Purgatory's Shore

Purgatory's Shore

by Taylor Anderson
Purgatory's Shore

Purgatory's Shore

by Taylor Anderson


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On their way to fight in the Mexican-American War, a group of American soldiers are swept away to a strange and deadly alternate Earth in this thrilling new adventure set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Destroyermen series.

The United States, 1847. A disparate group of young American soldiers are bound to join General Winfield Scott's campaign against Santa Anna at Veracruz during the Mexican-American War. They never arrive.

Or rather . . . they arrive somewhere else.

The untried, idealistic soldiers are mostly replacements, really; a handful of infantry, artillery, dragoons, and a few mounted riflemen with no unified command. And they've been shipwrecked on a terrible, different Earth full of monsters and unimaginable enemies.

Major Lewis Cayce, late of the 3rd US "Flying" Artillery, must unite these men to face their fears and myriad threats, armed with little more than flintlock muskets, a few pieces of artillery, and a worldview that spiritually and culturally rebels against virtually everything they encounter. It will take extraordinary leadership and a cadre of equally extraordinary men and women to mold frightened troops into an effective force, make friends with other peoples the evil Holy Dominion would eradicate, and reshape their "manifest destiny" into a cause they can all believe in and fight for.

For only together will they have any hope of survival.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593200711
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/21/2021
Series: Artillerymen , #1
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 547,712
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Taylor Anderson is the New York Times bestselling author of the Destroyermen novels. A gunmaker and forensic ballistic archaeologist, Taylor has been a technical and dialogue consultant for movies and documentaries and is an award-winning member of the National Historical Honor Society and of the United States Field Artillery Association.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


April 5, 1847


The world was shades of gray, reminding Captain Lewis Cayce-formerly of C Battery, 3rd United States Artillery Regiment-of different kinds of lead. The sea to the north of the Yucat‡n Peninsula was the blue-gray color of molten lead when it got too hot, and the sky had the chalky gray-white look of a corroded musket ball. The comparison struck Lewis Cayce as he leaned on the weathered windward rail of a wretched old barque-rigged whaler named Mary Riggs, wallowing down toward Vera Cruz, Mexico. There'd been more real lead in the air around him over the last year than he cared to remember, and a bloody-fingered surgeon had even plucked a particularly shiny wafer of it from his side after the Battle of Monterrey. Now that he was heading back to the fighting, to join General Winfield Scott's push inland from Vera Cruz, he'd soon be exposed to a great deal more. Staring grimly across the choppy sea at three other ships straggling along in company, he decided the sea and sky were a portent.


Mary Riggs's closest companion was USS Isidra, a neat little former Mexican side-wheel steamer captured at Frontera on the Grijalva River. She was crowded with regular infantry, officers' horses and personal baggage, as well as most of the senior officers responsible for men on the other ships. USS Commissary was a government transport, loaded with munitions, supplies, and volunteer infantry. Xenophon had joined them en route and looked like another old whaler. Lewis suspected her cargo and circumstances were much the same as Mary Riggs's.


Worn down by decades of yearslong voyages, storms, and hard use associated with her former occupation, Mary Riggs was destined for the breakers or abandonment when she was purchased cheaply by a group of New Orleans investors at the outbreak of war between Mexico and the United States. There was money to be made by a transport for hire to the army, and she was hastily reconfigured to carry horses. She'd done that several times already, but this time she'd been loaded with far too many, as well as a half dozen cannon, limbers, several caissons, and a pair of forge wagons-before being packed to the bulwarks with four hundred men. She reeked unimaginably, the stench of her earlier life almost-but not quite-overwhelmed by the new combination of the manure and sweat of terrified horses, 430 (counting the crew) unwashed bodies, stale tobacco smoke, and most crushing of all, the waste and vomit of too many passengers as unused to the sea as the horses. At least here, by the windward rail of the laboring ship, the air Lewis breathed was slightly fresher.


He wasn't sick himself, being more accustomed to seafaring than most soldiers. He'd traveled up and down the East Coast several times in his career, and all the way to Europe with his former commander, Samuel Ringgold, a decade before. Perhaps a lifetime on horseback reinforced a certain resistance to the sickening motion of a ship as well. Besides, he'd already seen enough of this war, since its brutal beginning on the sandy, cordgrass plain of Palo Alto, that few things could turn his stomach anymore. But that was him. Most aboard the pitching vessel, leaning hard under a press of dingy canvas, were new recruits, and many were youngsters, as new to war as they were the sea, so he idly wondered why he had such a stretch of the coveted rail to himself. The fighting in Northern Mexico had hardened him in various ways, dulling what many old West Point classmates would've described as a general cheerfulness, but it hadn't turned him aloof. Quite the contrary. Having watched a number of dear friends die (including Major Ringgold, whom he'd deeply respected) made him appreciate those who remained all the more. That's what he thought, at least. But even he recognized those losses might've made him less anxious to make new friends, and it was possible that disposition was detectable by others.


