Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Sobel Wiki: release the hounds

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is Henry Gilpin, the second Governor-General of the C.N.A. and the architect of the Rocky Mountain War.

As I've noted before, Robert Sobel had a tendency to allow people from our own history to play roles in For Want of a Nail despite having been born decades after his history branched away from ours. Gilpin is a rather extreme example. His parents were born 3,000 miles apart, and only met because Gilpin's father was visiting Lancaster, England in the 1790s.

On the other hand, the prominent role Gilpin plays in the history of the C.N.A. makes Gilpin the obverse to people like James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln, major figures from our history who play minor roles in the Sobel Timeline. In our own history, Gilpin's most notable accomplishment was being named Attorney General under President Martin van Buren in 1840. In the Sobel Timeline, he serves as Governor of the Northern Confederation for three years, a leading delegate to the Concordia Convention of 1841 and the Burgoyne Conference of 1842, one of the founders of the Unified Liberal Party, Minister of War under Governor-General Winfield Scott from 1843 to 1849, and Governor-General himself from 1849 to 1853, after engineering Scott's fall.

Gilpin is also one of the major villains of the Sobel Timeline, though alt-Sobel goes to some lengths to whitewash his actions. Gilpin's rule of the Northern Confederation in the early 1840s is dictatorial, as he oversees the suppression of the N.C.'s leading labor union during a bloody purge that costs the lives of over 40,000 people. As Minister of War, he maneuvers the C.N.A. into a war with the United States of Mexico, and as Governor-General, he sacrifices the lives of over a hundred thousand North American troops in a disastrous campaign aimed at capturing San Francisco, a city of no strategic value.

Writing Nail in the summer of 1971, Sobel happened to name two of the North American generals involved in Gilpin's ill-fated campaign David Homer and FitzJohn Smithers. Thirty years later, when I became involved in the For All Nails project, I found the coincidence irresistable, and I ended up writing a series of Rocky Mountain War-era vignettes with a definite Simpsons flavor in which Gilpin was modeled on Mr. Burns.


Anonymous said...

Well, it could be he had a different mother in the FWOAN timeline and is thus genetically speaking only a half-brother to our Gilpin. You could assume the name was somewhat pre-baked (for example, if he was named after a grandfather or some other older relative who would of course predate Saratoga). I ran a quick eye over the text and don't see a middle name listed, but even if it is and I missed it that could legitimately be the same too - there's a lot of inertia in families over names. (One stillborn baby after another given the same name, and things like that.)

Interesting he was of Quaker background but was still such a warmonger in the CNA. Of course we have the example of Nixon from our timeline . . .

Anonymous said...

Yeah, realized I was being an idiot about the middle name right after I posted - Dilworth, his IOW mom's family. But if the middle name isn't mentioned in the text, my theory still stands.