled. Captain Charles D. Wilkes stood on the bridge of the American warship, hands clasped behind his back, staring grimly toward the west.

"Smoke in sight," the lookout stationed in the crow's nest called out. "East southeast."

The captain did not move as Lieutenant Fairfax repeated the sighting. The ship that he was waiting for would be coming from the west--should be coming soon if his calculations were correct. If the reports from the Union spies in Cuba could be believed, the men he was seeking should be on board. The chase so far had been a frustrating one; all about the Caribbean. The wanted men had been one step ahead of him ever since he had sailed from Florida. This would be his last chance to apprehend them. If he were wrong, and the Trent did not take this passage between the islands, she would now be safely on her way back to England and the pair would have escaped.

The decision he had made to station his ship here in the Old Bahama Channel was based completely on speculation. If the two men had indeed boarded the Trent, and if the steam packet had left Havana as scheduled--and if she took this course to St. Thomas, why then she should be here by noon at the latest. He started to reach for his watch, then stopped, not wanting to reveal eagerness or doubt before the crew. Instead he squinted up at the sun; surely it was close to the meridian. He clasped his hands even tighter behind his back and the scowl deepened on his face.

Five minutes went by--they could have been five hours--before the lookout called out again.

"Steamer ahoy! Just off the port bow."

"Raise steam," the captain ordered. He slammed his fist on the rail. "That's the Trent, I know that is the Trent. Have the drums beat to quarters."

Lieutenant Fairfax repeated the commands. In the engine room the boiler doors clanged open and the stokers hurled shovel load after shovel load of coal onto the fire. The deck thudded with the sound of running feet. Fairfax relaxed a little when he saw the slightest of smiles on the captain's lips. Wilkes was a hard man to serve under at any time, gruff and bad-tempered at being passed over so often for command. Sixty-two years old and seemingly doomed to remain forever behind his desk as chairman of the Lighthouse Board. Only the outbreak of war had saved him from that. Dispatched to Fernando Po to bring back this veteran wooden steamer to the Philadelphia Naval Yard, he had violated his orders as soon as they had reached Florida and heard about the search that was going on. He never for an instant considered going to the navy yard, not while two traitors were still at large! He needed no orders to apprehend them--just as he had needed no orders from his superiors in the long-gone days when he explored and m
apped the frozen Antarctic wilderness. He had little faith in the official chain of command and was always happier working alone.

The deck vibrated as the screw turned and a small wave foamed at the bow. Fairfax had his glass pointed at the approaching ship, hesitated to speak until he was absolutely sure.

"That is the Trent, sir, I know her lines well. And it is just as you said, eleven-forty, just before noon." There was more than a little awe in his voice; Wilkes nodded.

"Our English cousins are good at punctuality, Lieutenant. They are not good at much else." He had been a fourteen-year-old midshipman when the British Shannon had half destroyed the first ship he ever sailed in, the Chesapeake. Captain Lawrence, mortally wounded by musket fire, had died in his arms. He had never forgotten the dying man's last words--"Don't give up the ship." Yet despite the captain's order the colors had been struck and the ship had surrendered so that he, and the surviving crew members, ended up in a filthy British jail. He had never lost his hatred of the British since then.

"Hoist the flag," he ordered. "As soon as they can see it signal her to stop engines and prepare for boarding."

The helmsman brought the ship about in a smooth turn until they were sailing on a parallel course close to the steam packet.

"She's not slowing, sir," Fairfax said.

"A solid shot across her bows should induce her master to take proper action."

Moments later the gun boomed out; the Trent had to have seen it but they chose to ignore it.

"Very well," Captain Wilkes said. "Fire the pivot gun."

This gun was loaded with an explosive shell that burst close beside the British packet's bow. As the white cloud of smoke dispersed the bow wave on the Trent died away as her engines stopped. Captain Wilkes nodded grim approval.

"Lower the boat, Lieutenant Fairfax. You will take a squad of marines with you, muskets and bayonets. Use them if needs be. You know whom we are looking for."

"I do indeed, sir."

Wilkes watched in silence as the oars dipped and the boat pulled smartly toward the other ship. He betrayed none of the doubts that racked him. The broken orders, the desperate pursuit, the guesses and decisions, were part of the past. But everything he had done would be worth it if the wanted men were aboard. If they weren't ... He preferred not to think of the consequences.

As soon as the boarding ladder was dropped, Fairfax climbed up to the Trent's deck. Wilkes could clearly see him talking to an officer there. Then he turned about to face the American warship and took a white kerchief from his sleeve. Moved it in the agreed signal from chin to waist and back again.

They were aboard!
Eustin pushed through the cabin door and slammed it behind him.

"What is happening?" Madam Slidell asked. He just shook his head and ran across the cabin to the adjoining chamber, pushed into it.

