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Literature / Trail of Glory

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An Alternate History by Eric Flint, the Trail of Glory novel series covers a United States that diverges from its original history at the start of the War of 1812, covering an area from the Canadian border in the north, New Orleans in the south, where the war's final battle was fought in 1815, and in the sequel from the US east coast to west of the Mississippi River.

After Baen Books picked up the series contract from Del Rey, two more books have been planned for the series, but as of June 2011 no publication date is known for the other two novelsnote , and nothing of the story has been written. The death of Eric Flint in 2022 makes it unlikely the series will ever be finished.

The two published novels:

  • The Rivers of War (paperback title: 1812: The Rivers of War)
  • 1824: The Arkansas War

This series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: Briefly comes into existence when overzealous soldiers rip down the doors of one of the main entrances to the Capitol to block the other main entrance. After chewing them out for this act of idiocy, Driscol makes them block the entrance they just rendered defenseless - by pushing two huge statues into the doorway.
  • Action Girl: Tiana Rogers plays this straight, with a side order of The Chief's Daughter.
  • The Alcoholic: A part of the reason Eric Flint choose Sam Houston as the protagonist was that he wanted to show a realistic high-functioning alcoholic. This also qualifies as Write What You Know: Flint has commented on the Baen forum, while discussing this aspect of Houston's character, that he himself has struggled with alcoholism.
  • An Arm and a Leg: In The Rivers of War, Sergeant Driscol has a lower arm mangled by a British volley at the Battle of Chippawa, during the War of 1812. The later amputation of the limb and recovery period is what puts him in a position to help in the defense of Washington, DC along with Sam Houston, changing the course of history.
  • And Then What?: Could General Andrew Jackson destroy the Chiefdom of Arkansas? Sure! Can he do so without, in his own words, gutting and skinning his own Republicnote ? Erm. Does he think slavery in the U. S. remain a concern in the long term with Arkansas sitting on the border? Nope.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Or at least plenty of plantation owners.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Plenty, but just call it the Arkansas Chiefdom.
    A nation might produce no poets, no philosophers, no inventors, no scientists, no statesmen, no theologians, no sculptors—no barbers and butchers and bakers, for that matter. But if it could beat down anyone who tried to conquer it, no one could claim it didn't produce men.
  • Authority in Name Only: Simmons in the first book is a war department employee whose actually been recently fired but sticks around and holds some authority over the soldiers, largely because he served them alcohol and they therefore feel cordial to the man.
  • Boom Town: New Antrim. - in keeping with the old Alternate History tradition of making alternate versions of Little Rock, Arkansas into actually important towns
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Captain Houston and Lieutenant (formerly Sergeant) Driscol take up these roles during the defense of Washington.
  • Cavalry Officer: Averted. The United States at the time had no cavalry regiments.
  • The Chessmaster: Henry Clay in 1824. Silently backing a freebooter expedition. If it succeeds, get credit for it. If it is crushed, then use it as a rallying cry for war and a bid for the presidency. However he seems kind of lost when he finally wins the Presidency
  • Cool Uncle: Although The Generic Guy, Jim in the second book seems like a decent guy and enlisted in the army with his nephew.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The carter Driscoll pays to get him to Washington just happens to be a former employee of a local weapons foundry, and as such can get the capital's defenders into the foundry to get the ammunition they need to stand off the siege of the capital building.
  • Crippling Castration: Henry Crowell is mentioned as having been castrated by a lynch mob in New Orleans between books. Unlike most examples, a great deal is made of how lucky Crowell was to actually survive, and it is mentioned that castration is pretty much always fatal.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: The first battle of Arkansas Post, in 1824. 1200 trained and drilled soldiers against 1200 undisciplined freebooters.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: All over the place. Slavery and attitude towards race is front and center. Then add in the views on women, individual lives, religion…
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Pakenham is a prominent character in the second half of the first book, with his surviving where he historically didn't being a notable point. Then early in the next book it's offhandedly mentioned that he died off-screen between books in battle against Napoleon.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Sam Houston, a year to the day after the murder of Maria Hester.