Still, besides the fact his gold-edged shoulder boards and black knee boots were the only indication he was an officer (he didn't even own a frock coat anymore and preferred the dark blue enlisted fatigue jacket above sky-blue trousers), he assumed his isolation was due to his being the most senior army officer aboard-while not technically having a command. Half the troops in Mary Riggs were artillerymen who, besides their dark blue wheel hats (standard issue for all branches), wore sky-blue uniforms with yellow trim. Many had stitched nonregulation red bands around their hats and stripes down their trouser legs, aping the now famous "flying" horse artillery Lewis had belonged to, but they were "foot" artillery, mostly trained on massive coast defense guns. Some with longer service were probably familiar with lightweight field artillery, but few would've practiced the tactics of rapid maneuver and concentration of fire that Major Ringgold pioneered and had proven so successful. Even more strangely from Lewis's point of view, they may not even serve as artillerymen when they joined General Scott. Some might be sent as replacements to artillery units already in the field, but they'd all been equipped with .69 caliber Model 1816 muskets and more thoroughly trained as infantry.


Then there were the two hundred dragoons, armed with pistols and sabers and the odd-looking .52 caliber Model 1843 breechloading Hall carbines. Lewis was impressed by the volume of fire Halls could achieve, and even their short-range accuracy (much better than musketoons for mounted men), but they'd earned a reputation as troublesome, underpowered weapons. Men who carried them typically loved them or hated them-much like dragoons themselves were regarded by the rest of the army. They wore the same dark blue jackets as Lewis except theirs were trimmed with yellow instead of the horse artillery red Lewis still stubbornly wore. He didn't command them either.


Unknown to him, the real reasons he remained alone with his thoughts had more to do with the intensity of his gray-eyed gaze and the scorn it focused on the ship full of officers a quarter mile away, as well as the unconsciously unhappy frown within the short brown beard on his face. He was physically intimidating as well: taller than average, with wide, strong shoulders straining the seams of his jacket. Yet despite all that, nothing travels faster than rumors and speculation among bored and miserable soldiers, and virtually every man aboard Mary Riggs already knew who he was and at least a version of what he'd seen. There were few veterans among them, and only a handful who'd already fought Mexicans. Some Noncommissioned Officers (NCOs) had campaigned against Seminoles in Florida, and a few older European immigrants might've faced (or fought for) Napoleon in their youth, but most of these men had been shopkeepers, farmers, recent immigrants, even quite literally gutter sweepings drawn to the regular army by enlistment bonuses when the current war began. All were volunteers, but unlike volunteer regiments specifically raised for the war, they weren't dreamy-eyed patriots looking for honor or glory or entranced by some notion it was the "manifest destiny" of Americans to spread their enlightened ideals (and themselves) across a continent. Most were in it for regular meals.


That didn't mean they'd be bad soldiers. The United States' tiny standing army and increasingly professional officer corps had fought magnificently so far, but until recently it was composed of men with long service, even among the enlisted ranks, who probably had absorbed many of the ideals their country-native or adopted-was fighting for. These newer recruits, really part of "America" yet or not, were "regulars" now as well. And with all the hard training, sometimes seasoned with genuine abuse, their lot was no worse than that of soldiers in other armies of the world. Just as important, they hadn't been forced to join. So most became good soldiers, proud of their regular status and loyal to one another-if not always yet the country they fought for. Some, especially foreigners, thought of themselves more as paid mercenaries than Americans, but that sometimes made them better soldiers, determined to prove they were Americans after all. In any event, as regulars, they were supposed to be professionals, and they were prepared to hold themselves to a higher standard than the short-term volunteer units they mocked. That made them . . . professionally curious . . . about what they were likely to face, so Captain Lewis Cayce had been the subject of much discussion among them-while his uninviting countenance made even the few junior officers aboard hesitant to approach him.


There were exceptions. One was another full-bearded man (though his whiskers were streaked with gray), who seemed acquainted with Cayce and stopped to speak from time to time but never lingered. He was just as tall, if not as heavily built, and would've passed for a civilian if not for his own battered wheel hat (with the folding neck flap removed) and sky-blue military vest he wore over a black-striped shirt. Dark corduroy trousers were tucked into the tops of brown knee boots similar to the black ones Lewis wore. Word was he and several more men aboard were Texas Rangers who, like Captain Cayce, had been in Northern Mexico with Zachary Taylor. Many wondered about their presence, since rumor had it General Scott didn't like their bloodthirsty reputation.


Another exception was a young dragoon lieutenant who-after three days at sea-finally seemed to gather the courage to approach the brooding artilleryman.


"If I may be so bold, sir," came a somewhat anxious voice, suddenly at Lewis's side, "aren't you excited to get back to the war?"


The words jolted Lewis from his dark reverie, and he looked momentarily stricken before turning, almost thankfully, to face his visitor. Dressed in the stylishly tight junior officer's frock coat, he looked ridiculously thin and boyish, even with the pillow quilting under a single row of glistening buttons intended to make his chest look bigger. Wispy blond side whiskers had formed on his cheeks, a premature attempt to emulate those so many of the men sported, occasionally to outrageous excess. The youngster belatedly saluted. "Second Lieutenant Coryon Burton, sir. North Carolina. Class of 'forty-six."