"It's us--the Yankees are after us!" He stammered as he spoke, face pale with fear.

"Did they mention our names?"

"They did, Sir, said they were after John Slidell and William Murray Mason. Didn't mention me nor Macfarland. But the officer, he did talk some about you gentlemen's assistants so they know that we're aboard."

Slidell did not like this. He rubbed at his big, red nose angrily, stomped the length of the cabin and back. "They just can't do this, stop a British ship at sea, board her--this sort of behavior--it cannot be done."

"Easy to say, John," Mason said. "But as I live and breathe it sure looks like it has been done. Now we must think of the papers we are carrying, our warrants--the letters from Jefferson Davis. All the letters to the English and Scotch shipyards about the privateers they are building for us. Remember that we also have personal letters to the Queen and Louis Napoleon. They must not be taken!"

"Throw them overboard!" Slidell said.

"To late for that--there is the good possibility that they would float, be seen. We need a better plan. And I have it." The first fear was gone and Mason was his old and arrogant self again, brushing the back of his hand across his gray, bushy brows in a gesture long familiar to his fellow senators in Washington.

"John, you will stay here with your family and buy us time--a holding action."


"Because I know what to do with the papers. Give yours to Eustin immediately. Macfarland, get to my cabin and get the lot. We will meet in the mail room. Go!"

They went. Mason paused before he followed them, waiting as Slidell threw papers onto the bed in a flurry of activity. "You must think of something, stall them somehow--you are a politician so that pontification, obfuscation and filibustering should come naturally. And lock this door behind me. I am well acquainted with the Mail Officer, and am aware of the fact that he is a retired Royal Navy commander. A real old salt. We have talked long over whiskey and cigars and I have heard many a nautical tale. And he dislikes the Yankees as much as we do. I am sure that he will aid us."

He followed Eustin, heavily laden with the documents, out of the door and heard the key turn in the lock behind him. Eustin stumbled and a sheaf of papers fell to the companionway floor.

"Steady, man," Mason said. "No, leave them, I'll pick them up. Go ahead."

Macfarland was waiting at the Mail Room door, his face drawn and white.

"It's locked!"

"Bang on it, you idiot!" He thrust the papers he was carrying into the other man's arm and hammered on the door with his fist, stepped back when it opened.

"Why Mr. Mason--what is it?" The door was opened by an elderly man with white mutton-chop whiskers, his face tanned by a lifetime at sea.

"Yankees, sir. They have fired at this ship, stopped her, sir."


"It is their expressed desire to makes us their prisoners, to seize us against our will, clap us in irons and carry us off to some foul cell. And perhaps even worse. But you can help us."

The officer's face tightened in grim anger. "Of course--but what can I do? If you hide--"

"That would be cowardly, and we would be found." Mason seized a handful of papers and held them out. "It is not our fate that can be altered. But here are our credentials, our documents, our secrets. It would be disaster if the Yankees seized them. Would you preserve them for us?"

"Of course. Bring them inside."

He led the way across the room to a massive safe, took a key from his pocket and unlocked it.

"Put them in here, with the government post and specie."

When this was done, the safe door swung shut and was locked. The Mail Officer returned the key to his pocket and patted it.

"Gentleman, though I am retired now I have never turned from my duty as a naval officer. I am now a bulldog in your defense. Threats of death will not sway me. I will keep this key in my pocket and it will not come out until we are in safe harbor in England. They must pass over my body before they enter this room. Your papers are as safe as the letters of the Royal Mail."

"I thank you, sir. You are an officer and a gentleman."

"I am but doing my duty . . ." He looked up at the sound of muffled shouting from the deck above, and the march of heavy boots. "I must lock the door."

"Hurry," Mason said. "And we must get to the cabin before the bluebellies do."