  • Edutainment Book: About the early days of the United States, especially the first book.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Henry Clay is disgusted when his staff's only reaction to the murder of Maria Hester Monroe Houston is to be glad it won't hurt them politically. He also takes a Sudden Principled Stand when politicians from Georgia ask him to pardon her killer.
  • Face Death with Dignity: A French commander of some of Crittenden's mercenaries reflects that Driscoll is a good commander, then draws his sword and marches towards the lien of riflemen, knowing they'll kill him but choosing to imagine it as an honorable death by firing squad.
  • Field Promotion: In modern/NATO terms, Sam Houston went from O-1 to O-6 in a matter of months. Meanwhile Driscoll bounced from senior NCO to Major (O-4) in the same timeframe. Truth in Television, as the handling of promotions in armies of the period was somewhat more loose than in later decades.
  • For Want of a Nail: Ensign Sam Houston's not being hit by an arrow between the goalposts at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend as he was OTL is the point of departure for the series, caused by Houston's foot slipping when scaling a barricade.
  • Gentle Touch vs. Firm Hand: Generals Ross and Pakenham spontaneously decide to do this during a debate with an unreasonable admiral to make him compromise to minimize the risk to their soldiers.
    It suddenly dawned on Ross that the awkwardness of his relationship with Pakenham could just as easily become an asset. If the two of them worked together ... Ross advancing the objections in a sharp manner, since he had no need to directly coordinate his work with the admiral, thereby giving Pakenham the leeway to compromise as need be.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: The Anglo-Protestant tendency gets mocked by Catholic Creole Pierre Toussaint.
    Did they really think they were fooling anyone by asking "Gol" to "dern" their enemies?
  • Hangover Sensitivity: Oh, yes, with an alcoholic as the main protagonist.
  • Historical Domain Character: A majority of the characters are historical figures, their behaviors based on Flint's research into history.
  • Home by Christmas: President Clay decides that he needs a short victorious war against Arkansas in order to prop up his support after gaining the presidency through deal-making in the House despite 5/6ths of the country voting against him. Practically every senior officer with an understanding of the defenses Arkansas has comes to the conclusion that while victory is possible, 'short' is out of the question.
  • Insult to Rocks: In Chapter 28 of 1824: The Arkansas War, Andrew Jackson publicly denounces the deal-making that put Henry Clay into office as President after getting only about 1/6th of the popular vote, and initially lambastes John Calhoun as Judas. Later, Jackson corrects himself, saying that the comparison was an insult to Judas.
  • Inter-Service Rivalry: The British Army and Naval personall (the later of whom are portrayed more negatively) really don't get along in the first book.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: What happened to the Filibusters after the First Battle of Arkansas Post, and the state militias at the second one, was neither pretty nor undeserved
  • Monumental Damage: In The Rivers of War, Washington is sacked by the British, as in the original War of 1812, but a hastily rallied group of defenders manage to defend the Capitol. Almost every other public building save the Patent Office (Which was also left alone in real life), however, gets put to the torch.
  • Moral Myopia: The attitude towards blacks, "mixed-bloods", and about slavery in the early United Stated is exposed at any turn.
  • Never My Fault: Harrison reflects in the second book that he'll have one of his aides executed for deserted (the young man is shellshocked and huddling down) and feels that's just another thing to blame on Clay and Calhoun. And while the conflict as a whole is indeed their fault (and Harrison does own up to his tactical mistakes), Harrison's choice to have the aide executed is his own decision, and it feels like something he's just trying to duck responsibility for.
  • Noble Bigot: Andrew Jackson is portrayed as this. He is highly bigoted, even by the standards of the time, and does not hesitate to call friendly Cherokees "savages", ask how Houston can be so sure that his coloured teamsters won't steal his gear, and sum up state militias as drunken and cowardly to a man (though not exactly wrong with that last one). However, he hesitates to shoot Red Eagle (a rebel Cherokee responsible for a major massacre) because he surrendered voluntarily, promotes a coloured sergeant to commissioned rank, against regulations, and threatens to kill a man who protests against arming free coloured men, but who won't join the militia himself. Essentially, the Andrew Jackson in the book is bigoted against groups but is capable of respecting an individual who is especially heroic and or a fierce fighter. While he is a bigot, he hates fools and cowards even more.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: General Ross, being an actual Anglo-Irish nobleman, has this in spades, especially in contrast to the rather rough-and-tumble former NCOs that make up the bulk of Arkansan officers. He eventually gets asked to start up an officers' academy to remedy the deficit.
