Gunsmoke, Steam, and Blood
The year is 1868. The American Civil War ended in 1863, when General Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac crushed Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Fredericksburg and then Chancellorsville. The newly fielded Federal steam-powered “walking fortresses” shrugged off rifle fire and broke the Confederate lines. Within a few days, Richmond fell, and the South was reabsorbed into the Union. During the political turmoil that followed, President Lincoln and Vice-President Hamlin were assassinated after the abolition of slavery, and the hugely popular Burnside (now a senator and president pro tem of the senate) became president. Burnside pushed for westward expansionism, to heal the divides of war, and easily wins a full term in 1864. But resentment festered in the South, and the bitterly contested presidential election of 1868, pitting Nathaniel Lyon® vs. Nathan Bedford Forrest (D), threatens to fully re-open old wounds.
Steam-powered technology has changed the face of the world — to some extent. Horseless carriages are driven by coachmen for the rich in cities back East or in industrialized Europe, but Rumanian brigands and Montana territory cowpokes still rely on the trusty horse. Cartridge pistols are now becoming more common, but many still rely on cap-and-ball revolvers, and US Army soldiers carry Springfield muskets into battle even as massive steam-driven “Walkers” wield gatling guns and small breechloading cannons.