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Stars and Stripes Forever (Stars and Stripes Series #1) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was never a big fan of Alternate History Sci-Fi. Until I read S&S FOREVER! I only got halfway through and had to run back to B&N to grab the other two installments of the Trilogy. The Story, the politics, the characters, the battle scenes, even the vintage line-type drawings add up to a spectacular adventure! The fact that Mr HH is a long time avid ACW buff comes shining through on every page. To all those disparagers of these works I have but one question... Would you like some Tea and Crumpets to go with all those Soar Grapes???
BostonVaulter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very campy and feel-good book. I get the feeling that it is not very historically accurate (as far as alternate histories go).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read, but skips a little to get an ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Firepaw pads in saying are we going to start training
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
U have work to do she pads out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Stars & Stripes Trilogy is one of the gteatest alternate history series ever written. I have read it 3 times and each tme found something new and exciting. I hardily recommend this series. I have only one thing negative to comment on. Although being a feedom loving American, in love with our Constitution, I felt that forcimg our type of democracy on Great Britain was a little much. The parimentary form of government which our Mother Country has has worked exceedingly well for hundreds of years,. I felt rather sorry for Queen Victory and was agast at her tteatment by the American conquerers. I read a great deal of history. Although not perfect, Victoria, and I believe the historical record, leaves no doubt that she was one of the gteatest monarchs to ever come out of England. All-in-all, this series is a must read! - Leroy Easler
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This the mating grounds. Where gir meets boy andvtada.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
As a long time fan of Alternate History from two of its greatest authors Harry Turtledove & Steven Barnes all the way to the myriad of short stories that are out there on the subject, I have to say that this novel was without exaggeration, scraping the bottom of the barrel. When I saw that it was a trilogy, I was really looking forward to reading it. After picking up the first book, it became a chore to finish it as I was halfway through. Mr. Harrison paints the opposing sides of the United States (rejoined by the south) as the 100% good guys and the British as the 100% bad guys, turning what could have been a great and thought provoking idea into something that I could only compare to those cheesy 50's western shows where the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black hats. There was no character development at all, the chance to make famous historical figures into characters as human as you or I was thrown to the wayside. Instead we get 2 dimensional characters (at best) that couldn't keep the attention of the most intent of readers. To than assume that the Confederacy would just up and rejoin the Union after spending so much time, effort, and lives to gain their independence is preposterous. After reading this, it makes me wonder if publishers really will publish anything these days.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of Alternate History, especially Civil War AH, and this concept intrigued me. As the book progressed, I began to admire the style of Mr. Harrison. However, the utterly implausable turn of events two thirds of the way through totally destroyed it for me. To suppose that the Navy of the 19th century British Empire would accidentally attack an ally rather than an enemy due to a navigation error is ridiculous at best. Mr. Harrison does not stop there. When the people of the South who, in reality, spent four brutal years and 250,000 lives in defense of their independence suddenly decide to throw in their lot with the Union, I was appalled at the audacity of Harrison's claims. The accidental attack of the British, leading to the subsequent joining of the Confederacy with the Union strikes me as a deus ex machina, allowing Harrison to deny the obvious result of the British declaration of war (a free and independent South), and reside comfortably in the familiar realm of a single Union of American states. By taking the easy way out, modifying history to suit his novel rather than vice versa, Harry Harrison ruins what might otherwise have turned out to be a very interesting book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author has said that his inspiration for this book came from the realisation that the combined US-CS forces would have been able to take on the whole world in a war...and win. A somewhat bizarre idea, but interesting enough to get me reading it. I would be genuinely interested to find out how he came up with this odd idea, as this novel certainly does nothing to enlighten me. I'm not even sure he believes it himself, unless Mr Harrison actually does think that, had the British entered the US civil war, both sides would suddenly and without warning revert to childish, one-dimensional stereotypes, all the bad American generals would disappear, and US technology would be pushed forward by a decade or so. I give it two stars as Harrison does have an entertaining writing style, plus the sheer novelty value of it all. I might possibly have enjoyed it more if Harrison and his publishers hadn¿t been so adamant that this was in any way a plausible alternate history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like alternate history, this is a great book! It's very realistic, and it seems like it could of happened!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Harry comes thourgh again. Very readable and action packed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book in Harrison's future Stars and Stripes Trilogy. I managed to run through this in one day and enjoyed it the whole way through. HArisson is a very talented writer and his story line is creative and will keep you into his book for sometime (I should know, Out of my 6 periods I red this in, I got in trouble for reading in 4 of them). My only vice is his lack of real history. What happens to the Confederacy and the UNited States is too optimistic even by my standards, the British seem overly Machiavelian and brutish while the 'Guiding Angel' of John Stuart Mill thinks like a 21st Century politician in the 19th century. Not to mention Harrison's horrible errors on important dates, weapons of the time and characters. As a die hard reader of Alternate History I feel this book was a disappointment when compared to the works of Turtledove, Dubois and (to a lesser extent) Philip Dick. Nevertheless this is an entertaining novel, I do recommend it for anyone who wants an catchy and interesting story line, but won't go bonkers over his numerous historical errors.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I discovered and read 'Enter the Lion', a Sherlock Holmes pastiche published by Playboy Press in September, 1980 and written by Michael P. Hodel and Sean M. Wright. The entire plot of 'Stars and Stripes Forever' and the inferred plot to the sequel, 'Stars and Stripes in Peril', can be found on pages 90-91 of 'Enter the Lion'. Curious, indeed and one would expect something more than a plot gently removed from a twenty year old work and subsequently evolved only slightly from the two pages from which it is spawned.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I want to know why some of you think this book is a bad piece of writing? I think it is a entertaining read and a glimse into what could have been. It is very postive and is full of action as well as politics. I look forward to seeing the Duke of Cambridge get his revenge on the Americans
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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