    • Sheffield Parker gets in on the game too, being an admirer of General Ross and understanding the difference between doing things and doing things with style.
  • Off the Record: William Cullen Bryant has a beautiful conversation to this effect with Henry Shreve. Paraphrased:
    Bryant: I was sure deploying militia outside the U.S. was illegal in peacetime?
    Shreve: That ain't no militia! Jes' Crittenden's boys!
    Bryant: Freebooters, then. Can I quote you to that effect?
    Shreve: You sure as Sam Hill can't! If they find out, my life ain't worth spit!
    Bryant: Even better! "A knowledgeable local source, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from the butcher Crittenden and his band of renegades, who would stoop to anything to conceal their depredations...."
  • Noodle Incident: Enforced in that "The Arkansas War" wasn't planned to be the second book. That was "The Trail of Glory", which would cover the alternate Cherokee migration, the riots in New Orleans that are alluded to in "The Arkansas War", and how many of black freedmen ended up moving to Arkansas. It was nixed by the publisher.
  • Puppet King: President Clay ends up as one. He lost the popular and electoral votes by a substantial amount, and only gained the presidency through his skill at deal-making in the house. This left him trapped by the deals he made to get into the White House (primarily with the pro-slavery and anti-Arkansas Deep South), such as a war which, even if he doesn't necessarily object to it, is irrelevant to the agenda he wanted to advance as President. Jackson openly states that Clay's choosing a platform in order to get elected rather than getting elected in order to advance his chosen platform was a mistake.
  • Refuge in Audacity: How William Weatherford/Red Eagle gets into Jackson's tent.
    You called upon all Creek chiefs to come in and surrender, didn't you? I was one of them. I came in and surrendered. The soldiers didn't seem to know what to do, so I just rode in past them.
  • Sliding Scale of Alternate History Plausibility: The series tends towards a strong "hard" Alternate History, though some question the probability of the events as depicted in the novels and would argue the series fudges things a touch towards the "soft" side.
  • Scary Black Man: Many in the U.S., primarily slaveholders and would-be slaveholders, regard the Arkansas Army as this and/or wish to convince everyone else of it. When angered, General Ball pulls it off magnificently in his own right.
  • Sudden Principled Stand:
    • What the black Chiefdom of Arkansas is to the United States.
    • At the end of The Arkansas War, Andrew Jackson has joined forces with John Quincy Adams and other moderates and liberals to form a new Democratic-Republican Party to wrest control of Congress from Henry Clay's supporters in the upcoming Midterm elections and go for the White House in the 1828 election, one of whose chief planks is gradual emancipation (And the notion that a free black is a full US Citizen with all the same rights as a white man). This sets up a showdown with the Deep South, and its ideological leader John Calhoun, in future books, though it's strongly implied that the Upper South - especially Kentucky and Tennessee, which are Jackson country - will side with the new party.
  • Up Through the Ranks: Sergeant Patrick Driscoll had served more than a decade in Napoleon's army when he enlisted in the US army and participated in the War of 1812. When he lost his left arm in the battle at the Chippewa, Winfield Scott promoted him to first lieutenant. He ended up as a founder of the Arkansas Chiefdom and the general of its army, but never lost the way of thinking like a sergeant.
  • Washington D.C. Invasion: As in the Real Life War of 1812, the British forces in The Rivers of War attack Washington, DC in a punitive raid. However, unlike in the original war Sam Houston helps rally the troops to defend the Capitol Building, effectively turning the British attack from a major propaganda victory to petty arson when they settle for torching other buildings, after being bloodied badly and driven away in their attempt to assault the Capitol Building.
  • Wild Card: Thompson and Powers in the second book join Crittenden's forces to take slaves, sell out information about Clay to save their lives after being captured and then proceed to pursue the murderer of Dolly Houston for the bounty.
  • Worthy Opponent: In the first book, General Robert Ross. In the second, General William Henry Harrison (to a certain extent) and Colonel Zachary Taylor who is actually more of a Friendly Enemy.