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Washington City, June 15, 1863
The trip was a bit bumpy. In the end, though, he arrived somewhat dizzy but otherwise no worse for wear. Paul attributed this to the number of times he'd made the journey, and he already he knew this would be his final one. There were only so many one's body could take. If this one were not so important and personal, he would still be back in his office with reference material in piles all around his desk. Every trip he survived was a blessing.
The landing spot was a wooden chair in a narrow alley behind the Willard Hotel in Washington City. His head was still spinning, so he tried to focus on what had led him there. All the jumps had taken their toll on his mind, and the last had put him out of commission for six months.
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, May 28, 2022
Paul Diamond had been back at work for almost a year when the phone had rung and his assistant had told him Dr. Conklin was on his way to see him.
Paul worked in a secret division of NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center fifteen minutes outside of Washington, DC. Technically his department was in the Astronomical Investigation Unit where he researched black holes and spatial phenomenon having to do with the possibilities of string theory. There was no mention of parallel universes and alternate time lines that had been proven to exist twelve years earlier or the ability to travel back and forth in time.
A small group of nations had begun to work together fifteen years earlier, and they were managed by the highest levels of each government. While the United States ran the program, Switzerland, England, and France provided scientific and financial support.
The transport was done via the "time jumper" sitting in a chair and his or her body being bombarded with electrical charges while surrounded by a circular blue orb that would propel the person to a prearranged time and place. A handful of scientists could make it work, maintain the machinery, and reverse the trip.
Theoreticians designed an implanted electric device that could send simple Morse code messages from the past to the present to advise of the status of the time jumpers. The inside joke was the old expression "You never saw me, and I was never here."
The true purpose of the department was developing a means of transporting individuals through time to critical hot spots in history to avoid potential disasters. Besides the potential damaging outcome if it did not work, there was a concern about the effect on the health of the travelers themselves and the impact on the time line by mistakes that could be made, as well as their connections to people they would meet. It was imperative to avoid any instance of affecting anything other than what their actual mission was.
It was virtually impossible to eliminate all possible contingencies for contact, but the travelers were trained to limit interactions with people who were not involved in the mission on the ground. There was a careful selection process for team members, with a premium placed on individuals with scientific and military backgrounds; and they needed to have historical knowledge of the times they were sent to, as any mistake could have serious repercussions.
Paul was a different case. His area of expertise was American history, with a specialty in the nineteenth century. At forty-seven years old, he was also older than all the other team members. Paul's last jump had been physically difficult and had not been successful, but events had proved to be beyond his control.
Andrew Jackson had finished his second term as president and was succeeded by his vice president, Martin Van Buren. President Jackson had succeeded in his quest to break the Bank of the United States. He pulled out all federal funds and then transferred them to several politically cooperative state banks, shutting the national bank down. Combined with the bursting of the bubble of land speculations in the western lands, the young nation found itself in its most severe depression. Van Buren and his administration were doomed. He was defeated in his bid for reelection.
Diamond was sent, not to save President Van Buren, but to try and stem the financial collapse. Shortly after his arrival, he realized he brought too little and had arrived too late. No jump could last more than twenty-one days before the physical effects of time travel literally ate up the cells of the body. There was not enough time to do anything, and his return to 2022 had been a rough one. Paul had suffered a brain aneurysm. He'd been told by the NASA medical staff that, without undergoing an untested new procedure, he would be grounded. Even if the procedure was done successfully, there was no guarantee he could survive another round trip.
Unable to return to the time when history was being made and so many events were taking place had been extremely difficult for him to accept. He'd decided to have the surgery and had been told it was successful, but the surgeons gave him enough caveats about returning to active status that he felt his hair was going to catch fire.
So, he'd returned to his first love — historical research of the nineteenth century. He had come to accept his new status. After all, he was helping the jumpers train and learn about what they were doing and what they would find when they arrived at their destinations.
Management was very cautious about approving trips, and a great deal of research was done before any were approved. When he was told that the director was coming for a visit, he found it unusual and a bit surprising. Normally, he would have been asked to make the trip downstairs.CHAPTER 2
There was a knock on the door, and Dr. James Conklin rushed in to Paul's office. "I see all the books are right where they were the last time I was here," he said with a smile.
Paul answered, "You know me well enough by now, Jim. Now what brings you rushing up here?"
