How Few Remain (Prequel to The Great War Series)

How Few Remain (Prequel to The Great War Series)

by Harry Turtledove

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From the master of alternate history comes an epic of the second Civil War. It was an epoch of glory and success, of disaster and despair. . . .

1881: A generation after the South won the Civil War, America writhed once more in the bloody throes of battle. Furious over the annexation of key Mexican territory, the United States declared total war against the Confederate States of America in 1881.

But this was a new kind of war, fought on a lawless frontier where the blue and gray battled not only each other but the Apache, the outlaw, the French, and the English. As Confederate General Stonewall Jackson again demonstrated his military expertise, the North struggled to find a leader who could prove his equal. In the Second War Between the States, the times, the stakes, and the battle lines had changed—and so would history. . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345406149
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/29/1998
Series: Great War Series
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 80,857
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.83(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Harry Turtledove is the award-winning author of the alternate-history works The Man with the Iron Heart, The Guns of the South, and How Few Remain (winner of the Sidewise Award for Best Novel); the Hot War books (Bombs Away, Fallout, and Armistice); the War That Came Early novels: Hitler’s War, West and East, The Big Switch, Coup d’Etat, Two Fronts, and Last Orders; the Worldwar saga: In the Balance, Tilting the Balance, Upsetting the Balance, and Striking the Balance; the Colonization books: Second Contact, Down to Earth, and Aftershocks; the Great War epics: American Front, Walk in Hell, and Breakthroughs; the American Empire novels: Blood and Iron, The Center Cannot Hold, and Victorious Opposition; and the Settling Accounts series: Return Engagement, Drive to the East, The Grapple, and In at the Death. Turtledove is married to fellow novelist Laura Frankos. They have three daughters—Alison, Rachel, and Rebecca—and two granddaughters, Cordelia Turtledove Katayanagi and Phoebe Quinn Turtledove Katayanagi.

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt: Chapter One: 1881

Buffalo bones littered the prairie south of Fort Dodge, Kansas. Colonel George Custer gave them only the briefest glance. They seemed as natural a part of the landscape as had the buffalo themselves a decade before. Custer had killed his share of buffalo and more. Now he was after more dangerous game.

He raised the Springfield carbine to his shoulder and fired at one of the Kiowas fleeing before him. The Indian, one of the rearmost of Satanta's raiding party, did not fall.

Custer loaded another cartridge into the carbine's breech and fired again. Again, the shot was useless. The Kiowa turned on his pony for a Parthian shot. Fire and smoke belched from the muzzle of his rifle. The bullet kicked up a puff of dust ten or fifteen yards in front of Custer.

He fired again, and so did the Kiowa. The Indian's Tredegar Works carbine, a close copy of the British Martini-Henry, had about the same performance as his own weapon. Both men missed once more. The Kiowa gave all his attention back to riding, bending low over his pony's neck and coaxing from the animal every bit of speed it had.

"They're gaining on us, the blackhearted savages!" Custer shouted to his troopers, inhibited in language by the pledge his wife, Libbie, had finally succeeded in extracting from him.

"Let me and a couple of the other boys with the fastest horses get out ahead of the troop and make 'em fight us till the rest of you can catch up," his brother suggested.

"No, Tom. Wouldn't work, I'm afraid. They wouldn't fight—they'd just scatter like a covey of quail."

"Damned cowards," Major Tom Custer growled. He was a younger, less flamboyant version of his brother, but no less ferocious in the field. "They bushwhack our farmers, then they run. If they want to come up into Kansas, let 'em fight like men once they're here."

"They don't much want to fight," Custer said. "All they want to do is kill and burn and loot. That's easier, safer, and more profitable, too."

"Give me the Sioux any day, up in Minnesota and Dakota and Wyoming," Tom Custer said. "They fought hard, and only a few of them ran away into Canada once we'd licked them."

"And the Canadians disarmed the ones who did," Custer added. "I'll be—dashed if I like the Canadians, mind you, but they play the game the way it's supposed to be played."

"It's cricket," Tom said, and Custer nodded. His younger brother pointed south. "We aren't going to catch them on our side of the line, Autie."

"I can see that." George Custer scowled—at fate, not at the family nickname. After a moment, the scowl became a fierce grin. "All right, by jingo, maybe we won't catch them on our side of the line. We'll just have to catch them on theirs."

Tom looked startled. "Are you sure?"

"You'd best believe I'm sure." The excitement of the pursuit ran through Custer in a hot tide. Whatever consequences came from extending the pursuit, he'd worry about them later. Now all he wanted to do was teach the Kiowas a lesson even that sneaky old devil Satanta wouldn't forget any time soon. He shouted over to the regimental bugler: "Blow Pursuit."