Lewis returned the salute, still leaning on the rail. "Captain Cayce," he replied. "Of Tennessee, originally. Now just the army," he added wryly. That was certainly true. A West Point Class of 1830 graduate, he'd been in the army almost half his thirty-eight years. Peacetime promotion came very slowly, and he'd still been a first lieutenant when the war began.


"Yes sir, I know," the youth blurted. "All the fellows are talking about you." His accent softened the words under the excited tone, and Lewis vaguely envied him that. His own birth accent had almost entirely vanished.


"All the fellows?" Lewis asked, amused, as Burton began to redden. "I wonder what they say."


"Nothing bad," the young dragoon quickly assured. "They, ah, that is to say, it seems to be the consensus that you're a hero."


Lewis grunted and glanced around. "Is it indeed? I haven't told anyone so. I haven't even spoken to any of them. Even the artillery lieutenants aboard."


That had struck Lewis odd, that neither young artillery officer had presented himself out of courtesy. They weren't required to, since he wasn't their commander and they were all-essentially-just passengers on the same ship for now, but it wasn't good manners.


"I . . . can't speak for the others, sir, but . . ." Burton glanced meaningfully at the red trim on Lewis's jacket. "Just as there is rivalry between dragoons and Mounted Rifles, there exists a certain friction between mounted and foot artillery. It might also be . . ." The boy flushed again. "I can say for myself that your glorious experiences in battle have given me much to think about. Much to look forward to," he quickly added, "but also to question-whether I can perform as you did."


Lewis shook his head. "I saw little glory in Mexico and I'm certainly no 'hero.' I might congratulate myself for my survival, but not any extraordinary deeds."


"No more than anyone else who was there, is that it, Lewis?" came a growling voice on the other side of the dragoon lieutenant, who was startled to see the tall Ranger there.


"That's Captain Giles Anson of the Texas Mounted Volunteers, also known as 'Rangers'-among other things. Lieutenant Coryon Burton," Lewis announced by way of introduction.


"At your service, sir!" Burton exclaimed.


Anson smiled and nodded, but looked intently back at Lewis. "Palo Alto an' Resaca de la Palma were 'glorious' for us, I suppose." He glanced back at Burton. "Maybe even miraculous, considering how inexperienced an' outnumbered we were, an' only Ringgold's an' Duncan's artillery seemed to know what they were doin'. That miracle cost us Ringgold an' some other fine fellas, but bought us a lightly contested advance-aside from skirmishin', sickness, an' accidents," he inserted darkly, "all the way from Matamoros to Monterrey. Things were . . . different there, an' everyone was called to be a hero in that fight." He smiled oddly at Lewis. "Captain Cayce too."


Lewis looked back out to sea. Isidra was steaming easily enough, and even Commissary appeared to ride comfortably, but Xenophon was wallowing and bashing her way along just as roughly as Mary Riggs.


Much of the Battle of Monterrey had been fought in the city, house to house, rooftop to rooftop, even through the walls. Lewis had never seen anything like it. Never imagined something so brutal and desperate. His main contribution, after initially being attached to Duncan's Battery of the 2nd US to support an assault on Fort Libertad atop "Independence Hill"-in which Anson also participated-was to push a section of guns right down the rubbled, corpse-strewn streets of the city.


"He was wounded there, you know," Anson told Burton as if in confidence. "Me too, which is why we missed the more recent 'glorious' festivities at Buena Vista, or the Siege of Vera Cruz. Otherwise, we'd've been involved in one or the other." He chuckled. "The 'one' for me, most likely, an' 'the other' for Captain Cayce. General Taylor likes Texans better than General Scott, though 'Old Fuss an' Feathers' is startin' to learn he needs us after all. That's fine," he continued. "We need him too. Taylor's had most of his army taken away, an' there'll be much more fightin' on the road from Vera Cruz to the halls of the Montezuma."


With that, he nodded a bow and strode down the leaning, bounding deck and squeezed through the miserable soldiers sitting on it, surrounding four other men dressed much like he was near the base of the main mast. Lewis didn't know their names but had seen them all before. One was as massive and hairy as a bear, with a voice rather like one as well. Another was clearly Mexican himself, with a huge mustache and bristly black side whiskers. The last was a tall, slim youth, also apparently of Mexican descent, but with no facial hair and almost delicate features. He was always with Anson and served as his aide. There was even a slight resemblance. Lewis knew most of Anson's family, including his wife, were murdered by marauding Mexican soldiers during Texas's war for independence. Anson was with Sam Houston's army at the time. Lewis had no close family and could only imagine how devastated the Ranger must've been. It certainly helped explain his implacable attitude toward the enemy. At least to a degree. Lewis suspected the boy was a surviving son or nephew.

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