"Paul, it's important, and the subject is right in your wheelhouse. I don't know if I should even be telling you about it."
Paul stared at his friend and quietly said, "What is it?"
The director whispered, "How are you feeling?"
Paul immediately answered, "You get my monthly exam reports. I feel fine."
Jim turned to look at a painting hanging on a wall. It was of Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. Then he quietly said, "You may want to sit down."
Paul sat down in his chair and stared at his friend.
Conklin continued. "Today is May 28. At this moment in 1863, General Joseph Hooker is preparing his newly trained and refitted Army of the Potomac for an attack on Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia."
Paul Diamond sat in his chair and said quietly, "Chancellorsville."
"Yes," answered his friend, "but that is not our objective. We found some information that our friends on the other side made a move that we were not prepared for but did not work, but you know all this."
A few years ago, an unknown group of ultraconservative industrialists hacked the NASA computers and stole programs that allowed them to try to duplicate time travel.
Dr. Conklin went on to explain that their adversaries had tried to send back a modified version of an Uzi handgun to Antietam in 1862 that had failed to operate. "It was found," he said, "A photograph was in a file of General Sedgwick Corp. It was forgotten for decades. A junior research assistant named Jacob Hansen found it by chance."
"Someone is doing a book on General Sedgwick, and we always provide help when we can to make sure nothing is revealed that should not be.
This led us to begin asking questions and put together a basic plan that we think can work. And it ties in to another related issue."
"What?" Paul asked.
"It would involve someone going back with a supply of automatic rifles that could theoretically be used at Gettysburg and Vicksburg."
He turned away from the painting and stared at Paul. "That person would have to see President Lincoln."
All Paul could say was, "Oh my God."
Jim Conklin knew there was no other historical figure Paul Diamond thought more of than Abraham Lincoln.
Conklin went on to explain that, if used properly, thirty of these automatic rifles could stop Lee from escaping the Union Army by cutting him off after the Federal victory at Gettysburg. Knowing how Lee was going to try to get away and cross the Potomac to Virginia was invaluable information for the Union Army to have. The rebels could be sealed in from both sides, and their soldiers could be cut down like wheat from a thresher. The other guns would go to Vicksburg.
"Paul, it could end the war right there. Is it possible?"
Paul placed two fingers of his right hand on his forehead and thought for a moment. Then he said, "Theoretically, it could. But there are problems with transporting the guns and training men to use them. I seem to remember Secretary of War Stanton having a group of men he used for special projects. But there is such an enormous risk for collateral damage by the number of people involved and all the moving parts in a project of this size. You know how I feel about messing with the time line, Jim."
Jim Conklin continued, "There is another matter, and it involves Robert Lincoln. You know he lives a long and successful life. There is one exception."
Paul held up his hand to interrupt his friend. "The death of his son."
"Wasn't he named for the president?" asked Conklin.
Paul answered, "Yes, you know everyone called him Jack. It was a lot to expect for a young man to take on being named for the assassinated president who led his country to victory in the Civil War. Robert accepts an appointment to serve as ambassador to Great Britain, where his only son dies. It must have been devastating."
Jim finished by saying, "We would like to avoid that taking place. I can say no more at this moment, but it could be very important."
Paul stood and put one hand on a book and stared at his friend. "There is so little time to prepare," he said. "Are you giving me the assignment?"
"Paul, we have to help the president. The answer is yes, Paul. But you must pass another physical exam. And don't even suggest not taking it!" Paul had to go through three days of medical examinations before he was approved to lead the team. He could not remember feeling so excited and fulfilled.CHAPTER 3
Once medically approved, Paul could begin planning the mission.
He'd been fully aware that, had he not passed the battery of medical tests, there would not be a qualified team leader with his level of expertise.
In addition, he would have to sit in with Jim on a Steering Committee meeting led by Dr. Hans Zimmer of Switzerland, a specialist in string theory, who would give the ultimate decision on whether the mission would proceed.
Paul met with Jackson Barlow, his colleague's mission name, to talk about the other two potential team members. Barlow asked who he wanted to take.
Paul replied, "Our regular group, why?"
Jackson paused and then asked, "Gene is great. But what about Steven?"
Paul smiled and said, "What about him?"
You don't see it as a problem that he is black?" asked Barlow.
