For Flashman Down Under, Flashman in the Opium War & Flashman and the Kings click HERE Balladeer’s Blog moves on to another Harry Flashman adventure referred to but never completed before George MacDonald Fraser’s death.
Projected Title: THE BATTLE CRY OF FLASHMAN
Time Period: Part of the United States Civil War
NOTE: The title is a play on the famous Civil War ballad The Battle Cry of Freedom. That title was also used for one of Bruce Catton’s examinations of the conflict.
The Story: Personally I think a collection of short stories would be the only way of reconciling all the scattered and varied references made to Flashman’s Civil War adventures in other novels. From those other Fraser writings we know that Harry somehow wound up serving on both sides of the war but ultimately won a Medal of Honor for his service in the Union Army.
Further complicating things is the fact that the author mentioned how Flashman left and re-entered the U.S. multiple times during the war after his initial involvement starting at some point in 1862.
What we know:
*** Though in early packets of The Flashman Papers it appeared that Harry was only involved in the U.S. Civil War for part of 1862 and 1863, Fraser eventually kept adding more and more references to Flashman’s presence at crucial moments of the conflict. (Too many crucial moments in my opinion. To me it became way too forced, unlike Fraser’s usually seamless way of slipping his classic antihero into historical events.)
*** In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln somehow blackmailed Harry into undertaking a secret mission for him “all for the sake of preserving his precious Union.”
*** Whatever Lincoln – and possibly Alan Pinkerton – involved Flashman in it caused some sort of covered-up international incident between America and Great Britain. The fallout left Sir Harry in Queen Victoria’s disfavor, making him persona non grata in London until 1868, after his service in the successful Abyssinian Campaign.
*** This period “in the wilderness” found Harry doing mercenary service in South America’s War of the Triple Alliance and in the war to overthrow Mexico’s Emperor Maximilian. This may also be the period in which Flashman spent time serving in the French Foreign Legion.
*** Harry and then-General George Armstrong Custer clashed at some point during the Battle of Aldie in 1863.
*** Flashman was also present during the multi-day Battle of Gettysburg.
*** By 1864 Harry was serving as a Union Army officer and wound up imprisoned in the hellish Confederate POW camp, Libby Prison. He also took part in the notorious mass escape in February of that year.
*** Our antihero also referred to serving under General William Tecumseh Sherman during his March to the Sea.
*** Flashman was serving under General Ulysses S Grant in Virginia and was present for Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. He may have even been the man who replaced the initial scribe when that man’s hands were trembling from the enormity of the event.
*** Sir Harry was with Lee’s Confederate Army during the Antietam Campaign in 1862.
*** After a tryst with Confederate First Lady Varina Davis our protagonist bluffed his way past Confederate President Jefferson Davis by claiming he was a laborer sent “to repair the lightning rod.”
*** During the war Flashman first became acquainted with Prussian mercenary Prince Felix zu Salm-Salm and his wife, Princess Agnes Salm-Salm. Harry stated that despite the wild sexual tension between him and Princess Agnes they never slept together.
*** Flashman was at Ford’s Theater as a Presidential guest when Lincoln was assassinated.
*** The British blackguard engineered Stonewall Jackson’s death by friendly fire at Chancellorsville by shouting “It’s a lie! Have at ’em, boys!”
I have to confess I have no idea how George MacDonald Fraser planned to fuse all of those disparate elements into one cohesive story. That’s why I propose a collection of short stories dealing with it all.
Or maybe one big novel separated into two sections, Flashman the Rebel and Flashman the Yankee the way that Flashman and the Redskins was divided into sections titled The Forty-Niner (for his 1849-1850 American adventures) and The Seventy-Sixer (for his 1875-1876 American adventures).
I think Fraser may have written himself into too many corners by trying to jam Harry into so much of the American Civil War. In my opinion he should have kept it to just 1862-1863 to avoid putting way too much of a strain on a reader’s suspension of disbelief.
It feels so awkward and clumsy that it’s more fitting for an outright farce rather than the clever, tongue-in-cheek historical adventuring we grew to expect from The Flashman Papers. It’s possible my feelings are influenced by how inundated we get with Civil War history here in the U.S. I much prefer the stories that introduced me to out-of-the-way 19th Century history that I was not as familiar with. +++
FOR MY BONUS SIXTH PLACE FLASHMAN NOVEL CLICK HERE
FOR HARRY FLASHMAN’S ENCOUNTERS WITH ABRAHAM LINCOLN IN THE NOVEL FLASH FOR FREEDOM CLICK HERE
FOR MY LOOK AT THE TOP SEVEN ROBERT LUDLUM NOVELS CLICK HERE
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