"Sir?" the bugler said, as surprised as Tom Custer had been. Then he grinned. "Yes, sir!" He raised the bugle to his lips. The bold and martial notes rang out across the plain. The men of the Fifth Cavalry Regiment needed a moment to grasp what that call implied. Then they howled like wolves. Some of them waved their broad-brimmed black felt hats in the air.

From long experience, the Kiowas understood U.S. horn calls as well as any cavalry trooper. Their heads went up, as if they were game fear-ing it would be flushed from cover. That's what they are, all right, Custer thought.

As often happened, Tom's thoughts ran in the same track as his own. "They won't duck back into their lair this time," his younger brother said. Now that the decision was made, Tom was all for it.

They pounded past a farmhouse the Kiowas had burned in a raid a couple of years earlier. Custer recognized those ruins; they meant he was less than a mile from the border with the Indian Territory. Up ahead, the Kiowas squeezed still more from their ponies. Custer smiled savagely. That might get them over the line, but even those tough animals would start wearing down soon. "And then," he told the wind blowing tears from his eyes, "then they're mine, sure as McClellan belonged to Lee twenty years ago."

He fired again at the Kiowas, and shouted in exultation as one of them slid from his horse's back and thudded to the ground, where, after rolling a couple of times, he lay still. "Good shot," his brother said. "Hell of a good shot."

"We've got 'em now," Custer said. The first Kiowas had to be over the line. He didn't care. "We won't let 'em get away. Every last redskin in that band is ours." How his men cheered!

And then all of Custer's ferocious joy turned to ashes. Tom pointed off to the east, from which direction a squadron of cavalry was approaching at a fast trot. All the Kiowas were over the line by then. They reined in, whooping in their incomprehensible language. They knew they were safe.

Custer knew it, too. Chasing the Kiowas into Indian Territory, punishing them, and then riding back into Kansas with no one but the Indians the wiser, was one thing. Doing it under the watchful eyes of that other cavalry squadron was something else again. Hating those horsemen, hating himself, Custer held his hand high to halt his men. They stopped on the Kansas side of the line.

The approaching cavalrymen wore hats and blouses of a cut not much different from those of Custer's troopers. Theirs, though, were gray, not the various shades of blue the U.S. cavalry used. And a couple of their officers, Custer saw, were in the new dirt-brown uniforms the Confederate States had adopted from the British. The limeys called that color khaki; to the Rebs, it was butternut.

One of those Confederate officers rode toward Custer, waving as he moved forward. Custer waved back: come ahead. The Rebel captain proved to be a fresh-faced fellow in his twenties; he would have been wearing short pants during the War of Secession. Seeing him made Custer feel every one of his forty-one years.

"Good mornin' to you, Colonel," the captain drawled, nodding in a way that looked friendly enough. "You weren't planning on riding over the international border by any chance, were you?"

"If I was, you'll never prove it, Captain—" Custer tried for cool detachment. What came out was a frustrated snarl.

By the way the Confederate cavalryman smiled, he heard that frustration—heard it and relished it. He bowed in the saddle. The Rebs were always polite as cats ... and always ready to claw, too. "I'm Jethro Weathers, Colonel," he said. "And you're right—I'll never prove it. But you and the United States would have been embarrassed if I'd come along half an hour later and found your men inside the territory of the Confederate States."

He sounded disappointed he and his troopers hadn't caught Custer in flagrante delicto. Custer's frustration boiled into fury: "If your government would keep those murdering redskinned savages on your side of the border, we wouldn't want to go over yonder"—he waved south, into Indian Territory—"and give 'em what they deserve."

"Why, Colonel," Captain Weathers said, amusement in his voice, "I have no proof at all those Kiowas ever entered the territory of the United States. As far as I can see, you were leading an unprovoked punitive expedition into a foreign country. Richmond would see things the same way, I'm sure. So would London. So would Paris."

Tom Custer spoke up: "There's a dead Kiowa, maybe half a mile north of here."

That didn't faze Weathers a bit: "For all I know, you've already been into the Confederate States, murdered the poor fellow, and then hauled him back into the USA to justify raiding Confederate soil."

A flush spread up Custer's face; his ears went hot at the sheer effrontery of that. "You—dashed Rebs will pay one day for giving the redskins guns and letting them come up and raid white men's farms whenever it strikes their fancy."