"Not one bit. But I will tell him everything and let him make his own decision. Frankly, I can see him being with us as an advantage."
Jackson quietly said, "He is waiting for you outside."
Paul laughed and said, "You three are like sons to me. Get him in here."
Jackson smiled and stood to open the door and waved Steven Butler inside.
He was so wide and big he had to come in sideways. Steve was six foot two and weighed 235 pounds of pure muscle. It was as if his body was carved from marble.
He saluted Paul, who said, "Stop that."
Butler said, "Yes, sir."
Paul began the conversation by saying he hoped Steven knew how highly he thought of him and the reason they were talking was because of that. He explained how important this mission was, and then told him all he could. "I want you with me because I need you and know you will give me all you can, just like Jackson and Gene. You will be coming as a free man and will work very closely with me. That does not change the fact that you are black and going to what is, in effect, a Southern city in the middle of a revolution."
All the while Paul spoke, Steven sat erect and stared directly at his superior — with one exception. He could not stop his hands from clasping each other and continuously twisting his fingers.
"What is wrong, Steven?" Paul asked.
"Sir, you know how I feel about you, Jackson, and Gene. But I don't know if ... when we get back there, the first time someone calls me 'boy' or 'nigger,' if I will be able to control myself."
"Steven, do you trust me?"
"Then we agree, because I am not going without you. Besides, there is a chance you will meet Abraham Lincoln, and you can tell him yourself how you feel."
Steven took his right hand and rubbed his eye looked back at Paul and said as firmly as possible, "Thank you, sir."
Paul said to Steven, "I have a Steering Committee meeting at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow to present the plans of the mission and request approval."
He told Steven he wanted the three of his men to go with him to the National Archives that afternoon and help him do a search for further odd weapons in General Sedgwick's corps files from the battle at Antietam.
They requisitioned a NASA car and raced to DC to the archives.
What they found astounded Paul. Gene Shanahan found evidence of four additional Uzis further back in the same file where Hansen had found the first. Diamond asked for copies of the pictures, and he and his team brought them back to their offices at Goddard. He had a file of notes prepared and inserted these new pictures in with the other. He sent his team home, and he kept working until after 7:00 p.m. and then left for the night. He slept fitfully but was awake by six.
On his drive to Goddard the next morning, he was stuck behind two accidents and did not arrive at the complex until 8:45. He parked, rushed inside, took his very important cup of coffee, grabbed his file, and rushed to the conference room where this all-important meeting would take place. At precisely 9:02, Paul rushed into the meeting room.
Dr. Zimmer turned and said, "Thank you for joining us, Dr. Diamond. You are our final participant to arrive."
"Forgive me, Dr. Zimmer, but I discovered additional information that may have a bearing on your deliberations."
Zimmer replied, "That is interesting. At the appropriate time, I will call upon you to present it to us. Everyone, please take your seats."
The chairman explained to the group — a mix of physicists, politicians, mathematicians, and historians — the purpose of their meeting and asked Jim Conklin to begin the presentation. The members of the committee were from the four different countries involved in the program and were acknowledged experts in their fields. They were not housed in Washington, but all attended meetings of the committee to advise and consent to missions. They also contributed recommendations regarding the science and protocols.
Conklin was about to begin his presentation, but Paul motioned to him. Jim excused himself for a moment and went over to Paul, who whispered to him, "We found four more guns from Antietam."
Conklin smiled and went back to the head of the table.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to explain the basics of our proposed mission. In a moment I will turn the meeting over to Dr. Diamond, who, as you will hear, had a most valid reason for being two minutes late."
That generated smiles from the specialists sitting around the table.
Conklin began by setting the parameters of the mission that included the year 1863 and the problems facing the Federal armies, especially after the devastating defeat at Fredericksburg and the most recent one at Chancellorsville. The significant problems President Lincoln was facing with the woeful performance of his generals added to the concerns. He then introduced the picture taken at Antietam that showed an Uzi handgun next to a dead Confederate officer. That generated whispers around the table, as the members of the committee knew exactly what it meant.
Dr. Conklin interrupted the group by saying, "I believe Dr. Diamond has some new information, and I will ask him to reveal that now. Dr. Diamond, if you please?"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Fighting Lincoln's War"
Copyright © 2019 Louis Saltzman.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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