Cheat Mountain: The Army of Northwest Virginia
by Art Morse
Trafford Publishing

"Volunteers, with little training and less experience, they had suffered the bloody reality of total defeat. Routed from the field of battle, they had drifted back fifty miles from the front. Their officers seemed unable to infuse their spirits and restore any confidence."

Making the argument that two small changes early in the war between the states could have decided the outcome of the war, Morse crafts a compelling piece of fiction that follows how a victory by the south might have been possible. These two small changes include a shift in Lee's assignment in West Virginia and the addition of Colonel Stuart and his cavalry to Lee's command. By changing Lee's assignment from one of advisor to commanding general, Davis opens a path for Lee to make necessary strategic changes that lead the way to success. Adding Colonel Stuart and his cavalry provides Lee with significant support and confidence that his orders will be carried out.

The story follows a logical progression of events that rely on these two changes as well as a healthy dose of luck and strategic daring in order to bring the Southern Confederate forces to a position of strength and recognition among world nations. It is largely based on historic events, but diverts further and further away from historic truth as early events begin to affect later battles. Changing momentum, greater confidence among the soldiers, improved weaponry and supplies all contribute to the South's advances.

Populated with accurately drawn historic figures as well as a number of fictional characters, Morse relieves the strategy and battle-heavy story with humor, companionship, and even a touch of love story. While he allows Lee quite a few favorable twists of fortune, Morse does not quite reduce the Northern forces to the level of dupes. In the end, this is alternate history with a little something for everyone.

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