1879 and its FoundationsThe year 1879 began with almost two decades of bitter fighting behind it, the American Civil War had ground to a standstill. The Confederate States were free then and California had fallen into the Pacific Ocean. Rail Barons fought bloody battles to decide who the victor in the race for a transcontinental railroad would be, whilst a super fuel called ghost rock advanced technology by unpredictable leaps and sometimes dangerous bounds. The Sioux had retaken the Dakotas and the Coyote Confederation danced the Ghost Dance on the High Plains. For all across the the Deadlands there were dangers, the dead walked among men and the men were often ever more horrible and harsh. The Late Unpleasantness
Nearly twenty years earlier, the American Civil War began as it did in Earth's own history. After more than a decade of conflict over the States’ right of self-government, Abraham Lincoln’s election to the American Presidency was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Seven Southern states seceded to form the Confederate States of America and laid claim to federal property within the borders of the young nation. Not even sworn in, President-elect Lincoln was faced with an immediate dilemma. Though many of the Confederate government’s claims did not present immediate crises, the question of federal forts garrisoned by Union troops would not stand unanswered for long. Lincoln ultimately decided to resupply two forts in immediate danger of capture by Confederate forces, Fort Sumter near Charleston and Fort Pickens in Pensacola Harbor. Infamously, the former would be the match that lit the powder keg. Upon receiving news of the resupply, the Union garrison refused to surrender in a timely fashion, hoping to hold out until help arrived. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces attacked, and a new nation, the Confederate States of America, was baptized in blood. A House Divided
The Battle of Fort Sumter prompted four more states to secede from the Union, or more accurately, three and a half. Virginia, like the Union itself, was divided. The residents of the western counties of the state refused to secede, instead forming the new state of West Virginia. The rest of Virginia followed the footsteps of its Southern neighbors. The Confederacy then included Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. With Virginia’s secession, Richmond was named the Confederate capital. The battle lines had been drawn, and the war was on. For the next two years, generals and soldiers of the North and the South battled to decide the fate of two nations. The stakes were high, and the costs higher. During the Antietam campaign, a single day’s fighting inflicted over 20,000 casualties, both blue and gray. Then something changed then, for the worse, spurring such power that the very Shadowfell of Earth was rewritten; history was divided in two and the Deadlands was forged. Union forces, led by Major General Gordon Meade, met and defeated General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Though Meade scored a victory, he was unable to pursue the retreating rebels. There are a lot of claims about that day. Some say Meade’s uniform changed from blue to yellow, while those considered to be less stable folk claim dead soldiers rose up and shot at their living comrades. War Without End
Whatever the case, Lee’s forces escaped to fight another day, and fight they did. Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Appomattox, on and on, over and over. While the North held the advantage in men and materiel, the Confederacy relied on the tenacity of its troops and brilliance of its generals. Ground was bloodied, gained, and lost all across the front, but just as at Gettysburg, a decisive victory for either side seemed out of reach. The war ground on, with no end in sight. Though battles in the West were few and far between thanks to the low concentration of forts and troops on both sides, battlefields in the East were bloodied again and again as both sides gave and gained the same ground over and over. It was so common to fight on ground once thought secured that generals and historians on both sides began to refer to battles not only by the name of the nearest town, but by how many times the blue and the gray had met on that spot. Antietam was followed by Antietam II, Antietam III, and so on. Even when new battlefields were christened, it was assumed more fighting would follow on the same ground.
RevelationThen, in 1868, a change of a more noticeable sort came around. An earthquake the likes of which history had never seen shattered the west coast from Mexicali to Oregon. It left in its wake a labyrinth of jagged mesas towering over flooded, broken terrain. Thar region was quickly dubbed the Great Maze. The ruins revealed wonders unseen previously, such as the California Maze Dragons, immense reptilian creatures that troll the rough channels of the Maze. Still more amazing was the discovery of what some believed to be simple coal, but was soon determined to be a new mineral altogether. Thar new fundament burned about five times hotter and over a hundred times longer than coal. When consumed, it gave off a ghostly white vapor and howled like the Devil himself. The first survivors who discovered it dubbed it ghost rock, and the name stuck. Though it didn’t happen overnight, ghost rock changed the face of the war and the West. The Power of Ghost Rock
Immediately after this discovery, many hopeful inventors flocked to the Maze. In months, they had perfected devices powered by steam and fueled by ghost rock. Reports of horseless carriages, ghost-rock-powered ships, and even weapons capable of spewing great gouts of flame or torrents of bullets became common. It wasn’t long before the miracle mineral was put to even more use, both in engineering and chemistry. It was discovered that ghost rock could be used in place of coke when refining steel, creating a much stronger and lighter metal with a higher melting point, called ghost steel. Likewise, refined ghost rock, usually in powdered form, could be used as both a catalyst and reagent in chemical reactions, leading to the creation of many new tonics, salves, and unguents using the powdered mineral as a key ingredient. While those elixirs remain popular for a long while, ingesting higher concentrations of ghost rock invariably proved fatal. Science Marches On..
It wasn’t long before generals and other important figures of the East noticed the array of gadgets coming out of the Maze. Confederate President Jeff Davis was the first to realize their potential, and quickly instituted a program to turn the New Science toward the war effort. Confederate scientists in a secret base near Roswell, New Mexico developed infernal devices as well and shipped them East. In February of 1871, General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia attacked Union lines near Washington D.C. Lee’s forces included dozens of Davis’ secret weapons. Flamethrowers, steam tanks, and other, stranger weapons rained death on Union troops. The attack was devastating, so much so that Lee’s forces temporarily seized the Union capital itself. The Union Antes Up
Though it didn’t take long for the Rebels’ experimental devices to malfunction and their supply of ghost rock to run low, the message was clear. The war would turn on a wheel powered by ghost rock. Since the quake of ’68, ghost rock had been found all over the country, but the greatest concentration was still in the Maze. Getting the precious mineral out of the ground was one thing, but once extracted, it still needed to be transported across the country to the factories where it could be put to use. Once back in the White House, President Grant offered the exclusive government contract for ghost rock to the first company that managed to build a transcontinental railroad. President Davis followed suit the next day. The Civil War, bloodier than ever, continued, and the Great Rail Wars begun then too.