Stars and Stripes in Peril

Free Stars and Stripes in Peril by Harry Harrison

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Authors: Harry Harrison
    "There is a constant coming and going, then?" Fox asked.
    "There is indeed."
    "Then we must take advantage of this relationship. We must recruit men in Ireland to the Fenian cause. But not at random nor at open political meetings. That has proven to be a disaster in the past. In the future any contacts must be made on a one to one basis. So if one of your officers ventures to Ireland, he must take into his confidence only other family members. They in turn will contact family members who may be working in England. Funds will be provided for travel if needs be. In that way we can learn about shipbuilding—"
    "Any troop movements and transports and all the like," Meagher added with enthusiasm. "For even a lowly working man still has eyes and a brain, and he can see what is going on around him. This is a grand plan you put forward, Gus Fox, and we are behind you to a man. We shall be your eyes and ears and look forward with great gusto to doing this for America, our new home."
    As Meagher was locking the door behind them when they left, Fox, offhandedly, asked him a question.
    "Who was that officer, the one with gray hair and a scar on his right cheek?"
    "You must mean Lieutenant Riley. A good soldier."
    "That's fine. Do you think you could bring him around to see me tomorrow morning?"
    "Sure and I will."
    He wanted to ask Fox the reason, but the naval officer had turned and was walking away. Ah, well. He would find out in the morning.

    John Ericsson looked down into the immense drydock and nodded approval. The massive outer gates were shut, sealing it off from the bay, and the last of the water was now being pumped out. Knee-deep in water and mud a Negro working crew, with a white supervisor in charge, were putting the heavy logs into place that would support the keel of the new ironclad Virginia while she was being built. Ericsson was not pleased with the name. But he had had no support from the War Department, or the navy, for his more imaginative suggestions such as Aesir or Destructor. The authorities had insisted in naming the new battleship after the state where it was being built.
    "Allt går I alla fall mycket, mycket bra," he muttered to himself in Swedish since, other than the matter of the ship's name, he was pleased with what he had accomplished in such a short space of time. Yes, this shipyard was indeed very, very good. Of course it had to be—since he had designed it all himself. He had known all of his life that he was a genius; now the world was beginning to realize that as well. Hadn't he invented the first screw propeller, that was now replacing the side-wheelers for propulsion? Then hadn't he designed and built the Monitor in one hundred days? After that he had gone on to build the Avenger that had defeated the British when they attacked WashingtonCity. Now he was going to build the even more powerful Virginia, named simply after the state where she was being built. He had protested that that was the name of the Confederate ironclad that was still in commission. This raised the troublesome point that the North had never recognized this name, which had been given to her by the Confederate authorities. In the naval records she was still the Merrimac, the sunken hull of the Federal vessel on which the South had constructed the ironclad. The authorities had responded by removing her feeble engine and decommissioning her, both in the North and the South. Still Virginia was such a commonplace name for the battleship that would change the face of naval warfare. He promised himself that he would fight for the name of the next one to be built. It would be the Aesir, the battleship of the gods.
    "Mr. Ericsson," a voice called out and he turned to see Garret Davis climbing up the steps behind him. The dockyard manager was wiping his full red face with a large kerchief, though there was still the morning cool in the air. "We've got an answer back from the Tredegar Iron Works. They'll be

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