Swords and sorcery in The Civil War...amazingly, it's fun(Turtledove's Sentry Peak)

Has anyone here read Harry Turtledove’s book Sentry Peak?

I have to admit, reading the synopsis on the cover was not encouraging. It appeared to be a retelling of the US Civil War in a fantasy setting, troops used pikes, crossbows, and catapults instead of bayonets, guns and cannon, magic definitely exists in this world, mages can confound the enemy with spells, flying carpets take the place of railroads (complete with the problem differing track gauges), the cavalry rides unicorns…it’s all so freaking CORNY. If that was all it was, I probably wouldn’t have kept reading. But…

But for me it’s oh so much fun, and here’s why: Turtledove is a renowned historian, and what he does with this book is basically put actual Civil War generals into his fiction. If you’re a Civil War buff, as I am, it’s just so much FUN matching fictional characters to the real life people they are based upon. In many cases, it’s about as subtle as a bat to the face, but it’s still fun.

All of the historical positions are reversed in this novel. In this book, the southern forces, wearing gray, fight the northern forces in blue who seceded from the kingdom because they wanted to keep dominion over their serfs(slaves), people who were blond folks(negros). The southern troops sing the Battle Psalm of the Kingdom (Battle Hymn of the Republic) while attacking the Traitors(rebels) from the north who scream their lion’s roar(rebel yell) to intimidate their enemy.

This book retells the Union defeat at Chickamauga and the following siege of Chattanooga. Some of the historical analogs are obvious: Thraxton the Braggart is obviously Braxton Bragg, Ned of the Forest is of course Nathanial Forest. Some are a little more obscure, you have to know history to realize that Doubting George is General Thomas, the “Rock of Chickamauga” and that James of Broadpath is Longstreet. (broad path, long street…get it? Yea, it’s not subtle). Duke Edward of Arlington is Robert E Lee, and General Bart is Grant, Lt. General Hesmucet is Sherman and so on. I thought for the longest time as I was reading that Guildenstern was General Hooker, based upon his physical appetites, but he has to be Rosecrans for it to fit, I never just heard tell Rosecrans was that much of a lecher. Hooker is actually “Fighting Joseph” who shows up later. There is a mention of the North’s first great victory at Cow Jog(Bull Run). Hell, it’s not even all limited to the Civil War, at one point a commander yells to his subordinate “Colonel Watson, come here-I need you”.

It’s a stupid book, a premise that would be absurd on the face of it except…Turtledove pulls it off by being (if such a thing can be said about historical fantasy) historically accurate. I’ve enjoyed this book immensely, has anyone else read it? What are your thoughts?
Oh, and I still haven’t pegged Dan of Rabbit Hill and Leonidas the Priest to their RL analogs. I know Bragg sacked his commanding generals during this time period, but both of them seem too be too prominent to be those minor functionaries. Anyone got an idea as to who they actually represent?

I had kind of given up on Turtledove because everything was starting to sound alike. This sounds like some good fun and frankly I could use an amusing distraction about now.

I will have to pick this up the next time I am near a book seller. Thanks for posting this.

Could Leonidas the Priest be this guy ?

Like Detop said, Leonidas the Priest is Leonidas Polk. Dan of Rabbit Hill is Daniel Hill (Dan of Rabbit Hill=Daniel Harvey Hill…remember the Jimmy Stewart movie?)

Honestly, I found books annoying and overly “cute”.

He didn’t even bother filing the serial numbers off the story before putting a new coat of paint on it for resale.

Sorry, this one was too self-consciously “clever” for my taste.

All books? :stuck_out_tongue:

He accidentally a whole bottle, Dave. I can agree, I’m a bit sick of re-fighting WWII and the Civil War.

Sounds cool. Are there any characters that correspond to (my favorites from that battle- some description in case it influences their nicknames):

Patrick Cleburne (eccentric Irishman who fell from favor for wanting to free and arm slaves)

Joseph Wheeler (short and very young [20s] general over the Cavalry Corps)

I’ve never read of Rosecrans being a lecher (or of not being one) but he could be merged with others. The two Union generals I associate with lechery are General Dan Sickles and Judson “Kill Cavalry” Kilpatrick.
Sickles was probably the war’s most notorious lecher (though a jealous one- he was famous for killing his wife’s lover [Francis Scott Key’s son] and getting off scot-free for “temporary insanity” (first use of that term in an aquittal) before the war, his HQ was described as a “traveling whorehouse”, and there’s theory that his assignment to Hooker has something to do with the term hooker being applied to prostitutes (though some etymologists say there’s no connection twixt Gen’l. Hooker and the term for hookers). He wasn’t at Chickamauga though (he lost a leg at Gettysburg and was still in recovery).
Judson Kilpatrick was a division commander of Cavalry and not at Chickamauga either who traveled for a time with a mother-daughter team of prostitutes. (Later he married a Chilean heiress- one of his descendants is Anderson Cooper, who seems to have gotten mother-daughter prostitutes out of his system).