"This is our territory, Colonel," Captain Weathers said, amused no more. "We shall defend it against the incursion of a foreign power—by which I mean the United States. And you have no call—none, sir, none whatever—to get up on your high horse and tell me what my country ought and ought not to be doing, especially since the United States harbor swarms of Comanches in New Mexico and turn them loose against west Texas whenever it strikes your fancy."

"We didn't start that until those outrages in Kansas grew too oppressive to ignore," Custer answered. "Why, on this very raid—this raid you have the gall to deny—the savages made two white women minister to their animal lusts, then cut their throats and worked other dreadful indignities upon their bare and abused bodies."

"You think the Comanches don't do that in Texas?" Captain Weathers returned. "And the way I heard it, Colonel, they started doing it there first."

Custer scowled. "We killed off the buffalo to deny the Kiowas a livelihood, and you gave them cattle to take up the slack."

"The Comanches are herding cattle these days, too." Weathers made as if to go back to his troopers, who waited inside Confederate territory. "I see no point to continuing this discussion. Good day, sir."

"Wait," Custer said, and the Confederate captain, polite still, waited. Breathing heavily, Custer went on, "When our two nations separated, I had a great deal of sympathy and friendship for many of the men who found high rank in the Army of the Confederate States. I hoped and believed that, even though we were two, we could share this continent in peace."

"And so we have," Jethro Weathers said. "There is no war between my country and yours, Colonel."

"Not now," Custer agreed. "Not yet. But you will force one upon us if you continue with this arrogant policy of yours here in the West. The irritations will grow too great, and then—"

"Don't speak to me of arrogance," Weathers broke in. "Don't speak to me of irritation, not when you Yankees have finally gone and put another one of those God-damned Black Republicans in the White House."

"Blaine's only been in office a month, but he's already shown he's not nearly so bad as Lincoln was," Custer answered, "and he's not your business anyhow, any more than Longstreet's ours."

"Blaine talks big," the Confederate captain answered. "People who talk big get to thinking they can act big. You talked about war, Colonel. If your James G. Blaine thinks you Yankees can lick us now when you couldn't do it twenty years ago, he'd better think twice. And if you think you can ride over the line into Indian Territory whenever it strikes your fancy, you'd better think twice, too, Colonel."

When Weathers moved to ride back to his squadron this time, Custer said not a word. He stared after the Indians whom Weathers' timely arrival had saved. His right hand folded into a fist inside its leather gauntlet. He pounded it down on his thigh, hard, once, twice, three times. His lips shaped a silent word. It might have been dash. It might not.

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Poul Anderson

Harry Turtledove has established himself as the grand master of the alternative history form. How Few Remain is perhaps his best so far.

