1882: Custer in Chains

Free 1882: Custer in Chains by Robert Conroy

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Authors: Robert Conroy
ships and some units have begun moving towards Florida. Since rail connection to most parts of Florida is miserable at best, those already heading to Florida are southern units. My regiment will depart by ship from Baltimore.”
    “And where will you land, and please don’t think I’m a spy. I’m no Rose Greenhow.”
    Martin laughed at the idea of her comparing herself to the notorious Confederate spy. “I didn’t think you were, and it doesn’t matter. I can’t tell you because I don’t know. I don’t even know who is going to command this army, much less where we’ll land. I sometimes wonder if anybody has a clue.”
    * * *
    President Custer slammed his fist down on the desk in his office. “There is no way in hell that that goddamned son of a bitch Winfield Scott Hancock is going to command my army.”
    Army Secretary Robert Lincoln shook his head. “Even though he is not now in the Army, Hancock is head and shoulders above anyone who currently is in the Army. He’s commanded large forces and many people feel he was the man responsible for our victory at Gettysburg, and not Meade.”
    “I don’t give a rat’s fart what people think. Hancock ran against me in the last election and damn near took it. I am not going to give him a chance to do it again and next time win just because he’s the country’s latest war hero. No, the Army will be led by Nelson Miles.”
    “Miles is a good Indian fighter, but that’s about it,” Lincoln said. “He’s never led a large force, and he doesn’t seem to inspire confidence in those he commands. Admittedly he’s brave, but he’s vain and stubborn, while Hancock is a proven fighter.”
    “I don’t care what he inspires. Look, if I can’t have Miles, then I will command in person.”
    With that, the others in the room looked aghast. Navy Secretary Hunt was the first to protest. “Sir, you know it is against tradition, perhaps even law, for a sitting president to leave the United States.”
    “Maybe it’s time for the tradition to change.”
    Secretary of State James Blaine decided it was time to intercede. “Mr. President, if you leave the country, who will be in charge? Vice President Arthur? You cannot be two places at once and even with the telegraph, you cannot deal with the problems of Congress and the nation.”
    “Shit,” muttered Custer, accepting defeat. “But I want Miles and that’s that.”
    Reluctantly, they agreed that Nelson Miles would command the invasion force and the discussion moved to the subject of the Navy. Secretary Hunt was more than a little pleased at the progress he’d made.
    “Gentlemen, the three warships we bought from Great Britain are currently being refitted at Baltimore. They have been renamed the Atlanta, Boston , and Chicago . The Atlanta is ready to sail and will escort a number of troopships that are gathering there. We will utilize several of the smaller steam sloops to also protect the convoy. We are also arming and commissioning a number of civilian ships and have chartered several hundred other civilian ships as transports. I am confident that we can land upwards of fifteen thousand men in a first wave against the Spanish in Cuba. The only question I have is precisely where shall they land?”
    “Well, it can’t be right at Havana,” said Lincoln. “That place is too heavily fortified. Our men would be slaughtered. Nor can it be Santiago. It’s too far away, several hundred miles, in fact. We would have to fight our way across the length of Cuba and that’s a very long way. If we want to get the campaign over before either the hurricane or fever seasons strike, we have to get closer.”
    “Matanzas,” said Hunt. “It’s a small city about fifty crow-fly miles east of Havana and it has a decent harbor. Not a big harbor, but one that can handle a number of ships at a time. The troops can land outside the harbor while the ships carrying supplies can use the docks in the harbor.”
    Custer nodded. “I

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