Anyway, I can’t find anything that makes Rosecrans seem lecherous. Assessments of his military competence vary widely- I’ve seen him referred to as a total boob (Lincoln called him something like a “duck that was hit on the head” after Chickamauga) and I’ve read him referred to as extremely capable but a better follower than leader. If Turtledove merged him with others it would explain the name change (Rose[n]cran[t]s & Guildenstern).

I was thumbing through Jimmy Stewart Civil War movies at first before I got that one. Turtledove was straining just a bit I fear (though Hill was Irish and so are pookas).

I think a cooler form of surreal Civil War revisionism might actually be a restaging of Harvey during the battle of Chickamauga. It wouldn’t be that much out of character for Bragg by then.

“Generals Forrest, Longstreet, Polk, Wheeler, I’d like for you all to meet my new adjutant General Harvey… well that’s funny, I swear he was here a minute ago…”

“Jefferson Davis, indeed, ah such happy memories of college… so what are you doing now… oh, you’re head of the Confederate State and my direct superior who appointed me to this position? Ah yes, I recall reading something about that… Jeff, let me introduce you to my new second in command, in fact I’m thinking of promoting him above me… Harvey…”

“What’s that Harvey? Oh, no, I don’t much care for those repeating rifles either, they waste so much ammo and are such a formidable thing, but they seem to give the Yankees pleasure so I say let 'em have their fun. We’ve killed so many of them… can’t blame ‘em for lettin’ off a little tension. A drink? Why, I don’t mind if I do.”

“I’ve given Harvey here complete authority in when and how to press our advantage after our recent victory.”

“My mother used to say, 'Son, in this life, you’ve got to be oh so diplomatic or oh so armed to the teeth. For years I was armed to the teeth, I recommend diplomatic.”*

Of course this being Bragg, even Harvey would ultimately have turned against him, defected, and tried to frag him.
*Bragg’s mother would never have recommended charming or clever; at the time of his birth she had just been released from prison for killing a slave [reason a white woman went to prison for killing a slave, you ask? It wasn’t her slave].

You know that Bragg tried to courtmartial himself once, right?

As for the books, Patrick Clerburne is there as “Patrick the Cleaver” I don’t know if Wheeler appears.

He did exactly the same thing with the Darkness series. Which was WW2 with magical analogues. The first was also ok in a figuring out which country was which and who was Stalin, Hitler, etc. But it got old quickly. Didn’t make it past book 3 of 6.

I found more interesting Chris Bunchs Seer king Trilogy which is a Napoleonic wars with serial number filed off book. Depicting Fantasy Napoleon as a Mage written from the viewpoint of a Pseudo-Marshal Murat.

It would be interesting to do the same take on the current war in Iraq. Who would the characters be?
The incompetent King George II Littletree and his evil vizier Richard the Quailshooter use an attack by the The House of Lahdin (led by renegade son Ol’ Sam ‘a the Mountains) to invade the nation of Gamorrah Who’s’ Sane as payback for a slight to George II’s deposed father (George I Littletree) and for the enrichment of Quailshooter’s fiefdoms. Their constantly changing Council of Nobles include the drunken Laird Donald of the Rum Fields, the benevolent warlord Coln son of Howell [believed by some to be the prophesied Light-Dark Man of the Islands who will one day be king, though he denied it] who upon entering self imposed exile is replaced by the ambitious witch Oryza con Dolcezza, the Keeper of the Covenants John of the Ash Farm (who became a high priest even after the people of his own land ordained a dead man rather than him for their own Keeper of the Words), the Quailkiller’s major domo Ludwig “Moped” Lillibet (sent to a dungeon when the bard Bob the Novice sang a song that was clearly written by the Quailkiller), and most especially the sinister dark wizard, Karolus the Rover. They also use mercenaries from the Land of the Black Water in their invasion.

In their own kingdom (The Quinquatarchy) there is a rebellion afoot in which George and Quailshooter are challenged for the throne by, among others, B’Rak Ali Bama (also considered a possible candidate for the prophecy of the Light-Dark Man of the Islands Who Will Be King) and the former queen Hilarity of Rodham, who when her husband was deposed from his kingdom of Ozark entered self-imposed exile and became a Noblewoman of Gotham (where the towers were) and whose war with B’rak threatened to undermine them both before they joined forces against II’s chosen champion, the Elder John of-the-House-of-Cain, whose forces were at first swollen by his choice of the Ice Dutchess Sarah the Plain as his queen, but who many later turned against when her glamour potions wore off once too often.

Again, strangely it works.