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How Few Remain (Prequel to The Great War Series) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you liked harry turtledove great war, american empire, and settling accounts series here is your chance to read about the seconed mexican war talked about several times during the series.
meacoleman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating alternative timeline...Turtledove pays good attention to the details of language and writes in the same style as his characters would have spoken. I have to keep reminding myself that this isn't real!
dandelionroots on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An alternate history about the war that inevitably follows a generation after the rebels win the american civil war. I wish I knew more about the actual history/figures so that I could determine whether or not this alternate reality is feasible. But knowing little, it seems probable enough. Sweet insight into another time period with striking similarities to our own in the labor/capitalist struggle. Interesting to see the balance of military might and common sense between the two american armies and their european contemporaries. Must adjust and evolve with the technology, man. Gotta love Abe Lincoln, Stonewall Jackson, and the German military minister.
YoungTrek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Warning: I go into description of the book's plot here.)Finished reading HOW FEW REMAIN today. It took me a while but that wasn't because I wasn't enjoying it. Quite the contrary. This is the second of Harry Turtledove's alternate history novels that I've read (the first also being Civil War based, THE GUNS OF THE SOUTH) and I love just how historically authentic feeling... Turtledove is able to make the various characters and period settings while at the same time spinning them off into completely different directions from what actually occured in "real life".HOW FEW REMAIN is about (another) alternate history in which the Confederate States won the Civil War. The "point of divergence" (as alternate history fans call the exact historical point at which the work diverges from actual history) is covered briefly in the book's prelude, which shows a Confederate courier *not* accidentally losing General Robert E. Lee's Special Order 191 which detailed Lee's plans for the invasion of the North. In reality, this order was recovered by Union forces allowing them to defeat the Army of Northern Virginia at the Battle of Antietam. In HOW FEW, the order is not compromised and Lee's forces succeed in capturing Philadelphia, which convinces Britain and France to side with the Confederate States and effectively ended the war.Aside from the prelude (which takes place in 1862), the novel takes place entirely in 1881. After nearly twenty years of having to share the North American continent with the Confederate States of America (and also twenty years of Democratic presidents following Abraham Lincoln's electoral defeat in 1864), the United States of America, at the order of Republican President James G. Blaine, launches a second war with the CSA after the Confederate States purchase from Mexico two key territories (Sonora and Chihuahua) which expands the CSA's overall territory all the way to the Pacific Ocean.Turtledove's novels are especially rich in the amount of characters he includes. In this one we have Lincoln, much older than he lived in real life and now a man general disdained or outright hated by most as the man largely responsible for the USA's losing the "War of Secession". Lincoln by this point has turned the focus of his attention to crusading for the working man against the powers of big business.Military figures include U.S. Lt. General George Armstrong Custer, Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (head of the Confederate General Staff), General John Pope (commander of U.S. forces in Utah), Confederate General James Ewell "Jeb" Stuart, and a young Theodore Roosevelt, who leads a U.S. volunteer cavalry unit (Roosevelt and Samuel Clemens are especially fun characters in this novel).Other key characters include the President of the Confederate States James Longstreet, Frederick Douglass, Geronimo (who first works with Jeb Stuart's forces to ambush U.S. troops in Mexico but after which Stuart must somehow keep from waging war with the local Mexican people in what is now Confederate territory), Colonel Alfred von Schlieffen (here, the German military attache to the U.S.), Mormon leader John Taylor (the Mormons decide to take advantage of the war between the USA and CSA to attempt to break away from the U.S.; Custer and his men are sent into Utah to put down the Mormon rebellion), and Samuel Clemens (who never went on to write under the pen name, Mark Twain; instead, Clemens is a San Francisco newspaper editor).HOW FEW REMAIN is a stand alone novel but it establishes what fans have come to refer to as the "Timeline-191" series, of which Turtledove went on to write nine more novels (three separate trilogies) in. Following HOW FEW REMAIN is THE GREAT WAR: AMERICAN FRONT, which picks up in 1914 and the start of World War I (which, in this timeline, will include the additional plot element of there still being *two* American nations in existence: the United States of America and the Confederate States of America).
Hamburgerclan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm afraid I read this one out of order. Back last year, I happened to stumble across The Great War: American Front, which tells a tale of World War I in a world where the Confederate States of America is an actuality. The characters in the book referred, from time to time, about a second War between the States that had occurred in the 1880s and had served to create deeper divisions between the North and the South. I found myself wishing that I could also read that tale, foolishly unaware that it had already been written. How Few Remain is that tale, an enjoyable read in its own right. The year is 1881 and after almost 20 years of Democrats in the White House, the president is once again a Republican. He's itching to regain some lost glory, and when the Confederate States of America expand their territory by purchasing the states of Sonora and Chihuahua from Mexico, President Blaine considers it sufficient cause to start military action. The resulting war is told from the viewpoint of various characters. It's the same technique Mr. Turtledove uses in The Great War, but in this case, the featured characters are all famous characters from our own history--Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson, Frederick Douglass, Samuel Clemens and a disgraced ex-president, Abraham Lincoln, among others. Mr. Turtledove does a good job breathing life into these characters, sending me to the Wikipedia to scope out what these people were really like. And, of course, also sending me to the bookstore to hunt down the subsequent titles in this alternate history epic.--J.
jpers36 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
==Minor spoilers ahead==I've always liked stories where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad -- Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Nantucket, etc. I've recently grown to love stories in which we see things from all perspectives -- A Song of Ice and Fire comes to mind, with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine to a lesser extent. How Few Remain is neither of these: the Confederate POVs were forgiving, but everyone else came across as unlikeable or simply unimportant. Lincoln, Douglass, von Schlieffen, and Clemens have little effect on the actual war effort, and serve primarily as our eyes on the real figures in the war. The actual story peters out about halfway through the book, as everyone pretty much sits and waits for the war to come to its inevitable conclusion.I still give the novel three stars for two reasons: first, except for Lincoln, I find all events and characters to be historically consistent. Second, this book sets up some great possibilities for following books in the timeline. I only hope that these sequels make use of the potential, as I haven't yet read them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent blending of fact and fiction - not what was, but what could have been. I had heard of this series from an alternative history video I had watched, and was not disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like that minor people in book have major parts in later books
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Offers a great look at what could have been.
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Darthrevan07 More than 1 year ago
Very well told story by my personal opinion, yes some parts are a little drawn out for my attention span, I am going to have to go back and reread the book again to get things I might have missed. But all in all I highly recommend this book to those who 1 like Harry Turtledove, and 2 love to read Alternate histories.
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Jason Cook More than 1 year ago
It stats off a great series of something that might have happened. Highly recommended.
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